HE HAS, HE IS, HE WILL

“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”
II Corinthians 1:10

It is that time of the year again, when we find ourselves at the conclusion of one year and poised at the threshold of another. This naturally provides a profitable time of reflection. It is a time to look back, to inventory where we are, and to think about the future. As Paul testifies to the Corinthian church, he expresses a steady confidence in God’s deliverance, even in times of intense affliction. The faithful soldier spoke of God’s past deliverance, “Who delivered us,” his present victory, “and doth deliver,” as well as the promise of future victory, “in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”

This commentary provides a great source of encouragement and hope for what lies ahead. Like the apostle, we should be thankful for the victories of the past. God has been good to us and has brought us through many challenging times. Any serious thoughts about the unknowns that lie ahead should include a remembrance of how God has helped us in the past. By His grace, He has saved us, placed us in a caring body of believers, and has
seen us through every trial and helped us grow in times of adversity. There has been grace for every mile of the way. We must pause to offer thanksgiving and praise for His past deliverance.

Presently, our gracious Lord is providing for us and sustaining us in His will. We tend to spend most of our time either looking back or looking forward, but God is our ever-present Redeemer. He revealed Himself to Moses as the I AM. He presently is all that He ever has been or ever will be. Psalm 46:1 describes the Lord as a “very present help.” It is not wise to think of our Savior only in past or futuristic terms, but to trust Him in the present.

Because He has been and remains our sufficiency, we have every reason to be full of optimism about the days that lie ahead. The future truly is as bright as the promises of God. In the Scripture, Paul said, “we trust that he will yet deliver us.” This is a confession of faith based on God’s sure promises and His past and present provisions. These are days for faith-filled living. God’s power is not diminished, nor have His promises been revoked. He can be trusted. As we launch out into the uncharted waters of a New Year, let it be with confidence that He will both guide and provide.

ASK FOR THE OLD PATHS

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”
Jeremiah 6:16

Jeremiah had been faithfully warning his people about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, but they demonstrated no interest in hearing the Word of the Lord. The Lord
instructed them to stand in the ways and see. It was a very practical and understandable command. There were numerous paths or roads to observe, and they represented different directions and destinations. They were to ask for “the good way.” The people needed to choose the way they would follow.

There are many paths available for people to select today. People need to take a serious look at the varied roads and where they will lead. Jeremiah charged them to “ask for the old paths.” God urged His people to ask for the proven paths of righteousness, holiness, and obedience. What a needed message in our day also. Multitudes of professing Christians have no interest in the old paths of godliness. They are choosing newer paths of compromise and spiritual complacency.

The old paths of separation from sin and old-fashioned values are ridiculed, even by those who claim to know the Lord. The old paths are not welcomed because they are not deemed to be as enjoyable or pleasurable. The old paths are not as popular and socially acceptable. But, we are not to choose a path of life because it is fun or crowded, but because it is right.

God tells us to seek the old paths, and walk in them. If indeed the people would walk in the old paths they would “find rest for your souls.” Spiritual rest would be found on the old paths. This is why God commands us to desire and follow the old paths: because it is for our benefit. It is best for us to follow the old and proven paths of holiness and obedience. Those who are determined to trod the modern paths of compromise do so in hopes of securing a more peaceful and prosperous path, but the true way to rest is the old paths. However, knowing that God ordered them to seek out and follow the old paths, the people said, “We will not walk therein.” They refused to obey the Lord and rebelled against His counsel. The sound advice to walk in the old paths is still being ignored by many, but it is the wisest journey to travel.

THE STRAIT GATE

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Matthew 7:13, 14

What does it mean to enter the “strait gate”? This word is different from the word straight, which is the opposite of crooked or curved. The word strait is sometimes defined as “narrow, close, or crowded by obstacles standing close about.” In geography, a strait is “a narrow pass, either in a mountain or in the ocean, between two continents or portions of land.” The “strait gate” and the narrow way are the only way to Heaven. The opposite of the “strait gate” is a wide, broad, and spacious gate and road.

Two things should be noted about these two gates and roads. The Bible makes it clear that the travelers on the broad way are many, while those on the narrow way are few. Also, the broad way leads to destruction while the narrow way leads to life. The “strait gate” and the narrow road are not the easiest and most convenient paths of life. There will always be obstacles and interferences, both from within and from without. Jesus is the only Way to Heaven; He is the “strait gate” and the narrow way. No one can get to the Father unless he goes through Christ. His way is not the easy way, nor is it the popular way. Things will always try to obstruct us from following Jesus. Friends and family may discourage us and our flesh will oppose us. Following Jesus is demanding. It requires self-denial and the surrender of our will.

There are many modern-day proponents of the broad way. They preach an inclusive gospel that allows for many ways to Heaven. These broad-way preachers make light of
our message and accuse us of being narrow. They say that we are out of step with the times. Never be discouraged by those who attack the narrow way. Don’t be disheartened by the crowds on the broad way. The path of least resistance has never been the wisest road to travel. Ours is a road less traveled. It is the road that leads to life, both abundant life and eternal life. The “strait gate” and the narrow way will take us all the way to the streets of glory. The popular and convenient journey of the broad way and the wide gate will end with a bottomless pit. If you are on the right path, cheer up, faithful traveler.

GET THEE BEHIND ME

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Matthew 16:22, 23

In preparing His disciples for His pending death on the cross, Jesus began to inform them specifically of what lay ahead. He would suffer many things, be killed, and then resurrect on the third day. Peter did not accept this news. In his impulsive way, he rebuked Jesus Christ and insisted that this would not be allowed. Jesus then “said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan.” When Peter verbally resisted the path to the cross, our Lord attributed his words to the devil. Then Peter was rebuked for thinking only in terms of the natural, rather than the spiritual.

Many of us can relate to this event in Peter’s life. Sometimes God’s Word or His will conflicts with our desire or opinion of what would be best. Our minds fill with questions, such as, “Why would God let this happen?” or “How can this possibly be God’s will?” We do not always understand God’s will for our lives, or His plan for others. However, we must learn to accept God’s design and resign ourselves to His will. It is never acceptable to assume that we are right and God is wrong. To think so would be very presumptuous and prideful on our part. Like Peter, we sometimes do not comprehend the things of God, but only those that are of men. Satan was using Peter to speak words contrary to the revealed will of the Father. Peter failed to recognize the origin of these thoughts, and then spoke them to Jesus.

The enemy will use any instrument he can to verbalize his rejection of biblical truth. Like Jesus, we need to recognize when the words that are coming to us are actually Satan’s words, though offered through unsuspecting persons. How can we know which words are being used of the enemy? When the words we hear or speak are opposed to God’s revealed will, seeking to detour us from God’s plan, or enticing us to disobey God’s Word and His delegated authority, we can be assured the devil is at work. If Peter could be used to voice an unbiblical message, we know that any of us could do the same. When we recognize that we are believing a lie, we should immediately resist it and embrace the truth.

OUR VOLUNTARY WILL

“If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.”
Leviticus 1:3

The Word of God gives many specific details concerning the laws given to Moses, which governed Israel’s sacrifices and worship. This Scripture has to do with the burnt offering and gives us something to think about in our individual walk and personal worship, the importance of the “voluntary will.” The offering was not to be forced or coerced.

We are thus reminded of the sacrifice pictured in this offering of our Savior. He was a male sacrifice for our sins, and He was without spot or blemish. The offering for our sin had to be sinless. For this reason, our Redeemer had to be divine and not human. No human sacrifice could be sinless. Also, Jesus gave Himself of His “own voluntary will.” He was not forced to die on the cross but laid down His life freely as a sacrifice. He was led as a silent Lamb to the slaughter. His coming to earth from Heaven and His death on the cross were the results of His being willing to be our sacrifice.

We are also reminded in this verse of Scripture of the importance of our “own voluntary will.” No one was forced to offer this sacrifice; it was purely the choice of the individual. So it is in our lives. We as Bible-believing Christians believe in individual soul liberty. A person must personally, by faith, receive Christ as his Savior. It must be a decision of his “own voluntary will.” Others may tell of Christ and urge listeners to respond in repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit can bring conviction and draw that person to Jesus and the cross. But, the decision rests with each individual to receive or reject the Savior.

The same is true concerning our daily living, worship, and service to Christ. God wants us to serve Him, love Him, and live for Him because of our “own voluntary will.” God does not make us robots; serving without desire. He wants us to want to give Him our best because we desire to. He wants us to choose to please Him, worship Him, and love Him, by our “own voluntary will.” It is our decision to live for the Lord. His Word commands us to serve Him, and His Spirit compels us to give our lives for His service. We must personally, by our “own voluntary will,” present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.

COME AND SEE

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”
Luke 2:15, 17

The familiar story of the shepherds continues to inspire us in many ways. The angel announced to them the birth of the Savior, and suddenly a multitude of angels burst into praise. After the angels disappeared, the shepherds decided to go and see this thing which had occurred in Bethlehem. They personally investigated and witnessed this great miracle.

This is the privilege and responsibility that we each have: to personally come to Jesus, and to see Him for ourselves. Before a person can be saved, he must come to the truth about Him, learning who Jesus is and what He came to do. Like the Queen of Sheba who heard reports of the greatness of Solomon’s kingdom, but had to see for herself, we must come with open hearts and minds to the Son of God. Having seen Him as He is revealed in the Scripture, we then come to Him in dependence, trusting in Him completely for our salvation. But, that is not the end of our coming to Him. For the rest of our lives, we continue to come to Him: learning of Him, loving Him, and leaning on Him.

The Creator of the universes became the Baby in the manger and went to the cross of Calvary to become our sufficiency. Come and see. If you have never seen Him as God incarnate, come and see. If you have never seen Him as your personal Redeemer, come and see. If you have never seen Him as the Friend of sinners, come and see. If you have never known Him as the Shepherd who leads and feeds His sheep, come and see.

After the shepherds visited the place where Jesus lay, they began to broadcast those things that they had been told. We also have a story to tell. We know who Jesus is and what He came to do. We know what He has done in our lives. There is a world around us that desperately needs to hear. We can tell them, just like the angels told the shepherds; but they must come and see for themselves. This is a great season to come and see our great Savior, meditating on all He is and came to do, and telling others that they might also come and see.

RECEIVING THE GIFT

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
John 1:12

The real message of Christmas makes this a special time of year. When I was a child, like most children, I greatly anticipated and enjoyed the Christmas season. However, I genuinely believe I enjoy the holiday even more with each passing year. In a concentrated way, we celebrate the birth of Christ and the giving of the greatest gift, when God gave His only Son.

A gift has not fulfilled its purpose until it has been received. When our Lord walked upon this earth, not everyone received Him. John 1:11 tells us, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Many rejected Jesus Christ. They rejected God’s greatest gift to man and His provision of salvation. The world that He created did not recognize Him. They did not know or appreciate Him, and thus did not receive Him. This sadly remains true today. Many people do not know who Jesus really is, and others refuse to receive Him as their Savior and Lord. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

Have you received Christ as your Savior? He came to this planet that He might give His perfect life as a sacrifice for our sins. God gave us His only Son. He wants to give us eternal life and forgiveness of sin. We all are guilty sinners. It is our sin that separates us from Holy God. We cannot save ourselves. When we repent to God of our wickedness, and by faith receive Christ as our Savior, He promises to save us. He gives us the privilege of becoming one of His children, and membership into His family. It is His gift, but we must receive Him. If you have never received Him, by faith receive Him today.

For those of us who have received Him, we know the blessings of being in Christ. God continues to give us grace, peace, strength, and purpose for all the days of our lives. As His children, we are the recipients of His abundant provision. We only receive Christ and His gift of salvation once; but day by day, we receive the gift of His sufficiency. God is our Father and our great Provider. We need His mercy and power each and every day. There is no limit to His resources that are available to those who receive Him. We can never earn God’s blessings; but by faith, we receive His benefits every day.

THE WORD MADE FLESH

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

This is a wonderful time of the year for those who understand the greater significance of the holiday message. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is not important. We do not worship a day, nor even a tradition, but a Person – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not wrong to celebrate the fact that God became a man; our Savior was born of a virgin. We rejoice that the “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The incarnation, as God robed Himself in human flesh, is one of the most glorious and absolute essential of Bible doctrines.

From this wonderful truth, we are able to appreciate many other aspects of God’s greatness. The faithfulness of God is seen in the birth of Christ. The Old Testament prophesied many times that a Messiah would come. Isaiah said that He would be born of a virgin and that His name would be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” God kept His promise; and when the fullness of time had come, He sent forth His Son. God is faithful and His Word can be trusted.

The love of God is also seen in the incarnation. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to become the sacrifice for our sins. The love of Jesus caused Him to leave the glories of Heaven to become our Savior. We should never doubt God’s love for us, for it is clearly seen in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The condescension of God is also made clear in the Word being made flesh. This is the nature of God. He created us to fellowship with Him. When our sins prohibited us from rising to where He is, He came to us. Jesus humbled Himself and became a man that He might redeem sinful men. He took upon Himself the form of a servant and was obedient unto the death of the cross.

The virgin birth also speaks of the completeness of salvation. Sinful man could never provide a sinless sacrifice for our lost souls. The sacrifice had to be both sinless and eternal. The best of men could never qualify. God Himself became the sacrifice. Since the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was sinless and eternal, we can receive forgiveness of sin and everlasting life. What a wonderful truth it is, that God would come and dwell among us, allowing us to behold His glory, and to know Him as Savior.

REMEMBERING

“That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.”
Joshua 4:6, 7

God knows how easily we tend to forget things, even matters of vital importance. Sometimes we forget the things God has done for us or the commitments we have made to God. God established certain reminders to help His people remember. The Passover was an annual remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt just as the Lord’s Supper reminds us of what the cross means to our lives. The Lord instructed Joshua to take twelve large stones from the bed of the River Jordan and use them to erect a memorial Parents would use this object lesson in future generations to tell their children the story of how God cut off the waters of the river and allowed His people to cross over on dry ground.

We need to remember how good God has been to us. Just as the Lord delivered His people from their Egyptian bondage and then eventually parted the waters of Jordan for
them to occupy Canaan, He has made a way for us. From time to time, we need to remember where God delivered us from and where He is taking us. It is good for our
children to know that God has brought us to where we are now. It becomes easier to forget with every passing generation. Joshua’s generation could never forget the miracle of crossing the Jordan River, but their children or grandchildren might not have remembered. So it is in our lives.

An example of this can be seen in our nation’s heritage. Younger generations have been restricted from hearing about the Christian heritage of our country. Many of the landmarks that serve to memorialize these facts have been and are being removed. Fewer believers seem to be aware of the great heritage we have as Baptists. As generations come and go, history is muddled; and people forget how faithful God has been to the often despised, but faithful, followers. Churches forget the miracles of God’s grace previous generations have experienced. It is good for us to remember God’s grace that brought us to this place.

FAITH FINDS A WAY

“And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”
Mark 2:3, 4

These four individuals had a worthy goal; they wanted to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. As it was, he had to be carried on some sort of a stretcher. When they got him to the house where Jesus was preaching, they were unable to enter. There was such a crowd that it was not possible to get the needy man near the Savior. Confronted with their difficulty, they had to make a decision. They could go home and be content to say, “We did not succeed, but the important thing is that we tried.” Another option would be to press ahead in the face of obstacles, believing that if God brought them this far, He would surely help them complete the task. They chose the latter. Removing the roof to gain entrance into the house, they lowered the bed into the room where Jesus was. Their faith and determination were rewarded in a remarkable way, for the man was healed of his condition and forgiven of his sins. Their faith found a way to get their need to the Son of God.

Some have the notion that faith is invisible and passive, but that is not entirely true. Genuine faith is active; where it is present, there will be evidence. Later in this account, the Bible says, “Jesus saw their faith” (Mark 2:5). The effect of real faith will be seen. Peter’s faith caused him to step out of the boat. Abraham’s faith moved him to the land of promise. Moses’ faith led him back to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh release God’s people. Noah’s faith resulted in the construction of an ark.

Faith, however, can face obstacles. When we set out by faith to do what we believe God would have us do, it is not uncommon for us to face disappointing resistance. This does not mean that we should become discouraged and quit. Sometimes our faith is being tested. What a tragedy it would have been if these four had turned back when their mission became more difficult. Faith must persist when confronted with hardship. Faith will find a way. This man’s life was changed miraculously and eternally because of the persistence of their faith. When confronted with adversity, our faith can find a way to succeed.