Think On These Things

COVID-19 and the Resurrection

It has been a couple weeks now since Easter, and over a month since the country (and the world) began closing down to limit the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps you are doing okay with the stay-at-home orders. Perhaps you are going stir-crazy. Perhaps you are lonely and depressed. I think it is safe to say that all of us–even the introverts–miss interacting with others and feel isolated and alone.

In John 16, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, preparing them for His upcoming death. They are still oblivious, but He knows the bewilderment, abandonment, fear, and sorrow that they will experience as they see Him laid in the tomb. Sorrow for the loss of a friend and teacher, fear for what will happen to them, abandonment as they feel their world turned upside-down, and bewilderment as they wonder, “What just happened? Wasn’t Jesus the Messiah? Why is He dead? Did He fail? Did God desert us?”

In 16:22, Jesus says, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” He knows that He will rise again, and over and over in His discourse in chapters 14-17, He reassures them that

  • He comforts them and gives them peace (14:1+, 27; 16:33)
  • He will not leave them alone; He will return to them and they will see Him again (14:18+; 16:16-22)
  • He will give them a Helper, the Holy Spirit (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7+)
  • He has already won the battle. Already. His victory over Satan, death, and sin on the cross was a done deal, before it even happened. (14:30-31; 16:33)

He also tells them why He is saying these things–that they might believe who He is (14:29), that they might have His joy in them (15:11), that they might know that nothing they are experiencing is a surprise to Him (16:1-4), and that they might have peace (16:33).

The Bible does not promise us an easy ride through life. In fact, it says we should not be surprised at persecution and suffering (15:18-16:4). But our comfort is in knowing that through it all, God is with us. Over and over throughout Scripture we read God’s words: Do not fear, I will be with you, I will not forsake you.

If the uncertainty of the future worries you, remember Jesus’ words. Just as He told them, the disciples did see Him again. And because He rose from the dead, we have joy that no one can take from us. Because He rose, we know that He is who He says He is. We don’t have to wonder if He’s really the Son of God, or if His death really did take care of the penalty for our sins, or if He’s really the Messiah. His resurrection proves it. If He was an ordinary guy, He’d still be dead. If His death wasn’t sufficient to pay for our sins, God the Father would not have accepted His sacrifice…and He’d still be dead. His resurrection assures us that we can trust Him.

And that means that we can believe every word He says. No matter what the economy does, no matter how alone we feel, no matter how overwhelmed we might be. He is with us. He will not forsake us. He will not leave us. Some days it’s easier to believe this promise than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that this promise is, indeed, a fact. No matter how you feel, Jesus won’t change. He won’t change, so the promise won’t change. Read John 14-17, and let Jesus’ words sink in. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (14:1). “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (14:27). “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

An Opened Mouth

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation.”—1 Samuel 2:1 (KJV)

Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah’s mouth can now speak with confidence over or against her enemies. Formerly she had been unable to silence the cruel taunts of her adversary Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren. But the Lord had helped Hannah; He had heard her prayer and had given her a son, Samuel. Now she can silence the taunts of her enemies; now she can triumph in her God. With her heart exulting in the Lord, with her horn exalted in Him, her mouth is opened wide against her enemies.

Hannah in her triumph, however, does not speak petty, bitter words. She does not return to her adversary like for like. Rather she warns the proud and the arrogant, the adversaries of the Lord. She uses her lips as instruments of truth and beauty. She speaks words of thanksgiving, love, and devotion to her God. She relates her blessing to Him; she praises Him for what He is and for what He does. She rises from a contemplation of her own triumph and felicity to a celebration of the triumph of His Anointed, the coming Messiah, on whom all her blessing depends.

May God in His providence with His blessings open wide the mouths of His people today in triumph over the enemies of their faith and of their Lord. And in their triumph may they not give utterance to petty, bitter, or proud thoughts; but may they speak profitable words of truth and love. May they praise their great and good Sovereign with joyful lips, declaring to men the sublime teachings of His Word, and magnifying their great Redeemer’s name.

 

Skilton, John H. Think on These Things: Bible Truths for Faith and Life. Philadelphia: Skilton House – Sowers, 1986.

Christmas: Reversing the Curse

For many people, the holidays are a time of sorrow as they remember loved ones they have lost over the years. But Christmas offers real hope to those sufferers–and to all of us.

Christ came to earth, of course, to save us from our sins and the wrath and punishment that those sins deserve. But on a very basic level, Jesus came to reverse the curse of Genesis 3. We see it ultimately in His death on the cross, where He crushed Satan (Gen. 3:15), defeated death, and offered Himself as the perfect and final sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God the Father. But we still live in a fallen world, where the effects of the curse are still very much around us. And sometimes, when we are hurting, it is hard to find comfort, when all we wish was that our loved one was still with us. But take another look at Jesus’ first coming to earth.

Jesus’ entire ministry while physically on earth was about reversing the curse. Yes, we still experience sorrow and death. We live in a time of “already, but not yet.” Jesus defeated death when He rose from the dead, but we still face death in this in-between time, while we await Christ’s second coming. But in the gospels, we see a glimpse of what the world will be in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21). Every one of Jesus’ miracles was a reverse of the curse. Sick people healed. Demons cast out. The dead raised to life. Even the sea (a symbol of chaos to people back then) calmed. Each miracle was a real, physical example–a pledge or promise, if you will–of God’s words in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

If you are hurting this Christmas season, read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles that we find in the four gospels, and let them give you comfort. Jesus Christ came to reverse the curse. And because we see Him do so 2,000 years ago, in the gospel accounts, we know that we can trust Him to do so, ultimately and finally, in the future. Reversing the curse was God’s plan from the beginning (Gen. 3:15) to the end (Rev. 21:5). We’re in the middle right now, asking, “Are we there yet? How much longer?” Do not fear. Two thousand years ago, in Bethlehem, Jesus came to reverse the curse.

Give Thanks to the Lord!

O give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! —1 Chronicles 16:8

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! —1 Chronicles 16:34

And now we thank you, our God, and praise Your glorious name. —1 Chronicles 29:13

Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime.… O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever! —Psalm 30:4-5, 12

I will thank You in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise You. —Psalm 35:18

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. —Psalm 50:14

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. —Psalm 69:30

Out of [the rebuilt city] shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few. —Jeremiah 30:19

Do I Seek Only to Please Men?

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” —Galatians 1:10

Reading: Galatians 1

A Christian who was visiting a theological institution was shocked at the advice given by one of the professors. The professor was asked by a student what the answer should be to a man who inquired as to whether Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead or not. The professor advised the student to ask the man what he thought about the matter, then to agree with him and quickly change the subject. If the man said that he believed that a miracle had been performed, the student would say that he held the same opinion. But if the man said that he did not believe that a miracle had been performed, the student would endorse that opinion as well. The Christian later complained about this unprincipled advice to an official of the institution. The official had no comfort to give him. He informed the Christian that the professor’s advice simply represented the way to get along with people!

Certainly Paul was not a member of the faculty of that theological institution! He held the unpopular conviction that yes and no meant different things. He had the unusual viewpoint that it is our duty to please God rather than man. He could indeed be concessive and conciliatory to men when no principle was involved, when pleasing men would not be opposed to pleasing God. But where truth and principle were concerned, Paul was inflexible: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

 

Skilton, John H. Think on These Things: Bible Truths for Faith and Life. Philadelphia: Skilton House – Sowers, 1986.

When the Sun Was Setting

“Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.”—Luke 4:40

 

Reading: Luke 4:33-44

It was evening and the sun was setting. But the night that was coming was to be for many like the brightness of a clear morning when the sun rises. All those who had any sick with diverse diseases brought them to Jesus, and they did not bring them in vain. They brought them to a compassionate and mighty Lord, to Him who is the dayspring from on high and the Light of the World. He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. As the hymn expresses it:

At even, when the sun was set, the sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;

O in what divers pains they met! O with what joy they went away!

That night there was really no night, for the Sun of righteousness had risen with healing in His wings.

What a glimpse this is of the time when our Lord will bring into being the new heaven and the new earth, when those who have put their trust in Him will never again experience suffering or disease. How our thoughts turn to the new Jerusalem, where there will be no night nor setting of the sun—a city that has no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God illumines it and the Lamb is the light thereof.

Above All That We Ask or Think

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”—Ephesians 3:20-21

 

Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

It may be that we are fearful of the problems and trials that we may have to face today. Perhaps we think that we lack the wisdom and the strength to meet them. We may be tempted to feel and act as if we are all alone, forced to struggle against dark and cheerless circumstances. Possibly we dread not only immediate testings and pain but also the heartache and loss to which we fear they may lead.

But the children of God are never alone. They do not have to face a cold and forbidding providence, which is blind, cruel, and uncontrolled. We have a covenant God, who made all things and rules all things and who never leaves nor forsakes His own. We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but One who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. We should be encouraged, then to come boldly in all our need to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help (Hebrews 4:16). Instead of being fearful and dismayed we should be confident and joyful, for our God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.

 

Skilton, John H. Think on These Things: Bible Truths for Faith and Life. Philadelphia: Skilton House – Sowers, 1986.