Think On These Things

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.

Trusting While Waiting

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”—Psalm 56:3

Reading: Psalm 56

In our lives there are trying occasions when we are obliged to wait. Perhaps a loved one is ill, and we pray fervently for recovery. But we may have to wait through long hours or days before the hoped-for signs of recovery appear. Perhaps we have applied for a job, for admission to a certain college or other institution, or for something else of great importance to us—and we have to wait and wait until the results are known. Perhaps at times we wait with suspense for the result of tests that may influence the whole course of our lives.

In the many situations in which we are required to wait, we can suffer much tension, anxiety, and agony. We can give way to dark fears and can suffer more acutely than if the feared developments had really occurred. But in the times of waiting and suspense that come to us, we do not need to be weakened or overwhelmed. Rather, by God’s grace, we can actually be strengthened. When we are tempted to give way to fear, we can put our trust in the Lord. We can find in Him our light and our salvation, the strength of our lives, and the conqueror of our fears. We can rejoice in the knowledge that our Savior cares for us and that He is with us in His love and power—as we wait.

Delight in the Lord

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” —Isaiah 58:13-14

Reading: Psalm 42

Sunday is a day when many seek their own pleasure. All sorts of pleasure-giving events and activities are being scheduled on the day appointed by God for rest and worship. Many of these functions would be quite legitimate on other days of the week, but they have no place on the holy day of the Lord. Those who violate the Sabbath day by doing their own pleasure may think that they are having a good time; but how inferior their pleasure is to the delight and joy that God gives to those who obey the fourth commandment.

The fourth commandment is not to be considered merely as negative. It does not simply forbid our doing certain things. It would also have us actually delight in God’s holy day and take real pleasure in the opportunities for worship, devotion, and service that this best day of the week provides.

If we belong to the Lord our God, and if we seek our joy in the things that please Him, and if as the deer pants after water brooks our soul longs after God, then the Lord’s Day will be to us a delight, holy to the Lord, and honorable—a day when we will truly delight ourselves in the Lord.