Our love for Jesus flows directly from our awareness of how much he has forgiven us. I do not minimize the compelling nature of his attributes when I affirm this. His excellence should move us to love him in and of himself apart from any favors we receive. In forgiveness, however, we see all of his excellence in action; all of his wisdom, power, righteousness and holiness as well as the revelation of a number of tender mercies conspire to produce the truly divine disposition of passing over our abundant offenses. All of them were necessary in order to find forgiveness from the One who is “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty”(Exodus 34:7). Luke illustrates this gospel principle at a memorable dinner party (Luke 7:36–49).
Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus over for a meal with his friends. Luke does not say if the invitation is sincere or a trap, but when Jesus arrives, Simon’s greeting is less than enthusiastic. He provides no water for Jesus’ feet, gives him no kiss of welcome, and neglects to anoint his head with oil—all basic tokens of hospitality. Is Simon’s inattentiveness to Jesus calculated, or just careless? In either case, his love for the Savior is underwhelming.
Soon, another figure enters the room, as different from Simon as we could imagine. She is an unnamed “woman of the city,” known to all as “a sinner.” She was likely not invited to Simon’s distinguished home. But, apparently, she has met Jesus before; at least she has heard his message about God’s grace. When she learns Jesus is at Simon’s house, she shows up with an alabaster flask of ointment. Finding Jesus reclining at table, the woman kneels behind him. Weeping, she bathes his feet with her tears. She wipes his feet dry with her own hair, kisses them, and anoints them with her oil. It is an extravagant display of love.
As Jesus goes on to explain in a story about debt, our love for him is always proportionate to our sense of how much he has forgiven us. The notorious woman knew that her sin-debt was massive. When Jesus canceled her debt and sent her away in peace, she loved him much. Simon is, of course, every bit as spiritually impoverished as this woman. But his external righteousness has blinded him to his crushing need before a holy God. He does see himself as a debtor; he feels no need for mercy. He assumes that he requires little forgiveness, and it shows in his little love for the Forgiver.
Our story suggests that few practices can yield greater spiritual fruit in my life than considering just how much and how freely Jesus has forgiven, is forgiving, and will forgive me (cf 1 Tim 1:15). As our story suggests, such reflection produces humble gratitude to God, loving commitment to the Savior, sympathy and tenderness toward my fellow sinners, and unshakable peace in my heart as I reenter the world.
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By Ref Cast — 2 years ago
Truthfully, we did see—and are still seeing—the judgment-hand of God. We, as a people, have turned our back on the Lord and should expect to reap the consequences. Yet with any judgment, there is mercy. God is never as harsh with us as we deserve. Even his most severe chastisements are intermingled with grace. He does not treat believers according to their sins (Ps. 103:10), and he makes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
So what was—or is—the nature of the judgment we’re experiencing? The Apostle John records for us Christ’s words for the church in Ephesus:
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5 NASB)
Hear me, friend: this is for us. Our Lord has something against us and is disciplining his people. There are too many reasons to discuss them here. But note the solemn warning: “I will remove your lampstand.” In Revelation 1:20, we’re told that the lampstands represent local church communities. Jesus is saying that unless we repent and renew our love for Christ, our assembly will disintegrate. The church planted will be uprooted. This little light of ours won’t shine.
This is a weighty threat. Remember what happened in Jerusalem following Pentecost? The first generation of believers became devoted to learning from the apostles, coming together in communion, and selling their possessions to care for one another’s needs. Through their faithfulness, their little group quickly grew as “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Now, imagine a church community like this extinguished.
Friend, doesn’t this feel weighty to you? Does your soul not ache for the type of fellowship witnessed in that passage—the type of fellowship Jesus threatened to withhold from his wayward Bride? How dare we cut ourselves off from such grace?
We make much of the final Day of the Lord, but far less of the Lord’s Day that comes every week.
If Scripture considers it a judgment for a local church assembly to be snuffed out, then why would any individual casually exclude himself from the church—in effect, replicating that kind of judgment on a personal level?
We must gather with the local church. The Book of Hebrews exhorts us:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)
Let’s put it another way. If you learned that tomorrow Jesus was going to return (let’s pretend for a second that it’s possible to know this ), and you had only to meet him in a given location, wouldn’t you move Heaven and earth to be there? The answer is an easy yes, right?
We make much of the final Day of the Lord, but far less of the Lord’s Day that comes every week—the day Christ promises his presence with us as we gather.
My friend, I’m not simply trying to hotly rebuke you but to win you back to Christ. Consider this. What married couple have you known who chose to separate and were happier and more intimate as a result? None? So how can we sever ourselves from the vital Vine, our Lord, fail to commune with him as his people on each Lord’s Day, and expect to remain alive?
At the risk of piling on, consider: do we forget to eat meals each day? When we miss a meal, don’t we immediately feel the effects? So why do we starve ourselves of our spiritual food?
We miss you. You used to be here every week shaking hands and holding doors. Then it was every other week. Then monthly, if ever. And when you’re with us now, you slip away at the end without greeting others. It started with the pandemic and became about family, vacations, or missed alarms. You watch online or listen to the message—usually. But we, the church, yearn for you. “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8).
Return, o wandering friend. Jesus left the ninety-nine to go after the one. He is seeking you, too. An old saint once wrote that he does not have God as his Father who does not also have the church as his mother. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, but I don’t think so. Jesus loves his people. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for them (John 10:11). This means he loves you, if indeed you are counted among his people. Are you?
Come back. You won’t be scorned, mocked, or eyed suspiciously. (If someone looks at you funny, we’re sorry—accept our apology in advance.) We don’t want your tithes, time, or talents as much as we want you. We yearn to fellowship with you again.
See you this Sunday?
By Hannah Ascol — 2 years ago
Moses’s knowledge of creation came by immediate revelation. There were no documents recording the event on which he could reflect and no eyewitness accounts, not even Adam, for he was created on the sixth day. The first three chapters of Genesis determine everything in the rest of Scripture and, indeed, for all the events of subsequent history. We learn of the exalted status of humanity in its creation in the image of God, we learn of its moral stature of knowledge of the will of God and the true goodness of obedience and the devastation of disobedience. We learn of the reason for male and female, the order and purpose of their creation, and, again, the consequent moral status and intrinsic goodness of this relationship, a marriage relationship established by God at the very fountainhead of humanity (Matthew 19:4-6). These chapters tell us of the disobedience that led to death and the corruption of all the descendants of Adam. The subjection of creation itself to vanity is revealed as having proceeded from this first sin.
Without the revelation of Genesis 1-3 we have no Romans 2, 4, 5, and 8. Well, let’s just say the entire New Testament. We find in this narrative the first promise of redemption through the seed of the woman and the consequent final and ultimate demise of Satan. The principle of sacrificial death to provide covering for the results of sin finds graphic expression in this revelation of primeval reality. Subsequent to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the memory and oral information could serve as a resource for the recording of the pertinent events and relations and developments. These historical accounts of actions and judgments could come from Adam for 900 years, from Noah for 350 years subsequent to the flood, from Abraham and the three subsequent generations descending from his loins. From this seedbed of oral (and some written?) history the pertinent events of the developing human condition were available to Moses. The revelatory relevance of the historical narrative was guaranteed by the superintending operation of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The events for which there could be no eyewitness account were revealed to Moses immediately.
Moses clearly recognized his calling as a man dependent on revelation. From the burning bush to his messages given to Pharaoh, saying what God put in his mind and on Aaron’s lips, Moses was conscious that God initiated and controlled the content of the message. Announcement of each plague was an outflow of revelation followed by effectual action from the Lord God. The giving of the Ten Commandments was pure revelation, even written by the finger of God. It put into objective propositions the law written on the heart at creation, the same law that would be enforced by the curse of death for disobedience.
The first three chapters of Genesis determine everything in the rest of Scripture and, indeed, for all the events of subsequent history.
Moses asked specifically for a revelation of the glory of God, knowing that any knowledge of God must come by his grace and his revelatory action. God would speak to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). He heard, having been hidden from the fatal view of infinite glory, God say, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6, 7).
Moses received the revelation of the ceremonial law and the civil law in addition to the moral law. These also helped define the character of the people of God and the work of the coming finality of the prophetic word, the priestly ministry, and the King of kings. Deuteronomy consisted of the words Moses spoke “to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them” (Deuteronomy 1:3).
Any compromise of the revelatory status of the Pentateuch and the propositional character of that revelation threatens to make clear understanding of entire corpus of Scripture impossible. Creation occurred according the word power, eternal purpose, and orderly arrangement determined by God as revealed in Scripture. The simple proposition “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3) builds upon the entire narrative of Genesis revealed to Moses. None could argue that the summary by Paul of the gospel he preached to the Corinthians is a minor point of truth, an irrelevancy, or only a tangential issue of application. It summarizes the redemptive revelation of God in gathering to himself the people given to his Son before the creation of the world. That simple statement is a mysterious imposition on the intellect apart from the full truthfulness of the layered context of what Moses wrote in Genesis 1-3 and then throughout the Pentateuch.
In harmony with that and as an expansion of it, propositional revelation continued throughout Scripture; it built upon the first principles of creation, covenant, fall, redemption, law, election of a people, unveiling of promise, and divine sovereignty disclosed to Moses, the first penman of Holy Scripture. The absolute truthfulness of this written revelation and its unwavering authority for life before God is emphasized immediately upon the death of Moses and the transfer of leadership of the people of God to Joshua: “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (Joshua 1:8). An accurate understanding of the Mosaic revelation would determine the clarity with which all future revelation would be understood and synthesized into the final manifestation of the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We grasp the meaning of the “Alpha and Omega,” the “tree of Life,” the “root and descendant of David,” the “water of Life,” “the plagues described in this book,” and finally consolidated into the entire corpus of Scripture (Revelation 22:13, 14, 16, 18-21).
By Travis McSherley — 11 months ago
The Bible speaks a lot about the weather. And in every instance, the message is the same: God is the one who is in control of the weather.
Rain, snow, hail, sun, wind, thunder, lightning—they are all His instruments, used for blessing, for judgment, and for declaring to the world that His power knows no limits.
God used a flood that covered the entire earth to reveal that the wickedness of men will not always be tolerated.
God used a seven-year famine to show the family of Jacob that He is the great Provider and that He can even use evil plans to bring good to His people.
God used a crop-crushing hailstorm to make Pharaoh understand that He is King greater than any other king and a God greater than any other god.
God used a three-and-a-half year drought to show King Ahab that praying and sacrificing to idols is worse than worthless.
God used a “great wind” and “mighty tempest” to show Jonah that he could not escape his divine calling.
Jesus used a storm on the sea to demonstrate to trembling disciples that wind and waves submit to His authority—and His alone.
Rain, snow, hail, sun, wind, thunder, lightning—they are all God’s instruments, used for blessing, for judgment, and for declaring to the world that His power knows no limits.
And God is still using weather today to teach of His power and to distribute His grace. That reality is very fresh in my mind because a month ago, I spent hours huddled together with my family in the hallway of our home, while the walls outside were battered relentlessly by 150-mile-per-hour winds. We listened to shingles being pulled off the roof, one by one, wondering whether the plywood underneath would hold together. We watched a metal shutter get yanked away from the window it was protecting and wondered if a stray piece of debris would come crashing through. Outside, trees literally bowed to the power of the storm’s force. Our kids’ wooden swing set was relocated somewhere (we still haven’t found most of it). While we sang together of “Christ the sure and steady Anchor,” the lights went out and would not turn back on for more than a week. And even as the roar of the winds finally diminished, it was replaced by a choir that filled the house all night with the sound of drips and dribbles pouring in through the ceiling.
As many people in Southwest Florida can now attest, it is quite a helpless feeling to be caught in the middle of a vortex of wind and rain, not able to do anything except wait and hope and pray.
But the message of Hurricane Ian is the same as the message from the floods, famines, and storms of Scripture: God is the one who was in control of Hurricane Ian. As massive and unstoppable as this storm seemed to us, it was but a speck of dust upon the face of the earth, which is itself but a speck of dust in the midst of the universe, which was created by the very word of Almighty God.
For with all of the advancements of man, for all our technology and knowledge, weather reminds us that we are small, frail, and weak. We cannot summon the sun to shine. We cannot tame the wind. We cannot command the rain to fall—or command it to stop falling. God can and does.
It should be a source of immense comfort that God is sovereign over everything that happens on the earth, including the fiercest storms. Nothing is arbitrary or random with the Lord, and nothing escapes His grasp.
As God told Job:
Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass? Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?… Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, “Here we are”? (Job 38:25-29, 34-35)
Such words should produce the “fear of the Lord” in us, a humble reverence and realization that God’s power cannot be contained or measured. And it should be a source of immense comfort that God is sovereign over everything that happens on the earth, including the fiercest storms. Nothing is arbitrary or random with the Lord, and nothing escapes His grasp. That is not to say that we can understand or explain the ways that God wields His power. Job admitted as much in his response to God’s interrogation:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:2-3)
The last few chapters of the book of Job have long been a source of strength and encouragement to me, through times of grief and certainly through these recent weeks. I don’t know why God saw fit to send a hurricane toward my city, and have it damage my house and so many others. But I know that it was not a mistake, not an accident. And the outpouring of grace we have witnessed this past month is even more overwhelming than the storm itself—friends and family offering encouragement and support, God’s church demonstrating sacrificial love and service, people coming to faith in Christ.
As people created by God and made in His image, our call is to worship Him and trust Him while enjoying the spring sunshine and while enduring the brutal storm, on the days where everything seems to be going right and on the days where everything is difficult and uncertain. What is true of the weather is true of all of creation, and all of life—God is in control, and He uses every lightning bolt, every ray of sunshine to further His good purposes. He has used storms to bring about judgment and repentance; He has taken what man meant for evil and used it for good, most amazingly using the agony of a cross as a means to offer salvation to all who would believe.
This article was originally posted at Manifold Witness and is posted here with the author’s permission.