“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” Matthew 7:23. At this time of year, the world parades what it believes to be frightening. Much of it is grotesque mutilations of the physical body. Some has to do with Satan and the unknown spiritual world. I don’t frequent local “haunted” houses, not because I find these things scary, but because I startle easily. (I once ruined a friend’s couch when my soda went everywhere in an intense movie scene.) But, because real power resides with God (Satan has to ask God for permission to act, i.e. Job 1-2), what is truly scary are verses having to do with the finality of judgment when one is determined by God to be eternally separated from Him. One of the scariest songs, then, is the verse that begins, “There’s a sad day coming …” and continues with “When the sinner shall hear his doom, ‘Depart, I know ye not.’” There’s such finality to this. No discussion, no bargaining, no defense. Just doom. A sentencing. The song is meant to be a warning, however, to those who are not doing the Father’s will to choose differently in preparation as it concludes, “Are you ready … for the Judgment Day?”
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. If ever there was an apt description of the time we live in this would be it! For over a quarter of a century now, I have devoted my life to “sound teaching.” Ever conscious of what I read or watch that may sway my beliefs or of my own personal bias of what I’d like the text to say or of Satan’s schemes that continually roar as that lion seeks to devour, I have striven to let the text that is truth (John 17:17) speak exegetically in my teaching and preaching as I am conscious that I will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). So, I have become truly aware, as I’m sure all those who love “sound teaching” have as well, of just how razor thin the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) has become. The culture would have us believe that this edge doesn’t exist and that the precipice we would slide down is where everyone is anyway, but we all go to heaven—if we all just don’t cease to exist. Denominations call for us to compromise. Are you a keeper of the truth?
“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” Psalm 40:8. I just had a great contractor and friend from up north ask me to write a reference letter for him. Knowing this man’s incredible character and the work and volunteer efforts he has done in the over-twenty years that I have known him, I was happy to recommend him. When a company is looking to hire, they rely on a candidate’s resume, and it’s truthfulness is checked by the references that are listed. In this psalm, David paints a picture of a God who has helped him in the past and another of God helping him in the present. Because of God’s reliability, David can count on Him to help him going forward. That’s faith. God has preserved His resume in the pages of His Word, and many living today can also attest to His faithfulness in their lives. So, when we see that because of our unfaithfulness to Him that Christ is the One who fills this gap by coming to do His Father’s will, we can be sanctified by His sacrifice once and for all. Verses 6-8, which speak of another stepping fulfilling our faithful-ness, are fulfilled in Jesus’ work on the cross in Hebrews 10. Our victory is in the One who restores us to Him.
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Psalm 39:4. Growing up just down the dirt road that ran past my grandfather’s farm, I watched him kill all kinds of varmints but especially snakes, and so I was surprised in my 20s to see him watch one slither away as he said that perhaps it will eat some mice. I think the older someone gets and the more experiences he has the more reflective he becomes about the fleeting nature of life, the prosperity of the wicked, and the seeming purposelessness of human life. I know I have over thirty years since my grandpa let one live. This seems to be where David is in this psalm. Younger people often don’t contemplate their mortality. My teenage son thought he was invincible until he sledded face-first into a tree. Yet, it is often the young who obey the gospel. David dwells on these things and recognizes that a healthy confrontation with his mortality draws him closer to God, in Whom he hopes. He wants to know the end of his days, understanding himself to be a sojourner in this life and that his time before he departs is best spent for God. Are you wise to know the measure of your days?
“and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” Acts 11:26. It was no coincidence that God had opened the door for the gentiles at the same time that the Christians, scattered from Jerusalem because of the great persecution, preached the gospel wherever they went. This was all part of God’s plan to let all of mankind know that there was hope in overcoming sin and death. It was also part of His plan that the one largely responsible for the great persecution would also become the apostle to the gentiles and the one Barnabas would seek out and, with him, teach “a great many people” for a whole year at Antioch, where followers of Christ would go from being a sect of Judaism to their own brand, before being sent off on their first missionary journey. When we take a step back, we can see God’s plan at work, but He’s still in control today in His church and in the lives of His children. It may not have seemed that way to the persecuted Christians, and the future of the Lord’s church may seem bleak right now to us. But His plan is still unfolding.