One can argue that the crowning creation of man is the computer. As complex as its function is, every computer exchanges and processes information using only the zeros and ones of a binary system. Binary numbers simplify processing as this is the smallest numbering system that can be used. The computer’s CPU only recognizes two states – on-off, yes-no, true-false – from which all of its complex logical and mathematical operations flow. Similarly God’s crowning creation, mankind, as complex as we are, function in essence on a series of binary decisions. Jesus teaches this in Matthew chapter 7 where He describes two roads, two trees and two houses.
Jesus begins by describing entry into the Christian life which occurs by a choice of one of two gates that open onto one of two roads. People must choose between entering through the wide gate onto a road of “whatever pleases you,” and a narrow gate, which leads to an uneasy road of self-denial. These two roads lead to two equal and opposite destinies – the narrow road to life, and the wide road to destruction. The sad truth is that most choose the wide gate and easy way, rather than Christ and the challenging course of a disciple.
We see a binary function even within our own Christian community as Jesus describes two kinds of prophets. Though both kinds look the same outwardly and seem to produce good and even miraculous deeds, there are within our population true and false prophets. Though they look and act like sheep and seem to fit into the fold, they are in fact ravenous wolves sent destroy sheep. Jesus says quite simply that these two types of professing Christians are a product of only two kinds of trees – those that bear good fruit and those that bear bad fruit. So we can judge between the true and false prophet, not by their profession, or how they look, or even by what they do, but by the fruit of the Spirit evident in their lives.
Finally this binary system which separates the church from the world and true Christians from false, works within each of us, as well. Using the analogy of two houses, one built on sand and another built on a rock, Jesus again shows that there are but two ways to live the Christian life. One who hears the word and acts on it, while the other hears the word but does nothing. Once the storms and trials of life hit, again the binary sequence leads to a binary result – a house that stands and a house that falls.
Which road are you on? What kind of fruit are you producing? What foundation are you living on?
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13, ESV
Toward the end of his record of the Gospel, the Apostle John makes his purpose clear: that the hearer may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Some years later, the same apostle would pen a few letters to Christian churches. In the first letter, he gives an equally clear purpose statement: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
The similarity between the Gospel According to John and the First Epistle of John is found in the centering of each book on the person and work of Jesus Christ and a desire to connect Christ’s nature and work to the reception of eternal life in his name. The difference between the two books, while subtle, is found when considering John’s audience and how that audience relates to eternal life; in his Gospel, John writes primarily to an unregenerate audience so they may believe and have eternal life, and in his first epistle, John writes to a regenerate audience so they will know that they have eternal life.
This distinction tells us that it is possible to have eternal life yet struggle with assurance. Such was the case for John’s targeted audience for his first epistle. Many of these believers had given up much to follow Christ. During the short course of their journey, they witnessed apostasy: people whom they thought were fellow believers, with whom they fellowshipped and worshiped, fell away from the faith. To make things worth, some of these apostates were troubling the church, stirring division, and causing doubt. All this led to many questions. Did Christ really come in the flesh? Do we really have eternal life? Is this faith worth dying for?
John, through the Spirit’s inspiration, seeks to answer these questions in his first epistle. For us today, the topic of assurance is vital. We may have the blessing of standing on the shoulders of many who have gone before us to help biblically and systematically hone and unpack the doctrine of assurance, but many believers still wrestle with knowing they have eternal life. This Sunday we begin a new series in 1 John and the hope is that the Lord will strengthen our faith and assure us all that by believing in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life!
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
This week we will pause our exposition in the Sermon of the Mount to consider one single verse, which if we put into regular application, will without question transform all of our human relationships. When there is doubt as to how you ought to treat your family, friends, neighbors or brethren in Christ, the application of this one ‘golden rule’ will guide you into the right and proper action. This rule is not to be mistaken to suggest that we are to treat others well so that they may treat us better in return; but we are to obey this command because such conduct is the goal of the Law and the Prophets.
I could not improve on the words of J.C. Ryle, who writes on this text:
He lays down a general principle for our guidance in all doubtful questions between man and man. We are “to do to others as we would have others do to us.” We are not to deal with others as others deal with us. This is mere selfishness and heathenism. We are to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us. This is real Christianity.
This is a golden rule indeed! It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and over-reaching. It does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points, which in a world like this are continually arising between man and man. It prevents the necessity of laying down endless little rules for our conduct in specific cases. It sweeps the whole debatable ground with one mighty principle. It shows us a balance and measure, by which every one may see at once what is his duty. Is there a thing we would not like our neighbor to do to us? Then let us always remember, that this is the thing we ought not to do to him. Is there a thing we would like him to do to us? Then this is the very thing we ought to do to him. How many intricate questions would be decided at once, if this rule were honestly used!
The Israelites were rescued from their Egyptian oppressors by God’s mighty hand; but as the exodus narrative continues in chapter 14, we again witness the Lord’s judgment and salvation, as for one last time Pharaoh and Egypt come against Israel and her Lord. While chapter 14 is one story, we will look at in two parts – first, chapter 14:1-14 and next time, verses15-31.
The narrative begins with the Lord saying to Moses, ”turn back and encamp facing the sea.” The Israelites were heading northeast when they were instructed to turn around and go south to the sea, thus hemming them in. The Lord’s purpose for this instruction is expressed in verse 4: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”
Meanwhile back in Egypt we learn of Pharaoh’s remorse for letting the Israelites go, as he employs the best of his chariots and men to pursue the Israelites one last time (14:5-9). When the Israelites see the greatest fighting force of their age in pursuit, “they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.” While crying out to God is an appropriate response under such circumstances, we find that their cry is actually a complaint. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (14:10-12). One might marvel over the fact that, after they had been miraculously delivered from their oppressors by the mighty hand of God with such great signs and wonders, their faith would so quickly fail. In reality though, most, if not all of us, would have acted in the very same manner. In fact, we act this way every time we fear life’s trials after having been delivered from the power of sin and death.
Finally Moses gives the Israelites and us what we need to hear: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (14:13-14). The Lord is a mighty warrior who will fight for you, brethren. So fear not! Stand firm! And see the salvation of the Lord for the Lord will fight for you! The Lord will be glorified in the defeat of the Egyptians and Satan, for salvation is of the Lord!
Ask and it shall be given to you … (Mt 7:7)
Previously in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught His disciples how to pray (Mt 6:5-15). In chapter 7 He reminds us once again to petition our Father in prayer. Jesus is in the midst of teaching how to be discerning as to when and whom we should speak or remain silent, when He enjoins His disciples to ask, seek and knock. While the imperatives are three, the command is really an intensified single one – that we seek God our Father for good things, including wisdom and discernment. This ought to be a regular part of our Christian walk as disciples.
People can be reticent when it comes to petitioning God for something. Some see God as too holy or distant to care about their paltry personal needs. Others simply do not believe God answers prayer at all. Still others feel that asking something of God is a lower form of communication when compared to praise and worship. But the teaching of the entire Bible makes it clear that God wants His children to petition Him. Prayer is not dictating to God what He should do, but it is a humble and heartfelt expression of our attitude of dependency and need. Though He is sovereign, God chooses to extend an invitation for us to participate in accomplishing His will in the world through prayer. In so doing He displays both His loving care for us personally as well as our utter dependence upon Him.
This three-fold command to ask, seek, and knock, is short and simple, but what is most magnificent is the manifold response of God our Father to our asking. The main point that Jesus is teaching in this section is that God is a good and gracious Father who readily answers our prayers. Jesus could not make it any easier for us – He promises us a fruitful audience with our omnipotent Father. “Everyone who asks receives” (7:8). Prayer is a privilege reserved for God’s children that unfortunately many neglect. Given this magnificent invitation by the sovereign of all to come to Him and ask for good things, it is incomprehensible that we so regularly turn away in favor or frivolous activities. We carry around burdens; we are anxious; we lose sleep as we mull over our earthly cares; we forfeit our peace; and all the while God promises to give good things to those who ask Him! Isn’t it about time that we believe the promise of God and ask Him? He will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known (Jer 33:3).
The Israelites are finally leaving Egypt. The Lord repeatedly called Pharaoh to, “let my people go,” but it took His judgment in ten devastating plagues upon the Egyptians to bring Pharaoh to the place where he finally submitted to God and let them go (13:17). In our text, as the Israelites march out of Egypt we see three things revealed to us about the Lord.
First, God leads the Israelites (13:17-18). Though there was a quicker route to get to the Promised Land, God led them in another direction for their own good. God knew that they were not ready to inherit the land, so He led the people “by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.” Likewise in our lives, often we want to travel the direct route, and while the final destination may indeed be God’s will for us, we often need to learn as we travel a longer route to get there.
Second, God is faithful to Joseph (13:19). Moses took the bones of Joseph with them as they left Egypt. In this one short verse we learn that God is faithful! He kept His promise as Joseph’s remains went with His people to the Promised Land. He was faithful to Joseph and He will be faithful to you if you are His child.
Third, the Lord goes before his people guiding them day and night. (13:21-22). “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to guide them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” What an awesome display of God’s glory as His people saw a visible manifestation of the Lord in this ‘theophany.’ Moses, when first called, saw a similar theophany in a burning bush. The Lord spoke to Moses through the bush. In our text, this theophany led the Israelites for forty years, in a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night! Many of us today would love to be so clearly guided as we walk through this world. While we may not have a literal glory cloud or pillar of fire to follow, we do have a guide – the blessed Holy Spirit who lives within every believer. We also have the completed Word of God in our Bible that gives clear guidance. Praise the Lord, He still guides His people today!
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10 ESV)
“We now come to the principal part of the chapter. The wise mother of Lemuel had warned her royal son against the seduction of evil women, and its attendant temptations, and given him wholesome rules for government. She now sets before him the full-length portrait of a virtuous woman – that choicest gift, which is emphatically said to be “from the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:14)
“It is an elegant poem of twenty-two verses – like the hundred and nineteenth Psalm, artificially constructed – each verse beginning with one of the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It describes a wife, a mistress, and a mother. All mothers and mistresses should teach the female pupils under their care to read and learn it by heart. The more deeply it is studied – provided only it be practically studied – the more will its beauty be understood and felt. Genuine simple fact without colouring or pretensions commends the character to our warmest interest.
“So rare is this treasure that the challenge is given—‘Who can find a virtuous woman?’ (Compare with Proverbs 20:6) Abraham sent to a distant land for this inestimable blessing for his beloved son. (Gen. 24:3, 4.) Perhaps one reason of the rarity of the gift is, that it is so seldom sought. Too often is the search made for accomplishments, not for virtues; for external and adventitious recommendations, rather than for internal godly worth. The enquiry also implies the value of the gift when found. Even Adam’s portion in innocence was not complete, till his bountiful Father ‘made him a help-meet for him.’ Truly her price is above rubies. No treasure is comparable to her. It is not too much to say with the prince of heathen philosophy ‘If women be good, the half of the commonwealth may be happy where they are.’” ~ Charles Bridges, Proverbs