Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Who are you? This is one of the great questions of our existence. If we are a Christian it becomes, who am I in Christ. What wondrous identity has Christ given to us! This list would be long but Gal 3:26–29 narrows it to three dimensions: height, width and depth.
Height: In Christ we are “sons of God” (v. 26). As His children we now have a loving heavenly Father whom we did not have before as children of wrath. We have an upward identity in our relationship with God. We are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Width: In Christ we are “baptized into Christ [and his body]” (v. 27) we are “one in Christ Jesus.” (v.28). We are adopted into a diverse family yet united in Spirit, purpose, love and destiny. Whether you go to Tokyo, Cape Town, Helsinki or San Francisco you will find brothers and sisters in the Lord. Indeed, while Christianity may be a minority in the West it is the majority in many parts of the global south. We are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Depth: In Christ we are also “Abraham’s offspring” (v. 29), which means we have a heritage. We stand as part of God’s people throughout history, the people of faith. Before us is the great hall of fame of faith (Heb 11). Though it be our turn to run the race they cheer us on. We are part of something bigger than ourselves, which not only looks backward but even forward into eternity.
Sadly, the world does not have this height and width and depth in identity, certainly not in a comprehensive sense. God does not exist or they worship a false god. As a result they have no height in their identity. No real transcendence. Community, people, nation either no longer exist because of individualism or are twisted by sin or at the least merely physical vs. spiritual. They have no width in their identity, nothing they belong to. We are all descended from goo or so woke that history is irrelevant. What matters is today for tomorrow we die. As such there is no heritage and no hope for the future. They are part of something very small, themselves.
Christian, praise the Lord for the vast identity you have in Christ! May this be something the Lord might use as we share the Gospel to help the world desire something that they cannot have.
A message on Ex 34:6-7a. So much more could be said about this passage and these characteristics of our glorious God!
"Justification is the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls," Martin Luther once said, yet two visible branches of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, differ widely on what justification is. Explore these two different views in the document below.
One of the most common Bible questions that exists is, “Are Paul and James in contradiction when they speak of justification?” (I.e. Does Paul teach justification by faith alone and James by faith and works?).
Paul says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Ro 3:28) and “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness [or justification]” (Ro 4:3b, c.f. Gal 3:6).
James says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Ja 2:24)
The short answer is NO, they are not in contradiction (for with God as its author, Scripture is never in confusion).
One may easily rectify the apparent contradiction when you consider how they are using the word and the illustrations they draw from Abraham’s life.
Let’s start with the illustration.
Paul is citing the story of the Abrahamic Covenant found in Gen 15:6 (c.f. Gen 12). When Abraham believed God’s promise God declared Him righteous or just. Abraham was justified by faith.
By contrast, James is citing the story of Abraham and Isaac found in Gen 22:9–10 (Ja 2:21).
This then sees Paul and James using the same word in different senses. Paul is using the word savingly whereas James is using it demonstratively. Paul is saying Abraham was declared just through his faith. James is saying Abraham showed himself as having been justified by faith through his works. Obedience (or works) proves faith, it is the fruit of saving faith, never the cause of it.
One must have a comprehensive view of God’s plan of salvation. The same God who justifies us also sanctifies us by His Spirit, persevering us until our glorification. Our good works don’t save us but do show that we are saved (Tit 2:10).
The Old Baptist confession put it this way:
“Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (1689.11.2)
What is the biblical teaching (doctrine) of justification by faith alone (known in Latin as sola fide)?
Martin Luther said it is “Easy to talk about; difficult to grasp.” Yet because justification answering the question, "what must I do to be saved (or justified)?" it is of fundamental importance. This is why Martin Luther said it was, “the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls,” and John Calvin would likewise describe it as “the hinge on which all true religion turns.”
Justification means to declare someone as just, righteous or perfect.
Justification is necessary because of our sinfulness and inability to justify ourselves. God's demand is perfection (Mt 5:48). Yet who can keep the whole moral law every day all the time? No, if we break one law (Ja 2:10) we are a lawbreaker and guilty before the Judge and deserving of hell.
Justification is the irrevocable and instantaneous act whereby God, by virtue of the finished work of Christ in His life, death and Resurrection, declares the penitent believer in the Gospel to be not only pardoned but just, right or perfect in His sight. Jesus’ righteousness is imputed, or credited, to our account. It follows that we are made acceptable to God, gain acceptance into His family and receive the gift of the Spirit to practically impart righteousness (or justness) until the day we are actually made just. Justification is the great fountainhead in the order of salvation.
Read more here.
Justification teaches us that we are helpless to help ourselves. Our works cannot save us. We may only be saved by the works of another.
This is perhaps best illustrated by quicksand.
When stuck in quicksand one must be rescued by the works of another. If we move we sink. We must cry out that someone else rescue us and trust them to do so.
When we confess we are sinners (recognize we are in trouble) and repent (turn from our works to Jesus), turning instead to the Son of God (perfect, crucified and risen) and ask Him to forgive us and grant us eternal life by virtue of what He has done then He promises to forgive us and impute His righteousness to us. He bears our sin and in return we receive His righteousness and resurrection life.
My hope is built on nothing less...all other ground is sinking sand.
I recently had a fascinating conversation. It went like this.
I was chatting with some relatives. The subject was about something very old that had been refurbished. I made the remark, “It will last for another X years or until the Lord returns.” “That is a very odd statement,” came the reply, “I’ve never heard anyone say that before. What do you mean by that?” “It is a common Christian saying,” I replied simply. “I’ve never heard anyone say it,” came the reply from the person who has a Catholic background, “What do you mean by that?” Now, knowing the person would at least be familiar with the Apostles Creed, I said/cited, “Well, the Apostles Creed says Jesus will ‘come again, to judge the living and the dead.’” Rather than provoking more conversation this resulted in the person saying, “Ok, Chris, let’s stop being religious.” (Though I know they had been struck even by this truth).
Behind the surface discomfort with “religion” this individual was unnerved by at least 2 things: Jesus’ coming judgement, and [related] their own mortality.
The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death” (both physical and eternal) (Ro 6:23a).
Jesus' return, which is a glorious prospect to the believer, is a terror to the unbeliever, because they are ill prepared to meet the Judge.
Death is likewise a haunt because it foils our pride that believes we are immortal and ushers in Judgement.
People fear death and judgement. (And they mock us for reminding them of their deepest fear. However, when they do their conscience has been pricked and we need to pray for them).
The good news is this person, and the many unbelievers who live under this tumultuous burden, may have peace if they believe in the Gospel. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (Those who have become recipients of the love of God through faith in Jesus).
May they stop putting off the thought, seeking to suppress the reality, and repent and trust in Jesus today.
Many Christian perceive the Protestant difference between believer’s baptism by immersion (credo-baptism) and infant baptism (paedo-baptism) to be merely one of different forms—little difference. However, the heart of the divergence can be seen in comparing their traditional views on baptism, covenant and Scripture, as seen in the sister confessions of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian) and in the 1689 Baptist Confession.
Consider the differences:
Contrast the two yourself:
(We recently heard of Paul's biography and testimony in Philippians 1 and were also encouraged by a visiting evangelist to use our testimony as a means of sharing the Gospel with others. This is my testimony. What is yours?).
I was born and raised in a nominal Christian family. Such nominalism, however, did not prevent the Holy Spirit preparing my heart and from hearing and responding to the Gospel. From as young as I remember I cannot recall not knowing that God existed (c.f. Ps 22:10b). Likewise, I knew that we should do what was right in His eyes. For example, around 5 years of age, my parents stopped going to church one summer. I knew this was morally wrong and so we began going to church again in the fall because I insisted. Going to church and Sunday School established many of the basics of the Faith in my life. I even stopped going to Sunday School at a very young age so that I could stay up and listen to the sermon. But belief in God, worship and good morals is not the same as believing in the Gospel; that’s a lesson that a paper clip taught me. Yes, a paperclip! One day I accompanied my father to Sketchley’s Dry Cleaners to pick up his uniform. At the counter there was small container of paper clips. When no one was looking I stole one. I broke the 9th commandment. As we walked back to the truck I felt so miserable for what I had done that I tossed that paper clip into the grass along the sidewalk. Yet, my conscience continued to convict me that I had not only sinned but was a sinner. Then Pastor Fehr, who was converted wonderfully during WWII, invited anyone from the church who might be interested in Baptism to attend a series of classes on what it meant to become a Christian and how Baptism was the ordinance to express this. You didn’t have to be a Christian to attend but could attend to explore these matters. Very simply in those classes Pastor Fehr shared from the Bible of how Jesus was sent to die for sinners and that if we repent and trust in Him Jesus would forgive our sins and grant us new life. That was enough, I did not need much convincing. I believed. Upon profession of faith I was baptized at an evening service on the Lord’s Day, December 11, 1994. I was 9 years old. Since that time God’s persevering grace kept me from straying too far from following Jesus, even during my teenage years. I wasn’t perfect but was spared many youthful sins. I continued to grow in the Faith, in a knowledge of the Scriptures, in a reliance on the Holy Spirit, all while humbly proclaiming, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Saviour.”
My testimony is that simple and all of this took place when I was very young. Many Christians consider it a great privilege to be led to Christ through some type of “Damascus road experience” after having blatantly pursued a life of sin. Certainly there is great grace in these conversions, but God’s grace also works in other ways, including my experience. In the parable about of the vineyard workers from Matthew 20 these ‘Damascus road’ conversions would be those perhaps hired at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Responding to God’s providential care and grace at a young age you might say that I was a worker called “early in the morning.” Though the attitude of the early workers is portrayed negatively, in practicality it is a blessing to be called early and it is a privilege to know Jesus from a young age and have longer to get to know Him. I count it as God’s wonderful grace that I was positioned in a place where I could respond to the Gospel early to know and follow Jesus.
There is a big difference between falling into a puddle of sin and swimming in a pool of sewage.
This is the difference John draws as he speaks of perseverance: the possibility of believers to temporarily/occasionally fall into sin; and the persistent unrepentant sin unbelievers/false professors are pleased to remain in.
Speaking of puddles John acknowledges the reality for saints, that as sinners, we may still sin. This is why he speaks not only of once for all legal forgiveness (1:9) but also ongoing relational forgiveness (2:1).
Speaking of pools of sewage John says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practise the truth” (1 Jn 1:6) and “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 Jn 3:6).
If you are swimming in sewage, repent!
If you’ve fallen in a puddle, repent!
1 John is full of 30+ tests of assurance to see whether we are in Christ (that you may know, 1 Jn 5:13).
To read more on perseverance see here.
A devotional from our Members' Meeting, May 31.
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