THE CITY OF GOD, INBOUND

October 16, 2022

In 410 A.D., after more than “eleven hundred years of growth and triumphant progress,” Rome was overrun and sacked by the Goths under Aleric I, an act thought impossible. Marcus Dods, English translator of Augustine’s classic, City of God, written in the aftermath and a “best seller” for centuries, said in his preface, “It is difficult for us to appreciate, impossible to overestimate, the shock which was thus communicated from centre to circumference of the whole known world.” Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible, said from his cave in Jerusalem, “A terrible rumor reaches me from the West, telling of Rome besieged … life and property perishing together. My voice falters, sobs stifle the words I dictate; for she is a captive, that city which enthralled the world.”

In spite of the legend of barbarians at the gate, Aleric was a Christian and he issued orders to his troops that no one found in a church in Rome was to be harmed. Somehow the word got around and all churches were jam-packed with true Christians, foxhole Christians, and fake Christians and all were spared.

Dods added, “But as Augustine contemplates the ruins of Rome’s greatness, and feels in common with all the world at this crisis, the instability of the strongest governments, the insufficiency of the most authoritative statesmanship, there hovers over these ruins the splendid vision of the city of God ‘coming down out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband [Revelation 21:2].’” 

The economic, moral and cultural decline of Rome actually made the city a walkover for the Goths. The world would be equally shocked today if the USA fell, but the similarities—economic, moral, cultural, instability of government and insufficiency of authoritative statesmanship—between Rome then and the USA now are sobering in the extreme. But over the chaos of a Christless America there still hovers the splendid vision of the City of God coming down out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband. It is very much alive, earnestly anticipated and prayed for in a dwindling minority of the churches of America that still preach the whole gospel of Jesus Christ undiluted, uncompromised, unyielding to the cultural fads and deviant fantasies of the age—scripture alone as the only rule of faith and practice. Dear friends, I hope I have just described your church. God has always preserved a remnant against whom the gates of hell will not prevail. Should America, beset with foes without and within, fall, a thought that has ceased to be preposterous, the true church will prevail as in ancient Rome. And when the City of God arrives true Christians will be welcomed in, but the fake and foxhole variants will hear, “I never knew you.” Dear reader, do you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength? (Mark 12:30) Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when he returns as Judge, will be infinitely more discerning than Aleric.

“Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

See you in church.

AN ANGEL DRIVES THE WHIRLWIND

October 8, 2022

In the latter part of the last century, my family lived for over a decade in a serene Garden of Eden called Siesta Key, a sleepy-in-the summertime barrier island off Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida. One full moon night my sunshine-deprived cousin from Portland, Oregon, and I paddled my canoe around the mesmerizing smoky mirror that was Robert’s Bay—our backyard—escorted by friendly dolphins periodically blowing abeam us. My cousin rested his paddle, pondered a moment and said, “You know, if your kids grow up here and never leave, they’ll never know what the real world is like.”

In the wake of recent events that profundity sounds like so much hyperbole. God only provides glimpses of heaven on earth for those who have eyes to see. He also sends wake-up calls, even catastrophic wake-up calls to remind us that this sin-stricken world, for all its magnificent beauty and bounty, is not our abiding place. If God wills the sun could dawn one day on Roberts Bay filled with shattered extravagant playthings and debris from every man-made structure surrounding it, as happened last week in a neighborhood a little further down the Gulf Coast. One fall day in the pleasant interlude between the summer season, when cooked human flesh obscures the sand, and the sky-darkening arrival time of migratory snowbirds, a Sovereign God ordained from all eternity a ruinous Noahic flood and whirlwind of biblical proportions. The day after the whirlwind we watched with wet-eyed sorrow the drone footage of Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach, our wonderful winter playground in our RV days. The islands looked like the work product of my whole squadron of bomb-laden F-100’s. At the risk of sounding like Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz lecturing Job on his ash heap to those now weeping on the ruins of their homes and livelihood, life is all about choices and those choices have consequences. We made the choice for island life for a delightful decade, and faced, with varying degrees of trepidation, the seasonal flee-or-stay decisions, but chose to retire near family in Ohio, and if the Lord wills, we could be awakened in the night to the sound of our house crashing down upon us from an unannounced tornado. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Hobbs said life is nasty, brutish and short, and so it probably appears to many Gulf Coast pagans ruined by hurricane Ian. Holy Writ instructs otherwise, that life indeed has meaning, and the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, even through the hard times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ on the Gulf Coast, I feel your pain in deep soul-searching ways. It was God’s angel that drove that whirlwind as it spun across Florida. Your distraught unbelieving friends ask, “Where was your loving God in all of this?” God has an answer in Job’s profoundly painful lesson in theodicy—the justice of God in human suffering. Having lost his estate and all ten children in a day, he responded to the devastating news, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” And later, in response to a demand by an exasperated wife to curse God and die, he replied, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”

That reply takes an extraordinary measure of God’s grace to say and sincerely mean, and that was just the beginning of Job’s travail. After seventeen unremittingly miserable chapters filled with well-meaning, even flawless logic woundingly applied by three friends, Job still expressed his conviction:

 “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Several chapters later Job’s patience did appear to wear thin. He asked God, in effect, why me? There followed the most sobering reply that any Christian could hear in the midst of suffering. God did not answer the question. Instead he answered out of the whirlwind:

 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38: 4-7)

He asked Job dozens more questions whose answers only God knew. Job got the point. The finite mind of the creature cannot comprehend the infinite wisdom of the Creator. Job replied, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth … I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know…therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job had grown to realize through his horrendous trials that he did not, could not understand the infinitely higher thoughts and ways of God (Isa. 55:8-9) in the titanic spiritual struggle of the ages between God and the devil, “things too wonderful” to wrap his small mind around, but his trust in that Sovereign God who wins in the end was unswerving.  Old Testament Job may not have realized it, but that superhuman trust, that indefatigable faith was a gift from his Sovereign God. Then Job prayed for his inconsiderate trio of sideline theologians and the LORD restored his fortunes and blessed his latter days more than his beginning (Job 42:12).

Pastor Jeramie of Sanibel Community Church, now homeless, isolated from what’s left of his church and seeking refuge on the Southeast Coast of Florida, was talking with some mall shoppers this past week when another listening stranger asked, “Why are you so calm? You’re losing everything and yet you seem so nonchalant.” Pastor thought it an odd perception, as he did not feel that way at all, and replied, “Well, I’m a Christian and I pastor a church…” The man’s face lit up and he interjected, “Of course! You have God. I got it! It all makes sense.” And he walked away smiling.

Oh, merciful God, please grant a similar measure of Job and Jeramie’s trust and peace that passes all understanding to the rest of your suffering Gulf Coast children. Through it all may they grow in faith and every grace and find their all in thee.

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say you are my God. My times are in your hand …” ­(Psalm 31: 14-15a).

 See you in church.

A Sunday School Synopsis

October 2, 2022

NO ONE can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3).
NO ONE can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44).
NO ONE comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
NO ONE takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18).
NO ONE can snatch them [true Christians] out of my hand (John.10:28).
NO ONE will take away your joy (John 16:22b).

The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ own words are six truth declarations by the Son of God that are so simple a child can understand them … and so profound they boggle the most brilliant mind. They all begin with a universal absolute, two simple words that emphasize God’s sovereign grace over every aspect of our salvation. Jesus is saying in his first no one quote that no one can even glimpse ultimate reality until he is given spiritual rebirth. Just like our physical birth, our spiritual rebirth is a miracle initiated by God. Until he acts man neither sees nor seeks God (Romans 3:11). Then and only then does he have eyes to see God’s truth and a heart inclined by the power of the Holy Spirit to accept it on faith. That is the “drawing” that is meant by his second no one saying—“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” We are drawn by the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit working within us to incline our wills to want what he wants for us. “….for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Third, when Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” he was saying that ONLY through faith in the Son and what he has done for us can we know God the Father. Yes, that gets us in trouble in this fallen world, where “tolerance” is used as a cudgel to intimidate believers, but it is God’s truth and we cannot, we must not deny it (Mark 8:38). As Luther said “Peace if possible, but truth at all cost.” A long line of martyrs, beginning with Jesus’ disciples and extending to this very day, have gone to horrible deaths clinging tenaciously to this unshakable truth, and what an eternity they are having.

Fourth, “No one takes my life, but I lay it down of my own accord.” Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, a key part of his plan of salvation for sinners, was designed in the throne room of God before time and the world began. Jesus told Pilate at his trial, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” In the Garden God’s infinite wrath condemned mankind to an eternity in hell because Adam and Eve ruined his heaven on earth by their cosmic treason. But God, out of his infinite love for his creatures made in his own image, sent his Son incarnate to die a horrible death on the cross to redeem his chosen out of that human race. Only a perfect sacrifice—the Son of God himself—could meet the holy perfection required for admittance to heaven. The Son of God suffered the punishment they deserved and the Father credited their account with the Son’s costly payment. Amazing Atonement!

Fifth, having done such a costly thing on your behalf, rest assured that God never changes his mind, never quits mid-plan. Such a blessed soul as a redeemed sinner can never be lost again…ever—“No one can snatch them out of my hand.” Our repentance (our change of ways), our faith, and our blessed assurance are the gifts of a Sovereign God!

Sixth, if you reside secure in the palm of God’s hand, then yours is a joy, a God-given joy that no one can take away, an unshakable certainty, an eternal truth, a solemn promise guaranteed by the highest level of authority. You can be having a terrible no good horrible very bad day, but no one will take away your joy in the Lord. Your salvation is all of God from first to last in every detail. A glorious eternity awaits as a joint heir with the Son of God who died for you and drew you to himself as a brother, an adopted child of the Living God. Joy! What manner of love is this, that we should be called children of God?

… “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

See you in church.

WITNESS

October 1, 2022

Twenty-one years ago my wife and I packed up all our belongings and moved to a modest little gatekeeper’s cottage in the magnificent tree-covered mountains of North Carolina. At age 57 I gave up the rat race to accept a position as resident manager of Ridge Haven, a Presbyterian (PCA) Camp and Conference Center. As my wife and I convoyed northbound from our home in Gulf Coast Florida, she in the family car and I in my pickup truck, both loaded to the gunwales with our belongings, I had an extended conversation with God. My life to that point had been a frantic race for success as the world measures it. I prayed to God that he would enable me to focus my mind and energy on his kingdom from that point on. He had been my co-pilot (in my mind) far too long and I asked him to please take over the controls, I had made a hash of it for long enough. Answered prayer. The Lord’s Mountain Vineyard at Ridge Haven could not have been a better place to start. Within a few years listening to a multitude of great preachers in a heaven on earth environment, I was inspired to write a little book entitled “No One…,” whose message has become the consuming theme of my codgerhood–the gospel story of the Sovereign Creator God of the Universe, the only hope for every human who ever walked this earth, as he gave me the light to see it. The inspiration was all his, the errors are all mine. Some excellent editors at Christian Focus Publications kept me on track, as did a number a number of pastors and theologians listed in the book, for which I am profoundly grateful. Tomorrow I will lead a concluding discussion of the book in my Sunday school class, probably for the last time. I discovered last Sunday that my recall no longer responds well in front of a group. Former slave ship captain turned Anglican priest/hymnwriter John Newton spoke for me in his old age: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.” That is the bottom line of my little book, my life, and the message of my Savior Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!

In the manner of John Newton’s hymn, Amazing Grace:

NO ONE
A gospel hymn
by JD Wetterling

No one perceives Eternal Truths,
The dead don’t comprehend.
Unless by Grace rebirth ensues,
When a hard heart He’ll mend. (John 3:3)

No one comes to Immanuel
Nor does he even try,
Unless there’s wrought a miracle
By Him who dwells on high. (John 6:4)

No one by guile gains Abba’s side,
Of ways there’s only one.
Works righteousness will not abide,
Trust in His Son alone. (John 14:6)

No one cut short Christ’s ministry.
He died by God’s own plan.
He shed His blood upon a tree
To save this sinful man. (John 10:18)

No one for whom the Savior died
Can ever lose His love.
In Christ’s own palm I will abide
Till home in heav’n above. (John 10:28)

No one can steal my great delight,
It’s for eternity.
Tho devil try with all his might,
Christ is my surety. (John 16:22)

“NO ONE…”

September 24, 2022

“There are many truths which swim in the brain, which do not sink into the heart, and those do us no good. Chew the cud!” –Thomas Watson

Our Sunday School Cornerstone Class is going to be chewing the cud on the 6 verses pictured for 2 weeks beginning this Sunday. These verses in the Gospel of John contain six things certain and unshakable that can change your life. They are six sayings for the ages, six profound revelations of God’s truth from the Son of God’s Own lips. They comprise the most important thought that can enter the mind of man–God’s gracious plan of salvation for sinners. An old fool for Christ who wrote a book on these verses is going to lead our discussion.

“God’s grace is the most incredible and insurmountable truth ever to be revealed to the human heart.” — John Bunyan

Please join us at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church, 12060 Lebanon Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45241, Room #104, at 9:30 a.m.

See you in church.

ANCIENT

September 19, 2022

JDW and best-selling author (God is my Copilot) and Double Ace Bob Scott before his P-40 Warhawk in the Georgia Air Museum in 1998. Note the 13 Japanese flags on the fuselage of his airplane, his scorecard back in his Flying Tiger days in World War II. 19 years later in a different part of the Museum, JDW and grandson Erik express their gratitude to F-100 Super Sabre #995 which brought Grandpa safely home a number of times in the Vietnam War. Bob Scott would agree you’re pretty ancient when your stuff starts showing up in museums… but, Oh Lord, it’s been a glorious flight!

” … even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46:4).AN

HOW’S YOUR FAITH?

September 18, 2022

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6).

So how’s your faith? We are saved by grace alone through faith alone so it’s a vitally important question. Moved any mulberry trees lately? A mustard seed is an exceedingly small thing– close to nothing–but Jesus is not here talking about our degree of faith.

Leon Morris explains the point of this passage, “It is not necessary to have great faith; even a small faith is enough, as long as it is faith in the great God.”

That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? But notice the caveat: “as long as it is faith in the great God.”

Is your faith in the One True God as he reveals himself in the Bible, no more and no less? Or is your god a customized version that fits your sinful proclivities or political view, malleable as needed. Is church a social construct for you or are you driven there by the overwhelming conviction there is no place else to go? Is God your co-pilot or is he your pilot?

Around the turn of the century I met Robert Scott, WW II ace and author of the best-selling book and movie of the same name–God is My Co-pilot. I spoke at a fundraiser in his honor at the Georgia Air Museum and he gave me a personal tour to include a walk-around of his P-40 Warhawk, and we swapped autographed books. What a charming, gracious old fighter pilot he was! I did not have the nerve to ask him if he realized it, but I’m sure he knows now that his book title was bad theology. God was and is his Pilot.

What say you, my friend? Is God at the controls of your fragile craft with you obediently riding along, doing as he commands? Or do you go where you want to go and expect him to come along in silence until called upon?

Is Jesus Lord of your life … or Vice Lord? Vice Lord is a perilous supposition.

“As a matter of objective reality, God who made heaven and earth has made Christ the Lord of the universe” (RC Sproul).

“I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6).

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourself…” ( 2 Corinthians 13:5).

See you in church.

ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS

September 11, 2022

For 1500 years after Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Israel repeatedly tried and failed to keep them. In due time the Son of God incarnate came along with his Sermon on the Mount and Israel discovered the bar was even higher–much higher–than they thought. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law [Ten Commandments] or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them … For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17, 20). Then he proceeded to show them just how woefully lacking they were in righteousness.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment …” (Matthew 5:21–22). 

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:27–28).

How many men have you murdered in the last month? How chaste are your eyes? How are you on the eight ways Jesus says you are blessed (Matthew 5:3-11)? Could you by any stretch call your heart pure?

If every hearer (and every reader of these words since), honestly examined himself, the Sermon on the Mount would destroy all illusions of his self-righteousness. It is pride destroying and humbling by God’s design. John MacArthur declared, “Jesus made the required standard of righteousness impossibly high for all who would seek to earn God’s favor on their own.” As Paul told the Romans (3:23), “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” But Jesus also pointed to the solution earlier in his sermon when he said that he came to “fulfill the Law and the Prophets.” In the following three years they would see just exactly how he would do that, living a sinless life, performing spectacular miracles, and culminating with his sacrifice of himself on the cross and his resurrection from death in the place of all his fallen chosen–the Gospel story. Christ’s atonement for sinners on the cross is like divine bail money that sets the prisoners free. Bible translator William Tyndale said it more eloquently: “The Law and the Gospel are two keys. The Law is the key that shutteth up all men under condemnation, and the Gospel is the key which opens the door and lets them out.”

So give up your self-righteousness. You must. Self-righteousness is self-delusion. Job said, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (7:20). Jesus’ told his Parable of the Publican’s Prayer to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (Luke 18:9-14). He said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” delivered from a contrite heart, is the prayer that makes one right with God. If you think your works make you good enough for heaven, there is no better proof that you are not. All you contribute to your salvation is the sin that killed Christ. It is Christ’s perfect righteousness accounted to you that saves your soul. John Calvin said it this way: “We shall never be clothed with the righteousness of Christ except we first know assuredly that we have no righteousness of our own [repentance].” You must have faith in Christ’s righteousness on your behalf, and that faith is also a gift from God. Paul told the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8-9).

The words of an old friend, a brilliant medical professional, 20 years ago, haunt me to this day. At my invitation to come to church with me, he replied, “No thanks, but I’m good enough to get into heaven.” His very own words condemn him to eternal damnation.

The Gospel is the only solution to fallen man’s greatest dilemma. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Are you among the “whosoever”? If you are, who made you to differ from those who are not? It is the Holy Spirit that made you to differ. It’s the Gospel that the Apostle Paul taught tirelessly in his immensely successful ministry. He told the Philippians (2:13), “…it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” and in 3:9, “… not having a righteousness of my own that comes from [perfectly obeying] the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Theologians call that alien righteousness. It is the Gospel–the good news–that allowed him to say, as his death approached, “…now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day…” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). It was not a reward for his extraordinary list of good works in his lifetime, it was his alien righteousness–Christ’s righteousness credited to him through his God-given gift of faith. Paul continues, we are “… justified [made right with God] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24-5). Grace–an unmerited gift! Ain’t that just amazing? The Apostle Paul speaks for me: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (11:33)

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Luke 16:24b).

See you in church.

HOPE

September 4, 2022

If you were a stranger in the crowd walking a dusty road into the first century city of Jerusalem on Passover, on what came to be known as Good Friday, you would come upon the most hopeless looking scene imaginable. On a barren, reeking, rocky knoll beside the road, you would have seen three crosses with naked men, writhing piteously, nailed to them. The blood covered, mutilated-beyond-recognition man on the middle cross was clearly breathing his last. Without hesitation you would have thought the man’s case was hopeless, as did the multitude of witnesses gathered round.

The truth of the matter is that hopeless looking person on the cross was The Messiah, the hope of the world, and you would be witnessing the most important victory in the history of humankind. How so?

Your lifetime on Earth is but a cosmic millisecond, but your soul is eternal, so where it spends the rest of eternity should be of utmost importance to you. There are only two possibilities– heaven or hell. You can achieve the latter by living your own definition of the best life now with no regard for the God who created you or for what comes later. You can gain the former if you can meet heaven’s standards for perfection. The catch there is that perfection– keeping the Ten Commandments perfectly as expounded in The Sermon on the Mount–is not possible in the human realm, even though God expects you to spend your life striving for it. In the Providence of God they serve to point out your sin and the hopelessness of your situation and your desperate need for a savior. Adam and Eve were the culprits in their colossal rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden. An infinitely Holy God condemned them and their progeny, all of mankind, for that egregious treason. That is what infinite wrath looks like, an indication of just how much God hates sin. Every newborn human who draws a breath since then is born in bondage to sin. So where is our hope for eternal heaven?

Our hope lies directly with that hopeless looking scene on Golgotha, when the sinless Son of God, in a staggering manifestation of his infinite love, took on himself the punishment due us for our sins and died a horrible death. Three days later he rose miraculously from the grave, victorious over death. God in his providence planned this atoning sacrifice before the world began. Peter told the assembled crowd on Pentecost, “…Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts 2:23). On that cross God’s infinite wrath towards sin was assuaged by God’s infinite love for his chosen in voluntarily dying in their stead, a perfect sacrifice on their behalf that met heaven’s requirement for perfection. In what might be called the ultimate human irony, God saves sinners from God. All that is left for us to do is to believe this Gospel story and eternal salvation is ours. In John 3:16 Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Belief is the operative word. The gospel message really is that simple, but there is yet another catch. A born sinner cannot and will not believe in God because his will is in bondage to that sin (Romans 3:10-12). His will is not free to choose God–there is no such thing as free will as a solution for depravity. He cannot even see the things of God unless, and only unless God works in him a spiritual rebirth and gives him a new spirit and eyes to see truth. And our Sovereign God takes care of that, too. Just a few sentences before Jesus spoke the words of John 3:16 to Nicodemus, he told him that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3). Spiritual rebirth, like his initial birth, is not something man is capable of doing for himself, but God can. He promised through the prophet, Ezekiel (36:26–27), “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you… ” He told the Philippians (2:13) through the apostle Paul, “…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” and that is to turn from your unbelieving sinful ways–repent–and believe in God and what he’s done for you. In other words, you will repent and believe the Gospel story because God the Holy Spirit in your spiritual rebirth inclined your will to that end–he gave you the want to choose him. The Son’s life for yours on the cross is a gift. Your spiritual rebirth is a gift. The indwelling Holy Spirit that instills repentance and faith in him is the supreme gift. Amazing grace! Are you among that number?

Salvation is all of God. His sovereign hand guides every detail of our sanctifying walk through this life. That is our certain hope, not the pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by hope of the secular vernacular. Scripture makes plain that a believer’s hope is certain. The author of Hebrews calls hope “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (6:18-19). “Christ Jesus [is] our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1). God himself is called the “God of hope” who  fills us with “all joy and peace in believing…” (Romans 15:13).

So do not despair over the scene of gloom in America today, pilgrim. Remember Golgotha. There is security amid the chaos for the children of God. No matter how hopeless your personal situation may seem, no matter how hopelessly broken our God-mocking, sin-ravaged society appears, no matter how hopeless a federal government drowning in debt appears, no matter how hopeless our very freedom may appear, our God is still “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Normal may not be coming back, but Jesus is, and he will gather his remnant that he has preserved throughout the ages. “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…” (Edw. Mote). He is our great hope, and that is a statement, not a wish, so “…be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord” (Psalm 31:24). Lay your head on that soft pillow tonight and rest in the peace that passes all understanding.

  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

See you in church.

OUR GOD REIGNS

August 31, 2022

In the solitude of the dawn I ponder the great questions. They all have the same answer: Our God reigns.


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