Tuesday, November 24, 2015

East Greenwich High School senior privileges: The Courtyard

I attended High School between 1974 and 1978. It was an excellent high school, offering high-end academics, a thriving sports program, a beautiful campus, and star teachers. To us, though, it was just high school, and the best thing about it was none of those things.

It was Senior Privileges.

Seniors were allowed entry to spaces in the school that no other students were allowed to enter. These spaces were severely restricted, and anyone who was not senior was barred.

For example, the Health Room was once a senior-only room, and was furnished with couches, a television, and refrigerator, if you can believe it. Even more unbelievable in this generation's health-conscious era, of the area of the school’s inner courtyard where three brick walls connect was once reserved as a smoking area for students. Smoking is now banned on the entire campus.

I never took advantage of those privileges but there were two others that I enjoyed.

Seniors during the 1970’s and 1980’s could sign themselves in and out of school. If we had a study hall first period of the day, we were able to come in late. We were able to sign out of school in the case of a last period study hall. I used to sign out and go to McDonald's and get breakfast, which was a new offering back then. McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin in 1972 and a full breakfast in 1977. That was the year I became a senior and the novelty of the McMuffin and hash browns was too luscious to resist. I signed myself out of study hall and drove to get breakfast a la McD's style, also bringing back orders for friends who didn't have a car.

But the greatest privilege to me was that seniors-only could use the courtyard. The courtyard was not an arborist's dream. It was a scrubby place, not really a greenspace, just well-worn paths amid gasping grass, concrete benches, the aforementioned smoking area, and some trees. But the school was large and being able to cut down travel time between classes to beat the bell was extremely compelling. Plus only seniors could go there.

All the Freshmen knew about senior privileges. We'd look upon the seniors emerging from the courtyard with awe, and excitedly talk about the day we, too, would be allowed entry into this most prized restricted area. I don't have enough words to relate to you the thirst, angst, and yearning for senior privileges. WE were blocked out, but THEY could go hang out! They could go in and come out! They could remain in a private area just for them! We wanted that!

Courtyard at Hotel Inca Real, Cuenca, Ecuador.
EPrata photo
The parallel to God's courts is the point I want to make here. Do we possess the same fervency to be in God's courts? Do we yearn for the privilege of being in His courts?

The Psalmist said,

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10)

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (Psalm 92:12-13)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)

I know when the time comes to enter His fabulously luxuriant and holy courts, it will be with thanksgiving and praise. But until then, do we yearn for His home, which is our home? Do we look with joy and anticipation when it will finally be our turn to enter the restricted area, the private area reserved for only those chosen? Do we crave to be there, enjoying the privilege of being in His court?

I can't imagine what it will look like or what it will be like to enter His courts. The Bible tells us that we can't conceive of it. My juvenile mind could not conceive of any privilege or any courtyard sweeter than the High School Courtyard reserved for those of a certain age. Just as now, my juvenile Christian mind cannot conceive of a courtyard sweeter or more tranquil that, say, the one at the Hotel Inca Real in Cuenca Ecuador, adorned with plants, tiled floors, resting benches, beauty and peace.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”- (1 Corinthians 2:9)

But I can and do joyfully anticipate His courts even without being able to visualize them. It is quite humbling to think of Jesus preparing this place for us.

EPrata photo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Behold the man! And The Four Beholds

We know Jesus is the Man-God. His divinity was on display when He healed, did miracles, or taught with such authority that the hearers were astounded.

His human nature was on display when He was weary (John 4:6), hungry (Mark 11:12), or thirsty (John 19:28).

When Jesus appeared before the magistrate, Pilate said to the crowd, Behold the man. Here is the verse:

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5)

Most of us are familiar with that phrase, and that momentous event in the life of Jesus. But did you know that Zechariah said it first? In one of the many visions God gave the prophet Zechariah, the phrase appears. Thus Pilate's utterance was a fulfillment of an Old Testament picture pointing to a New Testament truth.

And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. (Zechariah 6:12)

Though the vision actually shows Joshua being crowned, it is in reality a picture of the crowning of Jesus. The Jamieson Fausset Commentary explains further:
Behold, the man—namely, shall arise. Pilate unconsciously spake God’s will concerning Him, “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5). The sense here is, “Behold in Joshua a remarkable shadowing forth of Messiah.” It is not for his own sake that the crown is placed on him, but as type of Messiah about to be at once king and priest. Joshua could not personally be crowned king, not being of the royal line of David, but only in his representative character.
[Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 723). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Roy Gingrich's outlines on the prophetic books are helpful here explaining Zechariah's vision of Joshua's crowning, and the Heavenly utterance "Behold the Man whose name is the branch!"
The crowning of Joshua, a priest, with a regal crown symbolizes the future crowning of Christ, a priest (after the order of Melchisedec), with a regal crown (as Israel’s and the world’s, King) at His Second Advent. 
During Christ’s earthly ministry, He was crowned with a crown of thorns, Matt. 27:29; during His present sitting at His Father’s right hand, He is crowned with a crown of glory and honor, Heb. 2:9; at His Second Advent, He will be crowned with many crowns, Rev. 19:12 (as the King of Israel, Matt. 27:37, and as the King of all the earth’s Kings, Rev. 19:16). 
(Here we have one of the Old Testament’s most complete, yet concise, prophecies concerning the person, the office, and the work of the coming Messiah.) 
1. The Messiah will be the antitype of Joshua (6:12). 
To “behold the man,” Joshua, was to “behold the man,” the Messiah, for the one is typical of the other. The Jews, at Christ’s first advent, “beheld the man,” the Messiah, crowned with thorns, John 19:5. The Jews, at Christ’s second advent, will “behold the man,” the Messiah, crowned with many crowns, crowns of glory, Rev. 19:12.
See the four “beholds,” Zech. 6:12; Isa. 42:1; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 40:9.
[Source: Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 34). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.]

Here are the four Beholds Mr Gingrich mentioned.

Behold the Man!

And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6:12)

Behold the Servant!

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1)

Behold the King!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9)

Behold your God!

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”(Isaiah 40:9)

We're entering the Thanksgiving season, and gratitude and thankfulness are much on our minds. I am thankful for the fact that I shall behold Him! All knees will bow and all tongues will confess, meaning all peoples will behold Him, their God. But I'm grateful I shall behold Him as one who is forgiven by His grace, not ashamed or crushed by fear - but worshiping Him rightly- in Spirit and in truth. My gratitude for Him having delivered the means by which to dwell in righteousness now and forever and to behold His face in love knows no bounds. Brethren, WE SHALL BEHOLD HIM, OUR MAN-GOD, Savior, Lord and King!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

His sheep know His voice

Jesus only calls those sheep whose names have been written down since before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). Those sheep know His voice and listen to them. Those sheep follow Him out of the sheepfold and into green pastures. He doesn't put a general call into the sheepfold and wait to see who will come out. He knows them by name, and He calls them.

EPrata photo

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-4)

John 10:1–2. Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.
John 10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name (out from the other flocks). Shepherds knew their sheep well and gave them names. As sheep hear the sound of their owner’s familiar voice, they go to him. He leads them out of the pen till his flock is formed. Then he goes out toward the fields with the sheep following him. 
John 10:5–6. If a stranger enters the pen, the sheep run away from him because his voice is not familiar. The point of this figure of speech consists in how a shepherd forms his flock. People come to God because He calls them (cf. vv. 16, 27; Rom. 8:28, 30). Their proper response to His call is to follow Him (cf. John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 22). But this spiritual lesson was missed by those who heard Jesus, even though they certainly understood the local shepherd/sheep relationship. In their blindness, they could not see Jesus as the Lord who is the Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23).
John 10:7–9. Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.
When Jesus said, All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, He referred to those leaders of the nation who cared not for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves. Jesus the Shepherd provides security for His flock from enemies (whoever enters through Me will be saved, or “kept safe”). He also provides for their daily needs (the sheep come in and go out, and find pasture).
Source: Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The People's Bible Encyclopedia, Charles Barnes

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pulpits: do we really need them?

Pastor JD Hall posted this Q&A on Facebook. A friend of mine retweeted it. I thought it made sense. It also brought to mind a series done a while ago about 'sacred architecture' at the blog The Christian Pundit. It was a series of good articles on how we cane to use the things in our churches that we do, i.e. pews, baptism pool, pulpits.

Jordan Hall
Not Too Long to Read: Q&A on Pulpits
I get lots of questions daily and this was one this morning. Thought I'd share it. It seems petty, but it matters to me.
Question: I found some pulpits in the closet at church and asked our pastor why he doesn't use one. He says it serves no purpose and he doesn't want to hide behind it. What do you think?
Answer: The pulpit (aka the "sacred desk") was designed to hold the preacher's notes (back when they actually prepared their sermons with great diligence) but also to conceal the preacher. It WAS meant to "hide behind." The old-timers knew it's NOT ABOUT YOU. The black robe was for the same purpose. Nobody should be thinking about the pastor's style. Just preach the word. We don't need you to look cool or dance around. Now these clowns are dressing hip and bouncing up and down the aisles and all over the stage like ADHD children. Next time he says he doesn't want to hide behind it, say "You should. It's not about you." Finally, the pulpit represents the authority of the preached Word in the sacred assembly, a clear demarcation that what's said behind it is altogether special and different for the Lord's people. A pulpit is not a biblical requirement and it's not "wrong" not to use it, but before we discard a tradition, we need to think long and hard about why people who were probably smarter than us started it in the first place.
The series by The Christian Pundit(s) a husband and wife blogging team: William VanDoodewaard (WVD) and Rebecca VanDoodewaard (RVD) was called Ecclesiastical Architecture. I believe there were 8 parts to it. Here is the part which discusses the church pulpit.
Question 88 of the Shorter Catechism asks, “What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?” The answer comes, “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, are his Ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.” It is the preaching of the Word that God uses to draw sinners to Himself and to feed and sanctify believers (Rom. 10:14). Fisher comments that every other means and dispensation is “always to be considered in a subserviency to the word, Acts chap. 16:25-33.” The Principles of Christian Religion that the Scottish Presbyterians held to argue that since “God is the author of these writings [the Scriptures]…therefore they are of most certain credit and highest authority.”
So, “because the Word is indispensable, the pulpit, as the architectural manifestation of the Word, must make its indispensability architecturally clear” (Bruggink and Droppers, 80). The sacraments are necessary. Congregational singing is important. Prayer is needed. Proclaimed gospel, however, has historically held and should hold primary importance in Protestant worship. Everything else in worship and the sanctuary should revolved around it and point to it. Presbyterians, low Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists (among other Protestant groups), despite their differences, all originally put the preached Word front and center, theologically and architecturally. This most basic element of biblical Christianity found consistent architectural expression across the board. You will see in old churches that have not renovated their sanctuaries, that even in times of strong denominational affiliation, large, beautiful, central pulpits were ubiquitous.
The pulpit was large, not only so that it was visible from all parts of the sanctuary, but also so there was space to hold the preacher’s notes, a hymn book and a copy of the Scriptures which the congregation could see. The other reason that pulpits were large was to make the minister look smaller, hiding most of the man behind this architectural manifestation of the Word. When a man preaches Christ faithfully, he himself begins to disappear in the minds of the hearers, as God and His work is magnified. Large pulpits facilitate this reality.
Pulpits were the center around which every other piece of furniture in the sanctuary was arranged. They were also usually the aesthetic center of the sanctuary; the motifs decorating the pulpit drew together the designs on the windows, stone sills, pew ends, balcony railings and the supporting pillars. Just as the preaching of the Word drew together all other elements of worship, so the pulpit pulled together all of the architectural details in the sanctuary.
Pulpits were often guarded by two or three chairs for the elders of the congregation, where they sat and listened to the preaching, protecting the congregation from a preacher who would preach something other than the Word. Preaching is not something to be taken lightly, or left to the whim of one man. It is so important that it needs theological and ecclesiastical protection. These chairs signified this.
Pulpits were also often raised well above the pews. The height of the pulpit allowed the minister, at eye level with those in the lowest pew of the balcony, to speak easily to his entire congregation, enabling eye contact with most parishioners.
Most Presbyterian churches also had no pipes or organ bench behind or beside the pulpit, creating more space at the front of the sanctuary around the pulpit, emphasizing the prominence of the Word.
Now, having a large, central pulpit does not mean that a modern sanctuary has to look Victorian. I have been blessed to worship in many congregations from Dutch Reformed to southern Baptist to Presbyterian which recognize the centrality of the preached Word and have large, central, unmistakeably modern pulpits. The style of the pulpit will change with time and taste. But the place and function will not. Literally front and center, the pulpit should function as an aesthetic and doctrinal fulcrum. 
Such an architectural statement does two main things. First, it reminds the congregation that they are there to hear the Lord speak to them. So often we can come to worship thinking that we are there to do something, pray something, give something, etc.. We are there to sing, pray, praise, give tithes and offerings, but the biggest item in the liturgy is the preached Word because through that Word, God by His Spirit works justification and sanctification in His people.
Second, a central pulpit makes a clear statement to any stranger walking in the door: “We have something for you to hear. It’s not what we say, it’s what God says in His Word. The pulpit looks important because what you are going to hear from it is essential for life and eternity.” A large, central pulpit also tells a new person that the congregation is under the authority of God’s Word. We’re not there because we thought it was a good idea – we’re there because of a command of our Creator and Saviour, and you need to join us.
These are powerful effects. Churches must preach the gospel, and they must use words because they are necessary. A large, central pulpit aids in reflecting this reality.
~~~~~~~~~~~~end The Christian Pundit~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pastor wants to minimize himself when he preaches, because the idea is to magnify Christ through His word. Pastor Hall is right, a preacher should want to 'hide' behind the pulpit because he wants his flock to 'see' Jesus, not him.

Pastor John MacArthur said, when asked of the trend to install huge flat screens to project the pastor,

But for me, the Word of God is alive and powerful. And if I stepped outside the Bible, I would be terrified. I would be absolutely terrified. So I completely rest in the living Word of God doing its mighty powerful work, even if it comes out of the same voice.
I actually try to minimize myself, if I can. That’s why you will never see big screens in here, because people need to hear the Word of God, they don’t need to see my nose hairs. They don’t need to become overly familiar with every nuance of my face and my expressions, it’s not about me. And, you know, when you’re such a dominating presence, and such a continual presence in a congregation, you need to disappear. You know, you need to be out of the picture and that’s one of the reasons, that’s the dominating reason why we’ve never even considered putting anybody’s face on a big screen. I don’t need to be twenty-feet high. The Word needs to be taught.
So before you toss out the pulpit, think. Pulpits have been used for a very long time and there might be an excellent reason for them and their long duration in our local churches. As was said in the article on Ecclesiastical Architecture and with which I agree,

Literally front and center, the pulpit should function as an aesthetic and doctrinal fulcrum.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wells of living water: Old Testament pictures are New Testament promises

The passage today is from Genesis 26:17-22. I found that as far as my interpretation of it goes, there seems to be a historical/practical meaning, a spiritual meaning, and a metaphorical meaning. God's word is great. Here is the passage.

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, [contention] because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. [enmity]. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, [room] saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."

Ancient well diggers dug a shaft to obtain water from a water-bearing layer beneath the ground. They lined the shaft with wood, stone, or baked brick to prevent it from caving in. To keep contaminants from the well and to protect people from falling in, well diggers often built a low stone wall like the one shown here and covered the well opening with a large flat stone. ‎Gen 16:14, Gen 21:19, 25, 30, Exod 2:15, Isa 12:3, Luke 14:5, John 4:1–45. (Source, Myers, R (2012) Logos Bible Images, Lexham Press, images are public domain.)
Practically, as a herdsman Isaac would have depended greatly on water to keep his flock alive. Water was a precious commodity in a dry and thirsty land. Earlier in Genesis 26 it had been reported that Isaac had become a very wealthy man.

And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.)

Isaac's father Abraham had obtained the land legally and rightly, and he had dug the wells. Yet the Philistines stopped them up. And the Philistines' envy and hatred carried through to Isaac's day, when they contended with Isaac over the water and there was strife. It must have been a great hardship for Isaac with all his herds, servants, and flocks to go without enough water during the periods the Philistines contended against him. Calvin said of the stopped-up wells,
Moreover, the fact that the wells had been obstructed ever since the departure of Abraham, shows how little respect the inhabitants had for their guest; for although their own country would have been benefited by these wells, they chose rather to deprive themselves of this advantage than to have Abraham for a neighbor; for, in order that such a convenience might not attract him to the place, they, by stopping up the wells, did, in a certain sense, intercept his way. It was a custom among the ancients, if they wished to involve any one in ruin, and to cut him off from the society of men, to interdict him from water, and from fire: thus the Philistine, for the purpose of removing Abraham from their vicinity, deprive him of the element of water.
Aside from the physical need of the practical matter of water, the second item to note is Isaac's placid response. Stopping up a well is akin to a declaration of war because no water equals financial ruin and perhaps death. The Philistines had already noted Isaac's large retinue and knew he could have defeated the them yet Isaac did not fight. He simply relied on the Lord's providential care by abandoning his freshly dug well - several times - and moved on. Talk about turning the other cheek! (Luke 6:29).

Calvin again, this time of the spiritual relationship Isaac had with YHWH-
First, Moses, according to his manner, briefly runs through the summary of the affair: namely, that Isaac intended to apply again to his own purpose the wells which his father had previously found, and to acquire, in the way of recovery, the lost possession of them. He then prosecutes the subject more diffusely, stating that, when he attempted the work, he was unjustly defrauded of his labor; and whereas, in digging the third well, he gives thanks to God, and calls it Room, because, by the favor of God, a more copious supply is now afforded him, he furnishes an example of invincible patience. Therefore, however severely he may have been harassed, yet when, after he had been freed from these troubles, he so placidly returns thanks to God, and celebrates his goodness, he shows that in the midst of trials he has retained a composed and tranquil mind.
Thirdly, the metaphorical aspect. Whenever there is water in the Bible, I pay attention. It is a blessing to me to think of the Lord Jesus as the Living water. With the stopping up of the wells and the final well finally flowing freely in an area of enough "room", I searched to see if my hunch had been right. Matthew Henry alluded to the flowing water, metaphorical aspect of Isaac's wells issue.
In digging his wells he met with much opposition, v. 20, 21. Those that open the fountains of truth must expect contradiction. The first two wells which they dug were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred. What is the nature of worldly things; they are make-bates and occasions of strife. What is often the lot even of the most quiet and peaceable men in this world; those that avoid striving yet cannot avoid being striven with, Ps. 120:7. In this sense, Jeremiah was a man of contention (Jer. 15:10), and Christ himself, though he is the prince of peace. What a mercy it is to have plenty of water, to have it without striving for it. The more common this mercy is the more reason we have to be thankful for it.
Source: Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 60).

The two verses which come to my mind are:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3).
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

Matthew Henry one more time:
Upon God’s providence, even in the greatest straits and difficulties. God can open fountains for our supply where we least expect them, waters in the wilderness (Isa. 43:20), because he makes a way in the wilderness, v. 19. Those who, in this wilderness, keep to God’s way, may trust him to provide for them. While we follow the pillar of cloud and fire, surely goodness and mercy shall follow us, like the water out of the rock. 2. Upon Christ’s grace: That rock was Christ, 1 Co. 10:4. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are compared to rivers of living water, Jn. 7:38, 39; 4:14. These flow from Christ, who is the rock smitten by the law of Moses, for he was made under the law. Nothing will supply the needs, and satisfy the desires, of a soul, but water out of this rock, this fountain opened. The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock-water, so pure, so clear, so refreshing—rivers of pleasure.
May the Lord bless you abundantly as you drink freely from the well of salvation and refresh your justified soul in the river of living water.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The joy of submitting to Jesus, and the tragedy of rejecting Him: two anecdotes (and a third)

There are two responses to the Gospel, yea or nay. Here is S. Lewis Johnson with an anecdote about a person who said yea.

Paul, His Gospel, and Thomas Jefferson
George Cutting is a man who is best known for the fact that he’s the author of a little pamphlet. You usually find it in tract racks of Christian churches. It’s entitled, “Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment.” Mr. Cutting was just a simple Christian man who went around preaching the gospel. He was also a business man, as I remember, and one day he was bicycling through Norfolk in England. He was an Englishman. And he said it was early in the morning, and as he was going through, he was a very quiet man, he suddenly gained from the Lord the distinct impression that he should shout out a Bible verse. And so, right in the midst of this small town, there were just a few houses around, he shouted out “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He said he cycled on a little bit longer, and the Lord seemed to say definitively to him, “Say it again.” So he said he shouted out, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” 
Six months later he was visiting in that little village, and he was doing, as he frequently did, just knocking on door after door. His first question, he said, was always, “Are you saved?” That’s called the direct approach. [Laughter] So a woman opened the door and he said, “Are you saved?” And she said, “Oh yes. About six months ago I was in great distress of soul. I plead with God to help me, and even while I was calling upon him, I heard a voice cry out, ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’” And she said, “I was startled. I wondered if I had really heard right.” She said, “I prayed again to the Lord, and I said, “Lord if that is the message, repeat it again.” 
[Laughter] And she said, “And I heard it again and I trusted Christ, and I’m saved.” And Mr. Cutting had the joy of telling her that it was he who had called out the verse. That’s preaching. You know, when Paul tells us to be instant in season and out of season. And imagine there were lots of citizens in that little village who thought that it was very much out of season to hear a Bible verse shouted out early in the morning from one of their streets. But it was in season for that lady. 
there is only one response to the message of the apostle, and that is to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. Does salvation come by praying through? No. Does salvation come by paying the church? No. Does salvation come by good works? No. Does salvation come through religion? No. Does salvation come through some religious ritual which we practice, baptism, or sitting at the Lord’s Table? No. Does salvation come through the organization of the Christian church? No. You must be born again.
Here is John MacArthur with an anecdote on a person who said nay.

The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation
And so, we believe it is a warning to the intellectually convinced, those who have heard the gospel, know the facts about Jesus Christ, know that He died for them, know that He desires to forgive their sin, know that He can some into their life and change their life but are not willing to receive Christ as Savior. And may I hasten to add that's the most tragic category of people in existence. And I've told you a story once before that points it up as graphically as anything. I'll never forget on one occasion when a lady came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. And she said, "I need help" And I said, "I guess you do." And she said, "Please, I'm desperate." 
And so I presented the claims of Christ to her from beginning to end and I said, "Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?" And she said yes. She said, "I've had it." She was at the bottom to say the least through the dope scene, the whole bit. So she prayed a prayer and evidently she invited Christ into her life. And I said, "Now," I said, "I want to ask you to do something." I said, "Do you have your little book that you have all your contacts in with you?" And she said yes. I said, "Well, let's just take a match here and we'll burn it." And she looked at me and she said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Just what I said. I mean, if you're really going to live for Jesus Christ and you've really accepted His forgiveness and you really met Him as your Savior, let's burn that book and we'll just have a little party here and just praise the Lord." And she said to me, "That's worth a lot of money." She said, "That's worth an awful lot 
Then she said to me, "I don't want to burn my book." Put it in her purse and looked at me right in the eye and said, "I guess I don't really want Jesus, do I?" And she left. 
Now you see, there was somebody who when the..when it really came down to the nitty gritty and counted the cost, she wasn't ready. I don't know what the story of that dear girl is. My heart has often ached for her and I've often thought about her. But I do know that she knows the facts and she believes them, but she's not willing to make the sacrifice. And it's a bad bargain, for what she kept wasn't worth anything compared to what she could have had in Jesus Christ forever.
These days in 2015 it is not popular nor even accepted to speak of hell or demons. But they exist, they are active in the world, and they still do possess people, just as they did in the time of Luke 4:31-37. That's the passage John MacArthur was preaching when he related this anecdote:
This is a rare thing. I've preached the gospel for a long time and only about three times in my whole life have I ever heard demons speak, been confronted. One of them was a few weeks ago, I told you about last week, right down in the front when a demon-possessed person came running down the aisle after I was preaching the gospel, exalting Christ's power over the kingdom of darkness, came at me and said, "Why are you attacking me? Why are you trying to hurt me?" Which is exactly what the demon said here.
But it was some years ago when I had first come to Grace. We had built the family center and we were having services there before we built this facility. It was a Sunday night and after the service was over I was over having some food with somebody from the church and I got a call from Jerry Mitchell who was here a few weeks ago. He was on the staff at the time. He said, "You've got to come down here, John, I've got a...I've got a girl in here whose got all kinds of demon voices." He had never experienced anything like this and I never had either. And I said, "Well I don't know if I could be much help but I'll come right down."
So I came down, I walked in and there was chaos in the office. It was over in the building by the family center, and I walked in and the place was in disarray and it was obvious that she had been terrorizing things. She had overturned the desk and poor Jerry who was a boxer in the Navy was having a hard time defending himself against this girl, and that is characteristic of New Testament accounts where there's a certain level of strength that's beyond normal. And I'll never forget the greeting when I walked in the door. I walked in the door and this...out of this girl's mouth — whom I had met and with whom I had spoken because she had been coming to the church — came this voice, and I can't, obviously, replicate it. But in my memory I know what the voice said. It's something like: "Not him, not him, not him, get him out, get him out, get him out," to me.
Well my first reaction was, "I'm leaving. I'm not sure I'm up to this." Wow! And my second reaction was, "They know who I am and they know whose side I'm on, that's very affirming." It was affirming. I sort of started feeling apostolic. Paul I know and Jesus I know and John MacArthur, you know? Wow! Amazing!
I don't think that demon was afraid of me humanly. I don't have any human power to deal with demons. In fact, Jerry and I didn't know what to do. We started trying to send the demons away. We sent them everywhere you could think of, the pit, the abyss, Phoenix, anywhere hot, you know. And the bottom...the bottom line is they didn't go anywhere and so we just were praying and saying, "You know, this isn't working, this casting out thing isn't working. I'm not Jesus and we're not apostles and we don't have authority over that kingdom." There's only one way that this girl will ever be delivered and that is when Christ delivers her in the act of salvation.
So we wrestled, literally physically trying to restrain her and get her in a chair and she was so exhausted physically and finally calmed down and we gave her the gospel. And she confessed her sin. I'll never forget it, just really gushed out her sin before the Lord and embraced Jesus Christ and then it was just this calm that came everywhere. There was deliverance. Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with a formula, nothing to do with an exorcism, nothing to do with that at all, that...that is not what deals with demons. She needed to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness, you understand that? And she was. She was.
The demon was terrified of me not because of something I could do in the human. The demon was terrified of me because the demon connected me with the message of the gospel. And the demon knew that if the gospel came to this girl and she believed that he was finished. And that's exactly what happened. She was as clean as the driven snow after that and never had another occasion of that kind of terrifying experience.
Anyone who is not of Christ and in His sheepfold is under bondage to the god of this world, satan They are serving him, whether they believe it or not. And anyone who has not confessed their sins and submitted to the Gospel is at risk for being possessed by a demon.

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6). Does that means He might be far? Yes. Someday, He might turn a person over to their sin in a hardened heart and salvation might not be possible after that. His grace, peace, mercy, and love is manifold. Having the gentle and lovely Spirit inside of us is a 'burden' that is easy. As we saw from the anecdote about the demon, having satan in us is a burden that is harsh and heavy. How many woes lay in the demon direction, and how many blessings there are in Christ. Seek Him while ye may!