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Monday, September 30, 2013

Law and Grace # 20

The Standard of Life for Christians (continued)

It is wrong, therefore, to reject the Old Testament or any part of it, as some do, or to set aside the epistles of the New Testament as somehow inferior to the four gospels, or to treat the prophetic element in Scripture as of little or no importance to the Christian life, as others do. As we read the written Word, if we are wise we shall hear the voice of the pre-existent Son speaking to us in the Old Testament, the voice of the incarnate Son speaking to us in the gospel records in the days of His flesh, and the voice of the exalted and glorified Son speaking to us from heaven in the other New Testament books.

To be sure, there is progress in the revelation of God through the Son. In the movement of history, some things are superseded; others may be abolished. Some things are more important than other things. We must read the Book of God, not mechanically, but under the guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we are asked: "What does it mean to 'keep' the words and commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ?" We can answer that at least one thing it cannot mean is to put ourselves back under any legalistic system of any kind. But positively we have some texts which shed light upon the problem. One is 1 Kings 14:8, where the Lord speaks of King David as one who "kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes." This is God's pronouncement upon the total life of David, a man who had failed terribly more than once.

Another passage is found in the New Testament in John 17:6. Here we stand upon solemn ground and hear the communings of deity, the Son reporting and praying to the Father. And concerning the men who had followed Him during the days of His flesh.  He reports an amazing thing: "They have kept thy word." Reflecting back upon the ways of these weak men, we think of their selfish ambitions, their frequent failure to receive the truth, their quarreling at the Last Supper, the impending denial of Peter and the doubtings of Thomas. Yet the Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, beholds these weak and vacillating men lovingly, and says, "They have kept thy word"!

Surely this judgment is not based upon any legalistic balance between so many things done and so many things left undone, but rather upon the state of the heart and the direction of the life course. They loved the Lord and treasured His words and they were faced in the right direction.

6. The will of God revealed in the written Word must always be seen in the context of God's grace. I have already touched upon this, but now we shall discuss the matter at some length. Nothing could be more crucial. Unless we see the will of God "in the context of His grace," we shall always be in danger of reverting to old systems of legalism or building new ones. It we center upon the "will of God" and ignore that "context of grace," it is possible to erect a legalistic system even on such books as Romans and Galatians!

But consider now how carefully the Scriptures put the will of God in the context of His grace. In Romans 12:1-2 we are besought to realize the "will of God," but the exhortation comes to us "by he mercies of God." In 1 Corinthians 8:7-11 we are taught how careful we should be in our treatment of "weaker brethren", and the ultimate argument used is that the weak brother is one "for whom Christ died." In Philippians 2:2-5 the writer exhorts us to a life of love and forbearance, to be concerned with the good of others rather than our own things.

And how is this lofty ideal to be reached? The apostle approaches his readers through the love and mercies they have found in Christ (Phil. 2:1), and he closes the appeal by setting before their eyes the gracious condescension of the Son of God as He stoops from God to humanity, and then from humanity to death, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 21)

God Honors Our Commitment to Him

Daniel and his friends faced the same dilemma we do--how to live a holy life in a godless culture. At one time, our society readily accepted Christian values and standards, but that era is quickly passing. Our challenge today is to live under God's authority while remaining in submission to the law of the land. At times we are forced to choose between the two, but if we'll seek the Lord's guidance before marching defiantly forward, He may open an alternative approach for us.
Had Daniel bluntly declared, "I won't eat this food!" he wouldn't have lasted long, and we wouldn't have the book of Daniel in the Bible. But the Lord gave him the wisdom to humbly seek permission from the person who was in a position of authority over him. God honored his commitment and provided a way for him to live righteously in a pagan world.
We tend to hold up Daniel and his three friends as extraordinary people who lived amazing lives. But have you ever wondered what the Lord could do in the life of an ordinary person like you? The determining factor is not the greatness of the individual but, rather, his commitment to a God who can do remarkable things in a life fully devoted to Him. That's the kind of people our Lord is looking for.
Although we don't know all that God could do in our lives if we'd radically commit ourselves to Him, the thought of missing out on His plans should be enough to motivate us to obey. You don't want to arrive in heaven and discover you forfeited blessings because you weren't fully devoted to Him.

~Charles Stanley~

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Law and Grace # 19

The Standard of Life for Christians (continued)

5. This total "Word of God written" is given us to center our attention upon Christ, what He is, what He has done, and what He said. For the true believer, Christ must be the center and circumference of all things. "Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in Thee I find."

a. The written Word fixes our attention on Christ Himself. There are other great figures in the Scriptures. Think of Moses and Elijah, probably the greatest in the halls of Old Testament fame. But even these fade from sight in the light of the glory of the eternal Son. If we read the will of God rightly, led of the Spirit, we shall see "no man, save Jesus only" (Matthew 17:8). Let all those who preach and teach the Word take solemn heed. If they speak of Moses and Elijah and the others, let them be careful so to speak that these "lesser lights" will direct they eyes of men to Him who is both their Lord and ours.

b. The written Word fixes our attention on the love of Christ. Even a lost world recognizes the value of love and its leaders talk much about love. But most of this talk concerns itself with love in the abstract. Sometimes it becomes a mere verbal idolatry. But in the Bible we meed something altogether different. Here we are told indeed that "God is love" (1 John 4:8), but we are not left to speculate as to the real nature of "love" in the unseen and ineffable deity. The same Word which tells us that "God is love" goes on to direct our eyes to something historically concrete: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). Do we struggle intellectually to understand the real nature of divine love? Well, "herein in love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). And as we behold the love of God incarnate in the Son, our ears become more attentive to the exhortation which follows: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 John 4:11).

c. The written Word of God also directs our eyes to the work of Christ. No matter where we open the Book, if we have eyes to see, we meet the blood of atonement. John the Baptist, last in the great succession of prophets of the Old Testament, sums up the testimony as his eyes look upon the incarnate Son. "Behold the Lamb of God," John cries, "which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). And these words upon the lips of John spoke of death, for a "lamb" cannot take away sin except by dying.

Thus, throughout the written Word, wherever we open its pages, "we see Jesus, who as made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9). And perceiving in Calvary "the love of God, because he laid down his life for us," we are brought to see that "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).

d. The written Word of God also opens our eyes to the words and commandments of Christ. Our Lord says, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14:21), and again me says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (v. 23). Here again we must have the total Word of God in order to hear in its widest aspect the voice of our Lord. We must understand that the voice of the infinite God comes to men always through the Son, the eternal logos.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 20)

Stop Building Air Castles

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me (Ps. 138:8).
There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, "Why hast thou forsaken me ?"
The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.
Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus.
–Soul Food
The great thing is to suffer without being. discouraged.
"The heart that serves, and loves, and clings,
Hears everywhere the rush of angel wings."

~L. B. Cowman~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Law and Grace # 18

The Standard of Life for Christians (continued)

But this looking at ourselves in the mirror of the Word must not be separated from the look into the same mirror to behold the image of our Lord. Looking at ourselves is not enough and by itself can only bring utter despair. We must see the Lord. And the Holy Scriptures in their totality comprise the perfect mirror in which we may see our Lord in all His grace and glory. As the Apostle Paul writes, "But we all, with open [unveiled] face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Seeing ourselves in the mirror of the Word is very worthwhile, but it is beholding the Lord in this mirror that brings about the moral and spiritual change that all of us need so much. And it is significant that Paul in writing about the importance of this mirror of the Word, has in mind primarily the Old Testament Scriptures, and especially the five books of the Pentateuch written by Moses.

This brings us to the remarkable character of the truth taught in 2 Corinthians 3. In the first thirteen verses the apostle declares emphatically that for the Christian believer the law of Moses has been "done away" and actually "abolished" (vv. 11, 13). Yet this same law remains as part of the mirror of the written Word in which we see the glory of the Lord. As "law" it has been abolished; as believers we are no longer under it as "law". Yet it remains as a part of Scripture, and as such it is "profitable" for us because it bears witness to our Lord and Saviour. Thus, to emasculate the written Word or any portion of it, whether moral or ceremonial law or anything else, is to mar and deface to the same extent the only divinely authorized portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the end to hinder the Spirit's perfect work of sanctification. We see the importance of this in the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). (see also Luke 24:44).

4. This entire written Word of God points us to a perfect example in Christ. As we behold His glory in the mirror of the Word, we see:

a. What we as believers ought to be here and now. We shall remember that we ought "so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). We shall not forget that "even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). If we ever expect to have the "mind" in us "which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), we must find that "mind" in the record of what He was and what He did.. And for this we must have more than the four gospels or even the New Testament writings, but the total written Word of God from Genesis through Revelation.

Furthermore, as we see Christ in this total Word we learn:

b. What we shall be at His coming. We shall understand that, against all present appearances and adverse conditions, "when he shall appear, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2). And with this blessed hope in our hearts, we shall become purer men and women here and now even before He comes (1 John 3:4). Thus we shall count the "sufferings of this present time" not even "to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). If God has predestinated us to be "conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29), He has also predestinated the "means" by which this blessed conformation is being carried forward even here and now. It is the total Word of God written and inspired, bearing witness of His Son.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 19)

Direct My Paths

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 

My mom and dad are dealing with a huge plumbing problem. The main pipe that carries their hot water from the garage to the kitchen broke underneath the cement slab. They knew something was wrong when their tile floor was warming their feet. Because we have earthquake building codes, the plumbers cannot fix the problem by digging down, but only by rerouting the pipe through the ceilings. This has caused a major upheaval to their home. The laundry room, downstairs bathroom, family room, kitchen, dining room and even the closet where they store all the Christmas decorations have been affected. All of their personal belongings are out of the cabinets and closets, and are on the couches, tables and floor. Then there are the new large holes in the ceilings and closets with dust from the holes everywhere. The plumbers have tried to be considerate by placing plastic over their personal belongings and a walkway runner on the rugs, but with all the work and workers, it is impossible to keep the d├ęcor a priority.

Well, my mother has handled it very well, all things considered but… there are times she finds herself overwhelmed with the situation. She has continued to ask the Lord to help her and to remain peaceful through it all (including the cold showers for days). God has been so faithful to hear her prayers. The other night, she went to bed praying about the pipes and when she woke up, she heard this in her mind:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your
own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him,
And He shall redirect your pipes.
Proverbs 3:5-(bold words are paraphrased)

The Word of God is active and living. If we put His Word into our minds and meditate on it, God has the ability to bring it back in each and every situation to maintain peace in your life. God is so good to us. He hears every prayer and cares about every circumstance. Trust in Him and He will direct your paths, and even your pipes, if you include Him.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, September 27, 2013

Law and Grace # 17

The Standard of Life for Christians

The standard is the will of God in the context of His grace given in our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed perfectly in the entire written Word of God. This is so important that it should be memorized. The essential elements are:

a. The will of God.
b. In the context of His grace.
c. Given in our Lord Jesus Christ.
d. Revealed in the entire Word of God.

Three passages should be read and studied in this connection. The first is Romans 12:1-2, where Paul sets before us as Christian believers what he calls "the will of God." But it should be noticed that this "will" of God is enshrined within "the mercies of God. The "mercies" are first. For saved sinners this is the order of approach to the "will of God." The first eleven chapters of Romans are devoted to the exposition of the "mercies" of divine grace. Then the apostle takes up the matter of God's will for Christians, and he sets it before us in the very center of the "mercies." In exhorting us to realize the "will of God," he writes, "I beseech you... by the mercies of God". This is what we mean by "the will of God in the context of His grace."

The second passage is John 5;39, where our Lord declares Himself as the central object and theme of all written revelation. To the Jewish hearers of His day, men who prided themselves on their zeal in study of the written Word, He says, "Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life." And then he reminds them that these same Scriptures "are they which bear witness of me." If they miss Him, all their zealous searching of Scripture will count for nothing. For the gift of eternal life comes only by divine grace, and the grace of God comes only in His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the will of God in the context of His grace is found in Christ alone. "Grace ... came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

The third passage is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where the Holy Spirit through Paul affirms that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable" in every way for the children of God, to bring them to perfection and furnish them unto all good works.

Consider now these important truths found in the above three passages:

1. The entire written Word of God is able to make us "wise" with reference to that salvation which we have by faith in Christ. It is undoubtedly true that a sincere perusal of the Scriptures can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bring the unsaved to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is also true that one may in simple faith receive eternal life in Christ and yet remain unwise in many respects with reference to that great salvation. For this reason God has given us His total written Word to make us "wise" regarding the greatness of our salvation in Christ.

2. This entire Word of God is "profitable" to all Christians in all its various parts. We should notice the sweeping character of the apostle's statement "All" scripture ... is profitable." Or as it is also properly translated, "Every scripture ... is profitable". Let us beware, therefore, of the error of supposing that there is anything in the Book of God which can be set aside, or even neglected, by the Christian believer. All of the Book - every part of it, no matter how small - will be found "profitable" for the saved. We cannot dispense with any of it without loss to ourselves. In this connection, it needs to be emphasized without any compromise, that "all scripture" includes the law of Moses. Not only so, but it includes all the elements of that law - moral, ceremonial and civil. And included also are the penalties of the law. We who are saved are NOT under the law, but the law is part of the written Word and is therefore "profitable" to the saved. In what way is "all scripture" profitable? The answer is: (a) "for doctrine", (b). "for reproof," (c). "for correction," (d). "for instruction in righteousness." We find  in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 an instructive lesson in how Paul used the law of Moses in the Pentateuch in the various ways outlined above for the good of Christian believers in his day. We are not under the law; but because that law is inspired Scripture, it is full of valuable doctrine and useful lessons for us.

3. This entire written Word serves as a "mirror" for the Christian. In this perfect mirror of the Scriptures we may see ourselves. Speaking of the Word of God in relation to Christian believers, James describes the man who "beholding his natural face in a glass: .. and goeth his way and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was" (James 1:23-24). He contrasts him to the man who not only "looketh" at himself in the mirror  but also is a "doer" of something about the matter (1:25). In the beginning, the difference between the two men is not merely a matter of doing or not doing, but rather in the manner in which they look into the mirror of the Word. The Greek verb of verse 24 suggests a merely casual look,whereas the verb of verse 25 indicates a careful look. It is the careful look and continuance therein that produces the "doer of the work" and the resultant blessing.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 18)

Hunger for Souls

Mark 2:4
And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
Faith is full of inventions. The house was full, a crowd blocked up the door, but faith found a way of getting at the Lord and placing the palsied man before Him. If we cannot get sinners where Jesus is by ordinary methods we must use extraordinary ones. It seems, according to Luke 5:19, that a tiling had to be removed, which would make dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent we must not mind running some risks and shocking some proprieties. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore fall what might, faith ventured all so that her poor paralyzed charge might have his sins forgiven. O that we had more daring faith among us! Cannot we, dear reader, seek it this morning for ourselves and for our fellow-workers, and will we not try to-day to perform some gallant act for the love of souls and the glory of the Lord. The world is constantly inventing; genius serves all the purposes of human desire: cannot faith invent too, and reach by some new means the outcasts who lie perishing around us? It was the presence of Jesus which excited victorious courage in the four bearers of the palsied man: is not the Lord among us now? Have we seen His face for ourselves this morning? Have we felt His healing power in our own souls? If so, then through door, through window, or through roof, let us, breaking through all impediments, labour to bring poor souls to Jesus. All means are good and decorous when faith and love are truly set on winning souls. If hunger for bread can break through stone walls, surely hunger for souls is not to be hindered in its efforts. O Lord, make us quick to suggest methods of reaching Thy poor sin-sick ones, and bold to carry them out at all hazards.

~Charles Spurgeon~ 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Law and Grace # 16

Dangers of Putting Christians Under the Law

1. There are at least three possible ways in which a theological system can be constructed for the purpose of putting the Christian under law.

a. A system which would place the Christian under the total law, including all its elements and penalties. This is pure Judaism.

b. A system which would place the Christian under the moral law and its penalties. This is moral legalism.

c. A system which would place the Christian under the moral law stripped of its proper penalties. This might be called a "weak and beggarly" legalism (Gal. 4:9).

2. It is this third system that deserves the severest criticism.

a. It employs an un-Scriptural terminology, taking only one element of the law and divesting even that of its sanctions, and then calls it "the law of God." In the Bible "the law" is a unity which includes all its elements with its penalties.

b. Claiming to honor the law of God, the system actually dishonors the law, especially because it reduces the holy law of a holy God to the level of mere good advice, comparable to some of the legalistic functions of the United Nations organization.

c. This ultimately moves in the direction of theological disaster, bringing and compounding confusion into our views of sin, of salvation, of the work of Christ and even of the doctrine of God.

d. Worst of all, this abstraction of the moral element from the ceremonial element in Old Testament law, and its imposition upon the Christian as a rule of life, has a grave spiritual and moral danger. For it is precisely this ceremonial element which provides the context of grace for the moral element, and this context of grace provides the great motivating principle which secures the fulfillment of the moral element of the law. Thus this kind of legalistic morality defeats itself.

3. The Word of God condemns unsparingly all attempts to put the Christian believer "under the law." The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul gave to the church the book of Galatians for the very purpose of dealing with this heresy. Read this epistle over and over, noting carefully the precise error with which the writer deals. It is not a total rejection of the gospel of God's grace and a turning back to a total legalism. It is rather the error of saying that the Christian life, having begun by simple faith in Christ, must therefore continue under the law or some part of it. This is clear from the apostle's indignant charge: "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh?" (3.2-3). Little wonder that he begins the chapter with a cry of astonishment. "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth ...?" (3:1).

And having pursued his devastating argument against this type of legalism through chapter 3 and into chapter 4, showing that the redemption of God in Christ has set us free from all the bondage of law, he again asks with irony, "But now,after that ye have known God, or rather are know of God, how turn ye again to  the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (4:9). And then he adds, "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (4:11). "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" (5:7). As for the preacher who had introduced this heresy among the flock, Paul writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be" (5:10

That this matter was no mere case of theological hairsplitting (as some today are accustomed to charge) is made clear in the very beginning of the book of Galatians. In seeking to add some modicum of law to the gospel of God's grace, these legalistic teachers are preaching "another gospel" (1:6). Paul hastens, however, to add that what they are preaching is really "not another" gospel at all, for the very meaning of the term "gospel" excludes all works of law. And so, strange as it may seem to some, for anyone to add any law (no matter how worthy) to the simple good news of God's grace in Christ, is actually to destroy the gospel as gospel! It is no longer gospel at all! If even the smallest item of the law should be added to the gospel and made binding upon believers, so that the requirement now becomes "believe" plus something else in order to be saved, the soul which accepts this "plus something else" automatically becomes "a debtor to the whole law" (5:3). For such a one, the apostle warns, "Christ shall profit you nothing" (5:2).

And so the problem becomes very simple: Either Christ will save you by grace through faith plus nothing, or He will not save you at all! As a matter of fact, even an omnipotent God can save sinners in only one way - that is, by grace. Because of what God is and  because of what we are, there is no other way. Paradoxical as it may seem this is one place where the addition of something finite actually results in a subtraction which is infinite. Such is the mathematics of grace. If the sinner adds anything, he loses everything. If he adds nothing, he wins everything.

Understanding this, we can then accept sympathetically the ultimatum of Galatians: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 17 - "The Standard of Life for Christians")

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gift

An elderly nurse, a member of Charles Spurgeon’s congregation, was living in the poor house, and the great Spurgeon went to visit her. He saw a framed certificate on her wall that she had received when a wealthy man she had cared for died. She didn’t know what it was. Spurgeon read it and learned the man left her his vast estate. Yet she was living destitute, not knowing the value of what she’d been left.

When Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, He left you an incredible gift—your spiritual gift. Maybe you’ve not discovered yet what you have in Jesus. Could it be you have it framed on the wall, not using it? Or have left your gift under the tree, unopened and unappreciated?

God didn’t save you to sit but to serve! He gave you a spiritual gift. “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). If you’re a child of God, that includes you.

Grace here is the Greek word charis—a God-given spiritual ability for service and ministry. But like that poor woman, you may be a gifted child who doesn’t know what you have or how to use it.

Your spiritual gift goes beyond talent. You don’t choose your spiritual gift anymore than you choose your natural gifts—like the color of your eyes or skin. Just as you get natural talents genetically by your first birth, your spiritual gift is given to you at your new birth, the gift of your ascended Lord. It is supernatural. You can develop your natural gifts, and you can develop your supernatural gifts.

Wherefore he saith, When He [Jesus] ascended up on high, He led captivity [the devil] captive, and gave gifts unto men [you]. (Ephesians 4:8)
When the Lord Jesus purchased our salvation, at the same time He broke Satan’s back. Satan’s kingdom came crashing down. His malevolent forces were crushed by Calvary. Jesus Christ led captivity captive. Satan had taken the world captive, but Jesus took Satan captive. His kingdom is ruined. The spoils of the battle—our grace gifts to serve our great King—are given to us.

Never despise or overlook your gift. It is a spiritual gift from our Conqueror, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God didn’t save you to be a member of Christians Anonymous. He put you here to serve; you’ve been called into the ministry. Your spiritual gift is to bless the church, not to bless you—not for your enjoyment but your employment. It’s a tool, not a toy.

Do you really want God to use you? Then stop praying for God to use you—get usable, and God will wear you out! Five principles will help you discover your spiritual gift:

•    Desire. What do you enjoy doing? What do you do well naturally? What would be disappointing if you couldn’t do it?

•    Discovery. You discover your gift as you endeavor to do it. Others will say, “You blessed me when you did that,” or “You’ve given me such wisdom here,” or “You have the ability to lead in this area.” Others will help you discover it.

•    Development. As Paul told Timothy, stir up the gift of God. Study to show yourself approved. No matter what your gift is, like a natural talent, you must develop it through study and work.

•    Dependence. Your spiritual gift must operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts operate with supernatural power. Depend upon the Holy Spirit.

•    Deployment. Put it to work with other saints. In the fellowship of the church you’re going to discover your place. When these gifts work together, the body matures, and we become more and more like Jesus.

You are a gifted child. Don’t leave your gift hanging on the wall. Find out what God wants you to do and get busy doing it.

When you serve Him, joy begins to flow. Ask God to show you your ministry. Accept yourself, discover yourself, be yourself, and give yourself for the glory of God.

~Adrian Rogers~

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Law and Grace # 15

The Christian and the Law (continued)

c. According to the New Testament, the Christian is "delivered from the law." This is the central argument of Romans 7. Any failure to see and accept it leads inevitably to that moral and spiritual defeat pictured so vividly later in the chapter. Those believers had not learned that "ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ" (v. 4), and that 'we are delivered from the law" (v. 6). Both verbs are in the aorist tense, pointing back to something done once for all. The same book sums up the argument in one irrefutable statement, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Romans 10:4). The Greek arrangement of the words here puts the word "end" first in the sentence. That is where the emphasis must be put - the end of the law has come for all believers in Christ. God says "end." Let there be no equivocation here. Either this is true or there is no salvation for sinners.

d. The conclusion must be that the law itself as law, for the Christian, has been "abolished." No one can read 2 Corinthians 3 with an unprejudiced attitude and not see that the writer is discussing the very center of the law of God with its "tables of stone." All this, so far as the Christian believer is concerned, has been "done away"; it has been "abolished". The same thing is set forth in Ephesians 2:15. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances." And again we read that "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us" has been blotted out, nailed to the Cross of Christ (Col. 2:14). In so doing, our blessed Lord spoiled the powers of darkness and triumphed over them. For the great accuser of the brethren and his hosts had found his base of operations in the law. Under the law he could rightly argue that we sinners deserved to be judged and forever doomed. But, thank God, all this is ended for the believer. Every penalty of the divine law has been paid, every demand of the law has been satisfied - not by us, but by the Lamb of God.

(Note: It has been argued by some that the above quoted texts refer only to the ceremonial element of the law and not the moral law. Here again I refer the reader back to my earlier argument for the unity of the divine law. Also, on Colossians 2:14, Peake says, "This distinction between the moral and ceremonial law has no meaning in Paul. The Law is a unity and is done away as a whole." On the clause "took it out of the way", he comments, "The change from aorist to perfect [tense] is significant as expressing the abiding character of the abolition." For the Christian there can be no "point of return" back to the law as law. On the clause "nailing it to his Cross," Peake adds, "When Christ was crucified, God nailed the Law to His Cross. Thus it, like the flesh, was abrogated, sharing His death. The bond therefore no longer exists for us").

4. In what sense were God's people "under the law" in the Old Testament age? This is a question which will inevitably be raised at this point. And it is a legitimate question which should be answered.

a. Let us note that God had a people in Old Testament days and that this people was "under the law" from Sinai to Calvary. This is the substance of Paul's argument in Galatians 3:17-23. Speaking of that Old Testament people, with whom he himself had been associated, Paul writes, "But before [the] faith came, we were kept under the law" (v. 23).

b. Consider now that in these Old Testament days the phrase "under the law" could have had only two possible meanings - either "under the law" as a way of salvation, or "under the law" as a rule of life.

c. We can be certain that "under the law" in those days could not have meant a way of salvation. For nothing is taught that no one in any age could be saved by law keeping. "By the deeds of the law there shall not flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20). The entire fourth chapter of Romans is given to the proposition that both Abraham and David were saved by faith, not by law. With this possibility excluded, there is only this possible alternative: "Under the law" for these Old Testament people meant that they were under it as a rule of life.

d. Let us follow now the argument to its logical conclusion. The dispensational change from the Age of the Law to the Age of Grace does NOT mean that formerly sinners were saved by deeds of law whereas today they are saved by grace, for we have already seen that men could not be saved by law in any age! But it does mean that God's people in the former age were "under the law" as a rule of life, whereas today they are not "under the law" as a rule of life. Yet this is the very sense in which the legalistic theology of our day affirms that the law is still in force over the Christian believer!

What utter nonsense!! If their affirmation be true, then the distinction between being "under the law" and not being "under the law" has been canceled, and the Apostle Paul wasted his time writing the great books of Romans and Galatians, to say nothing of the other books which declare the vital importance of this distinction.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 16 - "Dangers of Putting Christians Under the Law")

Praise Him and Find Victory

Praise Him for His might acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:2, 6

As we meet and talk with women, we often hear of their struggles, especially in their own thoughts. They feel unworthy to be serving the Lord. Thoughts like, "Who are you to be doing this?" or "Why are you working on this—someone else could do it better?" are common components of mental attacks. These thoughts then trigger certain emotions and the next thing for women is a pit of depression and hopelessness, just what the enemy had planned. The enemy wants you to feel so condemned and depressed that you quit or are too demoralized to minister effectively and powerfully.

Some Christians recognize that these types of thoughts are not of the Lord but they do not know how to stop them. Some of us quote verses, rebuke the devil, and attempt to reason our way out of it with logical comebacks, but still have no real victory. Instead of fighting back, we begin to justify the bad thoughts, thinking that maybe these self-condemning behaviors are from the Lord to keep us humble. Wrong!

Jesus came to give us life to the fullest. He wants us to share in His joy, not wallow in our flesh. We are sinners. We are unworthy to do anything to please God. We are to love Him and to worship Him. Our faith is the only way to please God. It is not for us to dwell on our unworthiness but to praise Him for His willingness to save us.

How can we change this process? Start praising the Lord! Put on praise music, read the psalms aloud (as if you wrote them to the Lord) and worship the Lord. The key is to get our eyes off ourselves and focus on Him. He is worthy and by His blood that cleanses us, we can do all things through Christ, even change those negative thoughts.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Law and Grace # 14

The Christian and the Law (continued)

3. Now the Word of God declares plainly that the Christian believer is not "under the law." At least four times, simply and without qualification, the New Testament asserts this great truth: "For ye are not under the law" (Romans 6:14). "Because we are not under the law" (6:15). "Ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18). "Not being myself under the law" (1 Corinthians 9:20). (Note: this last statement is not in the King James Version. But practically all the great editors of the Greek text of the New Testament agree that the clause was a part of the original sacred text. It was probably omitted from a few of the Greek manuscripts by legalistically inclined scribes. The American Standard Version includes it in 1 Corinthians 9:20 with either an alternative reading or other marginal note, thus indicating the translators' unquestioned judgment that it belongs there as a part of the inerrant Word of God through the Apostle Paul.) It should also be noted that in two of the above quoted texts, the writer ties two great facts of the Christian faith directly to the truth that "we are not under the law." In Romans 6:14 the Christian's deliverance from the lordship of sin is tied to his deliverance from the law, and in Galatians 5:18 our deliverance from the law is regarded as an evidence of our being led by the Spirit. These practical effects in the realm of the moral and spiritual life will be discussed more fully.

a. Consider further that the Christian believer is not under law in any sense as a means of salvation or any part of it. In Romans 3:20 we read that "by the deeds of the law ... shall no flesh be justified in his sight." And in this text the Holy Spirit seems to broaden sweepingly the exclusion of all deeds of all law from the divine act in the justification of sinners. There are no definite articles. The Greek text reads simply "by deeds of the law." Again in Romans 6;14 the Scripture declares not only that the law as law has absolutely nothing to contribute in the accomplishment of the believer's sanctification, but on the contrary that freedom from the law's bondage is actually one indispensable factor in that important work of God in the soul. Still further, when Paul comes to deal with the matter of Christian security in Romans 8, he asserts that the law has no power to keep us in safety, but "what the law could not do" in this regard, God sent His Son to accomplish for us and also in us (Romans 8:3-4). Thus we see that the law can neither justify, sanctify, nor preserve us.

b. The law can give no help to men as a means of salvation from sin. In Colossians 2:14 who can fail to see the reference to Sinai in the phrase "handwriting of ordinances"?  The Apostle declares that this same divine law was not only "against us" but also "contrary to us." And the same writer, referring to the Decalogue "written and engraven in stones," describes it as a "ministration of death" (2 Corinthians 3:7). In Romans 4:15 we learn that the law "worketh wrath," and in Galatians 3:12 that "the law is not of faith." And when certain men arose in the early church to insist that believers should be placed under at least a small part of the law, Peter himself rebuked them with the reminder that this law was 'a yoke ... which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 15)

God's Clear Instructions

Joshua needed guidance as he faced one of the most crucial moments of his life. Because the Lord had promised him success in conquering Jericho, he knew the outcome of the battle, but as the day of combat approached, he needed a specific strategy for victory. What he heard the Lord say must have made his jaw drop.

Can you imagine the soldiers' thoughts as they carried out this bizarre battle strategy? In confusing times like this, it's good to remember three requirements for benefiting from God's instructions. We need:
• Faith to believe the Lord
• Courage to obey Him
• Patience to wait for His timing.
When God gives us clear instruction through His Word or His Spirit within us, our response shows how much we trust Him. If we truly believe Him and His promises, precise and complete obedience will follow. His victory in any area of struggle is available only to those who act upon His directions.

Submitting to the Lord's timing is also an essential part of obedience. What would have happened if the army decided to bypass God's plans for the first six days and skip straight to the seventh day's march around Jericho? They would have missed the victory.
How often do we beg the Lord for guidance, yet hesitate to obey when He finally gives it? Living by faith can seem like a huge risk when His instructions make no sense or require a lengthy wait. But knowing His eternal perspective and unlimited power can strengthen our resolve to obey.

~Charles Stanley~

Monday, September 23, 2013

Law and Grace # 13

The Christian and the Law

1. Several answers, all evasive in character, have been given to the question: Is the Christian believer under the law? For the most part they are based upon wrong or inadequate definitions of law. 

a. Some argue that the believer is under the moral law, but not under the ceremonial law.

b. Others say that we are under the moral law, but not under its penalties.

c. Still others assert that we are under the moral law as a rule of life, but not as a way of salvation. Another way of saying the same thing is that we are under the law for sanctification but not for justification.

d. Another view is that we are under the Sermon on the Mount, but not under the law of Sinai.

e. A rather curious view advanced recently is that the Christian believer is under "the law of God," but not under the "law of Moses." According to this scheme the "law of Moses" is the entire system of law recorded in the Pentateuch, whereas the "law of God' is limited to the Ten Commandments! That such a distinction between the "law of God" and the "law of Moses" cannot stand is clear from the Scriptures. See Luke 2:21-24, 39 where the same law is called variously the "law of Moses' and the "law of the Lord," and that law under consideration is ceremonial in nature. See also Mark 7:8-13 where what "Moses said" is also identified as the "commandment of God", and the material quoted from the Pentateuch includes one of the Ten Commandments and also a death penalty from the civil code. We will not be misled by any of the above erroneous views if we hold fast to that complete definition of the divine law, namely, that the law of God in the Bible is one law, including moral, ceremonial and civil elements, and inseparable from its penalties.

2. The meaning of the Biblical phrase "under the law." This expression occurs twelve times in the King James Version, fourteen times in the American Standard Version, Twice the Greek preposition is "en" (Romans 23:12; 3:19), eleven times it is "hupo" with the accusative case (Romans 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 3:23, 4:4-5, 21, 5:18). In the remaining passage the English phrase "under the law" represents a very dubious translation of a single Greek word (1 Corinthians 9:21), which will be discussed later.

According to Green the "en" of the above texts refers to the "sphere" in which the subject is dwelling and acting. This would correctly describe the Jew in relation to the divine law. He was not only under the law, but also "in" the law as the sphere of his existence and actions.

The preposition "hupo" with the accusative in the other texts means "subject to the power of any person or thing." Thayer cites as examples the very references under consideration in this study. An excellent illustration may be found in Matthew 8:9, where the Roman centurion says, "For I am a man under [hupo] authority, having soldiers under [hupo] me." Just as the centurion was absolutely under Roman military authority, both as to its laws and its penalties, so also were his soldiers under his authority.

In summary we may say that for one to be "under the law" in the Biblical sense is to be under the law of God - the entire Mosaic legal system in its indivisible totality - subject to its commands and liable to its penalties.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 14)

Admit Your Fears

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  - Psalm 56:3

Is it hard for you to admit that you are afraid or fearful of something? Think of the circumstances and people that occupy your mind during the day. Are your thoughts filled with peace or fear? It is difficult to admit as Christians that we are fearful. For some reason we believe that the presence of fear disqualifies the strength of our faith. But it is foolish to believe that Christians are not fearful. Every stage we enter in our walk with the Lord has to shake our faith in order for us to understand the seriousness of the choices at hand. I love the Word of God, the Lord allows us to be honest about our fears and then helps us work through them as we learn from the examples of others as described in His Word.

When reading Psalm 56, we learn that David wrote this Psalm. From what we know about David, we know a boy who could slay a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. Then we know him as a man who was a mighty warrior and wise king. And yet, God allows us to see into this man’s heart and we find that David was a lot like us, struggling with fears at times. But what makes David, “a man after God’s own heart,” was that he knew what to do about his fears. Those fears did not separate him from the Lord or hinder his faith. David had faith amidst the fears. How?

First, David made a conscious effort in prayer to admit to God that he was fearful. As believers, we often tend to not include the Lord in our fears, knowing that we shouldn’t be "fearing" anything but Him. Not David, he understood that the Lord sees and knows all things about us. We can’t hide from the Lord, so why pretend He doesn’t know how we are feeling?

Next, David confidently told the Lord that he chose to trust in Him about those fearful things. So now, think of those things again that are fear inducing in your life. Talk to the Lord about them. Tell Him everything you are thinking. Now, tell the Lord that you choose to trust Him with those very things. You might have to tell Him over and over, but in time, you will train yourself to be like David…a man after God’s own heart.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Law and Grace # 12

The Mosaic Law and Gentiles

The relation of the Mosaic law to Gentiles is important and there has been some sharp disagreement on the subject. Some assert that not only was the written Mosaic law given to Israel alone, but that it also has no relation whatsoever to Gentiles. Others argue that this law is for all men and is universal in its obligations. There is some truth on both sides.

1. The law of Moses, in a certain sense, made provision for Gentiles to enter into its benefits and restraints. This provision, under the historical theocratic kingdom, is a well-attested fact. Thus, in the law concerning the Passover, provision was made for "the stranger" who might sojourn with Israel; and there was to be one law for "homeborn" and "stranger" (Exodus 12:48-49). Also, in the case of freewill offerings unto the Lord for burnt offerings, the laws concerning perfect and imperfect animals applied to both Israel and the strangers in Israel alike (Lev. 22:18-22). Regulations dealing with the blood from animal sacrifices were imposed upon the stranger - "Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt-offering or sacrifice, ... that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will  cut him off from among his people" (Lev. 17:8, 10). Quite evidently the "stranger", under some circumstances, must have been permitted to join in the sacrificial rites.

Furthermore, from Deuteronomy 23:1-7 it appears that certain restrictions surrounded the reception of outsiders "into the congregation of the Lord," showing that such a reception was possible. The Prophet Isaiah seems to level whatever distinction there remained between the Israelite and the "son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord" (Isaiah 56:3). The latter is not to say, "The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people" (Isaiah 56:3). The chief point under consideration in the passage is the keeping of the legal sabbath (Isaiah 56:2).

With these many clear provisions for "the stranger" written in the Jewish scriptures, it is difficult to understand how such a violent antagonism against Gentiles could develop as appeared in the days of Christ.

(Note: Some interpreters have regarded the law as something which raised an insuperable barrier between Jew and Gentile on the basis of Ephesians 2:11-19. The misleading translation of verse 14 in the King James Version has doubtless contributed to this wrong idea. "For he [Christ] ... hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Ephesians 2:14-15). The "middle wall of partition" is not "between us", that is, between Jew and Gentile, as the words suggest. This "middle wall" is certainly "the law of commandments" mentioned in verse 15, which was "abolished" by the death of Christ. But this "middle wall" of "law" did not merely separate one kind of sinners (Jews) from another kind of sinners (Gentiles). It was rather a barrier which separated all sinners, both Jew and Gentile, from a holy God. That is why the "Law of commandments" had to be abolished in order to "reconcile both [Jew and Gentile] unto God in one body" (Ephesians 2:16).

2. But even entirely apart from any provision made by the law for "strangers" to sojourn with Israel, the great underlying principles of the Mosaic written law were found reflected in some degree in Gentile morality and religion. The Mosaic law had three elements: the moral, ceremonial and civil. Discussing the case of the Gentiles, Paul declares that sometimes "the Gentiles, which have not the law [that is, the written law], do by nature the things contained in the law" (Romans 2:14). In so acting, Paul argues, the Gentiles "shew the work of the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:15). Thus, Paul claims everything good that has ever appeared in the Gentile world as a reflection, however faint, of the one original divine law recorded in Scripture. Now it is a fact that among the pagan Gentile nations there is found occasionally a fairly high knowledge of morality - a reflection of the moral element which appears perfectly in the law written in Scripture. Also the urge to offer sacrifice is universal, found among all nations - a reflection of the ceremonial law in Scripture. Finally, in the civil codes of various nations reflections may be seen of the written law of God. All this points back to the unity of the divine law, both in its content and its original source. In the one case it is written perfectly in Scripture. In the other  it is written imperfectly in the hearts of men. There is one divine law, not two.

3. Therefore, we must conclude that even the Gentiles were and are "under law," but in a somewhat different sense from the Jews. At this point one should carefully study the material in Romans 2:11-15. Here both Jews and Gentiles are being considered as sinners apart from Christ. The Jews had the perfect divine law written in Scripture, and by that law they will be judged. The Gentiles did not have such a law, but they will perish for their sins nevertheless. Answering the objection that this does not seem fair to the Gentiles, Paul says that although they were without the written law of Scripture, they nonetheless had a law - a law written in their hearts, an inner law which reflected imperfectly the written law of God. And by this law they will be judged and condemned, because they violated the inner law of which the conscience within them bore witness. Thus there is no respect of persons with God. Judged by the light they had, all men must perish, whether Jew or Gentile. The only hope for sinners is not the law, but in the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 13 - "The Christian and the Law")

Does Your Heart Burn?

Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" - Luke 24:31-32

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the story of the two on the road to Emmaus. They had heard the account from the women who had gone to the tomb and found it empty. Jesus was gone. His body was not in the tomb. All of their hopes for a king were gone as well. But as they walked and discussed all that had happened, Jesus showed up. Jesus began to question them about what had happened, as they were completely unaware of Whom they were talking to. After breaking bread with them, Jesus vanished and then they knew. Their eyes had been opened to the spiritual realm and they got it. Their hearts burned within them as Jesus talked to them. They understood His Word. The Scriptures came alive to them, just as, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among them" (John 1:14).

Has your heart ever burned within you as if Jesus were speaking to you personally? Jesus left us His Word and His Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit living within our hearts, we can discern spiritual things, and it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can comprehend the Word of God. When we fall in love with His Word, we have fallen in love with Him. We find ourselves unable to get enough of His presence. We just want more of Jesus. It is then that we begin to have our eyes truly opened to know Him personally.

Praise God today that we do not have to hope for an encounter with Jesus. If we have accepted Him into our hearts as our Savior, then we have His Spirit living within us. Through reading and studying the Bible, we can understand His ways and grow in the knowledge of Him. Our lives will change, day by day, from glory to glory. Read Luke chapter 24 today as part of a further study in the Word. Ask the Lord to open your mind to understand the Scriptures. Maybe you will find your heart burning within you, before you are done.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Law and Grace # 11

God's Written Law and Israel (continued)

5. The giving of this legal covenant to Israel, however, did not abrogate the earlier Abrahamic covenant which was unconditional. In its initial and original form, this covenant with Abraham is found in Genesis 12:1-3. Its sevenfold blessing is not conditioned upon any legal perfection of Abraham. God simply announces what He will do for the patriarch and his seed. It might be argued that there is, after all, one condition laid down in verse 1, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred... unto a land that I will shew thee." But Abraham's compliance with this injunction was only his response of faith to the sovereign promises of God. "By faith Abraham .... went out, not knowing whither he went" (Hebrews 11:8). (In the same way we respond by faith today to the call of God when we leave the world and enter that blessed realm designated "in Christ.") Now this covenant with Abraham was made  430 years before the law was given at Sinai, and Paul argues that this "law ... cannot disannul [the covenant], that it should make the promise of none effect" (Galatians 3:17). Even the Mosaic law itself witnesses to the supremacy of the former covenant. In spite of Israel's iniquities and the certainty of divine judgment upon the nation, the Lord declares, "My covenant with Abraham will I remember; ... yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God" (Lev. 26:42, 44).

6. The Israelite is "under" this Mosaic written law until he finds forgiveness and freedom in the "new covenant" under grace in Christ. "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?" (Romans 7:1). Freedom from the law's bondage comes only as the Jew becomes "dead to the law by the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4). The same general idea is asserted in Galatians 5:3, "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law." The reference is not merely to the physical operation, but to submission to the rite with the belief that it will either save or help to save the soul. Such a one is bound by the entire law, to do it all or suffer the penalty for failure.

It is clear that Paul regarded the unsaved Jews of his day as being under the law, for he says in Romans 3:19, "We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." The Greek verbs here indicate a present reality, not merely, a relationship which once existed but is no longer in force.

At the very moment the apostle was writing, the law was speaking to his unsaved kinsmen who, he argues, "are under the law." If this were not so, there could be no day of judgment for them, as he affirms there certainly shall be: "As many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law" (Romans 2:12). The same thought appears in Galatians 4 where Paul, speaking of the "Jerusalem which now it," says she "is in bondage with her children" (Galatians 4:25). That this is the bondage of the law is clear from the context, especially in Galatians 5:1, where he warns the saved not to go back to it.

This view does not conflict in any way with the fact that what we call the Dispensation of Law ended at Calvary. For God may change in his way of dealing with men without totally abolishing the main feature of a former dispensation. Conscience was not abolished when human government was established. Nor were the promises abrogated when the Dispensation of Law began. So today, in this Age of Grace, there is still law for those who will not come to Christ for freedom. And if when men believe, they are "made dead to the law" (Romans 7:4) in order that they may be joined to Christ, then this dominion of the law must be a very genuine and present reality.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 12 - "The Mosaic Law and Gentiles")

Reasons to Surrender

As we learned yesterday, God tells us to surrender our lives to Him. This is no small task. All our plans, every desire we feel, each entitlement that once seemed our right—everything is put aside in order to make way for our King’s will. But perhaps you have wondered why God can ask this of us.

The Lord has every right to demand that we give Him our all. First, Scripture teaches us that He is sovereign—the King and Ruler over the entire universe. As a result, we are under His authority, whether we choose to submit or not. Next, through His death and resurrection, Jesus saved us from our sin and its consequences. Therefore, we are indebted to Him more than we could ever repay. And finally, He sustains us; we should consider each breath and heartbeat a gift from Him.

Undoubtedly, God is entitled to ask that we yield our life to Him. At the same time, surrender is in our best interest. The Father promises that following Him leads to hope and an established future. Psalm 31:19 states, “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You . . .” So, while He is the Almighty One with all authority to demand our life, He promises to care for us and to do what will benefit us most.

Are you willing to put yourself aside in order to follow Jesus? His way is best, and it offers hope, joy, and peace. We will not always like everything He chooses at the moment, but He promises to work all things for good. Will you trust God enough to hand the reins over to Him?

~Charles Stanley~

Friday, September 20, 2013

Law and Grace # 10

God's Written Law and Israel

1. As a written law, it was given in the form of a covenant to Israel alone. As a preface to the giving of the "Ten Words" on Sinai, the Lord speaks thus through Moses to Israel: "Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; ... Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people" (Exodus 19:3-5). Then after the giving of the law at Sinai, we read that Moses "took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people" (Exodus 24:7). As the giving of the law proceeded, the divine Voice enjoined upon Moses the making of  a written record, "Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel" (Exodus 34:27).

After the completion of the written record, the Levites were commanded, "Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. (Deut. 31:26). In his article on the Decalogue, Dr. Sampey writes, "It was to Israel that the Decalogue was primarily addressed, and not to all mankind."

2. This divine covenant set forth in the Pentateuch is clearly described as a legal matter. Thus the Ten Commandments are spoken of as "the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you" (Deut. 9:9). And the legal record is referred to variously as "the book of the covenant" (Exodus 24:7) and "the words of the covenant" (Deut. 29:1). Furthermore, the penalties of the divine law are called "the curses of the covenant" (Deut. 29:21). Finally, the blood of the animals sacrificed in obedience to the law is characterized as 'the blood of the covenant" (Exodus 24:8). And the ark, which stands as a symbol of both moral and ceremonial law, is named "the ark of the covenant" (Numbers 10:33).

3. Regarded as a covenant, the blessings of the law were conditional, dependent on Israel's obedience. "If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: ... a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). "If thou shalt hearken diligently ... to observe and to do all his commandments ... all these blessings shall come on thee" (Deut. 28:1-2). (See also Deuteronomy 28:1-14). On the other hand, if the people of Israel find themselves groaning under the judgments of God, they must understand that all this is come upon them because "They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law" (Psalm 78:10).

4. Viewed as a law code, it was given to Israel because of sin. In answering the question, Wherefore then the law? Paul says "It was added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). When the children of Israel left the bondage of Egypt their deliverance and exodus was accomplished in accordance with the gracious promise of a sovereign God. But how did they react to this undeserved deliverance? The sorry record in Exodus tells of their fearful wish to be back under the bondage of Egypt rather than face the perils of Pharaoh's host, their petulant murmuring against Moses because of the bitter waters at Marah, their lusting after the fleshpots of Egypt, their readiness to stone Moses because of their thirst in the desert - all this in the face of the Lord's mighty working of miracles in delivering them over and over. It was the transgressions of Israel that brought them to the foot of Sinai, for they continually failed to walk by faith under the gracious promises of a sovereign God. Strongly reminiscent of their failure is the warning of Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God". No other failure can be so disastrous in the moral and spiritual realm.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 11)

If We Walk In the Light

John 1:7
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light.
As He is in the light! Can we ever attain to this? Shall we ever be able to walk as clearly in the light as He is whom we call "Our Father," of whom it is written, "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all"? Certainly, this is the model which it set before us, for the Saviour Himself said, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect"; and although we may feel that we can never rival the perfection of God, yet we are to seek after it, and never to be satisfied until we attain to it. The youthful artist, as he grasps his early pencil, can hardly hope to equal Raphael or Michael Angelo, but still, if he did not have a noble beau ideal before his mind, he would only attain to something very mean and ordinary. But what is meant by the expression that the Christian is to walk in light as God is in the light? We conceive it to import likeness, but not degree. We are as truly in the light, we are as heartily in the light, we are as sincerely in the light, as honestly in the light, though we cannot be there in the same measure. I cannot dwell in the sun, it is too bright a place for my residence, but I can walk in the light of the sun; and so, though I cannot attain to that perfection of purity and truth which belongs to the Lord of hosts by nature as the infinitely good, yet I can set the Lord always before me, and strive, by the help of the indwelling Spirit, after conformity to His image. That famous old commentator, John Trapp, says, "We may be in the light as God is in the light for quality, but not for equality." We are to have the same light, and are as truly to have it and walk in it as God does, though, as for equality with God in His holiness and purity, that must be left until we cross the Jordan and enter into the perfection of the Most High. Mark that the blessings of sacred fellowship and perfect cleansing are bound up with walking in the light.

~Charles Spurgeon~