The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the human mind, the good things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It has been a trend in our culture for some time to consider the concept of “hell” to be one that is outdated. Some express the mindset by saying that a good God wouldn’t send people to a place like that. Yet we have that best and most-loving One on record, from His walk here with us, referring to it.
Christian writer George MacDonald lived in Victorian times. In his three volumes of Unspoken Sermons, he treated important topics powerfully and in a way that enlarges and encourages his readers. He is the writer whom C.S. Lewis described as “my master.” Scripture is illuminated on MacDonald’s pages, and one is “fed.” He touches on every important subject, just as the Word does. MacDonald’s sense of hell is that the Father who is Love will resort to whatever tormenting tactics He has to use — to cause as many souls as possible to turn to Him in righteousness and recognition.
Righteousness? In referring to the essence of the sacred text, Dr. Isaac Rottenberg, a past president of the Dutch Reform Church, observed, “It’s all about righteousness.”
Recognition? We remember the conversation between Jesus (Yeshua) and His disciples that began with His asking them who other people said He was and culminated with His asking them, “But who do you say that I am?” When Peter — apparently alone — responded with full recognition, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus expressed profound appreciation for his recognition. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you — but my Father in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter. And upon this rock I will build my church; and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.”
For much of our early life we appreciated the non-judgmental, progressive qualities of the liberal Christian church that our family preferred. But in more-recent years we have seen this church become increasingly one of the “ear-tickling” variety, as described in Scripture. Its primary spokespeople have chosen to be guided by what is popular to the extent that they are leaning toward secular humanism — largely abandoning this church’s Christian foundation and even disrespecting the Bible.
The perception of “crude salvationism” may have driven some toward secular humanism. This perception would perhaps be voiced by people associated with liberal churches — or even more likely by those who don’t bother with church at all. Of course there is an element of truth to this perception: that a “dumbing down” of something vast has been done by well-meaning, unsophisticated people.
Astrophysicist and pastor Dr. Hugh Ross has devoted his life to searching out answers to important questions — with the unique result being a synthesis that reflects both his considerable personal “assets” and his (at least) two areas of expertise.
We have learned from him and his organization, Reasons to Believe (reasons.org), that our world is apparently fine-tuned to an astonishing degree and in a sufficiently significant number of ways to leave no other rational conclusion than that a Designer of absolute mastery is behind the evidence that He has left for us to find! We have also learned from Dr. Ross that astronomy is entirely focused on determining when cosmological events took place.
He and his associates see evidence of this masterful Designer’s having worked for millions of years to create an ideal environment in which He could, in Dr. Ross’s words, “in the shortest time possible accomplish the elimination of evil.” He notes the many ways in which this present world could be described, as it is in Genesis, as “very good.” Beyond this world, ahead of us, Dr. Ross foresees a “perfect” creation that will be free from every manifestation of evil — just as one reads about in Revelation.
Carlisle Marney expressed it this way: “We know a secret — Jesus is the name of our species.” It has been said that Jesus was the first Human Being; but He invites us all to join Him! Jesus (Yeshua) is the perfect example of what God had in mind for every one of us. In His own precious words to His disciples after the resurrection, as He prepared breakfast for them on a beach, “Come and dine.”
“They loved not their lives unto death…”(Revelation 12.11)
What is it about that rare kind of Christian, who in the core of his being burns with the desire to impact his generation with the power of the Holy Spirit and leave a legacy that will haunt the complacent till they breathe their last? As if he has genuinely been issued a divine call, he chooses to live it, breathe it and empty every ounce of his life upon that which he has directed his heart toward.
What happened to him to cause him to exchange his natural desires of governing his own path, creating his own reputation and living in the common self-preservation current of life, for a courageous, relentless zeal that drives him to seek God with all his heart and pour his life out for the gospel? He lives to maintain a steady, uncompromising stance and continual pursuit of God and souls.
Why is it that this is so attractive, so inspiring and challenging? Is it not because all of us Christians have tucked away inside of ourselves such an abandonment no matter how hidden, yet no less real?
Is it not that you desire to live wholeheartedly set on such a fixed end, so that in your last moments having apprehended it or facing death for it, you know deep inside you have invested sincerely, truthfully and completely in the only thing worthy to live and die for?
The most dangerous men are those whose lives are lost in the abyss of absolute surrender!
Is this not the mentality of the martyr, looked on at the time of his death as a fool, but honored in the future as a man who has chosen not to hide that abandonment that every Christian has inside?
Here I am, you as well, with the opportunity before us to choose to continue to be haunted by the lives of those who gave themselves for their cause, or to choose as they have, to give our lives to the only thing worth the liquid soul in our veins. Every man will one day have his final thoughts; he will turn around on life’s path and see where his blood has been spent. There, in that moment will undoubtedly be the true test of a man’s soul.
We all only have one life.
One life made up of time, consisting of moments, and even as you read this now, your life heads toward its end.
So, as the martyr smiles at the axe, for in its shine he sees his legacy, the coward weeps at his past, for in his tears he sees his lethargy, complacency and decadence. He sees a weak, lost life, blown away in the wind and eternally worthless.
Why write such thoughts? To what end or conclusion do such sobering thoughts bring us to?
Well read them well and let them resound with an ever-lasting echo which walks by your side down a crowded road or haunts you in the silence of solitude.
Who are you, dear reader, today?
Will you stay that way?
Think on this.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11 Therefore also we have as our ambition…to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.
1 Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth;
Romans 14:12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
I issue a challenge to you, in light of such a coming day, fearfully conduct yourselves as Christians heading toward an impartial day of judgment. It will not be a day to take a written examination to test your knowledge nor a day to look over your resume’ of service, but a day in which God will contrast your image with the image of His Son.
Take a serious look at your… Mind (thought life) Motives (the why behind your actions) Mouth (the idle words/preaching) Money (stewardship of substance) Ministry (what is God doing through you?) Message (what you are teaching) Marriage (what your spouse has to say about you) Minutes (how you spend your time?)
Seriously ask yourself if they are worthy of the call (1 Thess. 2.12).
Now is not the time to sit back and coast, now is the time to press in!
“Now is the time where we either seize the moment, or look back with everlasting shame that we missed it.”
~Dr. Michael L. Brown
Surrender everything! Go After Him!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“You can’t patch up your prayer life when you get to the judgment seat”
“You can delegate many things, but prayer is not one of them.”
“Yesterdays praying will not suffice for today.”
~E. M. Bounds
“This period we are in now is a dressing room for eternity, that is all it is.”
“In everything by prayer.”
I intend to write to you on the subject of the significance of a life of prayer. This word can be taken as one of three things: an encouragement, a challenge, or an offense. It has little significance to me, for “if you have the smile of God what does it matter if you have the frown of men (Ravenhill).”I write to you in obedience to God. If you take it as a challenge, you can potentially lift the quality of your life above what it is now, as you rapidly move in time to that great day of accountability. If you take it as an encouragement, than most likely you are living for and in the means of prayer, affecting your circle of influence and empowering your pursuit of Christ’s kingdom in an honest and fruitful way. If you take this word as an offense, it will profit you nothing but merely add to your hardness of heart storing up for yourself more to give an account for on that great day of judgment. As I stated, all is well with me, for my heart is not to write for the profit of any other than he who desires to reach the heart of God and stand before Him unashamed and confident in the day of reckoning.
The sorrowful truth that such a spiritual employment is largely neglected has negative effects upon more than just our personal standing with God. It dampens what could have otherwise thrived in fire before the Lord. As intercessory prayer remains that which it has always been, we have been tremendously privileged to the ear of God having been justified, encouraged and empowered by His grace to live an obedient life.
The obedient life alone has access to God’s ear (Psalm34:17; Prov. 15:8; James 4:2, 3). Scripture in no uncertain terms, vastly teaches us the power, significance and details of a prayer life that God acknowledges. “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our prayer closets”(E.M. Bounds).
King David overflowed with prayer in the Psalms he penned throughout his earthly life, seeing not only its privilege but also its importance by praying morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:17). He saw the connection between the enlightenment of the word of God and intimate pleading for the same (Psalm 119; 18, 19). The apostle Paul was moved by the same spirit encouraging us to pray “in everything” (Phil. 4:6). This would entail all our dealings in life, family, money, ministry, study and the like. This great privilege and importance wasn’t something to be active infrequent but rather “at all times”(1 Thess. 5:17). “All times” encompasses the positive, negative and mundane. Jesus encouraged us to not only pray, but to endure with persistence not giving up or “fainting” (Luke 18:1). Christ emphasized the importance of prayer by ignoring the potential of its absence in our life. He simply said, “When you pray” (Matt. 6:6). Christ also coupled enduring temptation with prayer (Luke 22:39-46). Scripture reveals to us the aid in our sufferings is prayer (James 5:13).
Our aid in worthy living is prayer (2 Thess 1:11). Our aid in wisdom is prayer (James 1:5). Oh how our lives would be of such a higher quality if we lived in persistent, fervent prayer when trying situations occur instead of aimlessly roaming about! What greater impact would our counsel, words and life have upon those weak hearted Christians who surround us, if our hearts overflowed with burdened persistent prayer for them instead of hidden gossip, jesting and squandering of time! Let us not take lightly that he who prays effectually has first lived effectually. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “He who prays must obey.”For the wonder of the availability of God’s ear to His people can be blocked by our living! (1 Peter 3:7; Psalm 66:18; 1 John 3:22). The effective prayer of the righteous man can effect much (James 5:16)! The availability of God’s ear is as glorious of a privilege, power and grace as it is a responsibility in our way of living and use of time.
Christ revealed that prayer for another can keep one “from the evil one.” Prayer can ignite a disciples life to be “separated by the word” (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21). This reveals that merely hearing or reading the word may need the service of divine assistance in prayer to effect such a sanctification of a disciple. As well as the great ability to “keep” one “in His name”, prayer can effect unity amongst disciples (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21).
Christ having complete understanding of God’s sovereignty continually imposed upon Himself isolation for the purpose of prayer (Mark 1:35). Do you recall how Christ spent a night in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12)? The disciples at Christ’s side were interested in learning, not how to teach or heal, but how to pray (Luke 11:2).
Once the potential of true prayer is understood a man can never return, in right heartedness, to a prayerless life. Samuel connected prayerlessness with sin (1 Samuel 12:23). God Himself is seen in scripture searching for a man to pray (Isa. 59:16). Where is the man who will stir himself to get a hold of God in prayer (Isa. 64:7)? “Oh, for determined men and women, who will rise early and really burn out for God” (Hodge). True prayer is not a light matter. Nor is it an exercise for the slothful. Christ Himself offered up prayers with loud crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He burned in agony and fervency in Gethsemane (Luke 22:14). Christ taught us that prayer isn’t a weak hearted matter, nor an exercise for lazy knees. For the key to its effectiveness is importunity (Luke 11:5-13). Hezekiah’s prayers moved God to add fifteen years upon his life (Isa. 38:1-5). God hears. God listens, to the righteous (James 5:16; Psalm 66:18). He who has the ear of God and sincerely applies himself to such a divine employment has access to a fruitful ministry. The writer of Hebrews asked for prayer (Heb. 13:18). Paul asked for such a divine assistance to be added to his ministry (2 Thess. 3:1). Paul knew the power of true prayer could turn events in the spreading of the word of God (Phil. 1:19).
He saw the aid to his ministry was none other than true prayer (2 Cor. 1:11). Prayer can open doors for uttering the word of God (Col.4:3-4). What a responsibility that will, without question, be one of many things we give an account for before the Judgment seat!
The recorded lesson from the apostolic Church was that dedication of one’s self should be given to the word of God but equally to prayer (Acts 6:4). Just as Elijah in the Old testament prayed for eyes to be opened to see, Paul prayed for the enlightening of the eyes of our heart that we may see (2 Kings 6:17;Ephesians 1:19). Ignore not the radiant evidence of a praying life. It may well open and enlighten a man’s heart to see what he couldn’t by study alone. The hope revealed in the scriptures is the anchor of our soul (Heb. 6:19). It must be the center of our life if we are to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Heb. 11:6; 10:39). At times and in many cases, we, dull of hearing, slow of heart people need the grace of prayer to quicken us with grace to walk out that which is currently in our mouths (Col. 1:9-11;Eph1:16-19;3:14-20). The great protection to prayerless praying (a disease rampant amongst the unstudied) is first of all, the honest, humble and correct study of the scriptures. For nothing else is a lamp unto our feet as we tread down the dark path of a deceptive world and religion (Psalm 119:105). Paul prayed according to God’s working (Eph 1:19; 3:20). Christ eclipsed His will with God’s (Matt. 26:39).
“Prayerless praying, how popular! Yet, useless”(E.M. Bounds). The Pharisees prayed to be heard, seen and recognized with many words and a prideful disposition for the good they have done (Marr. 6:5; Luke 18:10-14). Leonard Ravenhill said, “the secret of prayer is praying in secret (Matt. 6:6).” As the culmination of man’s day draws to a close, the sobriety of our secret place will be our secret to preparation (1 Peter 4:7). We must soberly strive in prayer and allow the Spirit of God to move us in intercession and personal longing for Him so as to sweeten the bitter areas of our lives and the lives of those that God has given us, knowing, at times only the Spirit will know the will of God (Rom. 15:30-31;8;8:26).
A burden is a revelation of a tremendous spiritual need, able to be satisfied by God alone, having no avenue where by it can be expressed, save, groanings which cannot be uttered, explained or understood. “Prayers that cannot be uttered are often prayersthat cannot be refused (Spurgeon).” Leonard Ravenhill challenges, “No man is greater than his prayer life…let me live with a man a while and share his prayer life and then I will tell you how tall I think he is or how majestic I think he is in God…You may impress others but you can’t impress God. You can show off on the platform, singing, preaching and doing your stuff, but not in prayer…Praying men stop sinning and sinning men stop praying. A man first collapses in the prayer closet…Can he share His sorrow with you? Can you remember the last time you couldn’t go to bed because men were dying without Christ?
When was the last time you pushed the plate away and said, “No, I need more time with God?” God looks for a man, not a seraphim, not a cherubim, not a half man and half deity. God looks for men, not money, not methods, not machinery, not movements…Men! We need to say, “Lord I’m concerned, I am speeding up to judgment, look at my ministry, look at the secrets of my life, look at my fruitlessness, look at my dry eyes, look at my poor spirit that has no ache in it, look at me!” The great day of accountability alone will reveal all that could have been effected through a selfless management of your time to invest in prayer. Beware to stand not ashamed. You cannot return to live the way you should have. Dr. Michael L. Brown urged us, “Are you spending your time, energy and efforts on things that are just going to burn?”I tell you after a diligent study of God’s word you will find this common thread, that an obedient life lived in humble intercession avails greatly in the eyes of God. A.W. Tozer at the end of his life said this challenging statement, “I don’t think that I will be ashamed of the things that I have done in my life, but rather what I could have done.” Samuel Chadwick at the end of his life said this sobering statement, “I have spent two thirds of my life in bible study and one third of my life in prayer. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would spend two thirds of my life in prayer and one third of my life in bible study.”The word of God should never be neglected or despised (thought little of), for without its direction, one will more often than not, spend his time amiss.
They together constitute the whole of God’s assistance toward us.
Let us sincerely ask ourselves, in the light of Him who sees through the outward actions and into the motives and intents, (Rev. 2:23; Hebrews 4:12.) What does it matter if we boldly dance in the assembly, pray with eloquence and volume, shamelessly raise our hands amongst others or even speak the depths of the scriptures if we are bankrupt before God in the quiet place. “The true test of a man’s soul is when he is alone” (Jeremy Taylor). Have you come to the face of others from the face of God (figuratively)? To truly know God is to truly share, in our small degree, His feelings, revealed to us in His word, experienced by us in prayer. To share not God’s burden is to share not in His heart and He who is most dear to God is he who lays his head upon His breast (John 13:23, 25).
“Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to pray for others”(Andrew Murray). “The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and have made the most of these opportunities… Men who know how to pray are the greatest boon God can give the earth-they are the richest gift earth can offer heaven.”(E.M. Bounds).
A disciple who will give himself to the divine preparation and work of constant receiving God’s word and obeying God’s word, soaked in personal and intercessory prayer, will be more confident at the judgment. Knowing that he not only fed his spirit with the truth of God’s word but he opened his spirit to share God’s heart. A disciple who will give himself to the divine work of pure ministry of the word and prayer for others will effect greatly the course and pattern of living of these to whom he ministers (Col. 4:12). Of what greater significance can prayer be than that ministry which makes effective all else? The reward for a correct, sincere and fervent life of prayer will, more so than all others, be most significant in that great day. “There is no alternative to prayer and obedience” (Ravenhill).
“For it is a great honor to speak to men on behalf of God, but an even greater honor to speak to God on behalf of men” (E.M. Bounds). Let us not know the guilt of a life that chose to avoid the power, importance, privilege and responsibility of the availability of God’s ear.
Let us not forget that even He who was the Word made flesh lived a life of fervent Prayer. Let us plead for divine assistance for ourselves and others as we pursue the offered Kingdom through conformity to the image of God’s Son through nothing other than interaction with His Spirit!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him…” -Dan. 9.9
The mercifulness of God is so contrary to the revenge-driven nature of humanity, that if we see Him rightly in light of the Gospel message we are overcome by His kindness and shocked to the core with how delightful He is.
We ought to be suspicious of a brand of Christianity that is so solemn that it removes us from the joy of His salvation, puts us under the weight of religious performance, and causes our souls to be continually downcast. There is a valid place for the burden of the Lord, and for weeping after His great intentions, but the mainstay of sonship, the foundation of our union with Him must always be found in a vital and active union with the God who is merciful.
Eugene Peterson has written:
“If we get our information from the biblical material there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”
There is something dubious about a version of the faith which lacks the spontaneous joy that results from the reality of salvational experience. If we are gripped with a burden in prayer, it is meant to be unburdened right there, in the place of intercession. The burdens are not always to be carried in a public way or placed on the shoulders of other saints. There may be times when the Lord calls you to communicate that burden as the prophets of old, but if you carry it in such a way that the Lord has not intended, you will convey something in the name of God that is not marked with the Spirit of God. If the Lord gave it to you in the place of prayer, enjoin your soul immediately with His until the burden lifts and you have done your part as His co-laborer. If you parade the burden before men, and fail to pray it through to the satisfaction of God’s heart, you will defeat the purpose of the burden itself.
The Church is in a radically anemic place, and while much of the lack can be traced back to a casual, irreverent corporate disposition toward the Lord, one great source of our malnourishment is that we are not rightly receiving His good mercy and holy affection. We are in great need of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, and we need ever to live in a consciousness of the judgment to come, but there is great need also for new and fresh immersions in the mercies of God.
We chase after material possessions, the preservation of our reputations, or religious and ministerial status improvements only because we are still functioning on carnal grounds, and we have not adequately received and delighted in the God who is merciful.
Consider these words from the great Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635):
Among the things that are to be taken heed of, there is among ordinary Christians a bold usurpation of censure towards others, not considering their temptations.
… we should not smite one another by hasty censures…
… Christ, for the good aims He sees in us, overlooks any ill in them, so far as not to lay it to our charge. Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.
… The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the same merciful disposition!
(The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA; pp. 32-33)
When we lose touch with the merciful nature of God and His distinct kindness, immediately we become that brand of Christian that receives power (albeit a false power) by searching out the shortcomings of others. The evidence that our smiting of “one another by hasty censures” is not prompted by the Lord is shown in the fact that rather than giving ourselves to secret intercession on the behalf of the weak ones, we harbor thoughts of superiority against them. If we are more apt to speak negatively about men, or to think ourselves superior to them, rather than giving ourselves to merciful prayer on their behalf, we can be sure that we are operating under the influence of darkness.
Yet if the “Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls,” and if “the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him,” far be it from us to reject a brother in his struggle and inconsistency! This is not to make light of sin, for we are called to purity, and to “speak the truth to one another in love.” Rather, we are to make much of His mercy, and we need to remember that His kindness is itself an expression of His holiness. His righteousness and His gentleness are not in opposition to one another, but are intrinsically linked attributes of the only true God. If He were not a merciful God, neither would He be a holy God.
Has your experience of “faith” driven you into a continually solemn place, where there is no longer any “dancing, leaping, or daring” in your spirit? Is the garden of your life overgrown with the weeds of criticism, superiority, and the continual examination of others? Dear saint, He did not save you to induct you into a life of lackluster seriousness, suspicion and censure, or depressive discipleship. His desire at the time of your salvation, and His desire today, is that “your joy may be full.” (Jn. 15.11b)
Delight in His goodness then, weary soul! Lay down your chapped and calloused frame of mind regarding yourself and those around you. Let it die and go into the ground, that new life and a God-centered perception might be your portion. Bask in the His mercies, for they have been extended to you. They are intensely available to all who would call on the name of the Lord.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely . . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms. -Robert Murray McCheyne
Last year, Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and subsequently drew criticism from Catholics for referring to the Pope and some Catholic bishops as “discredited leaders.” Below is a debate Dr. Brown had with him in 2008.
PUNE, India, October 29 (CDN) — After more than a decade of severe persecution, India’s Christian minority is growing increasingly concerned over the mushrooming of newer and deadlier Hindu extremist groups.
Gone are the days when Christians had to watch out only for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, which are closely linked with the most influential Hindu extremist umbrella organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). With voter support faltering for the RSS’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), moderate and extremist sections within the Hindu nationalist movement are blaming each other, and militant splinter groups have emerged.