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Complete Commitment

November 24th, 2017

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! (Psalm 118:27b ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

The phrase, “complete commitment,” is redundant. Commitment must be complete or it is not true commitment.

The passage from Psalm 118 depicts the bringing of a sacrificial animal, binding the bull or the ram until it could be offered upon the altar. Christ willing laid down His life for us, but we are to respond with the same commitment – to be crucified with Him. It is our wills that must be bound and tied – the new man in us that is made by the Holy Spirit must daily bind the old man in us, the vestige of sin, and bind him with cords until he is no more. Matthew Henry wrote:

The sacrifice we are to offer to God, in gratitude for redeeming love, is ourselves, not to be slain upon the altar, but living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), to be bound to the altar, spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, in which our hearts must be fixed and engaged, as the sacrifice was bound with cords to the horns of the altar, not to start back.

No doubt the world will seek to discourage us. It will call us fanatics, or that our devotion is too extreme. Oswald Chambers wrote well on this matter for November 24 as well. He said:

For instance, you came to a crisis when you made a stand for God and had the witness of the Spirit that all was right, but the weeks have gone by, and the years maybe, and you are slowly coming to the conclusion, “Well, after all, was I not a bit too pretentious? Was I not taking a stand a bit too high?” Your rational friends come and say – “Don’t be a fool, we knew when you talked about this spiritual awakening that it was a passing impulse, you can’t keep up the strain, God does not expect you to.” And you say – “Well, I suppose I was expecting too much.” It sounds humble to say it, but it means that reliance on God has gone and reliance on worldly opinion has come in. The danger is lest, no longer relying on God, you ignore the lifting up of your eyes to Him. Only when God brings you to a sudden halt, will you realise how you have been losing out. Whenever there is a leakage, remedy it immediately. Recognize that something has been coming between you and God, and get it readjusted at once.

That is not to say that we cannot imagine ourselves into some type of spiritual fervor – one that is man made or, worse, demonically inspired. We are taught to test the spirits for not every spirit is of God (1 John 4:1-6). The chief differences are, according to Jonathan Edwards as he applied 1 John 4:1-6:

First, God is at work when a person’s esteem for the true Jesus is raised. Secondly, God is at work when Satan’s kingdom is attacked. Thirdly, God is at work when the people come to love the Scripture more. Fourthly, God is at work when men are led away from falsehood into truth. Fifthly, God is at work when there is an increase in love for God and for man.

In other words, a person is changed from selfishness to godliness, from talkativeness and self-centeredness to a distinct Christ-focus. True revival bears the marks of genuine love, joy, peace, conviction of sin, assurance of grace, compassion for others, increased patience with others, and a love for God’s Word.

Devotion, if it is genuine, need not be demonstrative nor emotional. It must be deep and Christ centered. All genuine devotion is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Daily Devotions, Revival , ,

The Hard Teachings of Christ

March 8th, 2016

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “ ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched. Everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:42-50)

We live in a strange day – but having said that, it is likely that every generation has felt the same way. Each age of civilization is shaped by different events and has its own perspective on all matters, political and spiritual. Christ, however, is the Man for All Seasons, and his words and teachings are eternal. The eternal Spirit of God inspired the Word of God that though each book addressed certain historical circumstances of that generation and were written to specific people who lived long ago, the message is lifted beyond those circumstances and lives to speak to us today. It is the living Word of God, sharp, powerful, living, active, convicting (Hebrews 4:12).

Christ’s words were not all “sweet as apple pie.” He spoke real words to real people who lived among real circumstances, but needed the truth of God to lift them beyond those worldly limitations. In fact, if all that Christ said was “nice and sweet,” though some may like it that way because that is the only means that they can perceive love being, most would see him as unrealistic, not serious enough, not true enough, not honest enough to really help us.

If you go to a doctor, you expect him to tell you if you are sick. If you go to a lawyer to represent you in an important case you expect him to tell you honestly how good your case is. If you invest money with a firm, you expect them to tell you frankly the condition of the economy and of your investments. And when we come to Christ we receive honest and even stern warnings about those things we must know. But let’s not mistake this honesty for an absence of love. If anything it is just the opposite – it is a warning given in love.

A stern warning against offending the little ones: Christ’s words of warning against offending “these little ones” means not only children, but even the least of his followers. the word translated “offend” is skadalizo from which we get our word “scandal” in English. It has the idea “to entrap” or “to cause to stumble,” and it specifically means to exert influence that shall cause the ruin of another person – whether temptation or persecution. This verse 42 is a balance to verse 41, that just as God rewards faithfulness, so he also punishes those who cause harm and ruination.

“It would be better” – to cause death by casting into the depths of the sea with a heavy weight is an excruciatingly painful death. People do not die from drowning, rather they are crushed to death as they descend into the deep water in a matter of minutes. The scripture says, referring to the unsaved soul, the one who stands before God in his guilt with no covering of righteousness, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). C.S. Lewis echoed these thoughts in his testimony, as he spoke about his apprehension and fear of God before his salvation, “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about man’s search for God. For me, they might as well talk about the mouse’s search for a cat.”

Christ’s use of hyperbole: Hyperbole is an over-statement for the sake of clarity and emphasis. Jesus of Nazareth, as the Son of Man, had a personality, as all men do and must have. He would not be human without one. Though he was without sin, and completely God in human form, he was also completely human and as such he still had typical ways that he expressed himself. He tended to use “hyperbole” that spoke clearly in his world and to ours.

Westerners tend to use ideas and metaphysical constructs to convey truth, but non-westerns tend to use concrete illustrations, and here is a case in point. Christ was not advocating self-maiming, or the actual cutting off of hands or the gouging out of eyes, rather he used this to stress and to teach the importance of these matters. He spoke of “taking up your cross” and “cutting off the hand” and “cutting off the foot” and even: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). The teaching was that no action that causes weakness or holds us back from following him should be tolerated in a believer’s life.

Paul wrote:

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. (Romans 14:19-21)

The other matters in this section we will examine more fully tomorrow. Let us simply today take the time to bow before Christ and to look at our hearts to be sure that nothing is holding us back, or that is holding others back. If we cause even the least of the family of Christ to stumble, we should prayerfully look to see if we have abused our freedom in Christ. If we have tolerated anything unholy in our lives, then we should take seriously the matter and get it out of our lives, and to follow Christ with a fully-devoted heart and a clear conscience. Paul’s words to Timothy also echo this same concern:

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Tim. 1:18-20)

Mark's Gospel , , , ,