HUMILITY AND HOLINESS – Andrew Murray
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard, lest unconsciously what was begun in the spirit be perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected. Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. There is no place or position so sacred but the Pharisee can enter there. Pride can lift its head in the very temple of God, and make His worship the scene of its self-exaltation. Since the time Christ so exposed his pride, the Pharisee has put on the garb of the publican, and the confessor of deep sinfulness equally with the professor of the highest holiness, must be on the watch. Just when we are most anxious to have our heart the temple of God, we shall find the two men coming up to pray. And the publican will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within who commends and exalts. In God’s temple, when we think we are in the holiest of all, in the presence of His holiness, let us beware of pride. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” “God, I thank thee, I am not as the rest of men, or even as this publican.” It is in that which is just cause for thanksgiving, it is in the very thanksgiving which we render to God, it may be in the very confession that God has done it all, that self finds its cause of complacency. Yes, even when in the temple the language of penitence and trust in God’s mercy alone is heard, the Pharisee may take up the note of praise, and in thanking God be congratulating himself. Pride can clothe itself in the garments of praise or of penitence. Even though the words, “I am not as the rest of men” are rejected and condemned, their spirit may too often be found in our feelings and language towards our fellow-worshippers and fellow-men. Would you know if this really is so, just listen to the way in which Churches and Christians often speak of one another. How little of the meekness and gentleness of Jesus is to be seen. It is so little remembered that deep humility must be the keynote of what the servants of Jesus say of themselves or each other. Is there not many a Church or assembly of the saints, many a mission or convention, many a society or committee, even many a mission away in heathendom, where the harmony has been disturbed and the work of God hindered, because men who are counted saints have proved in touchiness and haste and impatience, in self-defense and self-assertion, in sharp judgments and unkind words, that they did not each reckon others better than themselves, and that their holiness has but little in it of the meekness of the saints?! In their spiritual history men may have had times of great humbling and brokenness, but what a different thing this is from being clothed with humility, from having a humble spirit, from having that lowliness of mind in which each counts himself the servant of others, and so shows forth the very mind which was also in Jesus Christ. “Stand by; for I am holier than thou!” What a parody on holiness! Jesus the Holy One is the humble One: the holiest will ever be the humblest. There is none holy but God: we have as much of holiness as we have of God. And according to what we have of God will be our real humility, because humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all. The holiest will be the humblest. Alas! though the bare-faced boasting Jew of the days of Isaiah is not often to be found, even our manners have taught us not to speak thus, how often his spirit is still seen, whether in the treatment of fellow-saints or of the children of the world. In the spirit in which opinions are given, and work is undertaken, and faults are exposed, how often, though the garb be that of the publican, the voice is still that of the Pharisee: “Oh God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men.”
TRUE CHRISTIAN FORBEARANCE – George Morrison
I have often wondered that there is no trace of disappointment in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. You may call Him a despised man if you will, but you could never call Him a disappointed man. He came to His own and His own received Him not; they laughed Him to scorn and then they crucified Him; yet when He entered the glory and saw His Father’s face, do you think He said, “Father, it has been a tragic disappointment”? For all its sorrow, life was not that to Christ: it was full and fresh and dew-touched to the close, and one of the sources of that unfailing freshness was our Savior’s knowledge of the secret of forbearance. Jesus expected great things from humanity. Jesus never expected the impossible. I like to think that He who made the heavens was ready when the hour came to make allowances. Depend upon it that if we expect the impossible, we are doomed to the disappointment which is worse than death. There is only one highway to the world’s true comradeship—it is the road of forbearing one another.
There are times when it is very easy to be forbearing. When things have gone well with us, when we are feeling strong, or when some great happiness has touched our hearts—it is not difficult to be forbearing then. When we are in a good humor with ourselves, we can be in a good humor with everybody. But true forbearance is not a passing gleam nor is it the child of a happy mood or temper; it does not depend on the state of man’s health or on whether or not he has had a good day at business. It is a virtue to be loyally practiced for Christ’s sake whatever our mood or disappointment be. I should not have wondered much if Christ had been forbearing when He rode in triumph into Jerusalem. Amid the cries of Hosanna and the strewing of the palm branches it might have been easy to have congenial views. But when His face was marred more than any man’s, when they were looking on Him whom they had pierced, when the nails were torture and when the cross was agony, was it not supremely hard to be forbearing then? Yet it was then that the Redeemer prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forbearance must not vanish when we suffer.
There is one other mark on which I would insist and it is this, that true forbearance helps to better things. It is like the sunshine which brings the summer nearer; it is part of that gentleness which makes men great. There is a certain lenient indulgence that is the very antipodes of this great virtue. There is a soft and easy way of smiling at all sin that may send a man to the devil double-speed. Such leniency is the leniency of Antichrist. Christian forbearance never makes light of sin; it never oils the wheels of Satan’s chariot; it can be stern, it whets its glittering sword; if a man is a scoundrel it can tell him so. But it never despairs, never passes final judgments, sees possibilities, touches the chord of brotherhood until a man feels that someone believes in him, and sometimes it is heaven to feel that. One day they dragged a poor woman before Christ, and the Jews would have stoned her, for she was taken in sin. But Jesus said “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more,” and I am certain she never so sinned again. Peter was saved by the forbearance of Christ Jesus—”and the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” Thomas was saved by the forbearance of Christ Jesus—”reach hither thine hand, thou doubter, let Me not scold thee.” The forbearance of Christ was a great moral power, and all Christian forbearance must share the same prerogative.
WALKING NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT – F.B. Meyer
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. That the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:1, 4 (R.V.).
THE APOSTLE here is dealing with the conditions of a holy life; and the condemnation to which he refers is that caused by the constant failure so graphically described in the previous chapter. From my own experience, I think that the introspection which is often induced by ill-health and weakness makes us very sensitive to the failure and shortcoming of the inner life. We know that we are accepted in Christ, and that our sins are forgiven us for His sake; but we are deeply conscious that in us (i.e. in our flesh) dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18).
The Reservoir of Eternal Life.–“the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” We perceive what physical life is when a child comes bounding into our room in a very ecstasy of health and joy. We know what intellectual life is as we see the mind developing under the process of education. We know what the moral life of a stoic is, repelling by force of will the appeal of the senses. But above all these, there is Life which is resident in Jesus Christ, stored in Him, abounding in Him, which He longs to communicate to every soul that trusts in Him. This was the witness of those who knew Jesus most intimately in His brief human life–that “God has given unto us Eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son.” “He that has the Son has the Life; and he that has not the Son of God has not the Life.” This more than outweighs the down-pull of the self-life. The law of that life makes us free from the law of sin and death, for it has mastered death and the grave.
This Life is communicated and sustained by the Holy Spirit. We must be one with Christ; we must be in Him, as the sponge is in the ocean. We must be in Him, not only in our standing, but also in our daily walk. We must be in Him as the branch is in the vine, and the vine-sap in the branch. And this must not only be a theory, but an hourly experience. We must abide in Him and He in us. But how can this become our daily experience? There is but one way. Through the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, as we walk in Him (Gal. 5:16). He is the essence of the Life which is in Christ Jesus. “The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Almighty God, I beseech You to raise me from the death of sin to the life of righteousness by that same power that brought the Lord Jesus from the dead, that I may walk in newness of life through the aid of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A FRIEND CLOSER THAN A BROTHER – A.W. Pink
“There is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.” That endearing title not only expresses the near relation between Him and His redeemed but also the affection which He bears them. Nothing has, does, or can, dampen, or quench its outflow. “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). That blessed title tells of the sympathy He bears His people in all their sufferings, temptations, and infirmities. “In all their affliction he was afflicted . . . in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9). What demonstrations of His friendship! That title also tells of His deep concern for our interests. He has our highest welfare at heart; accordingly He has promised, “I will not turn away from them, to do them good” (Jer. 32:40). Consider more definitely the excellencies of our best Friend:
Christ is an ancient Friend. Old friends we prize highly. The Lord Jesus was our Friend when we were His enemies! We fell in Adam, but He did not cease to love us; rather He became the last Adam to redeem us and “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He sent His servants to preach the Gospel unto us, but we despised it. Even when we were wandering in the ways of folly He determined to save us, and watched over us. In the midst of our sinning and sporting with death, He arrested us by His grace, and by His love overcame our enmity and won our hearts.
Christ is a constant Friend; One that “loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17). He continues to be our Friend through all the vicissitudes of life—no fair-weather friend who fails us when we need Him most. He is our Friend in the day of adversity, equally as much as in the day of prosperity. Was He not so to Peter? He is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1), and evidences it by His sustaining grace. Nor do our transgressions turn away His compassion from us; even then He acts as a friend. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Christ is a faithful Friend. His grace is not shown at the expense of righteousness, nor do His mercies ignore the requirements of holiness. Christ always has in view both the glory of God and the highest good of His people. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). A real friend performs his duty by pointing out my faults. In this respect, too, Christ does “show himself friendly” (Prov. 18:24). Often He says to each of us, “I have a few things against you” (Rev. 2:14)—and rebukes us by His Word, convicts our conscience by His Spirit, and chastens us by His providence “that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Heb. 12:10).
Christ is a powerful Friend. He is willing and able to help us. Some earthly friends may have the desire to help us in the hour of need, but lack the wherewithal: not so our heavenly Friend. He has both the heart to assist and also the power. He is the Possessor of “unsearchable riches,” and all that He has is at our disposal. “The glory which You gave me I have given them” (John 17:22). We have a Friend at court, for Christ uses His influence with the Father on our behalf. “He ever lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25). No situation can possibly arise which is beyond the resources of Christ.
Christ is an everlasting Friend. He does not desert us in the hour of crisis. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Nor does death sever us from this Friend who “sticks closer than a brother,” for we are with Him that very day in paradise. Death will have separated us from those on earth, but “absent from the body” we shall be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). And in the future Christ will manifest Himself as our Friend, saying “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Since Christ is such a Friend to the Christian, what follows? Friendship should be answered with friendship! Negatively, there should be no coldness, aloofness, trepidation, hesitancy on our part; but positively, a free availing ourselves of such a privilege. We should delight ourselves in Him. Since He is a faithful Friend we may safely tell Him the secrets of our hearts, for He will never betray our confidence. But His friendship also imposes definite obligations—to please Him and promote His cause, and daily seek His counsel.
PHYSICAL THINGS CANNOT TOUCH THE SOUL – John MacArthur
The world says, “Happy are the rich, the noble, the successful, the macho, the glamorous, the popular, the famous, the aggressive.” But the message from the King does not fit the world’s standards, because His kingdom is not of this world but of heaven. His way to happiness, which is the only way to true happiness, is by a much different route. Seneca, the first-century Roman philosopher who tutored Nero, wisely wrote, “What is more shameful than to equate the rational soul’s good with that which is irrational?” His point was that you cannot satisfy a rational, personal need with an irrational, impersonal object. External things cannot satisfy internal needs. Yet that is exactly the philosophy of the world: things satisfy. Acquiring things brings happiness, achieving things brings meaning, doing things brings satisfaction. Solomon, the wisest and most magnificent of ancient kings, tried the world’s way to happiness for many years. He had the royal blood of his father, David, coursing through his veins. He had vast amounts of gold and jewels and “made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 10:27). He had fleets of ships and stables filled with thousands of the finest horses. He had hundreds of wives, gathered from the most beautiful women of many lands. He ate the most sumptuous of foods on the finest of tableware in the most elegant of palaces with the most distinguished people. He was acclaimed throughout the world for his wisdom, power, and wealth. Solomon should have been immeasurably happy. Yet that king, so great and blessed by earthly standards, concluded that his life was purposeless and empty. The theme of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s personal testimony on the human situation, is “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?” (1:2-3). Jesus came to announce that the tree of happiness cannot grow in a cursed earth. Earthly things cannot bring even lasting earthly happiness, much less eternal happiness. “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed,” Jesus warned; “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Physical things simply cannot touch the soul, the inner person. It should be pointed out that the opposite is also true: spiritual things cannot satisfy physical needs. When someone is hungry he needs food, not a lecture on grace. When he is hurt he needs medical attention, not moral advice. True spiritual concern for such people will express itself first of all in providing for their physical needs. “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). But the more common danger is trying to meet almost every need with physical things. That philosophy is as futile as it is unscriptural. When King Saul was distressed, his jewels and his army could give him no help. When King Belshazzar was having a great feast with his nobles, wives, and concubines, he suddenly saw a hand writing on the wall, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” He was so terrified that his “face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together.” His military power, his influential allies, and his great possessions could give him no solace (Dan. 5:3-6, 25). The great Puritan saint Thomas Watson wrote, “The things of the world will no more keep out trouble of spirit, than a paper sconce will keep out a bullet…. Worldly delights are winged. They may be compared to a flock of birds in the garden, that stay a little while, but when you come near to them they take their flight and are gone. So ’riches make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven’” The writer of Proverbs said, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone” (Prov. 23:4-5).
TRUTH HAS A SOUL – A.W. Tozer
A man will go along in a church and believe texts and quote them and memorize them and teach them and maybe become a deacon. He may be elected to the church board, and all the rest. Then one day under the fiery preaching of some visitor or maybe the pastor, he suddenly feels himself terribly in need of God and he forgets all his past history and goes to his knees and like David begins to pour out his soul in confession. Then he leaps to his feet and testifies, “I have been a deacon in this church for twenty-six years and never was born again until tonight.” What happened? That man had been trusting the dead body of truth until some inspired preacher let him know that truth has a soul. Or maybe God taught him in secret that truth has a soul as well as a body and he dared to get through and pursue by penitence and obedience until God honored his faith and flashed the light on. Then like lightning out of heaven it touched his spirit and all the texts he had memorized became alive. Thank God, he did memorize the texts, and all the truth he knew suddenly now bloomed in the light. That is why I believe we ought to memorize. That is why we ought to get to know the Word, why we ought to fill our minds with the songs and the great hymns of the church. They won’t mean anything to us until the Holy Spirit comes. But when He comes He will have fuel to use. Fire without fuel won’t burn but fuel without fire is dead. And the Holy Spirit will not come on a church where there is no biblical fuel. There must be Bible teaching. We must have the body of truth. The Holy Spirit never comes into a vacuum, but where the Word of God is, there is fuel, and the fire falls and burns up the sacrifice. Jesus said if any man is willing to do God’s will, he shall know—he shall know the doctrine. Now, this body of truth can be grasped by the average, normal intellect. You can grasp truth, but only the enlightened soul will ever know the truth and only the prepared heart will ever be enlightened. And just what is the preparation needed? Jesus said, “If any man is willing to do my will the light will flash in on him. If any man will obey me God will enlighten his soul immediately.” We make Jesus Christ a convenience. We make Him a lifeboat to get us to shore, a guide to find us when we are lost. We reduce Him simply to Big Friend to help us when we are in trouble. That is not biblical Christianity. Jesus Christ is Lord, and when a man is willing to do His will, he is repenting, and the truth flashes in. For the first time in his life, he finds himself willing to say, “I will do the will of the Lord, even if I die for it!” Illumination will start in his heart. That is repentance, my brethren—he has been following his own will and now decides to do the will of God! No man can know the Son except the Father tell him. No man can know the Father except the Son reveal Him. I can know about God; that’s the body of truth. But I can’t know God, the soul of truth, unless I am ready to be obedient. True discipleship is obeying Jesus Christ and learning of Him and following Him and doing what He tells you to do, keeping His commandments and carrying out His will. That kind of a person is a Christian—and no other kind is. And when you are trying to find out the condition of a church, don’t just find out whether it is “fundamentalist.” Find out whether it is an evangelical rationalistic church which says, “The text is enough,” or whether it is a church that believes that the text plus the Holy Spirit is enough. Before the Word of God can mean anything inside of me there must be obedience to the Word. Truth will not give itself to a rebel. Truth will not impart life to a man who will not obey the light! “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If you are disobeying Jesus Christ you can’t expect to be enlightened.
A STATE OF EXPERIENTIAL HOLINESS – John Fletcher
O if it were clearly preached and steadily believed,–if we were fully persuaded, we shall soon “appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” to answer for every thought, word, and work, for every business we enter upon, every sum of money we lay out, every meal we eat, every pleasure we take, every affliction we endure, every hour we spend, every idle word we speak, yes, and every temper we secretly indulge,–if we knew we shall certainly “give account” of all the chapters we read, of all the prayers we offer, all the sermons we hear or preach, all the sacraments we receive; of all the motions of Divine grace, all the beams of heavenly light, all the breathings of the Spirit, all the invitations of Christ, all the drawings of the Father, reproofs of our friends, and checks of our own consciences,–and if we were deeply conscious, that every neglect of duty will rob us of a degree of glory, and every willful sin of a jewel in our crown, if not of our crown itself; what humble, watchful, holy, heavenly persons should we be! How serious and self denying! How diligent and faithful! In a word, how angelical and divine, “in all manner of conversation!”
Did the woman, the professing Church, cordially embrace this doctrine, she would no more stay “in the wilderness, idly talking of her beloved;” but actually “leaning upon him,” she would “come out of it,” in the sight of all her enemies. No more wrapped up in the showy cloud of ideal perfection or imaginary righteousness, and casting away her cold garments, her moonlike changes of merely doctrinal apparel, she would shine with the dazzling glory of her Lord; she would burn with the hallowing fires of his love: once more she would be “clothed with the sun, and have the moon under her feet!”
Ye lukewarm talkers of Jesus’ ardent love, if you were deeply conscious that nothing but love shall enter heaven, instead of judging of your growth in grace by the warmth with which you espouse the tenets of Calvin or Arminius, would you not instantly try your state by the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and by our Lord’s alarming messages to the falling or fallen Churches of Asia? Springing out of your Laodicean indifference, would you not earnestly pray for the “faith of the Gospel, the faith that works by burning love?” if the fire be kindled, would you not be afraid of putting it out by “quenching the Spirit?” Would you not even dread “grieving” him, lest your love should grow cold? Far from accounting the “shedding abroad of the love of God in your hearts” an unnecessary frame, would you not be “straitened” till you were baptized, every one of you, with “the Holy Spirit and with fire?”
JUSTIFICATION AND A PASSION FOR WORLD EVANGELIZATION – John Piper
Why devote so much time to defending the imputation of Christ’s righteousness when there are so many unreached people groups and millions of people who have no access to the Gospel? I will mention two things. One is that over the past twenty years of leading a missions-mobilizing church I have seen with increasing clarity that teacher-based church planting and not just friendship-based church planting is crucial among peoples with no Christian history. In other words, doctrinal instruction becomes utterly crucial in planting the church. This is not surprising, since embedded in the Great Commission is the command, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), and since Paul planted the church in Ephesus by reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus for two years, “so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). In other words, it is more clear to me now that doing missions without deep doctrinal transfer through patient teaching will not only wreck on the vast reefs of ignorance but will, at best, produce weak and everdependent churches. Therefore, pastors who care about building, sending, and going churches must give themselves to building sending bases that breed doctrinally-deep people who are not given to emotional dependency on fads but know how to feed themselves on Christ-centered truth. The second thing I would say about the doctrine of justification and missions is that Paul develops this doctrine in the book of Romans in a way that shows it is absolutely universal in its relevance. It crosses every culture. It is not a tribal concept. He does this by building part of the doctrine out of the connection between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21. For example, take only verse 19: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were appointed sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be appointed righteous.” This, along with the whole context, shows that what Christ came to do in his obedience was universal in its scope and significance. It is not just for the posterity of Abraham, but for the posterity of Adam—namely, everyone. The problem Jesus came to solve was a problem unleashed by the first man, leading to condemnation and corruption for all people everywhere in all cultures and all times. This is a stunning discovery for many people. The diagnosis of what needs to be remedied is the same in all cultures because it stems from Adam, the father of all cultures. Therefore the work of Christ to provide a “free gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17, ESV) to all who will “receive” it is absolutely sufficient and necessary for every person in every culture everywhere in the world. And thus the doctrine of justification becomes a warrant for the universal claim of Christian missions.
TO HIM BE THE GLORY – Andrew Murray
“Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6.
Some of my readers may feel that it is not easy to understand the lesson of the cross, or to carry it out in their lives. Do not think of it as a heavy burden or yoke that you have to bear. Christ says: “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” LOVE MAKES EVERYTHING EASY. Do not think of your love to Him, but of His great love to you, given through the Holy Spirit. Meditate on this day and night, until you have the assurance: He loves me unspeakably. It is through the love of Christ on the cross that souls are drawn to Him. We have here the answer as to what will enable us to love the fellowship of the crucified Jesus. Nothing less than His love poured out through the continual breathing of the Holy Spirit into the heart of every child of God. “UNTO HIM WHO LOVED US” — Be still, O my soul, and think what this everlasting love is that seeks to take possession of you and fill you with joy unspeakable. “AND WASHED US FROM OUR SINS IN HIS OWN BLOOD” — Is that not proof enough that He will never reject me; that I am precious in His sight, and through the power of His blood am well-pleasing to God? “AND HATH MADE US KINGS AND PRIESTS UNTO GOD AND HIS FATHER” — and now preserves us by His power, and will strengthen us through His Spirit to reign as kings over sin and the world, and to appear as priests before God in intercession for others. O Christian, learn this wonderful song, and repeat it until your heart is filled with love and joy and courage, and turns to Him in glad surrender day by day: “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Yes, to Him, who has loved me, and washed me from my sins in His blood, and made me a king and a priest –TO HIM BE THE GLORY IN ALL AGES. Amen.
ONLY AN INSTRUMENT – A.B. Simpson
The candlestick did not have inherent light. It was only the bearer of the light; it only held the light, but the oil gave the light. And so you and I are not the light. Jesus Christ is our light, and we simply receive and give out Him. This is the secret of all holiness. We are not light ourselves, and we are not expected to have light in our persons. But we have Jesus and show Him forth. He is the light that shines from our eyes, our manners, our tones. We are mere candlesticks to permit others to see Him. We do not stand before the people of the world and tell them that we are strong. We tell them that Christ is strong and that we use His strength. We do not tell them that we are wise. We tell them that Christ is wise and we simply use His wisdom. We have not faith but Christ has faith, and we draw from it moment by moment to glorify Him and not ourselves. We are not love, and we never expect to love by our own impulses as God expects us to. But Jesus is the heart of love. Jesus is love itself, and Jesus is ours. His love is ours. We draw it in and give it out. We hold His love before the world and say, “He enables us to love as He loves, and yet without Him we should be a loveless lump of clay.” That must have been what the Master meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We are to glorify God, not ourselves. People will not say, “What remarkable Christians they are; what pure spirits; what gifted minds!” Oh, no! But they will say: “How full they are of Christ; why cannot we be as they? They tell us they are as weak as we are, but God supplies their daily needs. Now, why cannot we do the same?” That is what I mean by holding up the light of Jesus and letting it so shine before men that they will say, “This is the grace of God and we may have it, too.” Zechariah describes his vision of a candlestick, mentioning several points we do not find elsewhere. One of the most beautiful is that the candlestick was not replenished by a human priest, but by two olive trees that grew on either side. These two trees seemed to distill the very substance of their fruit and to press out the oil just as fast as it was needed, channeling it by golden pipes to the candlestick. This is a beautiful picture: the lamp not needing to be filled, but filling itself, because the pipes were always open. That is the way we can be linked with God, so that, breath by breath, we shall be filled with Him. There is one olive tree on one side—the Lord Jesus Christ—and on the other side the Holy Spirit, both pouring their lives into our souls and bodies and imparting themselves to us every moment. It is not a blessing that we get once in a while but a constant connection and communication. So let us draw near to Him. So let us go forth to abide in Him. So let us have His light and His life. Then we cannot help shining, because we shall be just like Himself. And in His overflowing life we shall be a blessing to others, even greater than the blessing we receive. Oh, may He come to us now and light up the sanctuary of our hearts until they shall shine like the chambers above! May He reveal to us the heavenly bread until we shall eat and be satisfied! May He open to our vision the golden altar of intercession and incense and, beyond, the rent veil, His own immediate, everlasting presence!
THE COMMAND TO LOVE AND THE NATURE OF FAITH – John Piper
Love is an essential part of the process of salvation. It is not optional whether you love one another. No one can say, “I am saved by faith regardless of whether I love people or not.” For the only faith which saves is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Saving faith always gives rise to love and love gives evidence of genuine faith. Today’s text picks up the theme of love from 5:6 and presses it home with a command in verse 13: “Through love be servants of one another.” Someone may ask, “Why should Paul command us to love if love is an inevitable result of faith (5:6), indeed, a fruit of God’s Spirit (5:22)?” The answer is that even though God is sovereign over his people and it is his Spirit that produces the fruit of love, nevertheless, God’s means of doing his work includes human exhortation. There is no contradiction between saying God brings about love in our hearts and saying that one of the ways he does it is to remind us of love’s importance with commands. But the fact that Paul has waited five chapters before he commands us to do anything, but trust God, warns us not to take this command as a “work of law” to be performed in our own strength to win God’s favor. Paul’s attack on works of the law has not been an attack on commands but on the teaching that we should try to fulfill commands in our own strength to earn God’s blessing. Commands are good and should be seen as a summons to have the obedience which faith produces. The command to love in Galatians 5:13 is a command to have the kind of free and confident heart that by its very nature has to love. And I have found in my own experience that the Holy Spirit uses scriptural commands and especially the theological arguments for those commands to change my heart.
THERE IS A DEFINED BODY OF DOCTRINE – John Piper
There is such a thing—a body of doctrine that someone can go against. “Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.” (Rom. 16:17). There is a doctrinal standard. There is something you can depart from. Paul refers to it in several ways. In Romans 6:17, he calls it the standard of teaching: “[You] have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, he calls it the pattern of sound words and the good deposit. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” In Acts 20:27, he calls it the whole counsel of God. “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” So there is a body or standard or pattern of sound doctrine. The caution here, of course, is that we must not put every minor opinion about hundreds of Bible verses in this category so that there is no room for any disagreement at all (cf. Philippians 3:15). The pattern of sound doctrine would be a faithful summary of biblical essentials determined by how crucial they are in expressing and preserving the history of redemption, the nature and condition of man, the nature and work of Christ, the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, and the nature and work of God the Father. One of the greatest challenges in the quest for unity is deciding what belongs in this body of doctrine when Paul says, if someone departs from it, avoid him. Avoiding someone does not mean: Stop caring about him, or stop praying for him, or even stop talking to them. When Peter acted contrary to the gospel in Galatians 2, Paul did not first avoid him. He first confronted him with a view to winning him back. That kind of contact is not forbidden. What Paul commands with the words avoid them, is not no contact at all, but the kind of contact that communicates life cannot go on as usual between us. It can’t. If you, as a professing Christian, persist in departing from the doctrine the apostles taught, we can’t simply hang out together like we used to.
SUCCESS VERSUS EXCELLENCE – By John MacArthur
Regardless of how things may appear to the world, to the rest of the church, or even to ourselves, God’s Word assures us that the best of life belongs to those who know Christ as Savior and Lord and who give themselves up for His service and His glory. The central truth of the Beatitudes could be condensed to “Blessed, happy, and satisfied are those who love and serve the Lord.” Unfortunately, many Christians, including some pastors and other leaders, seek for success rather than excellence. But success focuses on the external rather than the internal, on the temporal rather than the eternal, and is measured by human standards rather than by divine. Desire for success comes from pride, whereas genuine desire for excellence comes from humility. In his book Christian Excellence, John Johnstone rightfully maintains that success and excellence are competing ideals and that everything a believer does, whether consciously or not, is devoted to one of those ideals or the other. It is not that excellence in a believer precludes every form of outward success but that any success that comes from the pursuit of excellence is incidental. Success is not to be sought or to be gloried in if it is achieved. Success is attaining cultural goals that elevate one’s importance in the eyes of society and generally is marked by power, prestige, wealth, and privilege, according to Johnstone. Excellence, on the other hand, is the pursuit of the highest quality in one’s work and effort, whether others recognize and approve it or not. Success is measured in relation to others, whereas excellence is measured by one’s own God-given potential and calling. Success seeks to please men; excellence seeks to please God. Success rewards only a few, whereas excellence is available to any believer who is willing to pay the price. Success pertains to possessions and reputation, whereas excellence pertains to character. Success can be cheap, attained by shortcuts, lying, and stealing. The price of excellence is never discounted, never available for anything less than full price. (This paragraph is adapted from Johnstone.) Although directed first of all to Timothy, Paul’s commission in 2 Timothy 4:1–5 applies to every minister of the gospel in every age, every place, and every circumstance. In a broader way it can be applied to every faithful believer, because it is essential for every congregation to know and understand this charge. Churches are responsible, under God and with God, to hold their pastors accountable to these divine precepts.
A JOB TOO BIG – By A.W. Tozer
Every Christian should be looking to the Lord for something to do in the kingdom of God, and everyone ought to be asking God to honor him with a job too big for him. That’s why I pity anybody who can do everything he is trying to do, who limits himself timidly to that which he knows he can do. What a sad thing for a Christian to say, “I’m going to serve the Lord, but I’m going to serve God strictly within the framework of my own ability to get the thing done.” If we are to accomplish what God expects of us, the improbability of our task will surely drive us to our knees with the cry, “O God, who am I?” I think it may be safely said that God is still looking for men who know their own insufficiencies so well that He can perform the miraculous through them. A prime illustration is in the life of Moses as recorded in Exodus 3. Moses asked the question “Who am I?” in the face of a staggering call from God—a call to go back and face a hostile empire and liberate and bring out of Egypt a whole nation of more than a million people. Moses said, “I can’t,” and God said, “Moses, I know you can’t, but go, and do it!” If Moses had arisen immediately upon receiving the call, and said, “All right, when do I start?” God would have had to put him through another furnace of testing. This is a principle so true of us all in our human experiences. Whenever I think I can stand up and say, “I am now strong enough, sufficient enough—I can do it!” then God fades out, and there comes only grief and woe and sterility and fruitlessness and finally, eclipse. So, we are faced with new tasks, faced with the need of cleansing, faced with the need of atonement. We are faced with the mysteries of life and death and immortality. And I say: “O God, who am I?” And God replies: “Son, it doesn’t make too much difference who you are—I am all you need!” So, I give you today the One who is everything you need. Jesus Christ is made to us wisdom, righteousness and power, holiness forevermore, redemption full and sure—He is all we need. Remember, all your demerit is no bar to your acceptance. For God has, by His grace, made it possible for men with no merits to enter into the merits of His Son. Your weakness is no bar—for when I am weak, then am I strong! In this day of glorification of human talent, we’re grateful for all human abilities, and we are not envious of any of it. But, we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of men!
THE FOUNDATION OF EVERYTHING – By Austin Sparks
…the Cross never ceases to govern the Christian life. It governs the Christian life at every stage, in every phase and aspect. There is never a point in the Christian life but that the Cross is basic and dominant. A building may rise with every added storey, but it never moves from its foundation. However high you go, however much you add, it never moves from its foundation and in a sense the foundation governs each additional level. If the foundation should give way at any point, that is the end of your building, that spells disaster however far you have gone. And the Cross is like that. The Cross is the foundation of everything. It is there, of course, at the beginning in what we call conversion and new birth, but after that the Cross governs the whole matter of spiritual growth and progress. We never make one bit of progress except by reason of the law of the Cross operating. The Cross is basic to the church, basic to fellowship. Fellowship is only possible in so far as the Cross is at work in all those concerned. Relatedness and corporate life demand a deep work of the Cross, for that is only saying, in another way, that the Cross has got to be planted very deeply into our individualism – I am not saying ‘individuality’, but ‘individualism’. It takes a deep work of the Cross to do that and so make the way for related fellowship and corporate life. Every bit of fresh light (if it is real light – living light) which transforms and transfigures, springs from the Cross or some working and application of the Cross. And every bit of conformity to Christ demands the continuous operation of the Cross. It never ceases; it goes right on to the end. As for service, work for God, ministry, for this to be fruitful and effectual, living and powerful, it must spring out of the Cross deeply rooted in the life of the worker, the minister, the servant of the Lord.
ONLY WRATH REMAINS FOR THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S MERCY – William Newell
Romans is a court book. God, who adjudged all guilty under sin, gladly declares righteous and safe those who trust Him. Contrariwise, those who reject His mercy and grace are visited by the same Judge, even God, with wrath. Both the wrath in the one case, and the grace in the other, proceed from God’s personal feeling, and just as there was personal Divine mercy and eternal tenderness toward the believer, so there is personal Divine wrath and eternal indignation against those who despise His love and mercy, as set forth in the death of His Son. It is righteous indignation, certainly; but it is personal indignation. Listen carefully to God’s own words as to this future visitation of wrath upon the finally impenitent: “Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14); “Lest there should be among you man or woman whose heart turns away from Jehovah, to serve other gods, and it come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart . . . . Jehovah will not pardon him, but then the anger of Jehovah, and His jealousy, shall smoke against that man” (Deut. 29:18-20); “Jehovah is a jealous God, and avenges; Jehovah avenges and is full of wrath; Jehovah takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath or His enemies”; “He will pursue His enemies into darkness” (Nahum 1:2, 8); “Vengeance belongs unto Me, I will recompense, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19); “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Heb. 10:31) “Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I, Jehovah, have spoken it and will do it” (Ezek. 22:14).
It is fatuous folly to seek to avoid the manifest, necessary meaning of such words. God, who alone has the right to avenge, will avenge! The very first chapter of the Prophets warns any willing to hear: “Ah, I will ease Me of My adversaries, and avenge Me of My enemies!” (Isa. 1:24). Human justice is to be meted out by juries of men and by judges, uncolored by personal feelings. Not so with God! As is not the case in human courts, it is the Judge Himself who has been wronged. It is His light that has been refused for darkness. It is His salvation, and that by His Son’s blood that has been despised. And it will not be justice merely, but the infliction of penalty by an outraged Being whose Name is Love, now aroused to a righteous fury commensurate with the measureless guilt of the hideous haters of His holiness, the despisers of His mercy—it will be by the Hand of the Judge of all, Himself, that wrath will fall upon the guilty.
As for the “great” pulpiteers of Christendom, the favorites of the rapidly apostatizing denominations of this day, the men who, by their ecclesiastical politics or personal ability, or so called “scholarship,” are “outstanding” and yet deny or ignore the wrath of God,—fear them not! They are false prophets, prophets of “peace,”—which can only be found in the shed blood of the Redeemer: the blood which they do not preach. Oh, that Day! that Day!—for these lying preachers of “peace, peace,” who have said, “God is too good to damn anybody.” And shall God, in that Day, refuse to remember the agonies of His Son on the Cross? Shall He change that holy hatred of sin, wherein He forsook Christ and spared Him not?—all because miserable guilty Universalists, Unitarians, Millennial Dawnists, “Modernists,” “Christian(!) Scientists(!)”—all the fawning “Hush, hush” preachers, have promised to men “a God that would not show wrath against sin!” A God who would indeed “spare all,— yea, probably, even Satan, finally!”
GOD IS NOT A GLORIFIED SANTA CLAUS – A.W. Tozer
Did you ever think about God without getting down on your knees and begging for something? Most of us, when we pray, we bring our grocery list and say, “Lord, we’d like this and this and this.” We act as if we were running to the corner store to get something. And God has been dragged down in our thinking to nothing more than the One who gives us what we want when we’re in trouble. Now God does give us what we want—He’s a good God. God’s goodness is one of His attributes. But I hope that we’ll not imagine that God exists simply to answer the prayers of people. A businessman wants to get a contract, so he goes to God and says, “God, give me.” A student wants to get a good grade, so she goes to God and says, “Give me.” A young man wants the girl to say yes, so he gets on his knees and says, “Father, give her to me.” We just use God as a kind of source of getting what we want. Our Heavenly Father is very, very kind and He tells us that we are to ask. Whatever we ask in the name of His Son He’ll give us, if it’s within the confines of His will. And His will is as broad as the whole world. Still, we must think of God as the Holy One, not just as the One from whom we can get things. God is not a glorified Santa Claus, who gives us everything we want then fades out and lets us run our own way. He gives, but in giving He gives us Himself too. And the best gift God ever gives us is Himself. He gives answers to prayer, but after we’ve used up the answer or don’t need it anymore, we still have God. In God’s self there is no sin. We creatures properly and rightly and scripturally have everything to say against self and selfishness—it’s the great sin. But God’s self is not sinful, because God was the originator of us all, and it is only our fallen selves that are sinful. Because God is the original, unfallen, holy God, God’s self is not sinful.
RETURN TO SIMPLICITY – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
As life in general becomes more and more complex, so religion tends to be affected in the same way. In the secular world, life today has become involved and sophisticated; in every direction one sees increased organization and multiplicity of machinery. Bustle and business, conferences and conventions are the order of the day. Never has the life of the world been so complicated…. The simple truths are being ignored, and men spend their time in holding conferences to explore their difficulties. The same tendency is seen in the world of religion. It seems to be assumed that if the affairs of men are so difficult and complicated, the affairs of God should be still more complicated, because they are still greater. Hence comes the tendency to increase ceremony and ritual, and to multiply organizations and activities … the argument is that it is ridiculous to assert that the vast problems of life today can be solved in the apparently simple manner suggested by those who preach the gospel in the old evangelical manner….
The fact is, that as we get further away from God life becomes more complicated and involved. We see this not only in the Bible, but also in subsequent history. The Protestant Reformation simplified not only religion, but the whole of life and living in general. . . . The truly religious life is always simple … there is nothing which is so characteristic of God’s work in every realm as its essential simplicity and order. Look where you will, you see that God ever works on an uncomplicated design. See how He repeats the seasons year by year—spring, summer, autumn, winter. Examine a flower… you will find that the basic pattern of nature is always simple. Simplicity is God’s method. Is it, then, reasonable to believe that in the most vital subject of all, the salvation of man and the ordering of his life, God should suddenly jettison His own method and become involved and complex?
By two wings man is lifted from the things of earth—simplicity and purity
(Thomas à Kempis).
ARE YOU TRULY SAVED? – Paul Washer
How can a person know that they are truly born again? It is not simply because they repeated a prayer. It is not simply because they have joined some religious organization or gone through some religious rite. The evidence of salvation is the working of God in our lives that causes us to grow in conformity to his character and conformity to his will. We have the assurance that we have truly been born again because the things that are written in 1 John are found, at least to some degree, in our lives. A life that has not been changed has not been saved. I know we live in a country where everyone and his brother is a Christian because at one time in an evangelistic crusade they prayed a prayer. My friend, that is not biblical. We are saved by the power of God because salvation is the power of God. It is brought about by the power of God and we are saved not by repeating a prayer, but by repenting of our sins and believing the gospel. And the sign, the true sign that we have done that are the things written in Scripture that identify true Christianity. In the beginning of our study we saw that the true Christian will walk in the light. That means they will live a style of life that reflects something of God’s character and reflects obedience or conformity to God’s will. We also saw that a true Christian will be sensitive to their own sin and that sensitivity will lead them to repentance and confession. We have also seen that the true Christian will have a new relationship not only with God and not only with sin, but with God’s Word. That true Christian’s life is marked by habitual obedience. Our obedience will not be perfect. A true Christian will [still] sin. That is why he must be sensitive to sin. But the life of a true Christian will be marked by a new relationship, a real relationship with the Word of God. And then, lastly, we studied that the true Christian will walk like Jesus walked. That doesn’t mean that we will be able to do all the miraculous things that Christ has done. It doesn’t mean that we will live a life of sinless perfection as he did. But it means that our style of walking, of living, of being, of talking, every aspect of our life will somehow be brought into conformity little by little, to the life of Jesus Christ, to the life of Christ.
DIE REDDINGSPLAN VAN GOD – Albert Theron
DIE OU AFRIKAANSE VERTALING
I. HIER IS DIE BYBELSE PRENTJIE VAN ONS ALMAL SONDER CHRISTUS
Rom. 5:12 Daarom, soos deur een mens die sonde in die wêreld ingekom het en deur die sonde die dood, en so die dood tot alle mense deurgedring het, omdat almal gesondig het.
Jeremia 17:9 Bedrieglik is die hart bo alle dinge, ja, verdorwe is dit; wie kan dit ken?
Jeremia 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (NKJV)
Jeremia 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? (Amplified Translation)
Rom. 3:9-20 Wat dan? Het ons enige voorrang? Hoegenaamd nie! Want ons het tevore al Jode sowel as Grieke beskuldig dat hulle almal onder die sonde is, 10 soos geskrywe is: Daar is niemand regverdig nie, selfs nie een nie. 11 Daar is niemand wat verstandig is nie, daar is niemand wat God soek nie. 12 Hulle het almal afgewyk, saam het hulle ontaard. Daar is niemand wat goed doen nie, daar is selfs nie een nie. 13 Hulle keel is ‘n oop graf, met hul tonge pleeg hulle bedrog, die gif van adders is onder hulle lippe. 14 Hulle mond is vol vervloeking en bitterheid. 15 Haastig is hulle voete om bloed te vergiet. 16 Verwoesting en ellende is in hulle paaie, 17 en die weg van vrede ken hulle nie. 18 Daar is geen vrees van God voor hulle oë nie. 19 Nou weet ons dat alles wat die wet sê, hy dit sê vir die wat onder die wet is, sodat elke mond gestop en die hele wêreld voor God doemwaardig kan wees; 20 aangesien uit die werke van die wet geen vlees voor Hom geregverdig sal word nie, want deur die wet is die kennis van sonde.
II. HIER IS DIE PLAN VAN GOD OM ONS TE RED IN CHRISTUS
Jesaja 53:3-7 Hy was verag en deur die mense verlaat, ‘n man van smarte en bekend met krankheid; ja, soos een vir wie ‘n mens sy gelaat verberg; Hy was verag en ons het Hom nie geag nie. 4 Nogtans het Hy óns krankhede op Hom geneem, en óns smarte—dié het Hy gedra; maar óns het Hom gehou vir een wat geplaag, deur God geslaan en verdruk was. 5 Maar Hy is ter wille van ons oortredinge deurboor, ter wille van ons ongeregtighede is Hy verbrysel; die straf wat vir ons die vrede aanbring, was op Hom, en deur sy wonde het daar vir ons genesing gekom. 6 Ons almal het gedwaal soos skape, ons het elkeen sy eie pad geloop; maar die HERE het die ongeregtigheid van ons almal op Hom laat neerkom. 7 Hy is mishandel, hoewel Hy onderworpe was, en Hy het sy mond nie oopgemaak nie; soos ‘n lam wat na die slagplek gelei word en soos ‘n skaap wat stom is voor sy skeerders—ja, Hy het sy mond nie oopgemaak nie.
Joh. 3:16-18 Want so lief het God die wêreld gehad, dat Hy sy eniggebore Seun gegee het, sodat elkeen wat in Hom glo, nie verlore mag gaan nie, maar die ewige lewe kan hê. 17 Want God het sy Seun in die wêreld gestuur nie om die wêreld te veroordeel nie, maar dat die wêreld deur Hom gered kan word. 18 Hy wat in Hom glo, word nie veroordeel nie; maar hy wat nie glo nie, is alreeds veroordeel omdat hy nie geglo het in die Naam van die eniggebore Seun van God nie.
1 Kor. 15:1-6 Broeders, ek maak julle die evangelie bekend wat ek aan julle verkondig het, wat julle ook aangeneem het, waarin julle ook staan, 2 waardeur julle ook gered word as julle daaraan vashou op die wyse waarop ek dit aan julle verkondig het, of julle moet tevergeefs geglo het. 3 Want in die eerste plek het ek aan julle oorgelewer wat ek ook ontvang het, dat Christus vir ons sondes gesterf het volgens die Skrifte; 4 en dat Hy begrawe is, en dat Hy op die derde dag opgewek is volgens die Skrifte; 5 en dat Hy aan Céfas verskyn het; daarna aan die twaalf. 6 Daarna het Hy verskyn aan oor die vyf honderd broeders tegelyk, waarvan die meeste nou nog lewe, maar sommige al ontslaap het.
Rom. 3:21-30 Maar nou is die geregtigheid van God geopenbaar sonder die wet, terwyl die wet en die profete daarvan getuig, 22 die geregtigheid naamlik van God deur die geloof in Jesus Christus vir almal en oor almal wat glo, want daar is geen onderskeid nie; 23 want almal het gesondig en dit ontbreek hulle aan die heerlikheid van God, 24 en hulle word deur sy genade sonder verdienste geregverdig deur die verlossing wat in Christus Jesus is. 25 Hom het God voorgestel in sy bloed as ‘n versoening deur die geloof, om sy geregtigheid te bewys deurdat Hy die sondes ongestraf laat bly het wat tevore gedoen is onder die verdraagsaamheid van God 26 om sy geregtigheid te toon in die teenwoordige tyd, sodat Hy self regverdig kan wees en regverdig maak wie uit die geloof in Jesus is. 27 Waar is dan die roem? Dit is uitgesluit. Deur watter wet? Van die werke? Nee, maar deur die wet van die geloof. 28 Ons neem dus aan dat die mens geregverdig word deur die geloof sonder die werke van die wet. 29 Of behoort God net aan die Jode, en nie ook aan die heidene nie? Ja, ook aan die heidene, 30 aangesien dit inderdaad een God is wat die besnedenes sal regverdig uit die geloof en die onbesnedenes deur die geloof.
III. HIER IS DIE VEREISTE VIR REDDING
Handelinge 17:30-31 God het dan die tye van onkunde oorgesien en verkondig nou aan al die mense oral dat hulle hul moet bekeer, 31 omdat Hy ‘n dag bepaal het waarop Hy die wêreld in geregtigheid sal oordeel deur ‘n Man wat Hy aangestel het, en Hy het hiervan aan almal sekerheid gegee deur Hom uit die dode op te wek.
Rom 10:9-13 As jy met jou mond die Here Jesus bely en met jou hart glo dat God Hom uit die dode opgewek het, sal jy gered word; 10 want met die hart glo ons tot geregtigheid en met die mond bely ons tot redding. 11 Want die Skrif sê: Elkeen wat in Hom glo, sal nie beskaam word nie. 12 Want daar is geen onderskeid tussen Jood en Griek nie; dieselfde Here tog is Here van almal en is ryk oor almal wat Hom aanroep. 13 Want: Elkeen wat die Naam van die Here aanroep, sal gered word.
Joh. 5:24 Voorwaar, voorwaar Ek sê vir julle, wie my woord hoor en Hom glo wat My gestuur het, het die ewige lewe en kom nie in die oordeel nie, maar het oorgegaan uit die dood in die lewe.
LET WEL: Reddende geloof behels:
1. ‘n basiese kennis van God se reddingsplan,
2. ‘n oortuiging dat dit die waarheid is en op jou persoonlik van toepassing is, en
3. ‘n vertroue wat jou hele lewe en toekoms geheel en al op Jesus en op Sy kruisverdienste plaas
* DIE NUWE AFRIKAANSE VERTALING
I. HIER IS DIE BYBELSE PRENTJIE VAN ONS ALMAL SONDER CHRISTUS
Rom. 5:12 Verder nog dít: Deur een mens het die sonde in die wêreld gekom en deur die sonde die dood, en so het die dood tot al die mense deurgedring, omdat almal gesondig het.
Jeremia 17:9 Die hart is bedriegliker as enigiets anders, hy is ongeneeslik; wie kan hom verstaan?
Rom 3:9-20 Waarop kom dit neer? Is ons as Jode dan beter as die ander? Glad nie, want ons het al bewys dat Jode en nie-Jode almal in die mag van die sonde is. 10 Daar staan immers geskrywe: “Daar is nie een wat regverdig is nie, selfs nie een nie, 11 daar is nie een wat verstandig is nie; daar is nie een wat na die wil van God vra nie. 12 “Almal het afgedwaal, almal het ontaard. Daar is nie een wat goed doen nie, selfs nie een nie. 13 “Hulle keel is ‘n oop graf, met hulle tonge bedrieg hulle. Oor hulle lippe kom woorde so giftig soos slange, 14 hulle mond is vol vervloeking en bitterheid. 15 “Hulle voete is vinnig om bloed te vergiet. 16 Hulle laat ‘n spoor van verwoesting en ellende agter. 17 Die pad van vrede het hulle nie leer ken nie, 18 ontsag vir God het hulle nie.” 19 Dit weet ons: alles wat Moses se wet sê, sê hy vir dié wat die wet het. Niemand sal hom dus kan verweer nie, en die hele wêreld is strafwaardig voor God. 20 Daarom sal geen mens op grond van wetsonderhouding deur God vrygespreek word nie; inteendeel, deur die wet leer ‘n mens wat sonde is.
II. HIER IS DIE PLAN VAN GOD OM ONS TE RED IN CHRISTUS
Jesaja 53:3-7 Hy was verag en deur die mense verstoot, ‘n man van lyding wat pyn geken het, iemand vir wie die mense die gesig wegdraai. Hy was verag, ons het hom nie gereken nie. 4 Tog het hy óns lyding op hom geneem, óns siektes het hy gedra. Maar ons het hom beskou as een wat gestraf word, wat deur God geslaan en gepynig word. 5 Oor óns oortredings is hy deurboor, oor óns sondes is hy verbrysel; die straf wat vir ons vrede moes bring, was op hom, deur sy wonde het daar vir ons genesing gekom. 6 Ons het almal gedwaal soos skape, ons het elkeen sy eie pad geloop, maar die Here het ons almal se sonde op hom laat afkom. 7 Hy is mishandel, maar hy het geduldig gebly, hy het nie gekla nie. Soos ‘n lam wat na die slagplek toe gelei word en soos ‘n skaap wat stil is as hy geskeer word, het hy nie gekla nie.
Joh. 3:16-18 “God het die wêreld so lief gehad dat Hy sy enigste Seun gegee het, sodat dié wat in Hom glo, nie verlore sal gaan nie maar die ewige lewe sal hê. 17 God het nie sy Seun na die wêreld toe gestuur om die wêreld te veroordeel nie, maar sodat die wêreld deur Hom gered kan word. 18 Wie in Hom glo, word nie veroordeel nie; wie nie glo nie, is reeds veroordeel omdat hy nie in die enigste Seun van God glo nie.
1 Kor. 15:1-6 Ek herinner julle, broers, aan die evangelie wat ek aan julle verkondig het en wat julle ontvang het en waarin julle ook gevestig staan. 2 Deur dié evangelie word julle ook gered as julle vashou aan die boodskap soos ek dit aan julle verkondig het. As julle aan iets anders vashou, het julle tevergeefs tot geloof gekom. 3 Die belangrikste wat ek aan julle oorgelewer het en wat ek ook ontvang het, is dit: Christus het vir ons sondes gesterf, volgens die Skrifte; 4 Hy is begrawe en op die derde dag opgewek, volgens die Skrifte. 5 Hy het aan Sefas verskyn, daarna aan die twaalf, 6 en daarna aan meer as vyf honderd broers tegelyk, van wie sommige al dood is maar die meeste nou nog lewe.
Rom. 3:21-30 Maar nou het die vryspraak deur God waarvan die wet en die profete getuig, in werking getree. Dit is die vryspraak wat nie verkry word deur die wet te onderhou nie, 22 maar deur in Jesus Christus te glo. God gee dit sonder onderskeid aan almal wat glo. 23 Almal het gesondig, en het nie deel aan die heerlikheid van God nie, 24 maar hulle word, sonder dat hulle dit verdien, op grond van sy genade vrygespreek vanweë die verlossing deur Jesus Christus. 25 Hom het God gegee as offer wat deur sy bloed versoening bewerk het vir dié wat glo. 26 Hierdeur het God getoon wat sy vryspraak behels: Hy het die sondes wat Hy voorheen in sy verdraagsaamheid tydelik ongestraf laat bly het, vergewe. Maar Hy het ook getoon wat sy vryspraak in die teenswoordige tyd behels: Hy oordeel regverdig deurdat Hy elkeen vryspreek wat in Jesus glo. 27 Het ons nou iets uit onsself om op te roem? Nee, dit is uitgesluit. Deur watter wet? Dié van die werke? Nee, deur dié van die geloof. 28 Ons betoog is tog dat ‘n mens vrygespreek word omdat hy glo, nie omdat hy die wet onderhou nie. 29 Of is God net God van die Jode, nie ook van die heidennasies nie? Ja, ook van die heidennasies, 30 want daar is net een God. Hy sal die besnedenes deur die geloof en die onbesnedenes deur dieselfde geloof vryspreek.
III. HIER IS DIE VEREISTE VIR REDDING
Handelinge 17:30-31 “God het die tye van onkunde oorgesien, maar nou roep Hy al die mense oral op om hulle te bekeer, 31 want Hy het ‘n dag bepaal waarop Hy regverdig oor die wêreld gaan oordeel deur ‘n Man wat Hy uitgekies het. As bewys daarvan vir almal, het Hy Hom uit die dood laat opstaan.”
Rom 10:9-13 As jy met jou mond bely dat Jesus die Here is, en met jou hart glo dat God Hom uit die dood opgewek het, sal jy gered word. 10 Met die hart glo ons, en ons word vrygespreek; en met die mond bely ons, en ons word gered. 11 Die Skrif sê tog: “Niemand wat in Hom glo, sal teleurgestel word nie.” 12 “Niemand nie!” Dit maak dus geen verskil of ‘n mens ‘n Jood of ‘n Griek is nie, want dieselfde Here is Here van almal, en Hy seën almal wat Hom aanroep, ryklik, 13 want elkeen wat die Naam van die Here aanroep, sal gered word.
Joh 5:24 “Dit verseker Ek julle: Wie luister na wat Ek sê, en in Hom glo wat My gestuur het, het die ewige lewe. Hy word nie veroordeel nie, maar het reeds uit die dood na die lewe oorgegaan.
LET WEL: Reddende geloof behels:
1. ‘n basiese kennis van God se reddingsplan,
2. ‘n oortuiging dat dit die waarheid is en op jou persoonlik van toepassing is, en
3. ‘n vertroue wat jou hele lewe en toekoms geheel en al op Jesus en op Sy kruisverdienste plaas
* Die Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertaling word hier bloot gebruik om die Skrifgedeeltes toe te lig. Ons beveel aan dat u dit so gebruik en liefs die Ou Afrikaanse Vertaling gebruik vir Bybelstudie, aangesien dit ‘n letterlike vertaling van die Grieks is. A.T.
BEWARE OF GOSPEL IMITATIONS – A.W. Pink
Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment.
Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission”, they merely hold up Christ as the great Exemplar and exhort their followers to “follow in His step”. Of them it must be said, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Their message may sound very plausible and their appearance very praiseworthy, yet we read of them, “for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore It is no great thing (not to be wondered at) if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth for themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous that the multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for their meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of which betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God.
CHRIST IS OUR VICTORY – Chip Brogden
There is no higher place in the universe than to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Indeed, since Christ is larger than the universe, then to be seated with Christ is to be above and beyond all time and space and dimension as we know it. To be seated with Christ is to overcome as He has overcome. It is entering into His victory. It is not a fight to obtain victory, but a sitting down having already been made victorious. It is rest, but it is not “rest” in the sense that we do nothing. It means we have rested from our labors and now we work according to His power which works in us and through us.
God does not give us victory, God places us into Christ as our Victory. Since we are one with Him, it is nevermore a question of our ability, gifts, talents, or power. Everything we ARE is swallowed up and eclipsed and surpassed by everything HE IS. Today, in Christ, I overcome: but not because I am anything. On the contrary I am nothing. But since I am in Christ, Who is God’s Everything, His overcoming is my overcoming. If the Head overcomes, so does the Body which is joined to the Head. If the Vine overcomes, so do the branches which are joined to the Vine. Can you see this? Take the weakest member and put it in union with the Head and they will go the way the Head goes. Take the weakest branch and put it in union with the Vine and it will go the way the Vine goes.
When we begin looking to the Son as the Sum of All Things then we are giving Christ the preeminence. We are entering into the very heart, mind, thought, intent, purpose, and plan of God – that Christ Himself would fill all things, that His glory would be reflected in all things. If our way is a method, then the method gets the attention, and the man who created the method gets the credit, and the people who put the method into practice get the glory. But if my “method” is Christ, then Christ gets all the attention, Christ gets all the credit, and Christ gets all the glory. In this way Christ is magnified, the heart of God is satisfied, and we ourselves are attuned to His Will in Christ.
THE STATE OF CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANITY – William Wilberforce
Before looking at the specific problems posed by what I am from here forward going to call cultural Christianity, I would like to address the problem of the faulty ideas many people have regarding the importance of authentic faith. You might think that if you consider yourself a “good” person and are against “bad” things, your faith is adequate. The fact is, you might not be a Christian at all but simply a moral person. You might understand the Christianity our culture has adopted without understanding what constitutes authentic faith. You might know some of the basic facts about Christianity but have no idea how those facts should apply to your life.
I hope you don’t think I am being arrogant or overly harsh on cultural Christians. Look at the facts. Do cultural Christians view Christian faith as important enough to make it a priority when teaching their children what they believe and why they believe it? Or do they place greater emphasis on their children getting a good education than on learning about the things of God? Would they be embarrassed if their children did not possess the former while basically being indifferent about the latter? If their children have any understanding of Christian faith at all, they probably have acquired it on their own. If the children view themselves as Christians, it is probably not because they have studied the facts and come to a point of intellectual conviction but because their family is Christian, so they believe they must be Christians also.
The problem with this way of thinking is that authentic faith cannot be inherited. When Christianity is viewed in this way, intelligent and energetic young men and women will undoubtedly reach a point where they question the truth of Christianity and, when challenged, will abandon this “inherited” faith that they cannot defend. They might begin to associate with peers who are unbelievers. In this company, they will find themselves unable to intelligently respond to objections to Christianity with which they are confronted. Had they really known what they believe and why they believe it, these kinds of encounters would not shake their faith one bit.
THE PRE-EMINENT MARK OF A LIFE GOVERNED BY THE SPIRIT – Austin Sparks
The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel—Oh, the depths, the fullness, of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is. Now, that at once becomes a challenge to us before we go any further. These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once, Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? Are we coming to despair on this matter? That is to say, that we are glimpsing so much as signified by Christ that we know we are beaten, that we are out of our depth, and will never range all this. It is beyond us, far beyond us, and yet we are drawn on and ever on. Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life. If ever you and I should come to a place where we think we know, we have it all, we have attained, and from that point things become static, we may take it that the Holy Spirit has ceased operations and that life has become stultified. Let us take the example of one who is given to us, I believe, as amongst men, for this very purpose of showing forth God’s ways, the Apostle Paul. The words which he uses to define and express what happened to him right at the commencement are these: “It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me” (Gal 1:16). Now, that man did a very great deal of teaching and preaching. He put out a great deal. He had a long and very full life, not only in the amount that he put out, but in the concentrated essence which has defeated all the attempts to fathom. At the end of that long life, that full life, that man who said concerning its commencement, “It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me”, is crying from his heart this cry, “that I may know him” (Phil 3:10); indicating surely that with the great initial revelation and all the subsequent and continual unveilings, even being caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, with all that, at the end he knows nothing compared with what there is to be known. That I may know Him! That is the essence of a life governed by the Holy Spirit, and it is that which will deliver us from death, from stagnation, from coming to a standstill. It is the work of the Spirit in the School of Christ to present and to keep in view Christ in His greatness. So God, right at the beginning, brings Christ forth, presents Him, attests Him, and in effect says, This is that to which I will to conform you, to this image!
STRENGTH MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS – C.H. Spurgeon
For my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,” defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckons on victory thus has reckoned wrongly, for “it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess, shall return with their gay banners trailed in the dust, and their armour stained with disgrace. Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. That which man does, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casts away; He will only reap that corn, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love. God will empty out all that you have before He will put His own into you; He will first clean out your granaries before He will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength which He Himself imparts. Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.
“When I am weak then am I strong,
Grace is my shield and Christ my song.”
GLORIFYING GOD IN THE WORLD – Watchman Nee
Of Jesus’ presence in the world it is written that “the darkness overcame it not” (John 1:5 margin). Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us of sin that we are to “overcome” it, but it distinctly says we are to overcome the world. In relation to sin God’s word speaks only of deliverance; it is in relation to the world that it speaks of victory.
We need deliverance from sin, because God never intended we should have any touch with it; but we do not need, nor should we seek, deliverance from the world, for it is in the purpose of God that we touch it. We are not delivered out of the world, but being born from above, we have victory over it. And we have that victory in the same sense, and with the same unfailing certainty, that light overcame darkness.
“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4, 5). The key to victory is always our faith relationship with the victorious Son. “Be of good cheer,” he said. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Only Jesus could make such a claim; and he could do so because he could earlier affirm: “The prince of the world … hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). It was the first time that anyone on earth had said such a thing. He said it, and he overcame. And through his overcoming the prince of the world was cast out and Jesus began to draw men to himself.
And because he said it, we now dare say it too. Because of my new birth, because “whatsoever is begotten of God overcomes the world,” I can be in the same world as my Lord was in, and in the same sense as he was I can be utterly apart from it, a lamp set on a lampstand, giving light to all who enter the house. ” As he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). The Church glorifies God, not by getting out of the world but by radiating his light in it. Heaven is not the place to glorify God; it will be the place to praise him. The place to glorify him is here.
Not loving is the greater danger
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket –- safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love…is Hell.” C.S. Lewis
A FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP – Austin Sparks
How much have you to dispense? Are you sure that you are dispensing what you have? The Lord did not lead you through that trial, through that darkness, through that strange experience, just for your own sake. The Lord has not dealt with you as He has, in order that you should be shut up to yourself, to enjoy the result alone. He has done that to constitute you a steward. If you and I will only allow that fact to govern us in the days of difficulty and trial, it will help us through. We should hold fast to the fact that the trial is to mean enrichment for the Lord’s people, and an increase of equipment and qualification for stewardship… Ask the Lord to release you into your stewardship within your measure. We are not speaking of an official, organized service for God, where you have to be continually ministering to others, whether you have the resources with which to do it or not. That is all false, and puts strain upon you; you may well revolt against that kind of thing. We simply have in mind the way in which the Lord creates living contacts. Children of God may cross your path in dire need, and may all the time be looking for the person who can help them. They have been crying to the Lord to meet the need, and have been watching to see how the Lord would answer. They may cross your path, and you talk upon all sorts of ordinary things; they pass on their way, and you have failed in your stewardship. They have not received that for which they have been asking, and the steward has disappointed the Lord, and those who were looking to the Lord. Let us ask the Lord to give us release from our tied-up state, to fulfill this stewardship.
The Lord’s Word is: “…it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful,” not eloquent, intellectual, with a strong personality, none of those things. What is your mental conception of a steward? One who has a great facility of speech, who finds no difficulty in talking? No! “…it is required in stewards, that a man be found FAITHFUL.”
ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS – By Paul Washer
“What is the greatest gift that God could ever give?” It is not prosperity, health, or even heaven. He Himself is the greatest gift. The most loving thing that God can do for His creatures is to work in such a way so as to reveal or demonstrate the fullness of His glory to them – to take center stage and call all creatures to fix their eyes and hearts upon Him. For this very reason, when God does what He does for His own glory, it is the greatest demonstration of His love toward the creature. The adverse of this is equally true. The most destitute and pitiful of all creatures are those who do not know God, who are unaware of His glory, and cut off from His truth. The Scriptures declare that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This infinite aspect of the heart can only be filled by the infinite. Man may pour into his heart all the fame, wealth, power, and pleasure that this world has to offer, but he will still be empty. Eternity cannot be filled up with the temporal, nor can infinity be satisfied by the finite. Man’s heart was made for the full measure of God’s glory. Apart from this, man is destitute, miserable, and empty. In summary, God’s treasure, His greatest desire and purpose is that His Name be great among the nations, that His Name be hallowed (highly esteemed), that His Kingdom come, and His will be done! However, we must ask ourselves, “Is this our greatest purpose and passion?” We lay awake at night and worry about so many things. We fret and are anxious about so many things. We desire things passionately, fanatically, even to the point of obsession: houses and lands, jobs and promotions, fame and reputation, needs, and wants, and countless other things. But when was the last time that sleep escaped us because of our concern for the nations that have not heard? When was the last time that our hearts broke in two because there are places on this earth where God’s Name is not hallowed, His kingdom advances ever so slowly, and His will is not foremost in the hearts of men? We fret and sweat about so many things, but do we ever give any thought to that which is most on the mind of God?
THE HERESY OF SELF-LOVE – John MacArthur
The concept of self-love as a positive characteristic did not find its way into the church until the late twentieth century, and, lamentably, it has spread quickly to broad portions of evangelicalism. Contrary to the unambiguous teaching of Scripture and contrary to its clearly destructive consequences, the heresy of self-love continues to find acceptance among those who claim Christ. The roots of the modern infatuation with self-love can be traced to the humanism of the nineteenth century, especially in the development of evolutionism. If man is seen as the product of impersonal chance, God is ruled out, making the elevation of self perfectly acceptable. Because there is no basis for right and wrong, the individual’s natural bent to self-centeredness is reinforced, and he finds consummate justification for being his own god who does his own will. Each man is captain of his own ship and master of his own fate and cannot allow his self-will to be hindered or he does harm to his well-being. The philosophy and theology of existentialism have also contributed to selfism. Although some existentialists genuinely believe there is a God and even that Jesus Christ is His Son and the Savior of the world, they reject the authority of Scripture except in a mystical way and claim that God is too far removed from man to be clearly understood, much less be personally known. Man is thrust back on himself to make of God and of life what he can. Consequently, and regardless of any protests to the contrary, man becomes in effect his own interpreter of God. Because no outside absolutes are recognized, personal beliefs and personal actions must be based solely on what seems best at the moment. Rather than unconditional submission to God, there is unconditional submission to self. Fortunately some psychologists and psychiatrists are contesting the premise that man’s basic problem is low self-esteem. In a book written under the auspices of the Christian College Coalition, called ‘Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith’, David Meyers and Malcolm Jeeves give abundant evidence against that myth. In a chapter titled “A New Look at Pride,” they write, ‘’Time and again, experimenters have found that people readily accept credit when told they have succeeded (attributing the success to their ability and effort), yet they attribute failure to external factors such as bad luck or the problem’s inherent “impossibility.” These self-serving attributions have been observed not only in laboratory situations, but also with athletes (after victory or defeat), students (after high or low exam grades), drivers (after accidents), and married people (among whom conflict often derives from perceiving oneself as contributing more and benefiting less than is fair). Self-concepts researcher Anthony Greenwald summarizes, “People experience life through a self-centered filter.”… In virtually any area that is both subjective and socially desirable, most people see themselves as better than average. Most business people see themselves as more ethical than the average business person. Most community residents see themselves as less prejudiced than their neighbors. Most people see themselves as more intelligent and as healthier than most other people. ([New York: Harper, 1987], 130) Later in the book the authors maintain that “the most common error in people’s self-images is not unrealistically low self-esteem but rather self-serving pride; not an inferiority complex but a superiority complex.” Even self-depreciation, putting yourself down, is but a thinly disguised attempt to get others to build you up. The eighteenth-century preacher Samuel Johnson said, “He that overvalues himself will undervalue others. And he that undervalues others will oppose them.” Self-love alienates men from God and from each other. Self-love is the supreme enemy of godliness and of genuine friendship and fellowship. What a contrast self-seeking love is to the self-giving love that God requires. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,” Paul adjures, “but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4).