Hope is that God-given grace of expectancy. It looks for the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ (Col. 1:27; Gal. 5:5). It not only comforts and supports us in the troubles and disappointments and afflictions of this life, it also does something for us when we enjoy ease and abundance in this life: it detaches our affections to things in this world and sets our affections on things above, attaching our affections to Christ (Col. 3:1-5; Rom. 8:25).
I am sure I am not alone when I say that the pain of my sins is often a burden too heavy for me to bear (Psa. 38:4). To everyone so burdened, the glad tidings of God from Christ Jesus our Lord is the sweetest news ever heard. “Her sins which were many are forgiven” (Luke 7:47). She was a woman with many sins. Her sins were many! Yet Christ forgave all of her many sins! Christ not only forgives many sins, but He forgives great sins. “For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it [is] great” (Psa. 25:11). I cannot rest unless I know God has forgiven all my sins for this very reason: because my sins are many and so greatly evil!
On the day of atonement, the high priest, by Himself, did all the work required by God to make atonement for the sins of the children of Israel. While the high priest did this work, the people were outside of the tabernacle. There was no man with him when he went in to make atonement until he came out and had made atonement (Lev. 16:17).
When the people of Israel saw God’s answer to Elijah’s prayer; when they saw His answer of fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice with the wood and the altar and the stones and the water that Elijah poured upon it all, they cried, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God.” They worshipped Baal. They were idolatrous sinners. But by God’s answer of fire, they were jolted from the deception of idolatry to the truth of God. They were immediately convinced that “the LORD [Jehovah] is the God.” Sadly, most of them were convinced only that the LORD was the God. Unlike Thomas, they did not know Him as “my God.”
“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Cor. 12:15).
King Ahab hated Micaiah because Micaiah only told him the truth about God's will and the truth about God's judgments against him. Micaiah did not prophesy good concerning Ahab, but evil. Micaiah only said what God said, no matter what it cost him. I have always greatly admired Micaiah for that. May the Lord enable us at all times to speak the truth in love, and not be afraid to speak the truth though men hate to hear it (Eph. 5:14).
Like Ahab, by nature, we hate God and hate the Son of God. This is the greatest of all crimes. Paul said, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:23). “Anathema” means to be cursed of God. Maranatha means "our Lord will come." Paul is saying that all who hate Christ will be cursed of God at Christ's coming. Hatred in the heart is murder in the heart (1 John 3:15). God’s assessment of humanity is that they are “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30). To fail to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength is to fail to keep all of His commandments (James 2:10). And who among us can claim to have ever loved God with all that we are?
The fact is, unless we are born of God, we only hate God. “We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). But when we are born of God, the Spirit of God in us gives us grace to believe Christ. By this grace of faith, we no longer hate Him, but rather, we see that Christ is altogether lovely, and so love Him (Song 5:16). Who wouldn’t love Him?! He is good in all His ways. He is full of compassion. He gave Himself to God for those that hated Him to save them by His grace and faithful obedience in His death. And yet, it is not our love for Christ that removes God's curse. It is Christ's sacrifice of Himself to God for us (Gal. 3:13). Our love for Him is but the fruit of His love to us.
Believing Christ is to believe the love God has for us in Christ. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (1 John 4:16). “The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20; Jer. 31:3). Thus, the Spirit of Christ in us makes this love known to us through His gift of faith. By faith we see and are persuaded that we are all God says we are as sinners. And by faith we also see and are persuaded that Christ is all to God for us, and that He is all from God to us, as God says that He is (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:9-10; 3:11).
The world and every natural man only hates God and hates God’s Son. But believers are born of God and therefore love God because they have known God’s love to them in Christ. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). If we have been forgiven much, we know it is owing to God’s great love of mercy and grace. We therefore love much (Luke 7:47). The converse is necessarily true. If we love little, we have been forgiven little. If we have been forgiven only a little, we have not been forgiven enough, because we have sinned greatly and sinned much. May the Lord Himself dwell in us by His Spirit that we may have grace to receive His testimony against ourselves and know that our sin is great, and receive His testimony of Christ that we may know our Savior is greater than our sin because of His great love wherewith He loved us (Psa. 25:11; Heb. 1:3; 9:24-28; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:16-21)!
The one thing that has struck me above all else while reading the life of Joseph (Gen. chapter 37; Gen. 39:1-50:21) is how Joseph did only good, only loved and obeyed his father, and loved and saved his brethren, though they only hated and envied him. They hated Joseph so much that they could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to their own brother, and conspired against him to kill him (Gen. 37:4, 11, 18). This is the sad, sad picture of our natural heart (Rom. 8:7)! Yet on his part, Joseph loved his brethren, and took great joy in knowing that God sent him to save them through his humiliation and sufferings at their wicked hands. So it was with Christ, our heavenly Joseph (Acts 2:23; 4:28; Gen. 50:20). I believe that Joseph, by the Spirit of God, understood in his sufferings that the dreams God gave him of his exaltation and honor and rule over his brethren, and mistreatment at their hands, all pointed to our heavenly Joseph, the Lord Jesus Christ (Psa. 40:6-8; John 5:46; 1 Pet. 1:11; Matt. 26:54).
When we see Christ through Joseph, we see the radiance of Christ’s goodness and His perfections reflecting from one vantage point to another, as a diamond reflecting light. We see all of these angles of reflection reinforcing the same grand, endearing and glorious truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: He saved His people from their sins, even His people who hated Him in their heart, and whose hands killed Him. All that Christ said and all that He did and all that He suffered and when He laid His life down in His death; and then all that He did and said after He rose again, is all because He loved those God gave Him before the foundation of the world, and for whom He gave Himself to God in sacrifice in righteousness. He "loved righteousness and hated iniquity" (Heb. 1:9). Therefore, God His Father "anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows" (Heb. 1:8-9). He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, His Father highly exalted Him (Php. 2:5-11). He tasted death for every son. Therefore, His Father crowned Him with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9). And His exaltation and rule over all things is by the eternal love and compassion of His heart to His sinful people, who by all they were by nature, hated Him, but are now saved by His obedience and sufferings for them in love, and therefore love Him.
As Joseph knew his brethren, Christ knew us. As Joseph pitied his deceitful, hateful, envying brethren, Christ pitied us. As Joseph comforted his brethren, Christ comforts us when by His grace we see the evil of our nature and our sins against Him. Like Joseph’s brethren, all that we thought, said and did, we meant for evil. But The Lord Jesus Christ meant all that He thought, said and did for our eternal good. He bore all that we were and all that we did, at full, personal cost to Himself. Can anyone so seeing Christ not love Him?! Is not this, therefore, the greatest crime and evidence of wickedness, that we would fail to love the Son of God? Surely, that is why Paul pronounces "Anathema" upon all who do not love Him. Knowing this makes me so ashamed of my unbelief and sin, which are the result of my paltry love for Christ.
May the Lord our God and Savior, deliver us from the spirit that was in Ahab, to hate the Son of God, the Prophet of the LORD (Acts 7:37; Heb. 1:1-2). The first lesson Joseph’s ten brothers learned, and that we must learn, is that they were great sinners. The second lesson we must learn, by the life-giving grace of the Spirit of God, is that Christ is all-glorious in His salvation. He is our only and all-sufficient Savior because for His great love, by Himself, He answered God with Himself for us, in our place, instead of us. In so doing, He saved us from our sins. And because of His unceasing love, will yet save us to the uttermost (Psa. 21:1-6; Matt. 1:21; Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:9-10; Heb. 7:25).
One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the pundits of this world is that “none saith, Where is God my maker?” Sin has ravaged the heart of man and this present world. Deceit, confusion, sorrow, sickness, distress, anxiety and fear abound. Men assert their rights. They demand their entitlements. They defend their self-righteousness by trying to shame all who decry their shameful ways. The wisest among men and all religions of the world start and end with man. “But none saith, Where is God my maker?!” Man’s misery is great. Yet men look to men to solve the problem. Wickedness abounds. Mothers murder their unborn babies. Children do not fear God nor obey their parents. Politicians practice deceit. Man’s own heart deceives him. He is a victim in his own mind. He innately believes and is told by the great deceiver that he deserves better. Injustice is measured by its effects on man. Whoever and whatever promises to alleviate man’s temporal problems is worshipped. Thus, men worship the "saviors" of their own making. “But none saith, Where is God my maker?” The great missing element is the life of God in the soul of man. The great missing purpose of all that we were made to be and do is to the praise and worship of the LORD our Maker (Psa. 95:6). My Maker must be my Redeemer (Isa. 54:5). He must occupy the throne of my heart and the worship of my life (Rom. 12:1-2; John 4:21-24). His person and will and work and word and promises must be the love and desire and confidence and trust and hope of my heart.
May we ever lift our eyes to God our Maker. May we see that He alone has become our Savior. May we worship Him alone. May this passing world appear to us in its true light, that it was brought forth and will be brought to its conclusion by the good will of our holy and great God, our Savior, for the salvation of His people and for His great glory (Matt. 6:9-13; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:2-3, 8-12). He is Christ the Lord, the Son of God. We can only know God the Father in and by Him (John 14:6-9).
“1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
The motivation for living on earth as citizens of heaven is the sight we now have of Christ and what we are in Him (Php. 3:20-21). Is Christ risen from the dead? Most assuredly yes. Is He seated at the right hand of God? Without a doubt. If He is thus risen and thus exalted in the seat of highest honor with all authority and power, what does it mean to us who believe? It means we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God! It means that when Christ appears in the clouds, coming in the glory of His Father, that we shall also then appear with Him in glory.
But with me you may ask that seemingly ever-resurfacing question, “If all for whom Christ died are justified from all things (Rom. 8:34; Acts 13:39), and all for whom He lived in fulfillment of God’s holy law are everlastingly righteous before God in His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30), and all whose names He bore on His breast and now mentions to His Father must be saved to the uttermost (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 7:25), then how do I know if Christ died for me, if I am risen with Christ?”
I often struggle with this question. And I know (by experience) that all such concerns tend to naturally gravitate towards deeper self-reflection. If I am His, what will it look like? Thus questioning, tremblingly, we begin to examine our thoughts and motives and words and actions. We look back in time and to our present frame of mind to our utter shame and horror. But God’s word always assures us that in believing Christ, we now possess all that is Christ’s (John 5:24-25; Rom. 8:1-4; 1 John 5:5-13). “You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Okay. If I am Christ’s, then I died when He died. And if I am Christ’s, then I rose when He rose: “If you then be risen with Christ…” If I am Christ’s, my life is hid with Christ in God. His history is my history. His sin payment is my redemption. His obedience is my righteousness. His life is my life. His present place of acceptance and glory is my place of acceptance and glory, for my life is hid with Christ in God. If I am His, then all that is mine must be His, and all that is His has been given to Him in reward of His sacrifice in obedience to God, not for Himself, but for His people. It is thus to Christ and to God’s testimony of Him that I am directed from the word of God.
As Potiphar put all that he had into Joseph’s hand (Gen. 39:4), and as the keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was his because all that was his was under Joseph’s hand (Gen. 39:23), so we, as sinners, having nothing in ourselves, look away from our nothingness, and abandon all vain thoughts of finding something in ourselves someday that will give us peace, and look away to Christ on His throne. He is exalted because He succeeded. He rose because He answered in satisfaction to God in His justice and in honor of His law by His obedience and sufferings and death (Rom. 4:25). As we look by faith, we see. There Christ my life is! There Christ my righteousness is! There Christ the satisfaction for my sins is! There Christ is, my complete and perfect Answer to God in judgment for everlasting ages! All struggles cease. All questions are answered. All unrest is put to rest. All anxious thoughts are quieted when we thus look, not to anything that is our own, but only to Christ and what is His, because God has put all into His hand and received all from Him that He requires of me (1 Cor. 15:17, 20). The eternal will of God has prospered in His hand (Isa. 53:10; Heb. 10:1-23). By the grace of God, by the operation of His Spirit (Col. 2:12), I therefore now come in my heart and conscience and affections to the throne of God by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19-23). If I perish here, I will forever perish, because there is salvation in none other. But no sinner ever perished thus believing Christ. If we believe Christ, the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. We have the witness of Christ in us (1 John 5:5-13). If we have the Son, we have life. Christ is our life. He is that eternal life. And our life is hid with Him in God. Nothing can molest or disturb that soul who is in Christ in God!
May we ever have grace from God to stand still, to cease striving, and see the salvation of the LORD (Ex. 14:13; 2 Chr. 20:17). Christ is enough. He is all (Col. 3:11). If your heart says, “If Christ offered Himself; if He fulfilled all righteousness; if He advocates now as my Surety, is anything else needed? No! God has raised and exalted His Son because He triumphed over sin and death and every foe!” All who thus see and abandon all that is theirs to have all that God has given sinners in Christ, all given that grace of faith, are complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10).
Our sin is transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). All sin is therefore against God (Psa. 51:4; Luke 15:18). But this burning conviction is turned to the most astounding truth when we consider who saved us and how He saved us!
It was God the Father who purposed to make reconciliation with sinners who made themselves His enemies (2 Cor. 5:18-21). It was His eternal purpose and will, a will established before time, and which He brought to pass unimpeded by all the opposition of hell and men (Eph. 3:11; Heb. 10:1-18; Acts 2:23; 4:28). It was the Father who offered His Son (Gen. 22:2-8; John 3:16; Rom. 5:9-10; 8:32; Heb. 2:10; 1 John 4:9-10). It was God the Son who offered Himself (Col. 1:20-22; Heb. 7:27; 9:14, 25-26, 28; John 10:11, 15, 17). It was the Father who assessed Christ’s offering and said it was very good (Isa. 52:7; Eph. 5:2): Christ’s offering of Himself was to God a sweetsmelling savor; He satisfied the Father’s justice; He was the propitiatory sacrifice (Lev. 1:9; Eph. 5:2; Lev. 16:30; Isa. 53:11; Rom. 3:24-25; Heb. 1:3; 2:17; 8:1; 10:12; 1 John 2:1). It was God who was appeased (Psa. 85:10; Isa. 12:1-3; 54:8; Rom. 5:9-10). It was God who forgave all the sins of all His people by the once-for-all offering of Christ who obtained full remission of our sins from God, so that God will not remember our sins any more (Heb. 10:14-18). It was God who reconciled offending sinners to Himself by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:20-22). It was God who justified His elect (Rom. 4:25; 8:33). It was God who, by eternal election and the blood of Christ forever sanctified His people (Jude 1:1; Heb. 10:10; 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:30). It was God who because of Christ’s answer to His holy law subdued all enemies under His feet and ours (Gen. 3:15; Luke 10:18; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8; Rev. 12:1-11). It is God who has now sent His ambassadors to proclaim to sinners the glad tidings of reconciliation by the blood and righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-21). And it is God who sends His Spirit in power to make dead sinners alive in the preaching of this good news, the Gospel of Christ (John 6:63; Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-7; Rom. 6:17)!
Now, consider in all of this: what part did you or I play? Our only part was our sin against God. We offended the Lord of heaven and earth by all the thoughts of our evil hearts, by all the words of our mouth and by all of the works done in our bodies! Our only part in the history of our redemption is our sin. It was God who saw His offended justice, our self-destruction and woe (Gen. 22:8). It was God who purposed (Eph. 3:11), God who provided, God who delivered up His Son and Christ who offered up Himself, God who assessed His offering, God who accepted His sacrifice (Ex. 12:13; Isa. 53:11; Eph. 1:19-20), and God who accepted all for whom Christ offered Himself (Heb. 1:3; 9:12; Rom. 4:25). And it is God who is known and seen in Christ crucified. It is God who has blessed all those for whom Christ offered Himself (Rom. 8:32; Acts 2:39; 3:26; 5:31; 13:48).
Christ came into the world to reveal His Father by His successful, sin-atoning death over death and the kingdom of satan. The Spirit of God was sent to reveal Christ and His triumphs to His elect. Can you see that the good news of the Gospel depends only on God in Christ? Can you see that it contains no part of what you or I are, or what you or I have done or shall yet do? Can you see that it is entirely outside of your own personal history and experience and all of your contributions? Can you see that what you contributed to the good news of the Gospel is only the bad part? Can you see that if you do anything but look upon Christ with God-given eyes to behold the Lamb of God, that you make the Gospel bad news, because anything that depends in any way on me or you can only be bad news (Gen. 6:5; Isa. 64:6; Jer. 17:9-10; Mark 7:21-23; Matt. 19:17)?
The Gospel is declared by heaven-sent messengers enabled by the Spirit of God to tell the message of who Jesus is, what He has done and how what He did achieved eternal salvation by God’s eternal will for God’s elect according to scripture. Therefore, if the messenger who speaks to you is sent of God, he will tell you only the Gospel that God has testified of His Son (Matt. 1:21, 23, 68-75; Luke 2:11, 30; Acts 5:42; 1 Cor. 1:17-2:2; Heb. 1:1-3; Gal. 1:8-9; 1 John 5:9-13; Acts 20:27-28). The message of the Gospel contains no part of our experience, no part of our will, no part of our works, no part of our knowledge, no part of our strength. It is good news in the face and in spite of all that you and I are as a ruined, helpless sinners. In fact, it contains no part of our own personal history. The Gospel was designed before time, fulfilled before our birth and is declared in power by the Spirit of God to operate on dead men (Rev. 14:6; John 17:4; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; Eph. 2:1-10)!
The One, who as our Surety before the world began, pledged Himself in the full intelligence of what we were, to answer all charges with Himself for that He knew we would do against God by our transgression (Gen. 43:8-9; Heb. 7:22); the One in whose heart the will of God burned from all eternity (Psa. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-18), who did that will and finished that work (Ex. 21:2-6; Isa. 53; Luke 2:49; John 4:34; 5:36; 6:38; 8:37; 17:4; Php. 2:8; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12); that One has spoken from heaven in command to sinners everywhere, “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Ex. 14:13; 2 Chr. 20:12, 17; Isa. 45:22; John 1:29; 3:14-15; Heb. 12:2). His Gospel is the rod of His strength (Psa. 110:2). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). It is the everlasting, unalterable, perfectly completed Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Rev. 14:6)!
O, sinner, look away from all you are not, and abandon all that you think you are, to find your all before God in Christ alone, whose accomplishments on the cross by His death, burial and resurrection, and by His ascension and exaltation to the throne of His Father’s right hand, is either all of our salvation, or we cannot be saved (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Sam. 23:5)!
Pastor Rick Warta