Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (11)

ancient tombOn this Saturday of the week remembering in a special way our Lord’s passion, we are at that point between Jesus’ death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. On Saturday – all day – Jesus lay in the grave in which he was buried on Friday night before sundown. This too belonged to his humiliation and to his experience of the full reality of the consequences of our sin.

For the grave is the place of the dead, the place where the corruption of sin and death work to ravage even our bodies and return us to the dust from which we were originally taken. But worse, the grave (apart from Christ) is also a doorway into eternal death, the place where the sinner is destined to rise unto everlasting separation from God and the suffering of unending torment in the restless “home” of hell. The grave is a fearful place – apart from Christ!

But for Christ, the Victor over death at the cross, the grave is a place not only of humiliation and suffering but also of exaltation and blessedness. Jesus’ tomb is a place of transition, when he – because of His perfect sacrifice for sin on Calvary and His defeat of sin’s penalty (death) at Golgatha – moves from lowliness to exaltedness, from suffering to reward, and from death to life.

O, He is dead and buried alright! He is in the grave, the place of death and corruption! But only for the bare minimum of time according to the Scriptures (three days, only one being a full day)! And even then, death cannot touch Him, for His body experienced no corruption, no breakdown of tissue and decay (Psalm 16:9-11 and Acts 2:29ff.). If we may put it that way, surrounded by death and lying in death, Jesus is alive even in the grave (because He has the victory over death in hand), though on Saturday He has not yet burst forth out of the tomb of Joseph!

And so we, like Jesus did, eagerly await the dawning of the first day of the week. We know what’s coming – like our Lord did – and we cannot wait for Resurrection Sunday!

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieWhile we wait and ponder this time of transition for our Lord, we post once more from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Today we quote from chapter 18, which contains an excerpt from J.I.Packer’s Growing in Christ book (Crossway, 1994), where he is treating two phrases from the Apostles’ Creed, under the heading “He Descended Into Hell and Ascended Into Heaven”. I quote from the beginning of Guthrie’s selection of material:

Death has been called ‘the new obscenity’, the nasty thing that no polite person nowadays will talk about in public. But death, even when unmentionable remains inescapable. The one sure fact of life is that one day, with or without warning, quietly or painfully, it is going to stop. How will I, then, cope with death when my turn comes?

Christians hold that the Jesus of the Scriptures is alive, and that those who know him as Savior, Lord, and Friend find in this knowledge a way through all life’s problems, dying included. For ‘Christ leads me through no darker rooms than he went through before.’ Having tasted death himself, he can support us while we taste it, and carry us through the great change to share the life beyond death into which he himself has passed. Death without Christ is ‘the king of terrors,’ but death with Christ loses the ‘sting,’ the power to hurt, which it otherwise would have.

John Preston, the Puritan, knew this. When he lay dying, they asked him if he feared death, now that it was so close. “No,’ whispered Preston; ‘I shall change my place, but I shall not change my company.’ As if to say: I shall leave my friends, but not my Friend, for he will never leave me.

This is victory – victory over death, and the fear it brings (pp.105-06).

And then a little later Packer writes:

Suppose that Jesus, having died on the cross, had stayed dead. Suppose that, like Socrates or Confucius, he was now no more than a beautiful memory. Would it matter? We should still have his example and teaching; wouldn’t they be enough?

Had Jesus not risen, but stayed dead, the bottom would drop out of Christianity, for four things would then be true.

First, to quote Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17: ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.’

Second, there is then no hope of our rising either; we must expect to stay dead, too.

Third, if Jesus Christ is not risen, then he is not reigning and will not return, and every single item in the Creed after ‘suffered and was buried’ will have to be struck out.

Fourth, Christianity cannot be what the first Christians thought it was – fellowship with a living Lord who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus of the Gospels can still be your hero, but he cannot be your Savior (pp.107-08).

All good food for thought as we got through this “transition” day between Good Friday and Easter.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (7)

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46 (and Psalm 22:1)

There is no answer. God did not deliver Jesus from the cross. The only answers he received were silence and darkness, the silence of being forsaken by God and the darkness of God’s judgment descending upon the earth.

Jesus did not just feel forsaken, he was forsaken. It was not just that Jesus experienced passing sensations of alienation and rejection on the cross. It was more than that. The question Jesus shouted out from the cross pointed back to an actual experience, to an objective state of affairs, to something that had already happened to him: ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus Christ could tell when his intimacy with God the Father was interrupted. When that happened, he knew that he had been forsaken.

Why did it happen? Why did God the Father forsake the Son on the cross? We cannot comprehend it. We cannot explain it. The great theologian Martin Luther said, ‘God forsaken by God, who can understand that?’ If even Jesus himself could not fully understand it, then we cannot understand it either.

But we can at least say this: it had something to do with what Jesus was doing on the cross. What Jesus was doing on the cross was bearing sin, carrying sin, wearing sin. Jesus was taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders. It was as if God had taken a giant bucket and scooped up all the sins of his people – all the jealousy and the anger and the lying, all the rebellion and the stealing and the incest, all the hypocrisy and the envy and the swearing – and dumped them all out on Jesus Christ. ‘The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa.53:6. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…’ (2 Cor.5:21).

…If you want to know what God really thinks about sin and what he intends to do about it, look at Jesus rejected on the cross and listen to Jesus forsaken on the cross. That is what sin deserves: the wrath and curse of God. That is what sinners deserve: to be put to death and damned for their sins.

…The forsaking of the Son of God on the cross is a fearful thing, but it is good news for sinners who repent. It is good news because it means that when you meet Jesus Christ at the cross you are meeting someone who has experienced the full measure of the tragedy of human existence. Out of his own experience of physical suffering and spiritual rejection Jesus not only sympathizes with your pain, he empathizes with it.

The forsaking of the Son of God on the cross is also good news because it means that God’s children will never be forsaken. Jesus was God-forsaken so that you might not be forsaken (pp.86-88).

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthriePhilip G. Ryken, “God-Forsaken”, in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (1)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieFor the Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter we plan to do a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. For my own devotional reading during this time of reflection I recently purchased the little book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009). I plan to use this book as a guide, pulling quotations from it.

This is how the author introduces this collection:

In the pages that follow, gifted theologians and Bible teachers will help us to stop and longer at the cross. I’ve drawn from the writings and sermons of classic and contemporary writers and teachers to create meditations that will draw us into an experience of the passion of the cross and the power of the resurrection.

How we need to have our hearts broken again by our sin that put Jesus on the cross. How we need to have our confidence grounded by what Jesus accomplished on the cross. And how we need to have our hope anchored in the promise of resurrection. I pray that is what you will experience as you read this book. May Jesus draw you and keep you near his cross (“Preface”, p.10).

MLuther-preaching-1The first meditation Guthrie has in her book is an excerpt from a sermon of Martin Luther titled “True Contemplation of the Cross”. From this I pull a few paragraphs today.

Let us meditate a moment on the passion of Christ. Some do so falsely in that they merely rail against Judas and the Jews. Some carry crucifixes to protect themselves from water, fire, and sword, and turn the suffering of Jesus into an amulet against suffering. Some weep, and that is the end of it. The true contemplation is that in which the heart is crushed and the conscience smitten. You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son. What can the sinner expect if the beloved Son was so afflicted? It must be an inexpressible and unendurable yearning that causes God’s Son Himself so to suffer. Ponder this and you will tremble, and the more you ponder, the deeper you will tremble.

The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble. If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble. Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills its.

…The greater and more wonderful is the excellence of his love by contrast with the lowliness of his form, the hate and pain of passion. Herein we come to know both God and ourselves. His beauty is his own, and through it we learn to know him. His uncomeliness and passion are ours, and in them we know ourselves, for what he suffered in the flesh, we must inwardly suffer in the spirit. He has in truth borne our stripes. Here, then, in an unspeakably clear mirror you see yourself. You must know that through your sins you are as uncomely and mangled as you see him here (pp.11-14).

Also for our meditation I include this beautiful poem written by Thelma Westra, a member of our Faith PRC (Jenison, MI), found in the collection of her poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published). This one is titled “He Who Was Sinless” (p.131):

‘He Who was sinless was made sin for us:’
Turning depravity into salvation
For sinners deserving only damnation.
Who but Jehovah could plan such a thing?
Jehovah of hosts, the conquering King.
It pleased Him to sacrifice His only Son
Because of His love for the wholly undone;
He loved us and changed us by mercy and grace
Into sanctified children – His chosen race.
We now glorify Him, exalting His name,
And into eternity, still will proclaim
The wonder He wrought, and the joy that He brought:
With the blood of His Son, His people He bought!
‘He Who was sinless was made sin for us!’

 

Why I Don’t (and You Shouldn’t) Observe Lent

Why I Don’t Observe Lent.

LentIf you have ever wondered why we Protestants (Reformed and other branches) do not (and ought not) observe the season of Lent as mandated by the Roman Catholic Church and currently practiced by many Protestant churches and inividuals, this article by PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) elder Roland S.Barnes is a good place to start (posted March 3, 2014). He does a fine job of summaring the history of the development of this forty-day season and why the Reformation opposed the observance of this period of self-denial and fasting.

And as he explains well, this does not mean that we are against self-denial or fasting, or the commemoration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord. I quote from a few relevant paragraphs here and encourage you to read all of it. Though a bit long, it will strengthen you as a Protestant – and as Reformed. And, if you are in the mood, here’s another fine one that appeared on The Aquila Report‘s Top 10 list this week: “Playing With Lenten Fire” by OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) elder D.G.Hart.

…What started out with a full-blown deprecation of things which are lawful, food, sex, marriage, etc., has degenerated into rather trivial acts of denial, such as giving up chocolate or coffee. Of course, fasting is good as an expression of self-denial, but for the Church to decree such seasons for fasting as Lent, and thereby bind the consciences of believers, is contrary to the instructions given by the Apostle Paul. In addition it can be asked why would one voluntarily place himself under such rigorous regulations concerning food when Christ has set His people free from such regulations. Lent became a season of penance; forty days of sorrowful penance while waiting for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection. Nowhere in scripture is there any prescription for such an observance. The forty years that Moses worked for Jethro were preparatory for his mission to rescue the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. His forty days of fasting on Mount Sinai were preparatory for the reception of the convenantal law of God. The forty days of fasting by Jesus were preparatory for spiritual battle in the wilderness. There is no pattern set forth in scripture for forty days of mourning over sin, especially when Christ has offered immediate forgiveness to everyone who repents.

…The Reformers viewed the Christian Sabbath as both a weekly celebration of the victory of the resurrection and a weekly practice of self-denial; that is, fasting from the pursuit of labor and entertainment. This weekly observance puts a curb on self-seeking pleasure and works against the self-indulgence of “Fat Tuesday.” Self-denial then becomes a way of life, the normal practice of piety, and not a seasonal event. The observance of fasting, praying, self-denial, and sober-minded reflection in the life of a believer is to be commended. I suppose someone may wish to do so as a matter of habit and regular observance by keeping some form of “Lent.”

However, the mandated observance of Lent along with its extra-biblical requirements of abstinence from things that are not withheld from us by God in His word is another matter altogether. What merit or benefit is there in abstaining from something which God Himself has given us to enjoy and to bless our lives? If something is sinful, we ought to abstain from it, fast from it, every hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year. If something is not sinful and not forbidden to us by God in His Word, then we are free to partake of it or not partake of it as our conscience is our guide.

J.Calvin on Psalm 130: “…the sinner… shall find him (God) ready to be reconciled towards him.”

JCalvinBibleFor our further meditation on Psalm 130 let us also read and take to heart these words of John Calvin on v.4. While we focus on this part of Calvin’s exposition of the psalm, it would also be worth your while to read his thoughts on v.3 at the CCEL website. May his words also point us to the only One in Whom we have hope as sinners, so that by faith we come to Him and cast ourselves upon Him in Jesus Christ.

4. But with thee there is forgiveness.

This verse leads us farther. Though all men confess with the mouth that there is no human being in the world whom God may not justly adjudge to everlasting death, should it so please him, yet how few are persuaded of the truth which the Prophet now adds, that the grace of which they stand in need shall not be denied them? They either sleep in their sins through stupidity, or fluctuate amidst a variety of doubts, and, at length, are overwhelmed with despair. This maxim, “that no man is free from sin,” is, as I have said, received among all men without dispute, and yet the majority shut their eyes to their own faults, and settle securely in hiding ­ places to which, in their ignorance, they have betaken themselves, if they are not forcibly roused out of them, and then, when pursued close by the judgments of God, they are overwhelmed with alarm, or so greatly tormented as to fall into despair.

The consequence of this want of hope in men, that God will be favorable to them, is an indifference about coming into the Divine presence to supplicate for pardon. When a man is awakened with a lively sense of the judgment of God, he cannot fail to be humbled with shame and fear. Such self-dissatisfaction would not however suffice, unless at the same time there were added faith, whose office it is to raise up the hearts which were cast down with fear, and to encourage them to pray for forgiveness. David then acted as he ought to have done when, in order to his attaining genuine repentance, he first summons himself before God’s judgment seat; but, to preserve his confidence from failing under the overpowering influence of fear, he presently adds the hope which there was of obtaining pardon.

It is, indeed, a matter which comes under our daily observation, that those who proceed not beyond the step of thinking themselves deserving of endless death, rush, like frenzied men, with great impetuosity against God. The better, therefore, to confirm himself and others, the Prophet declares that God’s mercy cannot be separated or torn away from himself. “As soon as I think upon thee,” he says in amount, “thy clemency also presents itself to my mind, so that I have no doubt that thou wilt be merciful to me, it being impossible for thee to divest thyself of thy own nature: the very fact that thou art God is to me a sure guarantee that thou wilt be merciful ”

At the same time let it be understood, that he does not here speak of a confused knowledge of the grace of God, but of such a knowledge of it as enables the sinner to conclude with certainty, that as soon as he seeks God he shall find him ready to be reconciled towards him.

Encouraging the Next Generation to Read (6) – Rev.B.Huizinga

HuizingaBrianToday we also continue to post from the series of articles on reading found in The Standard Bearer (Dec.2013-Jan. 2014) and penned by Rev.Brian Huizinga, pastor of Hope PRC in Redlands, CA (For the previous installment, go here.). These articles are the text of an inspiring speech Rev.Huizinga gave at the annual RFPA meeting in September of 2013.

In the Jan.1, 2014 issue of the “SB” Rev.Huizinga gets into the practical points he presented in his speech. He lists ten “P’s” to encourage the younger generation to read. In today’s post we will continue going through these, giving you the next two points (“P’s”). I hope that these points will help all of us – but especially the “next generation” – to read!

5. Encourage Peer-Paraphrasing:

The young person has made it through a book or an article.  Do not stop there.  Now encourage them to take what they have read and paraphrase it, put it in their own words.  Paraphrase the chapter, the article, the book.  Paraphrase to peers.  This is different than partnering.  In partnering you read the same book.  With peer-paraphrasing, you paraphrase what you read to a peer—a spouse, a friend, a coworker.  That might spark an interest in them and get them to read.  But it also helps you think more deeply about what you read.  This will force us and our young people to read carefully when we do read.  And this will be a way to continue benefiting from the book after it has been read.

How about this?  Your peers are your family members.  All the children are required to read.  Now take one night a week, Wednesday night right after supper, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, with the whole family together.  Each person gets a couple minutes to paraphrase to their peers what they have read.  There will be mutual rewards, enriching the experience of all.

RFPA2013Annual-AdPic6. Encourage Portioning

Look at that big book sitting there.  It was written by a professor of theology, by John Calvin or Abraham Kuyper.  It has 300 pages.  I cannot read it.  It is too daunting.  Encourage portioning.  You do not have to read the whole book at once, or even a whole chapter at once, but read from heading to heading.  You do not have to read the whole Standard Bearer at once, but read one article at a time.  The man sitting in seat one at the table does not eat the whole piece of meat in one bite, but he breaks it up into manageable, bite-size pieces and over the course of time devours the whole meal.  There it is, sitting on the shelf.  It was given to me at my confession of faith:  For Thy Truth’s Sake (available here -cjt).  It is huge!  Portions, portions.  Encourage the young people to take a book and divide it into manageable, bite-size portions.

More Free (Review) Books for You!

I will admit that the above heading is intended to grab your attention and make you read this post. Because, while I truly do have some free print books for you, they come with a catch. Yes, these are review books for The Standard Bearer and the “catch” is that you may have the book if you agree to write a brief review for this Reformed magazine. Call this unfair, conditional, etc., but that is the deal.

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaIf you are intimidated by writing a review for the “SB”, don’t be. Many others have gone before you and have done well – yes, pastors and elders, but also many ordinary believers (They are extra-ordinary in my book!), including some young people! So, put away your fears, contact me if you would like one of these books and I will help guide you through the book review process. I also have some leftover titles from previous posts offering books, so look those up as well and feel free to speak for one of these.

The two new books I received recently are both published by Reformation Heritage Books here in Grand Rapids, MI. Here are the titles and links to more information on them:

Captivated-TAnyabwileP.S. Just today (Tuesday, Feb.4, 2014) I received another review book in the mail from Reformation Heritage. It is a small paperback (95 pp.) that will be of interest to our readers, especially with the season of remembering Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection coming soon. The book is titled Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands. If you want to have this book and are willing to write a brief review, let me know.

An Old Book of My Grandpa Terpstra

I&Children-WMasselink-1931cover_Page_1One of the things I would like to feature on “archive Thursday” besides old pictures is some old books. Some of these will be from the Seminary library, while others will be from my own personal library.

Today’s featured old book is from my own library, and is a very special one to me. I came into possession of it just last year, as my father gave it to me through my uncle Larry Terpstra.

It is a book from my Grandpa John Terpstra and is the book he received, I believe, at the time he made public profession of his faith in Jesus Christ and became a member in full communion of the Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed Church on the near north side of Grand Rapids, MI. That is also the congregation in which my father, Gordon, was baptized and received his spiritual training.

At the time of my grandpa’s profession of faith Rev.William Masselink was the pastor (from 1928-1942), and he is the one who signed the book given to him. As you will see, it is signed March 13, 1932.

But you will also notice that the book is authored by pastor Masselink. Its title is I and the Children Thou Hast Given Me or Our Covenant Youth and Worldy Amusements (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1931). The book is composed of two parts. In part one, Rev.Masselink treats “The Covenant of Grace” (which as also published separately) and in part two he deals with “Worldly Amusements”.

NoteinsideI&Children-WMasselink-1932Now, this book is significant for other reasons beside the fact that it belonged to my grandpa Terpstra. For one thing, his doctrine of the covenant is one with which we in the PRCA sharply differ. Masselink (following L.Berkhof, by his own admission) taught that the covenant was an agreement between God and sinners and that it was conditioned by the sinner’s faith. And he was also a common grace defender, as we would expect. But it is significant that he wrote this book on worldly amusements so soon after the CRC had adopted the three points of common grace in 1924. Yet, he was simply “toeing the line” in the CRC.

You may remember that the CRC also issued a strong warning about worldly amusements immediately after adopting the doctrine of common grace, because, as they stated, they did not want the doctrine to be abused. Now, if a doctrine is adopted by a Reformed church and is said to be on solid, Biblical ground, should you have to issue a warning about it?! But, we can save that for another time.

My purpose is simply to highlight this old book and its value to my library. In spite of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. No, because of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. For this too belongs to my personal past through my father. I am thankful for his Christian upbringing in the CRC, but also for the fact that he joined the PRC when he married my mother, Eileen (Engelsma). And I am grateful that I have had the privilege of being spiritually trained in the environment of the twins truths of God’s sovereign, particular grace and unconditional covenant. Soli Deo Gloria!

One other tidbit of this history comes to mind. My dad told us that Rev.Masselink had the nickname of “Weeping Willie” because of his emotional style of preaching. I wish I could have heard him :).

Polycarp’s Dying Testimony

Martyrdom of PolycarpBelonging to my Lord’s day reading was a few more chapters in the fine church history survey, All the Saints Adore Thee: Insights from Christian Classics by Bruce Shelley (Baker, 1994). I am in the early section of the book, where the early church fathers are being treated. One of the early chapters covers “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (c.155 A.D.) and includes a description from an eyewitness of his dying words. It is a powerful testimony to the power of God’s grace working in His people, even when they are about to die for their faith in Christ. And it ought to encourage our hearts and strengthen our resolve to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

We also heard a sermon on the fifth commandment yesterday, about honoring those in authority over us. Prof.R.Dykstra mentioned in his sermon our calling always to submit to God’s authorities, even when we must disobey earthly rulers who charge us to do something contrary to the Word of God and our faith in Christ. The early martyrs, including Polycarp, are models in this respect too, as you will see when you read his testimony.

I take my quotes from this website and work.

Chap.9 – Polycarp’s examination:
1 Now when Polycarp entered into the arena there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. And next he was brought forward, and there was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been arrested. 2 Therefore when he was brought forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp, and when he admitted it he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age,” and so forth, as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say: `Away with the Atheists’”; but Polycarp, with a stern countenance looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the Atheists.” 3 But when the Pro-Consul pressed him and said: “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Chap.10 – His examination continued:
1 But when he persisted again, and said: “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered him: “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you are ignorant who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn the doctrine of Christianity fix a day and listen.” 2 The Pro-Consul said: “Persuade the people.” And Polycarp said: “You I should have held worthy of discussion, for we have been taught to render honour, as is meet, if it hurt us not, to princes and authorities appointed by God. But as for those, I do not count them worthy that a defence should be made to them.”

Chap.11 – The Pro-consul’s threats:
1 And the Pro-Consul said: “I have wild beasts. I will deliver you to them, unless you repent.” And he said: “Call for them, for repentance from better to worse is not allowed us; but it is good to change from evil to righteousness.” 2 And he said again to him: “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, if you despise the beasts, unless you repent.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. But why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.”

Chap.13 – The preparations for burning him:
1 These things then happened with so great speed, quicker than it takes to tell, and the crowd came together immediately, and prepared wood and faggots from the work-shops and baths and the Jews were extremely zealous, as is their custom, in assisting at this. 2 Now when the fire was ready he put off all his clothes, and loosened his girdle and tried also to take off his shoes, though he did not do this before, because each of the faithful was always zealous, which of them might the more quickly touch his flesh. For he had been treated with all respect because of his noble life, even before his martyrdom. 3 Immediately therefore, he was fastened to the instruments which had been prepared for the fire, but when they were going to nail him as well he said: “Leave me thus, for He who gives me power to endure the fire, will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.”

Chap.14 – His last prayers:
1 So they did not nail him, but bound him, and he put his hands behind him and was bound, as a noble ram out of a great flock, for an oblation, a whole burnt offering made ready and acceptable to God; and he looked up to heaven and said: “O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received full knowledge of thee, the God of Angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before thee! 2 I bless thee, that Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. And may I, to-day, be received among them before Thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou, the God who lies not and is truth, hast prepared beforehand, and shown forth, and fulfilled. 3 For this reason I also praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee through the everlasting and heavenly high Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child, through whom be glory to Thee with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come, Amen.”

Daily Reading of God’s Word – A Good Reminder

BiblestudypicToday’s “Grace Gems” meditation is an important reminder about the indispensable place which the reading of God’s Word must have in our lives as Christians. With all our talk about and promotion of reading and good books, may we never forget or neglect the best Book – God’s Book, His holy Word.

The necessity of daily Bible reading

(J.R. Miller, “Living Victoriously”)

” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!” Colossians 3:16

Probably prayer is less neglected in devotions, than is the reading of the Bible. Many people who would not go out any morning without a few moments of prayer, will go forth day after day into the thick of life’s duties and perils, without reading even a verse of Scripture! They feel the necessity of asking God to keep, guide and bless them–but they fail to realize that it is in and through meditating on His Word, that God chiefly gives His richest and best blessings.

It is in His Word, that God reveals Himself. We cannot know what He is like, nor what the attributes of His character are–unless we ponder the Scriptures. We cannot learn what God’s will is, nor what He would have us to do and to be–if we do not look into His Word. There is nothing that we need more, than to hear God speaking to us every morning. This is possible, only as we open the Bible and let its words whisper their messages to us.

No matter how familiar we may be with the teachings of the Scriptures, we need to ponder them anew every morning to keep their pure ideals and lofty requirements ever before us, lest we allow our standard of holy living to be lowered.

A celebrated painter always kept some purely-colored stones on his table. When asked by a visitor why he did so, he said it was to keep his eye up to tone. When he was working in pigments, unconsciously his sense of color was weakened. By keeping a pure color near him he brought his eye up to tone again, just as the musician by his tuning-fork brings himself up to the right pitch. In the same way, we continually need to turn to God’s Word to keep our thoughts, and character, and life up to the true standard.

Rubenstein used to say that he could never omit his daily practice on the piano, for if he did, the quality of his playing would at once begin to deteriorate. He said that if he missed practice for three days–the public would know it; if he missed practice for two days–his friends would know it; and if he did not practice for even one day–he himself knew it!

It is no less true in Christian life, that in order to keep its holy tone up to what it should be, there must never be a break in the continuity of the study of God’s Word. If we leave off for only one day, we shall become conscious of a loss of power in living. If for two successive days we fail to look into God’s perfect law, our friends around us will notice the failure in the beauty, the sweetness and the grace of our character and disposition. If for three days we fail to study the Scriptures, to see how God would have us live, even the people of the world will see a lowering of the spiritual quality of our life!

One of the ways the Bible helps us, is by making Christ known to us. The noblest Christian is he before whose eyes, the character of Jesus shines in brightest splendor. Indeed, it is only when we have clear visions of Christ, that we really grow like Him.

“It seems to me,” says a writer, “that nowadays men think and talk too much about improving their own character–but meditate too little on the perfectness of the divine character.” Christ will never appear really great in our eyes, unless we make His Word our daily study. And only as He becomes great and glorious in our thought–will our character and standard of life be lifted up to what they should be.

Many of the blessings we seek in prayer, can come to us only through the Word of God:

We ask to be kept near the heart of Christ–but our Master tells us that only those who keep His commandments shall abide in His love. In order to keep His commandments, we must know them–and we can know them only by reading and re-reading them.

We ask God in the morning to guide us through the day, and in one of the psalms is the prayer, “Order my steps according to Your Word.” That is, God leads us by His Word. If then we do not read the words of God, how can we get His guidance?

The leading He promises is not general, by long stretches–but by little steps. The Psalmist says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet.” It is not said that prayer is the lamp–but the Word. We must carry it in our hand, too, as one carries a lantern to throw its beams about his feet.

We pray to be kept from sin, and in the Scriptures one says, “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Our prayers to be kept from sin, can be answered only by getting the Word of God into our heart!

These are suggestions of the necessity of reading the Bible daily, as well as of praying. Neither is complete in itself alone. We must talk to God–but we must also listen to God talk to us through His Word. We must pray for blessings–but only through the divine words of Scripture, can these blessings come to us.

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