You got it from your father
It was all he had to give
So it’s yours to use and cherish
For so long as you may live.
If you lose the watch he gave you
It can always be replaced
But a black mark on your name, son
Can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it
And a worthy name to bear.
When he got it from his father
There was no dishonour there.
So make sure you guard it wisely,
After all is said and done
You’ll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it to your son.
I would agree that the poem above could provoke a great deal of stress and pressure in a young boy’s life (not to mention his father’s). No one’s “name” is that pure. And, to be sure, without God’s grace and the power and guidance of God’s Spirit, no one will go through life with an unblemished record. Still… I like the poem as something to bear in mind as I encourage and help my sons navigate their way through life. One day, as part of that instruction and encouragement, I will have to share a few times when their father got quite a few dark smudges on the family name. And then I shall remind them of the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
(By the way, if you want to see an incredibly powerful presentation on the significance of one’s name, watch this scene from The Crucible. In this scene, John Proctor accepts a death sentence for something for which he was innocent, rather than passing on a blemished name to his sons. After several years of searching for this scene, I finally found it. There is a short and helpful little commentary at the beginning… which is worth watching as well. But by all means, please watch the scene that follows it.)
And while I’m feeling like imparting some inspiration to my sons… here’s a great video-version of Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”
1 Corinthians 2:14, 16b
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. …But we have the mind of Christ.
The mannishness of man. That was a phrase that Francis Schaeffer used to describe man in his fallen state. I like to use the word, “worldling” to describe the same idea. Paul uses the phrase “natural man” or “the man without the Spirit.” All of these describe a basic antithesis between those who have eyes to see and those who don’t – those who love the foolishness of God and know that it’s actually unparalleled wisdom and those who see God’s foolishness and believe that it really is folly – an utter waste of time. Like the wicked described in Job 21, they say to God…‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’ (vv. 14-15)
God’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.
Paul writes that natural man…
doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (v. 14).
It’s not simply that he chooses not to know God’s ways and prefers not to understand them. He cannot. He is unable. Such things are spiritually discerned and he does not have the Spirit. His heart is unregenerate. He is blind. It is impossible for him…for him.
But nothing is impossible for God. Those of us who are now in Christ were once as blind as the worldlings that surround us today. There was a time when we did not understand the deep truths of God. But God is in the business of waking the dead, giving them (us) hearts that beat according to his Word, and providing eyes that see that which is invisible and eternal. This was not of ourselves, lest we should boast. It wasn’t because we were so smart, righteous, or born into the right family. It was the free and undeserved favor of a gracious God.
We now have the mind of Christ. We are able to discern the things of God. Flesh and blood do not reveal such things to us, but our heavenly Father does as he discloses himself – his good, pleasing, and perfect will. We receive it as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds through his Word.
So it is with humility that we plead with people who do not know Christ and who are under the influence of the spirit of the age. For where they are, we once were. We know they are in darkness, that they hurt, that they are broken, that they are looking for meaning and purpose, that they are confused, that they don’t know the Way, that they are on the road to the City of Destruction. We were once like them. It took the sovereign touch from the Lord of hosts to deliver us from our plight. And so we beg those without the Spirit to run to the narrow Gate. We intercede on their behalf and ask our Father to give them eyes to see, that they might enter in and walk the Way that leads to Life.
Romans 13:11B – 12 - The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
These are the “last days.” Every one of us lives in the “end times.” Whether or not Jesus returns while I’m writing this, or I fall over dead while writing this, or I live to be as old as Methuselah, I (we) are in the midst of the darkness of the last days that must and will give way to Light.
Therefore. Therefore, we must wake up. For we are all in the land of the walking dead (literally, before our regeneration) and all too often in the land of sleepwalkers after our regeneration.
Fallen, unregenerate man assumes that because God hasn’t brought down judgement upon him yet, God therefore won’t. What contempt. The confused worldling refuses to see this “inaction” of the King as supreme patience and thus rejects the call to repentance (Romans 2:4). Tragic.
Sadly, the heirs of the covenant don’t appear to do much better. We look as though we are in a slumber…or perhaps a stupor. And so Paul commands us to – Awaken! Arise! He declares, “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed,” and that “the night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” And everything is exposed in the light of day. That’s why Paul says in verse 13, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime…”
And so we must put aside the deeds of darkness. We must put off the old man. We must put to death the mind that is set on what the flesh desires (Romans 8:5ff). We must instead put on the armor of light for we are soldiers of the Light and we are at war (Ephesians 6:10ff). We must put on the armor of the King – his righteousness and salvation and mindset – for we now have the very mind of the King (1 Corinthians 2:16). We are called to be transformed by renewing our minds to the King’s standards (Romans 12:2), and by setting our minds on what his Spirit desires (Romans 8:5).
We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We must be on our guard out of loyalty to our King (Mathew 24:42-44; 25:12-13). If we would honor and glorify him then we must stand firm, remain vigilant and faithful to the end, whenever that end will be. This is how God has ordained that his Kingdom be advanced – by faithful, fruit-bearing subjects of the Crown. Of course, his subjects are impotent without the life-giving power of his Spirit coursing through their veins, but faithful they must be.
In Romans 9-11 Paul spoke at length on the sovereignty of this King we serve. Yet, Paul has no qualms about telling the believers at Rome to – WAKE UP! QUIT SINNING! OBEY CHRIST! LIVE! For the hour has come. It is almost day. May the church at Southside and beyond hear those same words today. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Mark 12:24 - Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
The Sadducees (the Jewish party that represented the rich and sophisticated folk – and who had much religious and political influence) came with a mind of tricking Jesus. They presented him with a conundrum. They wanted to know whom a woman, who had married seven times without ever having had any children, would be married to in heaven. Specifically, they asked:
“At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Mark 12:23)
This was a strange question for them to ask because they did not believe in a resurrection in the first place. Well, as usual, Jesus didn’t take the bait. Instead, he chided them over something more fundamental. He responded:
“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)
He then went on to remind them of what God’s Word said on the subject regarding their question and concluded with these harsh words, “You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:27).
What grabbed my attention in this text was what always grabs my attention when I read Mark 12. First, Jesus told the “religious experts” that they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures.
A New Testament professor of mine back in seminary once said that there would always be some in the church who would know Scripture better than their pastors. That has always been true in my experience. Degrees and full bookshelves do not necessarily make one an expert of God’s Word. Faithful, devoted, and regular attendance to Scripture is what molds and shapes us and helps us to think God’s thoughts after him.
The point here is that we are often “in error” (in our thinking, speaking, and doing), because we do not know the Scriptures. Of course, the opposite is also true. There are plenty of folks running around who know what Scripture says, but who do not obey it for a variety of reasons, but that's another devotion for another day.
To Jesus' point, we all too often, (and successfully), avoid studying God’s Word, and then wonder why…
If the Word were regularly renewing us, sanctifying us, transforming us, informing us, teaching us, correcting us, convicting us, training us, etc., we would find ourselves far closer to where we want and need to be.
The second point is that by not knowing the Scriptures, Jesus was also telling these "experts" that they didn’t know the power of God.
In the book of Acts, we often find the words “word,” “power,” and “Spirit” being interchanged as virtual synonyms. In one verse we may read about the Spirit of God. Then, in the next verse, we might find word or power of God. But in many cases the phrases are communicating the same idea. The Sadducees didn’t know the power of God in their lives because they didn’t know the Word of God.
God’s Spirit and power work in, with, and through God’s Word – not against it and not separate from it. I believe we do not experience as much of the power of God as we might because we do not know the Scriptures as well as we should. All too often we’re chasing after religious experiences, but missing out on the power of God that comes through his Word.
How encouraging it is to know that we have the resource of God’s power just waiting to be unleashed in our lives. As we begin to read and study God’s Word (regularly), we begin to tap into that power (not just learn a few facts about ancient Palestine). To be sure, God is not a cosmic genie who is required to respond when we rub the lamp, but he has revealed to us that he is pleased to change our lives through the power of his Spirit as we engage his Word. What a blessed promise to build our lives upon!
Grace and Truth,
Jeremiah 7 (selected verses) and Galatians 5 (selected verses)
As was often the case in the life of Israel, God was not happy with them. They brought it upon themselves. Israel’s history went something like this: God would first save them and then establish or reestablish a covenant with them. In response, Israel would repent, and then, after the good times were rolling, Israel would commit spiritual adultery (i.e., run off after foreign lovers). Predictably, after her disobedience (and the subsequent punishment for said disobedience), Israel would routinely cry out to God, be mercifully heard by him, and the whole process would start all over again.
It is Israel’s response to idolatrous and adulterous false teaching that our texts deal with today. The Lord, through Jeremiah, tells his people that if they are going to be allowed to continue to live in peace, then they are going to have to reform their ways and their actions (v. 3).
Verses 5-7 serve as a warning against wrong behavior and an encouragement for right behavior.
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,  if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,  then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.
So why would God’s people act disobediently? Verse 8 gives us a clue: They were trusting in deceptive words that were worthless.
Again, God says to them in verse 23,
…Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.
God wanted so much to bless them, but he wasn’t kidding about what would happen if they didn’t obey him. However, they must have thought he was, for we read these sobering words in verse 24,
But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.
God’s people were stubbornly committed to their sin… and for that sin we discover God’s indictment regarding them. Verse 28 tells us that truth had perished…that it had vanished from their lips.
Because they were no longer trusting in God’s Word, but trusting in the deceptive words of false teachers instead, they were soon to experience the wrath of God.
There’s a similar story in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul was bewildered with the Galatian Church. They had heard and responded to the pure Word of God as Paul had preached it. But, like God’s people in an earlier generation, many of the Galatians began trusting in deceptive words. They were being enticed to mix the finished work of Christ with their own works as a means of salvation. Paul was dumbfounded at such a move. We read in verses 7 and 8…
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
God, through Paul, was warning them (and us) that such deceptive words were (are) like a little yeast, which works through a whole batch of dough (v. 9). It infects it like a disease. In the Bible, yeast often symbolizes evil or a false teaching.
When people begin to listen to deceptive words rather than the Word of God, trouble is sure to follow. Satan, the father of deceptive words, is not stupid. He will show us the worm, but not the hook. He will never show us the consequences that must follow his deceptive words. Instead, his words will always appear quite enticing, beautiful, practical, and relevant.
That is why everything must be tested against God’s Word – the Word properly understood. Even the best of intentions can be marred by deception. The church must constantly be on her guard against such yeast that seeks to contaminate her whole body. Whether it is what is preached from the pulpit, what is taught in a Bible study, the administration of a committee, or what programs are being implemented for evangelism, service or mercy, the church must always make sure she is taking her cues from God’s Word.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but today’s texts reveal that the church has not always gotten this right. In fact, the history of the church shows us over and over again what a little yeast can do. Even a cursory glance at the contemporary church scene shows plenty of evidence of the very idolatry and adultery that Jeremiah and Paul warned against.
So stand firm against all deceptive words. Cling to God and his Word as the only sure light by which to deal with the world, the flesh and the devil. Only with and through God’s Word may we know the one true God and his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent. That alone is eternal life (John 17:3).
Grace and Truth,
When I was in seminary I had a spiritual mentor who offered wonderful direction for my life. Furthermore, his life matched what he taught. One of the things that stood out about him was his love for God’s Word. I believe his love for Scripture was one of the key influences on my life.
He used to talk about a dear friend of his who, every time they would see each other would ask, “Got any fresh bread for me?” The goal of the question was to find out if these two brothers in Christ had been spending time in God’s Word. And not just within the last week or two…but that day. Was the bread FRESH?
Our Lord referred to himself as the Bread of Life. One of the chief ways we encounter him is when we meditate upon his Word day and night. His Spirit fills us and ministers to us when we do.
Interestingly, Jesus teaches us to ask God, in prayer, to give us each day our daily bread. The implication is that we need to depend on God DAILY for his gracious provision. To make such a request each day reminds us that we are in constant need of him and what he supplies – whether it’s spiritual, physical, or emotional nourishment.
The children of Israel were taught the same lesson. After they had escaped from Egypt they wandered around, not quite sure where they were heading. And they were hungry…which didn’t help their attitudes much.
Therefore, God is his great mercy, promised them food – manna from heaven. But there was a stipulation about this divine sustenance: One could gather only enough manna for each day (except on the day before the Sabbath…when one could gather enough for two days). No storing was allowed. In fact, if they tried to store the manna it would begin to rot immediately. Why? I suspect for two reasons, at least. The first reason is the same as why Jesus told us to pray daily for our bread; it shows our continual dependence upon God.
The second reason, I imagine, has a great deal to do with our fallen human nature. If God had set no limits on how often the manna could be gathered (and that it wouldn’t spoil if it was stored for more than a day), I believe the children of Israel would have started to believe that they, and not God, were responsible for meeting their needs. They would have robbed God of his glory. They may have begun to actually believe that they were smart enough, righteous enough, industrious enough to diligently collect, store, and even sell the bread.
God’s message was clear: “You must depend on me each and every day. My grace will have to be sufficient for you. Trust me…I’m all you need.”
So it is in our spiritual lives. We must turn to God each and every day. We can’t store up enough grace on Sunday morning and coast on it the rest of the week. We need fresh bread to sustain us. This is how we abide in Christ and how he abides in us.
Let us join with the psalmist who knew the joy and delight of feeding on God’s fresh bread…
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
 Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.
 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Thanks be to God,
Nehemiah 13:2 – “Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.”
What the devil and the world mean for evil, God can use for good. He is a Romans 8:28-kind-of-God. He can turn curses, ill-will, and hate-filled words, thoughts and actions aimed at us into blessings. But to be honored in such a way, we must honor him (1 Samuel 2:30).
The priests in Malachi 1 and 2 did not honor God in such a way. Thus, God vividly reminded these “spokesmen and ministers of his” that blessings can also be turned into curses. In Malachi 2:1-2, God declares…
“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.’”
A covenantal relationship involves God’s promises of blessings and curses. To even be offered a covenantal relationship with Almighty God is an expression of grace.
Why, then, do we dishonor God? Why do we show contempt for his blessings? Why wouldn’t we want to experience all that he has to offer those who honor him?
Lord, I’m a fool. Forgive me for not honoring you with everything I say, do and think. Enable me, by the power of your Spirit, to honor you in every sphere of my life and with all that I am. Amen.
Grace and Truth,