The Worship of an Invisible God

The Worship of an Invisible God

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 49-52)
or watch the video
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Have you ever tried to put together one of those thousand piece jig-saw puzzles without first seeing the picture of what it is supposed to look like when finished? Some of them are so detailed that even when you have seen the picture on the cover it is not easy to find the piece you want.

Sometimes you honestly believe the piece you are looking for cannot possibly be there. Then when you finally find it, and it fits in, you have one of those “Ahhhh” moments. You see that you missed it because you were expecting it to look different than it really was.

Many times I have tried to talk people through setting things up on their computers over the phone. They do not know what they were looking for, and what to do with things when they find them. Some did not know what the ALT key was for, and had no idea what CTRL meant.

While trying to talk them through the steps, they were trying to do things that made no sense to them. As long as they did exactly what they were told, and asked before they did something they were unsure of, we usually got the job done with few problems.

God’s world is vastly more complex and further beyond our full understanding than jig-saw puzzles or home computers. God has lovingly told us what we need to know as we rely upon his grace, and to try learn to do what is right. However, we do not have the whole picture yet in this life. We have to be very careful not to let our own theories and values keep us from seeing what God is telling us in his word.

Our assignment is to fulfill what we were created to be and redeemed to be. Our primary responsibility is to show the glory of our Creator in our lives. To be effective, the Holy Spirit works on Redeemed hearts by means of God’s word.

We need to listen carefully to what God says, and to follow his instructions exactly. We do not have the full picture yet, and we do not completely understand it all in this life. We need to care about the principles God tells us to live by.

The second of the Ten Commandments cautions us about how we worship God.

The 49th question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism points to the Second of the Ten Commandments. The answer quotes from Exodus 20:4-6.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

The word translated “graven image” or “carved image” is the Hebrew word pesel (פסל). It was used to describe any image we make of something. It primarily applies to things carved or chizzled, but it was not limited to that in the way it was used.

The expression “any likeness” expands upon what God is forbidding so there will be no mistake about what he means to include. The word “likeness” is the Hebrew word temunah (תמונה). It is the common word used even today in modern Israel for “picture”. Most imagine that this is another of those “easy commandments”. Since we do not have stone, gold, or wooden idols as part of our culture today, they assume this commandment is outdated and mostly irrelevant to them.

However, there is an important and eternal moral principle summarized here: We need to honor God in ways that are pleasing to him. Questions 50-52 of the Shorter Catechism clarify this main point.

Question 50. What is required in the second commandment?
Answer. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word.
Question 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
Question 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Answer. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Jesus said that God is Spirit, therefore he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. The original word for spirit both in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek is the same word used for breath or wind. It is something you cannot physically see, but it is clearly evidenced and felt.

God is only honored when we worship him as the invisible, but all present Creator. How this should be done is beyond what we can figure out on our own, so we need to worship him only in ways he prescribes for us. That is why it is unwise to speculate or to add inventive ideas to worship.

The Bible tells us what elements belong in our worship as a Christian church.

  • There should be prayer offered on behalf of the congregation
  • the reading and teaching of God’s word in the Scriptures
  • the celebrating of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper
  • the reciting of confessions of our Christian faith together as a congregation
  • worshipful music sung to God’s glory
  • the collecting of God’s tithes and our offerings
  • the pronouncing of benedictions by the minister
  • occasionally vows such as those taken for membership and ordination

All these have to be governed by God’s directions in his word, not by our own imaginations.

    There are clear examples in the Bible where some ignored God’s rules for worship.

  • Nadab & Abihu used fire in worship in ways God did not command. They were struck dead by God for what they did.
  • Uzzah touched the Ark of God in a way not prescribed. He died on the spot. King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for intruding into the priest’s job of lighting the incense.
  • King Saul lost God’s blessing upon his kingship for impatiently offering God’s sacrifice when he should have waited for the Priest to arrive to do it.
  • 3,000 were struck dead for worshiping Jehovah by making a Golden Calf at Sinai.

In the Middle Ages the Golden Calf mentality was brought into the church. They brought in rituals and ceremonies from the era of the ancient temple. They added incense, incantations, fancy priestly garments, altars and idols into worship. There were statues, paintings and embroidered pictures of Jesus. Later, pictures of Mary and of the Saints were brought in for veneration as well.

Of course they said they were not bowing to these images to worship them. They were just visual aids in worship. However, that’s what Israel said when they made the golden calf at Sinai.

In more recent times, some openly reject the Second Commandment. Those in the extreme say that it was only intended for Israel and does not apply anymore. That goes directly against the teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 5:17-18 he said that he did not come to end the law, but to bring it to fulfillment. He said in verse 18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

As sure as heaven and earth still stand today, all of God’s moral principles continue as always. While Jesus fulfilled the law as our representative, and met the penalties of the law in our place, the moral principles which are the stamp of the Creator upon his creation continue as long as there is a heaven and an earth.

Others have defined the commandment so that not all images of God are forbidden. The desire to rightly understand what is forbidden and what is not, challenges us to examine the Scriptures carefully and without assumptions about what we expect to find there.

The Reformer John Calvin once wrote, “the first business of an interpreter is to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.”

God provided us with all the physical things we need
for learning about him, and for worship:

Creation itself declares his glory day and night. He made humans to be the image-bearers of his moral nature. He furnished the ancient Tabernacle and Temple with things to prefigure the coming work of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus ordained the elements of the Lord’s Supper to represent him in worship.

None of these are man’s designs. God gave them to us, and we are to use them exactly as he instructed. We dare not add to them, or modify them thinking we have the full picture of all they represent.

The Larger Catechism summarizes the Bible’s teaching in question 109. There it forbids, “… the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; …”

God did not tell us to make statues or pictures to help us in worship. Not only does that undermine God’s spirit nature, it also distorts the truth about who God is. Besides, it is always foolishly speculative to try to draw, carve, or in any way depict something we have never seen.

Pictures of Jesus have been a source of controversy among sincere believers in him as Savior and God. These pictures of his human nature necessarily add ideas to God’s word, since God did not preserve what he looks like. Statues, mosaics and drawings were common when the Bible was written, but God chose not to give us an image of the human form of Jesus.

If you asked the average person if they knew what Jesus looked like, they would likely say, “yes”. Either they would describe him looking like the actor’s portrayal in one of the recent movies, or as the gentle-faced, light skinned man with long flowing blond hair shown in many older paintings.

These images only depict what someone thinks Jesus looked like. But how can we guess at what a perfectly sinless human’s facial expressions would be when he suffered? or was challenged by unbelief? when he expressed his perfect love and compassion to redeemed sinners? Did he usually have a serious look? a far off pensive stare? a constant smile? or was there always a deep look of pity in his eyes? Was he energetic when he spoke, or was he generally soft spoken?

Actors and film directors who dare to think they’re able to portray him have to add their guesses about what this perfect man was like. To do that, they need to go far beyond the information given to us in Scripture.

The danger is that these images linger in our minds, and shape our impression of perfection. We should resist the temptation to depict him in ways he has not prescribed. That would be a violation of this moral principle laid out for us in the Second Commandment. It would be cause for celebration in the kingdom of evil.

The Bible is our only source of information about Jesus. Beyond that we would be adding dangerous speculations that imply things we cannot yet know.

Of course we know that Jesus had a real human body, but we do not know what it looked like. When those who honor the Second Commandment make up Sunday School material, they keep drawings like that abstracted. They avoid showing his facial features or expressions. They draw a simple form of a man doing the things the Bible says he did. When we make T-shirts and posters with the face of what we think Jesus looked like, we do as the middle ages church did – we bring the Golden Calf mentality into the church.

The sin of the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai
illustrates the danger of making images of God.

This first great national sin of Israel took place right after God’s law was given on Mount Sinai. It was not a civil crime like treason, a wave of thefts, or massive murders. It was a sin against the proper worship of God. 3,000 were executed by God showing the seriousness of this moral principle.

How we worship is not seen as a very serious moral issue by most people. Obviously God took it very seriously.

It is amazing that so many churches today take great pride in being innovative in worship. They advertise that they introduce new things and explore new ground.

The story of what happened at the foot of Mount Sinai shows how dangerous this is. Moses was called back up into the Mountain to receive more information from God. Before he went, Exodus 24:3 tells us about Israel’s promised obedience to God. “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do.’ ”

After Moses went back up into the mountain for 40 days, the people grew impatient and came to Aaron with a strange request. In Exodus 32:1 they said, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; …”

They probably did not actually mean that Aaron should make up an actual new god or set of gods. They wanted him to make a representation of God, one they could see and touch. That is the way life was back in pagan Egypt.

So the people brought the gold from their jewelry to use in making this idol. Exodus 32:4 tells us what Aaron did with these offerings, “And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

It was probably a wooden calf covered with the gold he had melted down. They did not see it as Apis, one of the Egyptian deities. They didn’t imagine they had created a new god altogether. Here and in verse 5 Aaron clearly identified it as Jehovah, the God of Moses.

So why did they make it in the form of a calf? God himself had chosen the calf, the young bulls, to represent him in the sacrifices. The sacrifices represented the future Messiah who would die in their place. They were not intending to replace Jehovah, only to represent him in a familiar form.

So Aaron built an altar in honor of the completed calf and in verse 5 he said, “tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah.” It was not called a feast to a new god, or a god they remembered from back in Egypt. It was a feast to Jehovah. The next day they brought their offerings to sacrifice to their new image.

While Moses was up in the Mountain receiving instructions about proper worship, Israel was down below with their creative innovations violating its most basic principle.

When Moses came down to them carrying the tablets of the law, he saw the disgraceful festival. That day 3,000 were executed for their part in this horrible rebellion.

That is how serious proper worship is to God. Satan must have been very pleased that God’s people tried to reduce God from his pure spirit nature, into a physical form.

That same fallen corruption still lurks in human hearts today. The things he tells us to do in worship are corrupted and replaced.

In our era after the Cross of Jesus, animals are no longer sacrificed to represent the coming Messiah. So people make images of the Messiah himself to satisfy that longing for a physical object to worship. Ancient Israel could say, “The Messiah was represented in real physical calves, so why not make an image of one to help us think of him?” Today some say, “The Messiah had a real physical human body, so why not make an image of that to help us think of him?”

It is not just a minor matter of differences of opinion. It appears to be a violation of the Second Commandment which some dismiss as an old worn out rule.

The usual arguments claim that they do not worship through the pictures they make of Jesus. But that is troubling in another way. Do they believe they are looking at a picture of Jesus Christ, their God and Savior, but it does not stir any worshipful response in them? none at all? There’s no sense of awe? no desire to praise him as they look upon what they think is him? When Jesus is brought to mind it should stir us to worship. There’s the danger.

Another excuse is that children need to see images to learn about God and Jesus. That is obviously not God’s opinion, and he is the one who made the children. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 God tells us to teach our children by presenting God’s word to them. They had art back then: statues, carvings, and drawings, but God’s method was to speak of him – in the home, everywhere we go, all day long.

This commandment specifically mentions the danger to the children.

Exodus 20:5-6, “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

We damage our children by bringing them up with images of an imagined Jesus,or by implying to them by our attitudes and practices that how we worship God is something we can modify on our own. It is a danger that distorts the child’s view of God, and of his rules for worship.

When it says that God is Jealous, it does not mean it in the envious sense. It means that God is protective of his honor and glory. He is concerned to the utmost that his purpose in creation would be fulfilled. He made all things to portray his nature and truth so that it brings him glory. Distortions of his nature and truth go against the whole purpose of creation.

Some are troubled by the mention here of the punishing of children for the sins of their fathers. However, that is because the consequences of sin are usually misunderstood.

Children raised in wickedness are generally trained in the evil ways of those who raise them. Most of them will follow in those ways for a long time, maybe the rest of their lives. It may take many generations for children to shake off wrong traditions handed down in families. That is the other side of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This brings us to the blessing side of keeping this commandment. God shows great mercy to the obedient. This includes the merciful blessings attached to proper obedient worship. They who obey, along with their children, will be enriched by the good attitudes and habits they see and become accustomed to in the home. Paul reminded Timothy how blessed he was growing up in a Godly home (2 Timothy 1:5).

This all seems very odd in our modern world.

Today images of the Second Person of the Trinity are common and promoted. Even those who love the Bible alone as their source of truth about God, go beyond what God directly prescribes for worship. They speculate about things God has not made known. They provide unauthorized visible aids to worship and inspiration.

To know God as spirit requires a renewed soul informed by God’s word. Aside from that work of grace, the human heart is blind and seeks other things. Without the change that comes by resting in the Christ of Scripture, worship will be distorted.

Long ago St. Augustine was challenged by a pagan man who proudly showed him his idol. The man said, “here is my god, where is yours?” Augustine answered this way, “I cannot show you my God. Not because there is no God to show, but because you have no eyes to see him.”

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than pictures, God gave us the thousand words — actually a lot more words than that. In the Bible we have a whole library about him, and his wonderful works.

God has communicated into our physical world all we need to know about him. That is what ought to guide us as we think of him, and approach him in prayer and worship.

The principle summarized in this Commandment is eternal.

There could never be a time when it is acceptable to make unauthorized visible images of God. He is always Spirit, and Jesus himself directed us to worship him in spirit and in truth. It was not a rule only for Old Israel in the time of Moses.

His word is our only faithful guide about how we should think of God and worship him. It is the picture that shows us how the pieces of the puzzle should fit together.
When we follow God’s prescriptions carefully, adding nothing, subtracting nothing, and loving all of it — it is recognized as the valuable treasure it truly is. Our God will be honored only in the way he said he should be. If that is our guide for faith and practice, we along with our children will be blessed for many generations to come.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Faithful to the One True God

Faithful to the One True God

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:45-48)
[watch the watch the video]
by Bob Burridge ©2011

The first of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:3. It says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” It seems like an easy place to begin this list of moral principles. Most people believe this is not a very hard rule to live by.

In most cultures in our world today people are quite content to have just one god. We are not like the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians who had temples to different god’s throughout their cities. Having multiple gods is not very popular in our western world in the 21st Century.

However, this commandment is not about having just one god. It is about the exclusive worshiping, honoring, and obeying the One Creator of the universe. That makes it more of a challenge.

The commandment sums up a basic moral principle embedded in Creation itself. Nothing should rule our lives, or become the center of our attention other than, or along with, the Creator who made us and everything else. He ought to be the center of our marriages, home life, work, social relationships, governments, and the focus of our formal times of worship.

It is easy to let our interest in entertainment, sports, money, business, romance, popularity, or power trick us into putting them above or equal with God as the focus of our lives.

Westminster Shorter Catechism,
Question 45. Which is the first commandment?
Answer. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Very literally, the words and word order of this commandment in Hebrew is: “Not – you shall have to yourself – gods – other – unto my face.” (לֹֽ֣א יִהְיֶֽה־לְךָ֛֩ אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים אֲחֵרִ֖֜ים עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ׃)

The commandment uses the general word for God.

The Hebrew word for “God” used by Moses in this commandment is Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים). It was used to make reference to all the pagan gods, as well as the True God who made us.

The New Testament uses the common Greek word for God (Theos, Ɵεος ). It also is used broadly, not only for the True God, but also for other interests that take his place. In Philippians 3:19 it describes those who have other things as “gods” in their lives. It says of them, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things.”

The same Greek word is used in the Septuagint translation of this first commandment, the translation of the Old Testament used in the time of Jesus.

The word “gods” here means all those considered to have supernatural powers, and those things treated as most important in our lives. It includes anything that motivates us the most.

The word “other” shows that what is being forbidden stands in contrast with Jehovah, the one making these demands of his people. No other being, thing, or idea should be what primarily motivates you.

Westminster Shorter Catechism,
Question 46. What is required in the first commandment?
Answer. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God, to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
Question 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
Answer. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshiping and glorifying the true God, as God, and our God; and the giving that worship and glory to any other which is due to him alone.
Question 48. What are we specially taught by these words, “before me,” in the first commandment?
Answer. These words. “before me,” in the first commandment, teach us that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.

The foundation for this moral principle
is the eternal character of God.

He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He designed you to promote his glory during your life here on earth. By his Sovereign Providence he rules over everything that happens. As a creature made in his image you have a special obligation to be God-centered.

At Athens Paul explained how God’s creation and care for us both obligate us to him.
Acts 17:25 “… He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”
Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being …”

It is the great deception of our fallen world that above all else we should live to have easier lives here on earth. Ever since Eden we tend to be self-centered, or at least human-centered in our thinking.

Our lives get wrapped up in getting things to make our lives easier and to feel successful. However, the ease we tend to look for, is to avoid work, and to do things for our own pleasure. The feeling of success is often measured by the standards of a materialistic world. But we were not created to be human-centered. We were put here to be God-centered.

Our labor is not primarily to get provisions and pleasures. It is above all else to be done for the sake of God’s honor, and for the promotion of his Kingship. It is toward that end that we work to get our daily provisions. That is the way God made things to be.

Work is not something we should dream of avoiding. It is something we do to be part of how God’s world is designed to operate. We grow foods, raise livestock, make and fix things, teach and give counsel, worship, raise children, help those who have special needs, and maintain civil order.

In everything we do, from fixing plumbing to repairing brain injuries, we are here to do it to show the wonder of God who made and rules over everything. Therefore we should strive for excellence in what we do. We should provide the best products and best services for our bosses, customers, and fellow-workers.

Though our work always involves someone else: managers, business owners, or customers, we should not just have pleasing them in mind. Primarily, we should do our very best for the honor of our God.

The economic system in the time of the New Testament included an employment system. If you did not make or grow things to sell, or provide a service yourself, you would come under a contract to work for someone else. As someone bonded over to them for pay, you had a responsibility to the one paying you.

Ephesians 6:5-7 says, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,”

At creation we were made to be overseers of God’s creation, to manage it as representatives the Creator. Our work and what we earn by doing it should not become gods to us. Our labor should never become the main focus of our lives. We need to keep God’s glory at the center of the work we do.

Our marriages and families are for God’s glory. These relationships are not here for our physical pleasures, romance, or social success. God created us as male and female, and ordained marriage as part of the display of his glory. Families are designed to show the relationship of our Faithful Savior with his people. Our home life has that divine purpose.

In our homes and families we should show God’s love, mercy, patience, forgiveness, and so on. We should pass these values and virtues on to our children by faithfully training them. We should equip them to declare, defend, and perpetuate the Covenant our Savior made with us by his Grace.

Ephesians 5 explains this important purpose in our home lives. Notice how every relationship is designed to display something about God in his world. There in verses 22-25 it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,”

The family should show the relationship of our Faithful and Loving Savior with us as his people. Verses 30-32 of Ephesians 5 says, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

The family, as crucially important as it is, should never become as important as what it was made to represent of our Creator. In Matthew 10:37 Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

If our families become an equal motivator with God in our lives, we break this first commandment. With distorted values like that, we teach our children that our home and success in this world can justify wrong choices. To satisfy family or romantic desires they might attend a church for the wrong reasons. They might look for jobs where they compromise God’s ways to get a better house or car. The best lesson we can teach our children, the best example we can be to our spouses, is to help them put God’s ways first. Only then can a family or marriage be truly blessed.

Our governments are to teach about God’s watchful care for us. God rules to keep order in his universe as his plan is painted on the time line of history. Our civil leaders are not here primarily to give us freedom and security. Those duties are means to the greater end.

In our communities God ordained that we should have human governments to reflect his care. Our leaders and those who work for them are here for that purpose. They are to protect us against crime, fraud, and vandalism. They are to defend us against foreign aggressors who want to take what is ours, or to keep us from being free to openly obey God in our lives. They are also to punish those who break the law so that the principle of justice is upheld. This is one of God’s attributes. It should all be done not for mere peace and prosperity, but for the glory of the One True God.

In Romans 13:1-5 Paul reminds us of the authority God gives to those in our civil governments, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.”

This means that we should not just obey civil laws to avoid punishment. We should do it out of respect for what God set up governments to represent. We obey as if we were obeying God himself, because rightful governments are his servants. They are here to enforce God’s civil rights and wrongs.

As citizens we should obey them, pray for them, stay well informed, and vote responsibly. We should do it all with God’s glory in mind as we support the way he set things up to be. If our laws violate God’s principles for whatever seems good to us, we have made our laws into an idol that violates this First Commandment.

Our social interactions are not just so we have friends to do fun things with our free time. They are to provide opportunities for us to encourage one another in living as a community centered on God’s glory and preeminence.

Ephesians 2:19 shows how our friendships and fellowship demonstrate God’s Kingdom. When we help our friends we advance God’s plan to show how he unites us as his household. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,”

Chapter 5 of Ephesians shows how we are to reflect God’s love by showing love for one another. Verses 1-2 say, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

Our friendships are not just for our own benefit or even just for that of our friends. They are supposed to be ways of demonstrating God’s care for us. It is another of the ways we honor the one true God. If we compromise any of God’s ways to make or to improve human friendships, we make those relationships rise to the level of God in our lives, and we violate this first principle of God’s Moral Law.

Our churches are gatherings of redeemed believers to serve Christ and to care for one another. They are not simply to provide social opportunities, or religious entertainment. If worship or the life of the church fails to be what God ordained it to be, then it replaces the purpose for which God ordained it. It becomes a cult, a false god in our lives. It violates this First Commandment.

It was the very religious who most persecuted Jesus during his life. Their religion was guided by wrong teachings, and by what was popular, not by what God said it should be.

A God-Centered attitude is exactly what this commandment is about. Each of these obligations is a necessary part of human life ever since God created us, but we are all obligated to honor the Creator in these relationships above everything else that might motivate us. All creatures owe their lives to the one who created them, and to him alone.

Aside from creation, there is another reason
to honor the One True God alone.

He not only created us, as believes in Christ he redeemed us by his Covenant of Grace. God deserves to be the main motive in your life, because he gave you new life in Christ.

Since your life comes from him, your life is his. It is not really just yours. The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?”

Its answer is, “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

Nothings else redeems you, and deserves your unrestrained devotion. To take your time, resources and abilities, and to use them in ways that keep you from worship, tithing, obeying and loving, is theft of what God entrusted to you as a stewardship. It would violate this first moral principle.

This is not just a negative commandment.

Failing to honor the true God in the way he deserves also reduces him to the level of everything else. It elevates the rest of your world to the same level as the way you treat God. If God is just one part of your life, you are not obeying the main point of this first Commandment. God must be actively honored, worshiped and loved.

When apathy sets in you miss out on what gives meaning and real joy to everything else. Your work, family, friends, country, and church become truly satisfying only when they center on honoring your Creator and Redeemer in them. You should strive to find ways of promoting God’s unique glory in every responsibility and opportunity in your life.

The emptiness people often feel in their lives is because the center is all wrong. If your personal peace, prosperity or pleasures are what motivate you, you have displaced God to at best a secondary role.

The more you become aware of his constant presence and infinite power surrounding you, and remember the amazing grace that rescued you, the more everything else takes on a beauty beyond your expectations. Even discouragements and disappointments cannot derail you or depress you when you see God’s loving and wise plan at work in every part of your life.

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6, the words of God’s law, when he said in Matthew 22:37-38, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”

That is the key, the thing that arranges everything else into it’s right place in your life. Psalm 16:11 makes this promise, ” … In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Aware of Our Firm Foundation

Aware of Our Firm Foundation

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 41-44)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

God’s creation is beautiful, vast, and amazingly complex.

Our Creator’s nature and glory are infinite and eternal. The immensity of his power and purpose is stamped upon everything he made. As Psalm 19:1-2 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”

We were created with the ability to observe and to be a part of that declaration of God’s glory. There is a lot to take in, so much to understand.

Knowing our limitations as finite creatures, God made to be able to group things together, and to sum up complicated ideas. Our ears take in sounds people make, and our brains are able to organize them into words that make us able to communicate. We can see marks people make on paper, then turn them back into sentences. We learn to recognize people from a quick glance at their facial features. We have learned how to teach and to remember the flow of history, the findings of science, and relationships in mathematics. We summarize what we learn with charts, diagrams, and generalized rules.

After long conversations people often have to ask, “What’s your point?” When we have read all the details in business contracts we often ask, “So what’s the bottom line?” Parents often teach simple rules to children like, “Don’t talk with strangers,” “Ask permission before you go somewhere,” “Bed time is at 9:00,” “Eat your vegetables.”

Without going into all the reasons behind them, simple rules help us. We need to simplify things to be able to make fast judgments and daily decisions.

God also summarizes the things he reveals
so we can remember and handle them better.

There are parts of the Bible that summarize the long history of God’s people. Our main duties and God’s grace are summarized in simple verses we can learn. His redemption is summarized in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Our obligations to our Creator/Redeemer are summarized in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

These summaries are not meant to be exhaustive. They are given to us to point out main principles to help us organize God’s truth and to remember what he teaches us.

It is reasonable to expect the moral principles God
built into His world would be summarized too.

Question 41 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?”

Answer: “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.”

God made himself known by giving us his word in the Bible. His basic moral principles are summed up in the 10 Commandments.

When asked, Jesus summed up the moral law even more concisely in Matthew 22:37-40. There he gave us two general principles that sum up what is right: ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Answer to Question 42 of our Catechism quotes this comment by Jesus. It says,

“The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.”

The Bible regularly links love and obedience. We were created to live morally, doing the things that show respect to our Creator. When we live that way, intent on truly honoring God and helping the people around us, we are being loving and therefore are keeping his commandments inwardly as well as outwardly.

Love for God and others is expressed by keeping his moral commandments. In the commandments God defines what things are loving.

This connection was made by Jesus many times in his ministry. For example, the Gospel of John records some of his direct comments about this.

John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…”
John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
John 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”

Then in 1 John 5:2-3 the Bible says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Love does not mean much if we do not show it by our attitudes, thoughts, and actions. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God’s summation of his moral principles help us remember and obey what honors him. It is how we fulfill what we were created and commissioned to be. It is how we love. It is what real “love” looks like.

This summation by Jesus fits exactly with the order of the Commandments God gave through Moses.

The Ten Commandments divide into these two main sections.

The first section is about our loving God above everything else. When Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” he was quoting from the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5.

This sums up the first 4 commandments. It is always wrong to worship other gods, to make images of God who is pure spirit, to use God’s name without respect, or to forget honoring the Creator’s work on the Sabbath. These first 4 Commandments show us who God is, and how we should worship and live for him.

As the second great commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Again he was quoting the words of Moses, this time from Leviticus 19:18. We must love our neighbor as we already look out for ourselves.

This sums up the last 6 Commandments. It is never right to show disrespect to those God puts in authority over us, or to murder. No one should be unfaithful in marriage, steal, lie, or covet. These last 6 Commandments show how God designed us to live together.

Moral law is the way things ought to be in a place created by the one True God. They show that we submit to his lordship as our Creator and King, and they teach us how to live lovingly with those God puts around us in our lives.

God’s moral principles are not just baseless rules.
They are founded upon the fact of God.

God introduced his commandments through Moses by explaining his right to issue commandments. Question 43 of the Catechism asks, “What is the preface to the ten commandments?”

The answer simply quotes from Deuteronomy 5:6. This verse leads into the giving of the Ten Commandments. It says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

The preface leads into these moral principles by laying out the foundation for them. Israel was a defeated nation of oppressed slaves in Egypt. There was no hope for them by any efforts they could make on their own. Since God delivered her, and gave her back her nationhood, he alone had the right to say how she should live as a nation.

However, there was more. God was the Creator. He made all things for his own glory, so he alone knew what would honor that glory in a moral way. He also made the promise of a Redeemer, a Messiah who would die for the guilt of his people. Since all deserve eternal bondage to sin and unending separation from their Creator, only he could describe what freedom from sin and fellowship with God would be like.

Just as Israel owed her life to God alone, we all owe ours to him also. He created us to promote his glory, and redeemed us to be his children forever, therefore only he has the right to say what he made and redeemed us to be. That lays out the preface and foundation to this summation of God’s Moral Law.

When I worked in a commercial laundry the employees often complained. We worked hard under rough conditions. They would see the managers in air-conditioned offices and often asked, “who do they think they are to tell us how to do our job?” But, they owed their jobs to the owners and managers. It was what went on in that office that enabled them to earn their living.

Similarly, we owe our lives and salvation to God alone. He is the only one who has the right to describe our purpose and what is right.

In Romans 9:20 Paul put it this way, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ ”

Catechism question 44 explains the reason for this preface to the Commandments. It says,

Answer. “The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.”

That is how important these commandments are. They were not first given to Israel. They were summarized for Israel. Every moral law in them goes back to creation itself. They show us how we can show our love for our Creator, our Redeemer.

Do you say you love Jesus Christ dearly?

Do you do what he says and live morally as God describes it for you? That is what it is to love God. Do you treat those you meet and work with the way our Creator says you should? That is what loving your neighbor is about.

Satan is subtle and knows how to play to our imperfect nature. He will suggest that such moral ideas have exceptions, and do not always apply. Like Israel in the wilderness we are easily persuaded to set these principles aside, and to take on the standards people accept in our fallen culture.

Since God created us, gives us life day by day, redeemed us, and blesses us, he alone has the absolute right to tell us how he made us to live.

It is not only unwise, but evil, to fail to see this important foundation to all that is right. We need to read these Ten Commandments with the prayerful intent of conforming our lives to them.

In each one, as we peel away the deceptions that hide the moral principle behind it, we see how short we fall in bringing glory to our God. We also see how much our Savior suffered as he took on our guilt. We see a loving light shining on an otherwise dark and confusing path.

God shows us how to be better children in his family. These summary principles teach us to see Grace at work in our otherwise disobedient hearts. They are not laws by which we merit salvation or blessings. We imperfect creatures could never keep them without God’s Redeeming Grace. They light up the unseen opportunities that would otherwise be hidden in the dark. They teach us what glorifies God, and how we enjoy living as his loved children.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Profitable Obedience

Profitable Obedience

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 39-40)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Even before sin came into human hearts,
we had a purpose.

God created us to live for his glory and to enjoy doing so forever. That’s how our Westminster Shorter Catechism begins.

Sin did not change that purpose, but it separated us all from fellowship with God. It made us unable to be all we were made to be. In our frustrating fallen condition we cannot do anything truly good in the eyes of God, therefore we lost all hope of true joy forever.

For us to fulfill that purpose again, God sent the Messiah to redeem and to restore his people. This redemption is purely by grace. It clothes the unworthy with perfect righteousness, and enables them to joyfully glorify God.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us what the Bible principally teaches. In Question 3 it organizes it all into two major categories. It asks, “What do the Scriptures principally teach?” The profound answer is, “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”

These are the main things God tells us about in his word. What we believe about God and about who we really are effects how we put things into practice in our everyday lives. Belief and duty need to stay together. They can never really ever be separated. You have to know what to do, and you must put into practice what you know.

The first part of the Catechism, questions 4-38, are about what we ought to believe concerning God. This next section is about how we go about the duties he gives us to do.

God requires us to obey his revealed will.

Question 39 introduces this next part of the Catechism. It asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?” This is the answer:

“The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.”

We often hear people worry about being “out of the will of God”. They fret over every decision and circumstance thinking they might mess up God’s plan. The confusing part is that God does not tell us all that he planed to do. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that much of God’s plan is kept secret from us. It says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

We cannot know how all things work together to fulfill his purposes. However, his word does tell us to focus on the things he has made known. That is our duty.

God’s decrees are unchangeable. Nobody can ever make a choice or do anything that makes God deviate from his eternal plan. Nothing can frustrate that eternal will of God.

This the consistent teaching all through Scripture. It could not be more clear.

Job 42:2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.”

Even the wicked things people do are part of how his plan works out. It does not excuse their evil, but evil cannot operate independently from God’s decrees.

When Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him and to sell him into slavery, Genesis 45:7-8 says, “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph explained this to his wicked brothers. He said, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

This is not an isolated text. It is the pervasive center of all Scripture. Psalm 76:10 says, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself.”

God employs men’s sins for his ultimate glory. However, sin is never condoned, and remains contrary to the moral principles God reveals.

The things he calls us to do are the things we need to be concerned about:. He reveals what is right for us to do. When that is violated, it is called “sin.” While we can never change God’s eternal plan, his decreed will. We can and do at times violate this revealed will of God.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul reminded Timothy how we know God’s will for our lives: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This means that all of the Bible is God’s word, and therefore is profitable for these 4 duties:

1. It is profitable for teaching: It offers us a complete curriculum of all God wants us to know. There he tells us about himself and about how everything else relates to him.

Psalm 119 illustrates how God’s word is our teacher. Verse 24 says, “Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.” Verses 98-99 say, “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.”

2. It is profitable for reproof: The Bible warns about errors and shows us the truth which exposes them. There is no other standard against which what we learn can be compared.

Psalm 119:21 says, “You rebuke the proud — the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments.”

3. It is profitable for correction: Once error is exposed, the proper path needs to be found. Only the Bible as God’s word can show a person that right path.

This is also well summarized throughout Psalm 119.

9 “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.”
11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”
30 “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.”
105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”

4. It is profitable for training in righteousness: Righteousness is when we live according to the things that please God. Deuteronomy 6:25 defines righteousness as obedience to God’s revealed will. It says, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Biblically, righteousness means innocence before God’s law. There is no other standard than God’s own word for knowing what pleases him.

Again we turn to Psalm 119:

40 “Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness.”
116 “Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”
117 “Hold me up, and I shall be safe, And I shall observe Your statutes continually.”
142 “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.”
160 “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

This pastoral advice to Timothy points out these four ways God’s word is profitable. God’s revealed will enables his people to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible is a book of content. It is not just interesting reading material. We need to learn and then to do what it says in order to live in a way that pleases our Redeemer. This is the only way to enjoy fulfilling what we were made to be.

The standard for our obedience is the moral law of God.

Question 40 of our Shorter Catechism says,

“The rule which God at first revealed to man, for his obedience, was the moral law.”

It is one thing to say we should live morally, obeying what God says is right and what truly satisfies our real needs. It is quite another thing to know which attitudes and behaviors are really moral.

There are many different views about morality. Some things are universally accepted as right and wrong. God built into our nature an awareness that it is evil to commit murder, and to steal. Most agree that it is wrong to be unfaithful in marriage, to be greedy, and to lie. Most agree that it is good to help others in need, to worship, and to be kind to others. However, there is a lot of confusion about when some of these things are binding upon us. There are many views about how worship should be done, and when ambition becomes greed.

To clear up the confusion in our fallen nature God gave us his written word. The Bible tells us what is good and acceptable in the eyes of God. These principles are called God’s moral law. This is not a set of baseless rules made up for us as tests, or for earning our way to heaven. Moral law is the way things must be in a universe created by the one True God.

It is always wrong to worship other gods, to make physical images of God who is spirit, to use God’s name without respect, or to forget honoring the Creator on the Creation Sabbath. It is never right to show disrespect to those God puts in authority over us, or to murder. No one should be unfaithful in marriage, steal, lie, or covet.

The Ten Commandments were not just laws for Israel.
Not one of them was made up in the time of Moses. They all go back to creation itself. They are a summation of these ethical principles that can never be annulled. The first four tell us about how the Creator should be worshiped. The last six tell us how we should live together as his creatures designed to live for his glory.

In our era, even some churches teach that not all of God’s revealed moral principles apply today. They explain away one after another of these universal standards, making excuses or loop holes to justify violating what remains.

That is exactly what many of the people of Israel did in the time of the prophets. It is what the Pharisees were doing in the time of Jesus and the Apostles. It is what corrupt churches have done since the time the Bible was completed.

Some are quick to point out that Jesus fulfilled all of God’s law. This is certainly true. But we need to let Scripture alone tell us what it means to fulfill the law.

It certainly does not mean that he eliminated any of these moral principles. Jesus made an important contrast in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

The word translated “to fulfill” is “plaero-o” (πληροω) which means to make something complete. Jesus makes it clear in verse 17 that this does not mean he destroyed the law.

The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament given in the time of Moses were completed in Christ. He fulfilled what they were teaching. They showed in advance that God would send a substitute to pay for the sins of his people. To continue the sacrifices, washings, and dietary rituals, the priestly system, or the added ceremonial Sabbaths, would be to deny that they all pointed to Jesus Christ as the final sacrifice, as our High Priest, as our only washing from sin and clothing of righteousness. He did not end the principles taught in these ceremonies. He brought them to completeness and satisfied their demands for us.

Jesus also fulfilled the moral law for us. He paid the penalty demanded by eternal justice for us. We deserve death for violating the Creator’s moral principles. Jesus suffered and died in place of those who come to him trusting in his Atonement.

He also perfectly kept the moral law in our place, fulfilling all its demands as our representative. The legal benefits of his obedience are credited to us. We are clothed in his Righteousness. By his completed work he brings believers back into fellowship with God. This makes them able to do things that are truly good. He breaks the chains of sin so that it is no longer our master or motive. This moves us to want to honor our Creator out of gratitude. Jesus never made it acceptable to dishonor God’s name, break the Creation Sabbath, murder, steal, or lie. Only unbelief or dispensational extremism could eliminate any one of the moral laws of God.

Jesus and the Apostles often spoke of God’s moral principles as still binding. For example, in Romans 7:7 Paul said, “I would not have known sin except through the Law”

We who love the Lord know we are saved by grace alone, not by our obedience. Our desire in response is to honor our Creator and Redeemer, and to enjoy doing so forever. Our great passion is to hunger to know what God says is right and good. We prayerfully work to do those things, and to say “no” to thoughts and actions that offend him.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

We Need to Pray

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 9: We Need to Pray

God tells us to come to him in prayer.Talking with God is important. He tells us in the Bible that he hears all the prayers of all his people all the time. This is one of the ways we can show our love to God. We thank him for all the wonderful things he created, and for the way he takes care of us. We thank him for paying for our sins so that we are forgiven.

The Lord’s Prayer In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gave us an example for us to use when we say our own prayers. This is called “the Lord’s Prayer” because our Savior is the one who gave it to us. It shows us how we approach God, and gives us a form to follow as we come to him in personal worship and present our needs repentantly to him. It’s good to know this prayer by heart.

Many churches use the King James Version of this prayer when we worship together on Sundays.

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

What Is Prayer? Question 98 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is prayer?” The answer is, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”

This means that we come to God to pray for things that are good and right. We should not pray selfishly. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”

We should offer our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior. In John 14:13 Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

This does not mean you just add the words “in Christ’s name” to your prayers. It means you come to God with your sins covered and forgiven by Jesus our Savior. When you admit your sins to God and trust that Jesus died in your place, your Heavenly Father is pleased to hear all you have to say to him. In James 5:16 the Bible makes this promise to us, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

We should thank God for our food and other blessings as we enjoy them. We should ask him to help us understand the Bible when we read it. We should ask him to help us to worship with a pure heart, and to guide us in everything we think, say, or do all day long.

How often should we pray? We can pray any time from anywhere. A healthy Christian should pray throughout the day. Psalm 5:1-3 says, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.”

What does the word “Amen” mean? We often end our prayers with the word “Amen.” It’s a Hebrew word that means “Truth” or “True.” It ends our prayers remembering that all God promises is true and that we have prayed honestly to him. It shows that we want God to know how sincere we are when we come to him with our praises and needs.

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Lesson 10: We Need to Worship
Index of all our lessons on Bible Basics

Greater Things Ahead

Greater Things Ahead

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 37-38)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

People usually fear death, and put in a lot of effort avoiding it. That is one of the effects God intended in allowing death into our world. It shows the horrible consequences of rebellion against God.

We have seen tragic losses of life in stories about massive storms, earthquakes, wars, terrorist attacks, epidemics, and criminal violence. I read some personal letters from a father describing the terror in the eyes of his children as they walked past the clutter of dead bodies when their town was devastated by a huge earthquake.

We all go through the pain in losing loved ones, and the sadness in being separated from them. We also face the inevitable fact that one day each one of us will experience death ourselves.

It started in Adam, the one created to represent us. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Romans 6:23 calls death the wage we deserve because of sin. It is not only deserved because of the inherited guilt of Adam’s sin, but because of each sin of our own as well. Death drives home the horrible consequences of not living in full obedience to God.

Physical death means we have suffered some irreparable damage to our bodies to the degree that they can no longer function. It could be damage from injuries, disease, birth defects, violent crime, or even war. There is usually pain and suffering for the victim as well as grief and adjustments for his loved ones.

Physical death illustrates the even more tragic kind of death earned by sin: Spiritual Death. Just as our souls are separated from our bodies in physical death, lost and unredeemed humans are separated from fellowship with God forever in spiritual death.

When this life ends, we step into our eternal home. For many, it will be a very tragic place to spend the rest of forever. There will be no second chances, no time off for good behavior, no commuted sentences. For those rescued by the work of the Savior, they settle into an eternity of great blessings.

Physical death does not need to be something we fear. Death provides the darkness that makes God’s light shine so brightly and clearly. Death is the enemy overcome by the victory of Jesus Christ. This is what he secured for all his people.

God has given us a longing for the blessings stored up for us when this life is over. As redeemed believers in Christ, as soon as our spirits are separated from our bodies, we will be with others in glory. When the world’s final day comes, we will be advanced into a yet greater participation in eternal blessings.

Jesus did more for us in his visit to earth than to give us comforting words, corrected theology, and a perfect example of how to live. The blessings go beyond what we experience while we are alive. He purchased our place in heaven — irrevocably — forever.

Our first advancement comes immediately when we die.

The answer to question 37 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism says,

The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

First of all, this is a limited promise, not a universal one. God’s word has no assurance for those who show no evidence of faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Even the words of that popular Bible verse John 3:16 are very limited. It promise everlasting life only to those who believe in him.

It is not just believing that he lived, or that he suffered and died. It is not about believing that he taught good things. It means trusting in what he accomplished in his death, that his death made full payment for all the guilt of his people. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

At the moment of their death, believers are made perfect in holiness. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 the Apostle Paul tells about this assurance. It says, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Though not yet admitted to the final state of glory, believers who die are no longer exposed to the temptations they struggled with in this life. They are held in the presence of Christ, and kept pure in their thoughts and deeds.

Hebrews 12:23 addresses believers in this way, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect”

As he hung on the cross, Jesus answered the repentant thief next to him promising in Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Paul understood the greater life ahead after this life is over. When he wrote his letter from prison to the Philippian believers he said in 1:23, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

As King David said in Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

While we enjoy the wonders of the immediate presence and comfort of our Lord in heaven, our bodies wait until the final day of resurrection.

In that resurrection our bodies will be reconstituted,
and will be reunited with our souls.

The answer to question 38 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says,

At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

This is the promise we have as we serve God here in this time of our earthly assignment. It is going to be the full satisfaction of our departed souls forever when we rest with Christ after death.

What we enjoy after our life here is over is just a taste of greater things to come. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul wrote about the hope and promise of the future resurrection. In verses 42-43 he said, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

At that time, when the history of the world is completed, believers will be raised up in glory. We are not presently able to comprehend the actual nature of living with resurrected bodies. All disease, defects and the scars of sin will be gone from body and soul. We will have new bodies designed to live in a different dimension than this 3D world of ours.

Quoting from Isaiah 64:4 Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The Bible says that in that future life of glory we will see, hear, speak, sing, rejoice, and worship, but not with the limited kinds of eyes, ears, voices, and hands like we have now. It will be a very different kind of life than anything we can compare it with in this physical world.

In 1 Peter 1:3-5 it tells us about this unbreakable promise of God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

The final resurrection will come with the final day of judgment. It will not be the kind of court scene we are used to seeing in our own justice system. There is no presumption of innocence with arguments for and against us. God does not have to make a decision based upon evidence presented. He knows from all eternity who are his and who are left to their deserved condemnation.

It will be a day when God reveals his eternal plan for each person, a day of of pronouncing judgments, not of deciding about them.

In Matthew 25:31-34, Jesus explained this final judgment at the time of his return in glory, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:”

Then in verse 41 he described how the great King will announce his judgment upon the rest, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:”

As hard as it is for us to understand, this is the plain and direct teaching of God’s word. Then in verse 46 Jesus summarized that final message some will ever hear from God, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

How can anyone be acquitted of his imperfections and rebellion against God? That is the core of the good news, the gospel, secured for us by Jesus the Christ. Only the perfect and infinite God, joined with a true human body and soul, could pay the moral debt of any one. Jesus died for all his people. That is exactly what took place in the completing of the work of Jesus Christ in his mission to the planet Earth.

He paid for his people’s guilt, all their guilt, what they inherited from Adam, and what they commit themselves. He credits them with his own perfect righteousness. They stand as righteous before God’s judgment because of what Jesus is and did. Of course, when changed by his grace they are also set free from the chains of sin that bound them, and are made able to live for God’s glory. That means they can really do good. They can help others, and worship with all sincerity, not for personal benefits alone, or to ease their conscience, but because of a true love for God implanted in otherwise deceived and selfish hearts.

In that final resurrection to glory, believers are perfectly blessed.

We cannot imagine the kind of joy we who rest in Christ will one day know there. Think of the greatest joys we can experience here in this life. There are the simple accomplishments that please us when we help someone, or learn a new skill, or when we have a great evening, are moved by music, or hear a well presented story. There are those times when our hearts are deeply touched by the love of friends and family, the feeling of seeing your child born and grow up, by those moments of victory and success we feel at times when we overcome obstacles, by the comfort and peace we feel when we come to our Living Savior for forgiveness.

The wonders we are going to experience after our bodies die will be greater than all these. In the presence of Christ we will know all we have known, but we will see it all with a greater understanding and even higher value. We will see how even the troubling times fit in with God’s greater plan. We will be with believers who are with the Savior now. Most of all, we will be with our Living Lord in a far greater way.

Now, think of what it will be like when after our dwelling with our Savior in heaven we graduate to an even greater joy, the eternal entry into glory when the great resurrection takes place. In 1 John 3:2 we have a hint of what it’s going to be like, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

There we will fully enjoy God’s presence and wonder forever.

We should be encouraged by the promises in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

This is our certain future. No matter what we face here, whatever happens to us, whatever we go through, in that final Resurrection we will be united with all the saints in glory forever.

All we have known will come together in a way beyond anything we can understand right now. We all know the comforting words in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

One day we will see that greater good fully explained and applied.

The verses immediately after that verse fit it all into God’s eternal plan for us, his children, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Before anything was, he knew us as his own. He decreed that in Christ we will be born out of our darkness into the light of true life. All those he knew beforehand, and those destined to life in Christ will be called to him. This is not be just an outward invitation. It is an inward transforming call of the Holy Spirit. To all those called he will announce them to be innocent by the work of our Savior. As those declared to be just we have the promise here that these same ones will be glorified.

We will one day step into a world we cannot know right now. There we will spend the rest of all eternity with the one who made all things. The King of all kings, the Shepherd of our Souls, will be our eternal Heavenly Comforter.

This is why King David wrote those assuring words of Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Redemption’s Benefits

Redemption’s Benefits

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:32-36)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Jesus Christ came to bring us abundant life.

In his lesson about the Good Shepherd in John 10, Jesus said in verse 10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Bringing life to the dead is not rational to us creatures. We know that when someone or something dies, there is nothing we can do to reverse that.

In the early years of maintaining an office, first in my science lab office when I taught school, then again in my first years here as Pastor, I failed in my attempt to have live plants for decorations. They started out alive, but when they died I knew there was nothing I could do for them except to get rid of them. I now have some very nice plastic plants on my desk.

It is a sad adjustment when a loved one is taken away from us by our Lord. King David lost a son who was born to Bathsheba. He deeply grieved when the son was sick. When the baby died his servants were afraid to tell him for fear of how it would effect their leader. When they delivered the sad news, David understood that there was nothing more anyone could do for his child. He rested in God’s covenant promises that his child was taken into the merciful and all powerful hands of God.

In 2 Samuel 12:22-23 David said to his servants, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

Death is a one way barrier that when crossed, we cannot go back. This is how God intends it. It teaches us a very important spiritual fact. Our souls are irretrievably lost in the spiritual death we all inherited from Adam. We are all born in that grip of the curse of spiritual death. There is nothing we can do, nothing any church can do, to make ourselves alive and right with God. In contrast with our inability as lost creatures, our Creator can make the dead alive. It is part of his nature to be able to do what we cannot do.

To illustrate this there were a few times when God reversed physical death. God worked through Elijah to raise the widow’s son. Jesus raised several from the dead, including Lazarus. Our Lord himself rose from the dead. The Apostle Peter raised Tabitha. Paul raised Eutychus. These were all done to show God’s power to overcome death, both physical and spiritual.

But life isn’t a one time event. It is a growing process that matures into something greater than its beginning. It is astounding how tiny cells grow into a baby, then that baby grows into an adult. From a tiny hand full of seeds, we see the growth of an entire forest.

When we become alive in Christ by his redeeming grace, it is not only and end to spiritual death. It is a launch into the adventure of growth toward the perfection God plans for us in eternity.

There are wonderful benefits to all those Christ redeems.

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
Answer. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

Before we can enjoy the benefits of life, we need to be made alive.

Spiritual death is the separation of our souls from fellowship with God. The guilt of sin makes us unacceptable to him. Spiritual life is when the barrier of separation is taken away. To remove the guilt, we need to be Justified.

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 33. What is justification?
Answer. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

To preserve the quality of justice, the guilt of our sins needs to be paid for. That is why Jesus came and died. He took the guilt of his people upon himself, and gives his children his own perfect righteousness. They are declared innocent by God as our Judge.

That is what justification is about. It is not that we are really innocent in ourselves. It is that we are judged innocent because our Savior paid our debt in full. It is not anything we do, decide, or desire that makes us innocent. It is an act of God by grace alone. It is not like the catchy phrase some us to define Justification: “Just As If I’d Never Sinned.” That may describe the legal standing we have after justification, but it is not what the word means.

In Romans 8:33 Paul said, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”

The means God uses is the faith he implants in us when the work of Christ is applied. As God puts it in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

We say we are justified by faith, but faith is not the reason we are justified. The reason is God’s gracious love in the Savior’s death in our place. Faith is the instrument God puts into us that makes us know and trust the fact of our redemption in Christ.

It is not just that we believe something. It is that we trust fully in the finished work of Christ. None of us would trust in that, if he had not paid the debt for our sins, and grace had not applied that work to reunite us with our Father in Heaven.

By grace God opens our eyes. It makes us see how offensive our sins are to God, and brings us to sincere repentance. It also makes us see the truth of what Jesus did in our place so that we will have faith in his work of redemption.

When the barrier of sin is removed,
the redeemed are adopted into God’s family.

From the time we were conceived physically, we were part of a fallen race of people. Because of Adam’s failure to keep God’s covenant we all were alienated from God’s family. When a person is regenerated by grace through the work of Christ he is adopted as our Creator’s children forever.

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 34. What is adoption?
Answer. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.

When we consider our imperfections and tendencies to sin, it is amazing that anyone could enjoy any privileges at all in God’s family. But through Christ we have a declared right to all those privileges as joint heirs with our Savior.

We have the promises of the Bible, and the witness of the Holy Spirit in us to assure us that this is a promise we can count on. In Galatians 4:6 it says, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ”

He has both the common Aramaic word used by the Jews for “father”, Abba (Αββα, אבא), and the word used for “father” by the Greek Gentiles, Pataer (Πατηρ). All who are justified by grace through faith can have this confidence.

In Romans 8:16 it says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

All who are adopted into God’s family grow to live more righteously.

Life means we are growing and maturing into something more than what we were when we were born. We are not only saved from hell, we are changed inwardly by Christ.

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 35. What is sanctification?
Answer. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

Sin is not our way of life anymore. It is not our master. We know we are still very imperfect until we’re taken to Christ after this life is over, but for now we have a different relationship with everything that offends God.

Our sins trouble us. We do no longer make excuses, or try to justify our offenses. We know we should not do what God forbids, and we should never neglect what he commands. We understand that even our apathy about Christ’s truth, love, and kingdom is an inexcusable attitude. Instead, we are humbled when we sin. We come in broken repentance again and again, begging not only to be forgiven, but also to overcome our sins.

We learn that even our moments of obedience are works of God’s grace in us. We give him all the glory. In Philippians 2:12-13 we are reminded to thank God while we work hard to become Christlike. “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Humility is one of the most basic evidences of Christian maturity. The closer we draw to Christ, the more we become aware of how imperfect we are, and of how grateful we ought to be for his constant work of sanctification.

The more we learn about righteousness, the less righteous we realize ourselves to be. Instead of discouraging us, we need the attitude of 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

We understand that our faith is not really a full trust in God if we are content to still excuse our sins. The Book of James tells us in in James 2:20 and 26 that, “faith without works is dead.”

[You may want to read my more complete study on the subject of Sanctification.]

For all who are part of God’s family by grace,
there are enormous benefits in the abundant life God promises.

God’s children are assured of our Savior’s love. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
Answer. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

As immature believers, we might not always and fully understand or appreciate the certainty of God’s promises. We might not know them well. We may be uncertain that we accurately understand what God has said to us in his word.

As we learn what the Bible actually says, our doubts fade away. We realize that the uncertainty was not a failure to trust God, but a weakness in knowing what he promised.

Real assurance does not come because of emotional moments, or in the stirring words of a preacher. It comes as the Holy Spirit teaches us what God has actually said. As born-again children, we will trust all that we know is God’s truth.

No believer improves without set-backs. It is a growing process. Part of our assurance is to understand that even when we fall back into some sin, we are already forgiven by Christ who died knowing our failures ahead of time.

Peter and David knew what it was like to be brought face-to-face with their moral imperfections. After they failed, they came with sincere repentance and trust in the all-sufficient work of the Savior. We are assured that though our sins seem even more offensive as we learn more, we are constantly growing in our appreciation of our forgiveness and of Christ’s power in us.

As forgiven children we come to our Father in heaven with confidence. Hebrews 4:16 invites us into God’s presence, even in our most weak moments. It says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

God’s children are assured of many blessings as they mature in Christ. They are assured that they are at peace with God, and they find peace in their own souls because they trust God’s promises.

They know they are forgiven, and that their Sovereign God is always in control. They know that “… all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” as Romans 8:28 promises us.

They find a true inward joy in the Holy Spirit through even the hardest of times. They know that abounding grace that does not love them for what they do. It loves them because of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ which is credited to their account in heaven.

God’s children are assured that they will persevere to the completion of God’s promises. In John 10:28 Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

Children learn that even when good parents punish them, it’s for their own good. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”

Then in verse 11 it explains this to us, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

A true believer can never fall from God’s mercy and grace. He might, however, fall from his own awareness of both. Those who find no assurance in God’s word, or who make excuses for their sins may never have been regenerated believes to begin with.

In 1 John 2:19 we are warned, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

This is why 2 Peter 1:10 challenges us to prayerfully battle for Christian maturity in our lives. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;”

The redeemed are forever God’s children. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is that abundant life God promises us in Christ.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Abducted and Rescued

Abducted and Rescued

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q 29-31)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

There have been too many stories reported
about young children who were raised by abductors.

Children have been taken illegally from their real parents. Some were taken at such a young age they never knew their real parents. The abductors raise them as if they were their own, and the children believe them.

If the children are older when taken, they can be manipulated to accept the situation. Some of them stay because they are terrified of going against their captors. Some come to believe they really belong to their captors and become surprisingly loyal. They often take on the beliefs and life style of the one who took them.

We were all horrified at the story a few years ago about Jaycee Lee. She had been held by an abusing abductor for 18 years. She helped the one who held her with his business, and adjusted to her situation to survive. A few years earlier there was the similar case of 14 year old Elizabeth Smart. Shawn Hornbeck was taken at age 11 and rescued almost 5 years later when he was found living in an apartment only a few miles from his real family’s home.

The good news about these cases is that they were all rescued and reunited with their real families. We saw the tears of absolute joy when parents found out their lost children had been found.

In a very real sense, we all were abducted as part of the human race in Eden.

We were raised with our abductor who acted as our wicked father. The good news, the gospel, is that some were rescued, redeemed, and returned to the Loving Creator’s family. It is when trusting in God’s successful rescue by Jesus Christ that some are returned home.

The answers to Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 29-31 teach us this important fact.

Answer 29. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Answer 30. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Answer 31. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Our salvation from captivity is summarized in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

The Holy Spirit applies the redemption Christ purchased. He opens our eyes to trust God’s promises and truth. Through that, he re-unites us with our Savior.

To redeem us, the Holy Spirit convinces us of our sin and misery.

He shows us that in the past while we were held captive by sin and Satan we served him as if we were truly his children. It is important to realize that every one of us is hopelessly unworthy of God’s care until that work of grace. But once delivered, we have no business continuing in evil.

In 2 Timothy 2:26 The Apostle Paul says that before God delivers us to repentance, we were captives in the grips of Satan. It says we are re-generated so that we come to our senses, and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. In Romans 6 Paul says we were slaves of sin until set free by the work of Jesus Christ.

When those who are marked by grace become God’s children, they are no longer held in Satan’s grip. If they still fear him, or behave as is they belong to their captor, they are deceived. They are living in a lie. They never really belonged to their abductor, but he held them as if they were his.

While taken in by Satan, they serve a master who isn’t concerned about them. He abuses them every day, and deceives them. Those held by him do not know any better. 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains our spiritual blindness. It says, “… the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

When we’re redeemed by the Holy Spirit,
he enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ.

Our Rescuer shows us who we really are, that our abductor isn’t really concerned about us and has no claim upon us. We realize that we no longer have to live in bondage and put up with his threats. Our Savior tells us we were loved by the One who made us, even before the world was created.

This is why we can’t rescue ourselves. We do not realize that we need rescue from captivity. The lost might know they need help because things are not going well for them, but they don’t understand that they are held by the enemy of God, the hater of all that is good.

In 1 Corinthians 2:11 God’s word says, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”

Those redeemed by God’s grace are given eyes to see the truth and the wonder of the gospel. In that same chapter, 1 Corinthians 2, verses 9 and 10, it explains the promise of our Redeemer, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

Our renewed hearts are persuaded and made able to trust in what Christ did for us. We rejoice to be back home and part of the family from which we were abducted in Adam. With our chains taken off nothing can hold us back from running with thankful love into the arms of our loving Father.

The Catechism reminds us that this call of God is “effectual.”

This means that it always accomplishes everything God intends. The Holy Spirit applies the Son’s work to all those redeemed. He infallibly applies all the benefits secured for them by Christ. John 3:6 says we need to be “born of the Spirit.” Titus 3:5 tells us that our salvation is due to the “renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

God is our Sovereign Lord. He is not some pitiful beggar pleading for us to permit him to do his holy will in saving us. Our Heavenly Father seeks out and brings his deceived children home.

There are two kinds of gospel callings described in Scripture. When these are confused, God’s truth becomes distorted.

1. First, there is an outward call for all come to Christ.
This is the gospel message, the invitation to believe God’s work of redemption. God honestly and sincerely promises salvation to all who have faith in Christ and who come repentantly to Him.

Of course fallen humans are neither able nor willing to obey this outward call to come trusting fully in the work of Christ alone. In John 6:65 Jesus said, ” no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

The Apostle Paul explained the reason they refuse to come in Romans 8:7-8. There he wrote, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

An invitation to believe in Jesus Christ does not save anyone. Jesus warned in Matthew 22:14 “many are called but few are chosen.” Unless the Holy Spirit changes the heart, they will not come.

2. Second, there is also an inward call from the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:30, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

He is speaking of the same group of individuals in each of these stages of his work of grace. All those justified will be glorified. All those called will be justified. All those predestined by him to be his own are called in this special way.

The Holy Spirit never fails to complete the work of the Trinity. Those same ones predestined and called, are certain to be both justified and finally glorified.

For a person to have faith, he needs to be made alive spiritually. Colossians 2:13 says, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

Once the heart is changed, nothing can possibly hinder his coming to Christ in repentance and faith. God does everything necessary to ensure that the sinner will most certainly come. This is why we say this inward call of the Holy Spirit is always “effectual.”

As those set free by God’s grace, they are part of the Redeemer’s family.

That is quite an amazing fact for us who were part of a fallen race, deceived children taken in by the enemy of all that is good. Now as rescued and restored children of God, we want to show our love for our Father. We want to do those things that honor him. We have so much for which to be thankful.

In a healthy home, children grow up wanting to show their parents how thankful they are too. Though they do so imperfectly, they strive to express their love to the ones to whom they truly belong. That is what causes children to make those misshapen clay dishes, crayon scrawled Mothers Day and Fathers Day cards taped to the refrigerator door, and water color paintings with helpful explanations written in pencil on the back to remember what it was supposed to be. That is what brings on the hugs and smiles when they are most needed.

I’ve seen thank you notes written to firefighters and rescue workers for bravely saving a home, a pet, or a child trapped in a burning house. Thankful children want to please their parents, and to honor their rescuers. We want to do that too, toward our Triune God: our Heavenly Father, our Gracious Redeemer, and the live-giving Holy Spirit.

Once rescued, we need to stop the habits learned from our abductor. We want to be like our loving Heavenly Father, and to live in ways that please him.

In Romans 6 Paul calls us to recognize our being set free to be what honors our Savior. In verses 11-13 the Apostle wrote, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

While we live on this side of heaven,
the ways of our abductor still influence us.

He gives horrible advice about the important foundations of your life. He makes you focus on yourself above everything else. He says, “Put yourself first.” He wants you to focus on your own problems, your own comfort, pleasure, and material wants.

As for those eternal issues, he says. “Forget them.” He tells you they are just far off concerns, nothing over which to waste your time. He tempts you to be concerned above all with the comforts and pleasures of the moment.

He tells you not to trust God’s word. He convinced Adam and Eve to question God’s goodness and motives. He persuaded them to try to reason things through aside from what God said was right and true.

Today the Tempter makes us see our imperfections as support for our doubts. He suggests that since not everyone agrees about what the Bible says, it must be unclear and unreliable.

He influences you to have a wrong attitude toward life. By all that surrounds you, he tries to draw you back into his ways. He wants you to be like him, not like the one to whom you really belong by grace. He teaches you to be selfish, vengeful, covetous, driven by lust and material success. He uses your music, TV shows, Movies, friends, co-workers, and Internet resources to center your view of the world on thoughts that marginalize the work of your Redeemer.

Your Heavenly Father advises you very differently.

He tells us to make God’s glory at the center of our lives. We should put him first, and rest in his grace as our hope and foundation. He calls us to value eternal issues, and to keep them as our focus.

We rise above the moment, to see the flow of God’s plan at work in his world. We see tragedies like the deaths of the Egyptians on Passover night, and the agony of that Cross on Mount Calvary, as pointing to something greater. We see the amazing plan of Redemption unfolding and look to a future eternal victory. We know that our little material gains today are truly his blessing, but are of little importance when compared with our secure place in eternal glory with our Savior.

We know that God’s word is clear when it is allowed to speak for itself. We see that the confusion of denominations and sects do not come from an imperfect Bible. They come from adding imperfect ideas to it, or from neglecting to see how it all fits together.

The attitude God calls us to have is not what the world thinks is best. He calls us to be patient, forgiving, honest, and kind even to those who are unkind to us. We need to overcome the rude and evil ways learned from our abductor. We need to observe and conform to the ways of our true Father.

There is real promise and real power available to those Redeemed by Jesus Christ. We can learn to be what God calls us to be, and to overcome the leaned ways of our abductor. When we stop to appreciate the Redemption so graciously given in Christ, we are humbled and amazed. We exclaim in our hearts what Paul wrote in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Lifting Up the Humble

Lifting Up the Humble

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:28)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2014, 2019

Humility is usually most appreciated when it’s seen in somebody else. Our fallen nature likes to feel self-important, and for others to see our importance too. But true humility is a mark of maturity.

In our last study the Apostle Paul used the example of Jesus Christ to teach us about being humble. In Philippians 2:5-8 he wrote; “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus took on the form of one of his creatures, humbled himself to serve others, and took their abuse. He suffered insults, torture, and an unjust execution as if he was a criminal, but the guilt he paid for wasn’t his own. He did all that to pay for the sins of his people, to satisfy for their crimes against God.

This was the most astounding act of humility ever. Remember how this passage of Scripture started out, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” The Apostle’s point was to challenge us to be like Jesus in his humility.

As with Jesus, true humility is to set aside self for the advance of God’s Kingdom. It’s when we take our rightful place in the amazing drama of God’s unfolding plan.

There’s more here than just a lesson about humility. After his time of humiliation was over, when he had accomplished his mission, our Lord was exalted. When we humbly put God’s glory and Kingdom first, he promises to lift us up.

This promise is a sure thing because it’s based on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. As his children we will be lifted up to be with the Savior forever in glory, yet we’ll always be humble before him.

But, we don’t act humbly in order to benefit from it. We do it out of a sincere thankfulness to God for his redeeming grace. The truly humble know they can’t lift themselves up. They admit that only the power of the Risen Savior can do that.

In the next section, Philippians 2:9-11, Paul continues his lesson. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Shorter Catechism 28 summarizes this:

Question 28: Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
Answer: Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

After he had humbled himself,
Jesus was most highly exalted.

Verse 9 begins with the word, “Therefore”. It was because of his humble suffering and death that Jesus Christ received his restored position. After he accomplished exactly what he came to do, he was ready to show his true glory again.

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”

Since his mission was completed, Jesus was again highly exalted. The word used in Philippians 2:9 means “Hyper-exalted” “huper-ups-O-o” (ὑπερυψόω). It’is only used this one time in the whole New Testament.

The exalting of Jesus Christ took place in three stages.
First was his Resurrection. Early that Sunday morning he rose from the tomb victorious over the grave. Sin’s penalty of death resulting in eternal separation from God was paid in full for all his people.

Next was his Ascension into glory. Forty days after his resurrection Jesus was received back into the full display of his glory in heaven.

Third, is what we call his Session. He returned to sit in his place by the Father where he shows his Sovereign Lordship over all creation. Hebrews 1:3, “… when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

And yet to come, he will return to judge the world at the last day.

The name of Jesus
was exalted above every name.

The mysterious eternal work of the Triune God restored the Son from his humiliation back to the open display of his glory. His name as referred to here is not just a word used to identify him. In the times of the Bible names weren’t just picked out of a baby book. They were given to describe the person. Sometimes names were changed as the person got older and took on his special calling. God changed the names of Abram, Jacob, Saul of Tarsus and others. The name of Jesus was given by God himself. It identified his mission as the Savior.

There are many titles we give to Jesus. His names tell us about his wonder and works. We call him Lord, because he is ruler of all his creation. He is Jesus, the one who came to save his people from their sins. He is Christ, the Anointed one, God’s promised Messiah. He is Wonderful, our Good Shepherd, Counselor, the Mighty God

This text in Philippieans tells us that all creatures are to be humbled before Him.
Philippians 2:10-11, “… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The bowing of every knee and the confessing of every tongue includes every intelligent being. Those in heaven will be humbled before him to admit the wonder of all he is and has done. All redeemed humans, the cherubim, seraphim, the good angels and archangels. All those admitted into that special presence of God will honor him. Even those yet remaining on earth are humbled in subjection to him.

Those under the earth are included too. The word here is the ancient term for the “under-world”. It’s the place of the condemned (“ka-tach-THO-nios” — καταχθόνιος). It’s only used in this one place in the New Testament. It refers to the realm of the unredeemed humans and fallen creatures of the spirit realm.

The lost do not bow to confess him as their Savior and Comforter. However, even those who hate him won’t be able to deny his sovereign power and glory. All the powers that seem to be in control here on earth are not really in control at all. Jesus Christ is the real ruler of all things. He uses even rebellious earthly powers to carry out his plan, showing clearly the corruption of humanity. That further demonstrates his power to redeem his people by an amazing grace.

The Apostle Peter said in Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 10:9, tells us that salvation is only possible to those who, openly admit that “Jesus is Lord” and to those who believe that “God raised Him from the dead”.

The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 17:14 about the victorious Jesus as the Lamb of God, “… for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Christ’s humble work and exaltation is
to bring glory to the Triune God.

This is the purpose of all that God created, has done, and is. Everything is ordered to declare and to display the Glory of God. By his Covenant Promises the exaltation of Christ also benefits his people. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

The exaltation of Christ accomplishes both objectives as part of the same plan. His exaltation brings glory to God the Father, and brings repentance to his people, the true Israel, as he intercedes for them, and forgives all their sins.

As we fight the enemy of our souls, we don’t do it as individuals sent out to war alone. We’re redeemed to go out together – as an army, equipped and organized as a unit. We’re fellow soldiers, each lending his talent, resources, and time under the Captain of our souls who is victorious and exalted above all.

Remember how this passage of Scripture started out . Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, …”

Jesus is our example. His humility teaches us to put what God says and calls us to do first in our lives. Obeying our loving Savior should have priority over all our temporary comforts which only last a short while and are gone. Admitting that his grace is our only hope of being restored to fellowship with God.

The exalting of Christ encourages us that the promises God made can’t fail. He will lift us up. As his children we should trust our Heavenly Father to bless us by his grace and mercy.

Jesus is also the one who makes us able to do what God calls us to do. As our exalted redeemer, he lives and reigns over all things for the redemption and care of his people. He makes us able to live humbly for him, to know his peace, and to trust his promises.

Just as Jesus was exalted
we share in his victory as his children.

We who are redeemed by him should have this in mind. We have a victorious and exalted Savior who is always there to care for us.

Even now we have victory over the world, and a victorious Lord as our loving shepherd. We are nothing more than redeemed sinners who face challenges, pain, and imperfection. But those redeemed by that amazing grace are, and always will be, God’s adopted children.

As we live here going through our daily challenges and routines, we should humbly accept our place as the adopted children of the Living Creator. We leave the exalting part to him.

Our job is to serve him faithfully, obeying to the best of our ability as he strengthens us. We should remember that our failures were taken up by our suffering Savior almost 2000 years ago. Instead of letting our faults and failures discourage us, we bring them to the Risen Christ. We ask him to help us never to do those foolish things again.

We have God’s own promise in Matthew 23:12. There Jesus said, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

There is also the exalting we are going to enjoy
when this life is over.

One day we too will be raised to glory when our work on earth is done. There in heaven we will live forever with our Redeemer and all the others who are redeemed.

We have no business taking on the defeated attitude of the world around us. We who are redeemed are God’s children.

Those without Christ value most highly those unsatisfying and fleeting moments of ease, comfort, and human glory. Our Savior humbled himself so that we could be adopted into the family of God, and enjoy the blessings of living humbly, serving God and others.

Our Savior was exalted when his work was completed. As reigning King he carries us along as his precious ones. He has prepared our place in heaven where we will spend eternity with him.

Our attitude should be one of confidence, instead of discouragement. We should be encouraged through whatever comes along, remembering that since Christ humbled himself and was exalted again to glory, we too should live humbly before God and others, and the One who redeemed us will always be there to lift us up.

(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

The Difficult Quality of Humility

The Difficult Quality of Humility

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:27)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2014, 2019

Some things are all turned around in the world we live in. Instead of being living witnesses of the greatness of our Creator, as fallen people we are arrogant, self-serving, and self-indulgent. The person most envied by the lost world is often the one who doesn’t put up with others, and always gets his way. He’s the most aggressive self-assertive person who often tends to be rude and disrespectful. Others better look out if they upset him. The great goal, even in some religious movements, is to increase our own self-importance.

That’s not the way God tells us to be. He made us to be considerate of others, to have a kind attitude, and to be humble before God. It’s the way we were designed to function best. It’s the only way our lives can be truly happy.

The quality we call humility is not very popular — except in bumper-stickers and trite wall hangings. In real practical daily living, maybe without admitting it to ourselves, it’s equated with weakness. In reality, as God sees it and as we should see it, it takes a strong mature person to be humble.

Humility is hard for us, because in our fallen condition it’s hard not to put our own interests first.

The most perfectly strong person was Jesus Christ. He humbled himself to save the unworthy and undeserving. He opens our eyes to behold his love, and to appreciate his work of redemption without which we would justly remain alienated from God forever. When we’re restored to fellowship with God by grace, we’re stirred to understand how we should love God first and to love others more than we do. We come to realize the magnitude of God’s mercy.

Paul wrote a most encouraging letter to the Christians at Philippi. It’s hard to remember that this letter was written from prison in Rome. Of all the things a prisoner could have asked for to make him happy, far above his own comfort, possessions, and freedom, Paul wanted to know that God’s people were dedicated first to the cause of Christ.

In his letter to the Philippian church he laid out some basic Christian principles. One of the most basic qualities is the one we call, humility. Humility is knowing our rightful place in the amazing drama of God’s unfolding plan. In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul said, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Next in that same chapter, verses 5-9, he reminds us of the example of Jesus Christ. In verse 5 he tells us how our own thoughts should be modeled after the attitude of our Savior. He writes, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

He’s saying here that we should bring our minds into agreement with that of Christ in this matter of humility. Jesus is our perfect example of the right human attitude toward God and others. There’s an interesting connection between what God is and what we ought to be. He created us in his image so that we would fulfill a special part in how creation declares his glory.

Jesus is our example and enabler. He repairs that image of God in us. As we grow to be like him we also see better what God is like toward us. In his example, he shows us what we should be and what God already is.

Jesus laid aside certain things to redeem us.

Philippians 2:6-8, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

This is the message of the next question in our study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question 27: “Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?”
Answer: “Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, The wrath of God and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.”

The present participle “being” in Philippians 2:6 means that Jesus has always been God. He didn’t stop being divine when he was born into this world. He remained an eternal member of the Triune God. In order to effectively pay for his people’s sins, he had to be both fully human and fully God at the same time. Dr. Lenski said, “Even in the midst of his death he had to be the mighty God, in order, by his death, to conquer death”

It says he took on the form of a servant. Not just in name or in title. He actually served his creatures. He knelt down and washed the feet of the disciples. He patiently taught the ignorant, and took the insults of his enemies.

In his birth he took on a complete human nature, the characteristics of one of his own creations. He took on a true human appearance. That doesn’t mean he was just “playing human.” He really took on our nature. He is one person drawing from 2 natures (Human and Divine), a mysterious yet glorious union, “… yet without sin.” (as it explians in Hebrews 4:15)

He humbled himself to accomplish our salvation. The display of his glory, and the enjoyment of his heavenly environment were set aside. He took the place of depraved, convicted, and condemned moral criminals.

Isaiah 53 is a rich description of what Jesus endured for us his people.
Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”
Isaiah 53:6, “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him”
Isaiah 53:8-10, “… He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. …”

Why would he lay aside his display of glory and the privileges of deity? Why would he go through all that? He did it to take up guilt that was not his own, to suffer and to experience ultimate humiliation, execution as a criminal.

He took on the guilt of crimes not just against little local laws, not against federal laws, or those of international laws. He took on all the sins of his people, crimes against God, and against his holy creation order. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

This was the most astounding act of humility ever. Fulfilling the eternal plan of the Triune God was greater than his personal comfort.

In 2 Corinthians 8:9 the Apostle wrote, “… though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

The Sovereign Creator and Preserver of all things had to borrow his birthplace, housing during his ministry, a boat to travel in and to preach from, a donkey to ride on, a room in which to celebrate the passover, and a tomb for His burial. What love! He gave up the display and enjoyment of his heavenly glory to rescue lost criminals!

Commentator Dr. Wuest said, “The only person in the world who had the right to assert his rights — waived them.” Yet how we cling to and demand all sorts of personal rights. We whine and cry when we feel our rights are in any way imposed upon. We crave self-glory and our own pleasures, but instead of glory we earn shame. We demand blessings, but we only qualify ourselves for cursings. Our personal goals and pride replace the cause of Christ’s glory

A false humility looks for pity, and for others to envy us for our humility. But as with Jesus, true humility is to set aside self for the advance of God’s Kingdom and Plan.

The point Paul is making
here in Philippians 2:5-9,
is that we should be humble too.

We need to have the same mind as did Jesus Christ in his humble coming to redeem us. Andrew Murray teaches that there are three great benefits to a properly motivated humility, “(Humility) becomes me as a creature, as a sinner, as a saint.”

1st — we need to humbly accept our part in God’s vast creation. We see the vast power, intricacy, and wonder of all that God made.

We can’t explain it all in our studies of nature. Science at best can only describe what it sees, and theorize about how it fits together. Psalm 8:3-4 exclaims, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?”

We see how little and weak we are compared with all the universe surrounding us. We each live in only a tiny dot on an astoundingly long time line that streaches out into eternity.

2nd — we are humbled as sinners. In our fallen condition we can’t appreciate the truth of our own condemnation, or of our need for redemption. Aside from our savior’s supernatural work in us, we wander in a world we’re unable to understand. We want a god — but not the God of the Bible. We crave a false god who’s there to make us comfortable.

When our hearts are brought to a true saving faith in Christ it humbles us as we see what we really are. We are a fallen race, blinded by our prejudices and excuses. We are unworthy of being in the presence of the all-holy God. We are not able to repair the infinite damage in our souls. The truth of our fallen condition humbles us before the Eternal Sovereign Lord.

3rd — we’re humbled most by God’s grace. Andrew Murray wisely said, “it is not sin that humbles most, but grace, and that it is the soul — led through its sinfulness to be occupied with God in His wonderful glory as God, as Creator and Redeemer, that will truly take the lowest place before Him.”

This is the message we have here in Philippians 2:5-9. It’s not when we look up and are awed by the distant stars and galaxies that humbles us the most. It’s not when we look down and see our own wicked thoughts and moral failures that humbles us the most.

It’s when we look up at the Savior on the Cross, and appreciate how he humbled himself for us as mere unworthy creatures that we’re most humbled and bowed down in awareness of his most amazing and undeserved love.

The great Creator of all that is, is our Redeemer. He whom we have so constantly offended did so much to rescue us condemned rebels. He came into his own creation, took on the form of his fallen creatures, suffered human insults and torture, and who died in our place — these are the things which are most humbling of all.

Humility isn’t so much that we are nothing, but that given that, Christ is something amazing. This mystery of grace teaches us to lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love. It humbles us and consumes us in the light of his everlasting mercy.

How can we who are redeemed in this way
justify our self-centered lives?

How can we continue to put our own comforts and pleasures above living as God tells us to live in every area of our lives? How can we disregard the sacredness of worship, withhold our offerings? treat others rudely? neglect learning what his word says? reduce our prayers to short moments, or to those times only when we’re in need?

True humility is to set aside self for the advance of God’s Kingdom and Plan. We need to take time throughout every day, from when we first wake up until we go to bed at night, to consider the amazing love and grace that redeemed us and adopted us into God’s eternal family. That’s the focus our souls were created to have.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)