It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). The psalmist David had felt the deep pain of real affliction, and through it he had come to know God better, through his Word. The cost of coming to know God better was his own comfort, but David says it was worth it, it was good. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God holds himself up as the treasure of the universe, of surpassing value.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). In less than ten words the psalmist David expresses the great confidence and sweet security of every believer: first, that Yahweh alone is Lord; second, that he guides and provides for those who put their trust in him; and, finally, that those who are thus cared for shall not want for any good thing.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nothing could be more purely practical than this passage, this claim by Jesus! Yes, it is a theological claim, but it should be far more than another point of orthodoxy for us as Christians.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you … your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica, commends them for their “acoustics.” The message they had received was being reverberated throughout their community, and beyond.
Greet one another with a holy kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20). Before we titter nervously like preteen school boys at Paul’s exhortation to kiss, consider this: a kiss in New Testament times was used as a warm greeting between those of the same sex. Many countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East still kiss on the cheek or on the forehead as a part of greeting one another affectionately. How is this exhortation still relevant to us today, in America?
Your righteousness is like the mountains… (Psalm 36:3) My family and I traveled to Denver, Colorado some time ago for a series of preaching appointments. During our stay, our generous host took us around to see some of the nearby sites, including several parts of the majestic Rocky Mountains. There is something all at once breathtaking, terrifying, and exhilarating about the mountains.
Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). What do you need right now? What would make you genuinely, blissfully, permanently happy if you just had it right now? Ultimately, the answers to that question fall into one of just two categories: either “gain is godliness” or “godliness is gain.”
In John 10:16 Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” When you hear these words, what is your gut reaction? Are you offended that Jesus is just as concerned about homeless people and third-world gorilla fighters as he is about you? Or do you feel unconcerned for “other” people, because they’re totally different than you, although Jesus loves them also?
I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth to correct their problems, confesses that he himself has to be careful to avoid sin. In fact Paul intimates he goes to great lengths — disciplining his body, keeping himself under control — to avoid the pitfalls of willful sin. But why? Did Paul not believe in the perseverance of the saints, or in the eternal security of believers?
Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Clearly conflict is to be part of our Christian life — but conflict with whom or what? We will search the Scriptures in vain for the idea that the conflict is supposed to be with other genuine Christians. It is a conflict with sin, with Satan, and with false doctrine that undermines the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me (Psalm 101:3). There is, according to God’s Word, a kind of healthy hatred — a hatred for sin and its ravaging effects. As I was contemplating this reality recently, I thought of at least four ways in which a healthy hatred for sin should evidence itself in the sanctified life:
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30). Here Paul lays out the Ordo salutis, the order of salvation. He describes for us the consecutive steps by which God accomplishes the work of redemption in each person’s life.
This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (1 Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul, writing to two groups in the Corinthian church who were split over what to do with idol-food, interestingly does not at first even mention idol-food. Instead he talks about “knowledge” and “love” and how they must relate to one another.
“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples“ (Matthew 28:8). This is Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, and the women who encountered an angel at the empty tomb. How true to obvious human experience this is! These disciples witness the empty tomb of Jesus and the angelic announcement of his resurrection – and so they, in great awe and joy, run to to bring the good news to others. The empty tomb occasions a full heart, overflowing with joyful, evangelistic zeal.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). After dedicating an entire chapter to the subject of the resurrection, Paul concludes with this word: “Therefore.” Based on the abundant proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and based on the truth that Christ is the firstfruits of what all believers will experience through him, and based on the fact that we shall all be changed from perishable to imperishable – therefore, beloved, be steadfast!