February 10, 2012

By Grace We Have Been Saved; Faith is a Gift of God

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. --Ephesians 2:8

We Obtain Salvation By Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

Man in his mind often takes credit for his own salvation;
This is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day. (Psalms 25:5)

"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)

"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." (John 17:12)

"Of them which Thou gavest me have I lost none." (John 18:9)

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

By Doyle D. Dewberry, Retired Pastor and Author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer
Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.' And He spake this parable unto them, saying, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, 'Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.' I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:1-7)
This is one in a trilogy of parables (the shepherd and the lost sheep, the father and the prodigal son, and the woman and the lost coin) with very much in common. In all three parables, there is the effectual and persistent searching for the lost, which represents one of God’s people, and the finding or return of the object. In heaven there is rejoicing and celebration on the return of the object—the repentance and return of one of God’s elect, or every one of God’s people.

When I look for lost sheep, I am looking for any sheep. When the Lord looks for a lost sheep, He is looking for His own sheep, one of His fold. The sheep that I may find is the one He has been seeking to save, every one of whom He knows by name (John 10:3).

One of our problems in understanding this parable has to do with the “when” of our salvation. We generally think of it as the time when we first believe, but God’s people are those given to Him before the foundation of the world. God sees us as His people before we were ever born, yea, before the world began.

When we believe, it is just our Lord finding us, as this lost sheep, and we are returned to the fold. It is a matter of our status before Adam and before the fall, and after Adam and after the fall. While all men fell with Adam, so also did God’s people, whom He chose before time began:
“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. (Psalms 89:26)

What is the occasion for this parable? The religious people of the day were complaining because the Lord was receiving and eating with sinners (v. 1-3). The same is true today. We have the religious but lost (even those who appear to be divinely drawn unto the Lord and salvation), who look down upon the poor sinner because they consider themselves not to be sinners. But unless a man sees himself a sinner, and lost, he cannot be saved, for the Lord came to seek and to save the lost sinner.

Who is the shepherd? The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has come to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) and, yea, even to give His life for the sheep (John 10).

What sheep does Christ look for? The sheep He seeks are they whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life before the world began and, as a result of the fall by Adam, are His lost sheep. Christ’s sheep will or do believe, and are designated as His Sheep. There are many other sheep in the world, but they are not His sheep. Jesus said of them,
“Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26-27).
Who are the 99 that He has left in the wilderness? They are the found sheep. In Luke’s account of this parable, he only tells us that the 99 were those He left behind while He sought this one lost sheep; in Matthew’s account of the parable, we learn more of the 99—the 99 are they that did not go astray. We do not assume that they are just persons that need no repentance (v. 7), but that they, like all of God’s people, need on-going repentance—it is the self-righteous that think they do not need to repent.

Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. (Psalms 62:1)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Romans 1:16)

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28)

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matthew 18:11-13)

Here are five important points of this parable, which reveal to us the Lord’s saving of all His sheep:
  1. Our Lord was not seeking just any sheep, but one of His sheep, which was lost. If He had seen 99 other sheep, it would not have deterred Him in His search for the one sheep, which was His, but lost. There were many sheep in the world, but He sought His own.
  2. The Lord seeks that lost sheep, for He goes after that which is lost (v. 4). Remember the words of our Savior who said that He “came to seek and save that which was lost.” Evangelism is no more than our finding those whom the Lord seeks, and while we know them not before, He knows them, has purposed their salvation, and thus He foreknew them and predestined them (Romans 8:28-29).

    Notice also the occasion of His sending His disciples out to gather in His sheep, showing us that salvation was to the Jew first (Romans 1:16), but includes only His lost sheep:
    These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)
    The importance of this verse is in what He did not say. He did not say “Go ye to the house of Israel, the lost sheep,” but that they were to go to the lost sheep “of” the house of Israel. They did not go to every Israelite in the land. Paul taught: all of Israel is not of Israel (Romans 9), indicating there is an Israel according to the flesh and one according to the Spirit. A true Jew is not one outwardly, but one inwardly—and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2:28-29).
  3. The Lord will seek His sheep until He finds it; He is an effectual Shepherd. A good example of this is when the Lord went to Zacchaeus—it was Jesus’ main purpose in going through Jericho. While Zacchaeus was up in the tree where he could see the passing Savior, the Savior came to him, telling him to come down, for he is told, “Today… I must abide at thy house.” This man was a publican (who are cited along with sinners in Luke 15). Publicans were Jews working with the Romans collecting taxes from the people, and hated in Israel, but the Lord loved him.
    And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.' And Jesus said unto him, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
    The sheep was a helpless sheep (v. 5) and therefore lost in the wilderness. He could not come to the fold as other sheep, so the Lord carried him there on His shoulders, as we are told:
    “When He hath found it, He layeth it on His shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:5).
    You will never find sinners coming to Christ before He first comes to them, and no one will enter heaven, as this sheep in the fold, except on the shoulders of the Savior Himself. Salvation is not something that man does for God, but that which God does for man. God is the God of salvation.

    Consider repentance, which is not first of man, but first of God:

  4. Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:1-9)
  5. The shepherd rejoiced over finding the sheep and sought his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him (v. 6). It is typical of that which takes place in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over 99 of the self-righteous that think they need no repentance.

    Keep in mind all three related parables, including the woman who lost the coin (drachma) and the father who lost a son: they represent the triune-Godhead in the salvation of sinners. We have the Father, the Son, and the Spirit represented. The latter may be a little difficult to understand, but the Holy Spirit is like a mother to the Church, even though He is spoken of as in the masculine, He broods over the Church much as He did in creation (Genesis 1:2).
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the Stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the Head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Consider also the following, which can be said did not lead to the saving of this sheep!
  1. It was not saved by any law or good works. We are told, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, and that our salvation is by grace—not of works. Works are for those who are already saved, for we are the workmanship of God, created unto good works.” (Ephesians 2)
  2. It was not saved by seeking the Lord. As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
  3. It was not saved by praying. Praying is for those already saved. It is so set forth in the Scriptures. When Paul was writing to the Church in Rome, he said, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
  4. It was not saved through a witness other than the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. This is not to say that God’s people are not saved through another witnessing, but it does demonstrate that man is not necessary in the salvation of anyone. Peter brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles (all through the leading of the Lord for him to do so), but the apostle Paul was saved on the road to Damascus by the personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself, which was after the Lord’s ascension into heaven!

    We sometimes get the opinion that no one can be saved unless man speaks to him: it is one way, but not the only way. Missionaries sometimes feel that unless they go to a certain country, no one could be saved there, but God has not put the fate of man in man’s hands, but in His own! Many have been saved from reading the Scriptures only (the testimony of this writer), others from reading messages in papers and books. Preaching the gospel is accomplished by publishing as well as proclaiming!
In conclusion, we can say this: that we can learn much of man’s salvation in our Lord’s parable of the lost sheep. The sheep was saved through the efforts of the Good Shepherd who sought the sheep, and sought it until He found it, and carried it home on His shoulders. So it is with the Lord Jesus and the salvation of His people given to Him before the foundation of the world!

The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. (Psalms 118:14)

"I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment." (Ezekiel 34:16)

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. (2 Peter 3:15)

By the Grace of God, Through the Faith of Christ, We Have Been Saved; It Is the Gift of God

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. --Ephesians 2:8

You can't cram religion down someone's throat: only by the grace of God (and not by our own effort) do we receive faith; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). The mistake that some Christians make is to preach to people who are not ready, willing and able to receive the message.

"No man can come to the Son except the Father draw him" --John 6:44

We are all sinners: some have been found while others remain lost. A lost sinner must be drawn by God to want to know Christ. God says to us, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:3)." Our Creator, knowing the hearts and minds of men, has the sovereign right to choose who He will draw near to Him and when. It's all according to His will and in His time.

When God draws someone near, Christians are the vessels that He uses to reveal the truth about His Word to lost sinners. When we are saved, we desire to proclaim the good news in every place, and we should be prepared to explain the hope we have through the faith of Christ with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (the nine "fruit of the Holy Spirit," Galatians 5:22).

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. --Acts 2:21

Apart from the amazing grace of God, we cannot find Christ. Grace (unmerited favor) and faith are gifts of God: this is why nobody should boast of faith since there is nothing they did to earn it. If they boast of their own faith, then they are misguided people who mistakenly think that by choosing to believe when other sinners didn't, God reciprocated by making them righteous. God chooses us and calls us for good works (to do good), not because of good works (not because we did good). It is not our own faith, but the faith of Christ that saves us.

Sin is the transgression of the laws of God. No man, other than Christ, is without sin. God, being a righteous judge, requires that sin be paid for; that is, that no sin go unpunished. Yet God, being merciful and knowing that all men sin and fall short of His glory, provided a way for His People to escape the penalty of sin, which is spiritual death. The way to escape the penalty of sin, the death of the spiritual body, is through Christ, who paid the wages (penalty) of sin on the cross for God's People.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
And not by the works of the law:
for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
--Galatians 2:16

A Christian should be a striking likeness of Christ in all ways and by all means so that all may say of him, "He has been with Jesus." A penitent believer has his sins already laid on Christ: he obeys the commandments of God and follows the footsteps of Christ, teaching repentance and forgiveness and helping the Lord save those who are still lost, for it brings the Lord glory when we help Him find His lost sheep. However, we need not worry, for we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, predestinated for eternal life: the Lord knows them that are His ("mine elect"), and He will bring to faith all for whom Christ died.

Christ says, "For many be called, but few chosen." God calls all of us to salvation—those who ignore the call could care less that they are not chosen—no one is being short-changed, for all true believers will be saved and the unbelievers don't want to be saved. Anyone who comes to Christ will not be cast out. Christ says, "Knock, and it will be opened unto you." If we knock, then we were chosen and called by God.

If we go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds, we shall know our election. If we look to Jesus and believe on Him, we make proof of our election directly, for so surely as we believe, we are elected. Jesus tells us whether we are chosen or not: we cannot find it out in any other way. If we go and put our trust in Him, His answer will be, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."

There will be no doubt about Him having chosen us when we have chosen Him.

Christ says that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves and as He loves us. This includes everyone, whether they believe as we do or not. And Jesus says that we should pray for our enemies and do good to them rather than hate them. But we should take care not to unequally yoke ourselves to unbelievers (in marriage or otherwise), for this will lead to lives of misery.

We cannot truly know the Father without knowing the Son; this is why Jesus tells us: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27).

Christ Jesus, the Son of God, says to us with His gentle voice: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,
But that which is through the faith of Christ,
The righteousness which is of God by faith.
--Philippians 3:9

It is through Christ that we receive the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, which enables us to pardon anyone even as God forgives us. So forgive our enemies today, do not think of ourselves first, and we will come to know God, our Father, as He really is. Then we will pray for those who hate us, love those who curse us, and ask our heavenly Father to fill our enemies with grace and bring them to repentance. We will visit the one who hates us and ask his forgiveness even if he was to blame, thus we will teach him humility by taking the first step, and we will get rid of our own pride in the process and we will increase in love.

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him,
Seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,
And made higher than the heavens;
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice,
First for his own sins, and then for the people’s:
For this He did once, when He offered up Himself.
--Hebrews 7:25-27

"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?
The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself
But the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works."
--John 14:10

But by the grace of God I am what I am:
And His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain;
But I laboured more abundantly than they all:
Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
--1 Corinthians 15:10

We deserve no rewards, no merit, no crowns that we may boast, for it is all of God. Any faith we have more than another is because God dealt that measure to us, and not because of ourselves. Any work we do greater than any other is because God worked within us more than another. Rather than ask, “What rewards will we get,” we should ask, “What does God will for us to do.” And when we have done it, say, “We are unprofitable servants.” Abandon pride and, as the certain poor widow who threw in two mites, surrender all to our Lord. Everlasting life is all the reward we need. (“Do Christians Receive Rewards in Heaven for their Works on Earth?,” Tony Warren)

The Father Sent the Son to be the Savior of the World

There is salvation only in the blood of Christ.

As a shepherd, Abel sanctified his work to the glory of God and offered a sacrifice of blood upon his altar. The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering. This early type of our Lord is exceedingly clear and distinct: it clearly manifests the great fact that the Son is coming.

Abel was hated by his brother, hated without a cause. And even so was the Savior: the natural and carnal man hated the accepted Man in whom the Spirit of grace was found and rested not until His blood had been shed.

Abel fell and sprinkled his altar and sacrifice with his own blood, and therein sets forth the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, slain by the enmity of man while serving as a priest before the Lord. "The good Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep." Let us weep over Him as we view Him slain by the hatred of mankind, staining the horns of His altar with His own blood.

The blood of Jesus has a mighty tongue and the importance of its prevailing cry is not vengeance but mercy.

It is precious beyond all preciousness to stand at the altar of our good Shepherd! We see Him bleeding there as the slaughtered priest and we hear His blood speaking peace to all His flock, peace between man and his offended Maker, peace in our conscience, peace between Jew and Gentile, peace all down the ages of eternity for blood-washed men.

Abel is the first shepherd in order of time, but our hearts shall ever place Jesus first in order of excellence. Great Keeper of the sheep, we the people of your pasture bless you with our whole hearts when we see you slain for us.

"His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." --Luke 22:44

The mental pressure arising from our Lord's struggle with temptation so forced His frame to an unnatural excitement that His pores sent forth great drops of blood which fell down to the ground.

This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able to crush the Savior so that He distilled great drops of blood! This demonstrates the mighty power of His love. This sets forth the voluntariness of Christ's sufferings since, without a lance, the blood flowed freely. No need to put on the leech or apply the knife; it flows spontaneously. No need for the rulers to cry, "Spring up, O well;" of itself it flows in crimson torrents.

If men suffer great pain of mind, apparently the blood rushes to the heart. The cheeks are pale, a fainting fit comes on, and the blood has gone inward as if to nourish the inner man while passing through its trial. But see our Savior in His agony; He is so utterly oblivious of self that, instead of His agony driving His blood to the heart to nourish Himself, it drives it outward to bedew the earth. The agony of Christ, inasmuch as it pours Him out upon the ground, pictures the fullness of the offering which He made for men.

Do we not perceive how intense must have been the wrestling through which He passed, and will we not hear its voice to us? "You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Behold the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, who sweat even to blood rather than yield to the great tempter of our souls.

"Without the shedding of blood is no remission." --Hebrews 9:22

In none of the Jewish ceremonies were sins, even typically, removed without blood shedding. In no case, by no means, can sin be pardoned without atonement. It is clear, then, that there is no hope for us outside of Christ since there is no other blood shedding that is worth a thought as an atonement for sin.

Sin will yield to nothing less potent than the blood of Him whom God has set forth as a propitiation. What a blessing that there is the one way of pardon! Why should we seek another? Persons of merely formal religion cannot understand how we can rejoice that all our sins are forgiven us for Christ's sake. Their works and prayers and ceremonies give them very poor comfort; and well may they be uneasy since they are neglecting the one great salvation, endeavoring to get remission without blood.

My soul, sit down and behold the justice of God as bound to punish sin; see that punishment all executed upon the Lord Jesus, and fall down in humble joy, and kiss the dear feet of Him whose blood has made atonement for you.

It is in vain when conscience is aroused to fly to feelings and evidences for comfort: this is a habit that we learned in the Egypt of our legal bondage. The only restorative for a guilty conscience is a sight of Jesus suffering on the cross. "The blood is the life thereof," says the Levitical law, and let us rest assured that it is the life of faith and joy and every other holy grace.

Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of my Savior’s precious blood;
With divine assurance knowing
He has made my peace with God.

Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us.

He had been all night in agony; He had spent the early morning at the hall of Caiaphas; He had been hurried from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate. He had, therefore, but little strength left, and yet neither refreshment nor rest were permitted Him. They were eager for His blood and, therefore, led Him out to die, loaded with the cross.

Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews: every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before, but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body.

Now we see Jesus brought before the priests and rulers who pronounce Him guilty, and we see the great Scapegoat led away by the appointed officers of justice.

  • God Himself imputes our sins to Him.
  • The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
  • He was made sin for us.
  • He, the substitute for our guilt, bore our sin, represented by the cross, upon His shoulders.
As we look at the cross upon His shoulders, does it represent our sins? There is one way by which we can tell whether He carried our sins or not. Have we laid our hand upon His head, confessed our sins, and trusted in Him? Then our sin lies not on us; they have all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and He bears them on His shoulder as a load heavier than the cross.

Believers in Jesus, can we gaze upon Him without tears as He stands before us, the mirror of agonizing love?

He is at once fair as the lily for innocence and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.

See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty's hands,
And spit in their Creator's face.

With thorns His temples gor'd and gash'd
Send streams of blood from every part;
His back's with knotted scourges lash'd.
But sharper scourges tear His heart.

"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" --Psalms 22:1, Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

We here behold the Savior in the depth of His sorrows. No other place so well shows the griefs of Christ as Calvary, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony, as that in which His cry rends the air, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"

At this moment physical weakness was united with acute mental torture from the shame and ignominy through which He had to pass; and to make His grief culminate with emphasis, He suffered spiritual agony surpassing all expression, resulting from the departure of His Father's presence. This was the black midnight of His horror; then it was that He descended the abyss of suffering. No man can enter into the full meaning of these words.

Some of us think at times that we could cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" There are seasons when the brightness of our Father's smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness, but let us remember that God never does really forsake us; it is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ's case it was a real forsaking.

We grieve at a little withdrawal of our Father's love, but the real turning away of God's face from His Son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused Him?

In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief; in His case, it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from Him for a season.

O poor, distressed soul who once lived in the sunshine of God's face but are now in darkness, remember that He has not really forsaken you. God in the clouds is as much our God as when He shines forth in all the luster of His grace. But since even the thought that He has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the woe of the Savior have been when He exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"

When Jesus died, the sacrifices were all finished because all was fulfilled in Him and, therefore, the place of their presentation was marked with an evident token of decay.

The old law of ordinances was put away and, like a worn-out vesture, rent and laid aside when Jesus died on the cross. That rent also revealed all the hidden things of the old dispensation: the mercy seat could now be seen and the glory of God gleamed forth above it.

By the death of our Lord Jesus we have a clear revelation of God, for He was "not as Moses, who put a veil over His face." Life and immortality are now brought to light, and things that have been hidden since the foundation of the world are manifest in Him. The annual ceremony of atonement was thus abolished. The atoning blood, which was once every year sprinkled within the veil, was now offered once for all by the great High Priest and, therefore, the place of the symbolical rite was broken up. No blood of bullocks or of lambs is needed now because Jesus has entered within the veil with His own blood. Hence access to God is now permitted and is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus.

"I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor, but I have a Brother who is rich and is a King; and will He suffer me to want while He is on His throne? Oh, no! He loves me; He is my Brother."

Christ knows our wants and sympathizes with us. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. In all our sorrows we have His sympathy. Temptation, pain, disappointment, weakness, weariness, poverty—He knows them all, for He has felt all.

Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand His previous glory in its height of majesty and His incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame.

Who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When He was enthroned in the highest heavens He was very God of very God; by Him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded Him; the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of His throne. He reigned supreme above all His creatures; God over all, blessed forever.

Who can tell His height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low He descended?

  • To be a man was something.

  • To be a man of sorrows was far more.

  • To bleed and die and suffer, these were much for Him who was the Son of God.

  • But to suffer such unparalleled agony: to endure a death of shame and desertion by His Father, this is a depth of condescending love, which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom.

  • Herein is love! And truly it is love that "passeth knowledge."

We too frequently ascribe the honor of our salvation, or at least the depths of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do the Father. This is a very great mistake.

What if Jesus came? Did not His Father send Him? If He spoke wondrously, did not His Father pour grace into His lips that He might be an able minister of the new covenant? He who knows the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost as he should know them never sets one before another in his love.

Are you united with Him? Then believe that you are united unto the God of heaven. Since to the Man Christ Jesus you are brother and hold close fellowship, you are linked thereby with God the Eternal, and "the Ancient of days" is your Father and your friend.

The Father sent Him! Contemplate that subject; think how Jesus works what the Father wills.

“Sanctified by God the Father.” --Jude 1:1
“Sanctified in Christ Jesus.” --1 Corinthians 1:2
“Through sanctification of the Spirit.” --1 Peter 1:2

Mark the union of the three Divine Persons in all their gracious acts. How unwisely do believers talk who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity, who think of Jesus as if He were the embodiment of everything lovely and gracious, while the Father they regard as severely just but destitute of kindness.

Equally wrong are those who magnify the decree of the Father and the atonement of the Son so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit. In deeds of grace, none of the Persons of the Trinity act apart from the rest. They are as united in their deeds as in their essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source they are still undivided. Specially notice this in the matter of sanctification. While we may without mistake speak of sanctification as the work of the Spirit, yet we must take heed that we do not view it as if the Father and the Son had no part therein.

It is correct to speak of sanctification as the work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit. Still does Jehovah say, "Let us make man in our own image after our likeness," and thus we are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." See the value that God sets upon real holiness since the three Persons in the Trinity are represented as co-working to produce a Church without "spot or wrinkle or any such thing."

And we, believers, as the followers of Christ, must also set a high value on holiness and upon purity of life and godliness of conversation. We must value the blood of Christ as the foundation of our hope, but never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit, which is our meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. This day let us so live as to manifest the work of the Triune God in us.

Jesus had constant fellowship with His Father, and God spoke into His heart so often, so continually, that it was not a circumstance singular enough to be recorded.

It was the habit and life of Jesus to talk with God. Even as Jesus was, is this world, so are we; therefore, let us learn the lesson which this simple statement concerning Him teaches us. May we likewise have silent fellowship with the Father so that often we may answer Him. And though the world knows not to whom we speak, may we be responding to that secret voice unheard of by any other ear, which our own ear, opened by the Spirit of God, recognizes with joy.

God has spoken to us, let us speak to God, either to:
  • Set our seal that God is true and faithful to His promise, or

  • Confess the sin of which the Spirit of God has convinced us, or

  • Acknowledge the mercy which God's providence has given, or

  • Express assent to the great truths that God the Holy Ghost has opened to our understanding.
If we would hear the whispers of God's love, our ear must be purged and fitted to listen to His voice. This very evening may our hearts be in such a state that when God speaks to us, we, like Jesus, may be prepared at once to answer Him.

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors." --Romans 8:12

As God's creatures, we are all debtors to Him: to obey Him with all our body and soul and strength. Having broken His commandments, as we all have, we are debtors to His justice, and we owe to Him a vast amount, which we are not able to pay.

But of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God's justice anything since Christ paid the debt that His people owed; for this reason the believer owes the more to love.

I am a debtor to God's grace and forgiving mercy, but I am no debtor to His justice, for He will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, "It is finished!," and by that He meant that the punishment of death that His people owed for their sins was wiped away forever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the account is settled, the handwriting is nailed to the cross, the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God's justice no longer.

But then, because we are not debtors to our Lord's justice, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise.

Christians, pause and ponder for a moment: what debtors we are to divine sovereignty! How much we owe to His immeasurable love, for He gave His own Son that He might die for us. Consider how much we owe to His forgiving grace: after ten thousand affronts He loves us as infinitely as ever.

Consider what we owe to His power, how:
  • He has raised us from our deaths in sin,

  • He has preserved our spiritual lives,

  • He has kept us from falling, and

  • Though a thousand enemies have beset our paths, we have been able to hold on our way.
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:
And He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee;
And shall say, "Destroy them." --Deuteronomy 33:27

But the Lord said unto him, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me,
Too bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." --Acts 9:15-16

God had a couple of interesting questions for Satan in the first chapter of the book of Job. God asked Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan responded, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Certainly the omniscient Lord knew where Satan had been and what he had been up to; the ensuing conversation bears that out. Evidently, Satan and his demonic angels were looking for someone to accuse, devour and destroy, probably someone with weaknesses. God asked Satan if he had considered His servant, Job; however, Satan did not want to consider Job because he was a righteous man. God challenged the devil to attempt to tempt Job, knowing that he would be faithful until the end. Certainly, Satan had been doing just as the New Testament says, prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour. We must be strong like Job, and repent and hold fast till our Lord returns. We must resist the devil so he will flee from us. We must pray for our Lord to lead us not into temptation; but if temptation be permitted, to deliver us from evil.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. --Colossians 3:12-17

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8

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