“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
The Bible is the only book in the world that is actually “living.” That is why we can never exhaust it, and why it is always fresh. Any book written by man we can eventually exhaust, but not God’s book.
It is the Word of God in the power of the Spirit that God uses to impart divine life to us. That’s why when we present the gospel to the lost, we always want to use the Word in communion with the Spirit. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
This living book is also what God uses to exercise our souls and speak to our hearts as believers. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
“And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord” (Psalm 27:6).
Christianity was facing a dark future in England when Queen Anne (1675-1714) forced through British Parliament the Schism Act. This was an extreme measure designed to stamp out dissidence by preventing nonconformists and Catholics from educating their children in their own schools, and severely limiting religious freedom.
Against this black backdrop, Isaac Watts wrote the well-known and reassuring hymn:
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
How the words must have brought courage and comfort to the Christians in those days of fear and instability.
On the day the Act was due to take effect Queen Anne died, and her successor, George I, took no steps to enforce it. It was eventually repealed in 1719. God was in full control!
“He hath put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:3).
Many hymns have been written under very special and often trying circumstances. So it was with the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” written by George Matheson. The story behind its writing is told in his own words:
“My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan [Argyllshire, Scotland] on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.”
As young people we like to feel accepted. We like to feel that we fit in, and that we are part of the crowd. We want our friends to think well of us, or to use a modern day expression, we want to be cool. It is certainly not wrong to want acceptance as believers, but the question is, Whose acceptance do we really want? Are we seeking the Lord’s acceptance and approval, or the world’s? As another week of school or work begins, let’s ask the Lord for help in seeking to live for Him.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he expressed his desire for acceptance by saying, “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of HIM” (2 Corinthians 5:9).Is this the sincere desire of your heart as well? Are you willing to suffer a little reproach to have the Lord Jesus say, “Well done” (Matthew 25:21)?This is what brings true happiness, as Peter reminds us, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye” (1 Peter 4:14).
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).
Three hours of darkness—in the middle of the day. From noon until 3 p.m. God shut out the view of the cross. No one could see the suffering that Jesus went through on account of sin. No eye penetrated the darkness that shrouded Golgotha while Jesus atoned for sin. There was no more mocking, no jeering, no scornful looks. Absolutely alone, forsaken by man and God, Jesus was punished for our sins.
Here is how the hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748), expressed it:
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When the Incarnate Maker died
For man His creature’s sin.
We will never know the depth of all His intense suffering. We will never need to know, because Jesus suffered in our place. Let’s praise and thank Him very specially today as we remember His death on the cross.
Many in this world are not ready to meet their Creator. They are trusting only in themselves. Are you ready?
PREPARE—“Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
TO MEET—“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10).
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).
THY GOD—“For there is one God” (1 Timothy 2:5).
“One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6).
The Apostle Paul, as to the subject of preaching the gospel said: “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (Corinthians 4:5). Maybe there is a young brother in Christ just starting out to preach the gospel and with a real gift from the Lord. Make Jesus Christ your theme! I have seen preachers espouse causes and champion movements, and when the cause died and the movement collapsed, the preacher vanished too. But the man who glories in Christ never grows stale. Jesus Christ is perennial and he who makes his boast in Him stays forever fresh. The Bible says of that person, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).
How long it often takes us to learn that the issue is simply Jesus! We read books and feel that the magic word is sure to appear on the next page, but it doesn’t. We read biographies, but we cannot live on second-hand experiences. We try to work up visions and experiences of our own, but even if we succeed, the glory fades. At last we arrive where we should have started, to learn that it is all JESUS CHRIST!
“Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise” (Galatians 4:22-23).
Ishmael was the result of a resort to the flesh, proposed by Sarai when God had already promised a son by her. To this day Ishmael’s and Isaac’s descendants, the Arabs and Jews, are at war with each other. From this, we learn that any scheme of ours that takes matters into our own hands when God has spoken otherwise leads to plenty of trouble and much sorrow.
How many today live with war in their hearts because that which is of the flesh contends with that which is of faith! Call it complexes, nerves, or dress it up in psychiatric wording, it is but Ishmael and Isaac warring in the soul.
Abraham gave up Ishmael and he never returned. He gave up Isaac but God returned him to him. Give God your Ishmael—all that is of the flesh—that it may not return. Give Him Isaac too—that which is of faith—that He may return it and that you may be a “vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
The Word of God is absolute, and He has placed it even above His name. “Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name” (Psalm 138:2). What God has done, what God is doing and what God will do are made known to us in the Scriptures. Although we have had no further communication for over nineteen hundred years, there is no need, for the Word of God is complete.
The Bible, therefore, leaves no room for speculation, or for the opinions of men, or the development of the mind and thoughts of men as time rolls on. It is as true and relevant today as it was in the days when the prophet Isaiah wrote, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
That’s why it is a serious thing to add or take away from the Word of God. “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
There are some who neglect the meetings for reading of the Word of God and Bible study at their local assembly because they feel that they can learn more by reading and studying at home. Now it is true that there may be much weakness in those that minister the Word, or in the ministry, and there may be much that is discouraging. The Bible teaches us that we can expect things to get weaker as we draw nearer to the end and the coming of the Lord. But as we realise that we are in days of weakness we need to be more concerned than ever that we would, “strengthen the things which remain” (Revelation 3:2).
While you may be able to learn more at home, you won’t be able to minister it to others. While you are feeding yourself, your empty chair at the meetings will probably add to the discouragement of others who are struggling too. You DO make a difference. Be an encourager. Be there!