Saturday, March 26, 2016


“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

      The basis for the exhortation and promise found in this verse hinges on the first word: “therefore”; and the validity of that, hinges on the strength of what came before. In other words, if what came before this final verse in the chapter is not true, the verse is simply high-sounding rhetoric for the purpose of rallying the troops, as it were. If what preceded it is not true, there is absolutely no reason to be steadfast, no incentive to “abound” in the work of the Lord, because all our labor is in vain.

       The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only valid motivation for even acknowledging God, much less serving Him. His miraculous Virgin Birth, His sinless life, and substitutionary death on the Cross, may change the way we live, but only His Resurrection changes the way we die. Verse seventeen says, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; ye are yet in your sins.” What a sobering sentence, clanging like a death knell in our ears. But thanks be to God! the death knell becomes pealing chimes of victory when we get to verse twenty: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus Christ] came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (vv. 20-22).

       Christ’s resurrection is the Christian’s guarantee of life after death. Not an ethereal half-life, but the life He enjoyed those forty days He spent with His disciples after He arose. Mark it down, this life is the only chance we have to take advantage of God’s offer of salvation; but for those who do, God’s Word promises that death will be “swallowed up in victory” (v. 54). Death may close his bony hands around our necks, but we will slip out of his grasp before he has a chance to squeeze!

       Therefore — O, therefore! — because Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin, death and hell, you and I are assured of immortality. We can well afford to be steadfast and unmoveable, absolutely unbounded in our work for God. We have nothing to lose. We can go for broke. Nothing we do for Him now will ever be in vain.

“We are more sure to rise out of our graves than to rise out of our beds.”
Thomas Watson (d. 1686)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Allure of the Forbidden

“Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” Prov. 9:17

         Why is that, do you think? Why are stolen waters sweeter and bread eaten in secret more to be desired? Are we to assume that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was more appetizing than any other fruit there? I don’t think so. Knowing human nature ­– and especially my own – I’ll wager that the fact that it was forbidden by God weighed at least as heavy in her decision as did the promise of wisdom. And I doubt Bathsheba was any more beautiful than any of King David’s wives. Yet the fact that she was “off limits,” in every sense of the word, made her irresistible to him at that point in his life. He should have done with these “stolen waters” as he did with the water from the well in Bethlehem stolen for him by his “three mighty men” (2 Sam. 23: 15-17). He should have poured out his desire as an offering to God.

         But there it is. There is something about being forbidden that makes the sin or any other activity much more inviting. Paul tells us this in Romans 7:7, “…I had not known sin, but by the law…But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence [irregular appetite for unlawful enjoyments].” The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” only confirmed what Cain knew in Genesis four, when he killed his brother and tried to lie to God about it. But Paul admits, by codifying a list of what God considers to be sins against Him, the desire to do said sins became greatly enhanced.

         Now let’s bring this home to where you and I live. Obviously, we all know that the overriding fascination of sin is pleasure (the sowing, not the reaping) (Heb. 11:25), and none of us is immune to pleasure. But what about questionable activities and indulgences that may not be sin, but definitely fall under the category of “weights” (Heb. 12:1)?  Those habits that may not harm our souls but do harm or dishonor the temple of God which houses the soul, “bread eaten in secret,” if you will. To indulge in something you may have heretofore deemed forbidden carries its own degree of pleasure. Either way, blatant sin or broken resolve, it is testimony to our inbred inclination to rebellion against God and/or what is right for us. Oh, how we need to pray as David did, “…cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins…”(Psl. 19:12-13). Beware the allure of the forbidden.

“The power of sin is pleasure; if stolen waters were not sweet, no one would steal them.” – Wm. Arnot

Friday, March 11, 2016

Midnight Melody

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25)

Am I the only one tempted to read this verse and say (to myself, of course), “Why did they sing?” Why not just preach and witness? The praying I can well understand, because there was much to pray about, for sure. They had been stripped of their clothes and repeatedly beaten (v. 22-23). Then they were thrown into the inner bowels of the prison and their feet fastened in stocks (v. 24). And God only knew what they might have to face when the sun came up the next day. If they felt inclined to sing, one might expect to hear some mournful dirge like “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” But, instead, the entire population of that Philippian jail was electrified to hear joyful praise in two-part harmony, probably something attune to “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

Whatever it was, this particular “midnight melody” did several things: It shook the foundation of the prison and opened its doors; it loosed the shackles that bound those two beaten and bleeding men of God; and it saved the life of the jailer as well as the souls of his entire family.

I know the power of singing. I’ve felt its effects in my own life, and I’ve seen it in the lives of others. It still has the power to shake the foundations of the Church, help loosen shackles that threaten to hang onto the child of God, and direct the hearts and minds of the lost to the Gospel story. And I have lived (and sung) long enough to know that the songs that have the greatest impact are the midnight songs. Not the songs that roll off the tongue, but the ones that are wrenched from the heart. Not songs that sing themselves, but ones sung at great cost. Not intoned with pathos, but with passion; not the sound of melancholy…but the ring of victory!

“Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me…” (Psl. 42:8a)