Friday, May 25, 2018

The Hidden Christ

"Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ" (Luke 4:41).

During the past few days, we have studied the King and the kingdom Jesus was announcing. Even though Jesus was concealing His glory during the days of His humanity on earth, His holiness and righteousness were manifest. Because of this, a crisis was provoked in society. No one could be neutral about this King and His kingdom. Today we return to our studies in Luke, and to a consideration of the ways in which Jesus announced His new creation.

The demons knew who Jesus was, and tried to shout to the people that He was the Son of God, but Jesus would not permit it. This introduces us to an important aspect of the gospels, which in New Testament scholarship is sometimes called the “Messianic secret.” There is a sense in which Jesus kept his Messiahship a secret, and only unveiled His identity gradually and in select company.

One of the reasons Jesus kept a low profile at first may have been because He needed to educate the people about the true nature of the Messiah. Many distorted views were circulating in Israel, such as that the Messiah would lead a Jewish army against Rome. Jesus wanted to correct these views before revealing Himself publicly. Another reason probably was to prevent a premature explosion over His presence, because when He did reveal Himself publicly, the people rushed to crucify Him. He needed to postpone the crisis until the stage was fully set.

We see yet another aspect of this in Luke 4:42–43, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’

Celebrities know that the price of fame means they cannot go anywhere without being swamped by people, and this would have interfered with Jesus’ work. Jesus prized a time of privacy with His Father. Do you prize such privacy? Are you reading God's word “on the run,” or have you managed to find a private time and place? It took Jesus some effort to secure times for private communion with God. It may take you some effort also.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Impact of Holiness

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9).

Yesterday we considered the fact that the first petition in the Lord’s prayer is that God’s name be considered holy throughout the world. This fear of God is the first step of wisdom, and of reformation. When God’s name is treated as holy, His kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth. Today we want to consider further the impact of holiness upon the lives of those around us.

A few years ago a champion golfer had an opportunity to play a practice round of golf with the President of the United States and Billy Graham. A man asked him afterwards how it went. The golfer was furious. “I hated it,” he said. “I didn’t need to have Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat for 18 holes of golf.” A few minutes the man came over to him and said, “Well, I guess Billy came on strong.” And the golfer, feeling better by that time, admitted, “Actually, Billy never said a word about religion. I just had a bad day.”

Here was a man who spent some time with Billy Graham, who is one of the most gracious human beings you could ever have met, and Billy Graham did not have to say a word about Christianity, yet this person was feeling uncomfortable. Why is this?

People who are not reconciled to God are uncomfortable in the presence of Christians. This is not because we are holy, but merely because we represent the Holy One. That fact alone makes them nervous.

The most vehement enemies Jesus had during His lifetime were the Pharisees, who specialized in a kind of self-righteousness apart from personal humility before God. He exposed their hypocrisy, and they resented it. The King had come and was announcing the holy kingdom. The holiness of Christ caused men to react for or against Him.

What forces the issue in society? The same thing that forces the issue in our personal lives: confrontation with God. If we want to see a reformation in our time, we must represent Christ, both verbally and by a holy walk. This may lead to persecution, but it is the only way to bring men face to face with God, who alone can transform them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Respecting a Holy God

This is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven …’ ” (Matthew 6:9).

Over the past few days, we have seen how God’s revelation of His glory is also a revelation of His holiness. The godly person knows a real fear when he is face to face with God, and asks pardon and forgiveness for his sins. Such a fear of God is the first step in knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). We have also seen that we can increase our exposure to God by studying His holy law.

Today we will consider how we are to respect this holy God by trusting Him and obeying His commands. There is a specific aspect of this, however, that the New Testament highlights—in the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer opens with an address to God, and then goes into several petitions. Do you recall what the first petition is? “Hallowed be Your name.” Jesus is saying this: “When you get down on your knees to pray, the first thing I want you to pray for is that the name of God be treated as sacred.”

Repeatedly the Bible says of God, “Holy is his name.” We see this in the Ten Commandments, where God says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7). This is one of God’s top 10 laws, and it is part of the constitution God wrote for a national government. It was one of the 10 central social laws in Israel. Once public blasphemy was a civil offense in America. Today, however, we hear the Lord’s name taken in vain continually on television and in movies.

I’m convinced that there is a logical progression in the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If we have a casual attitude toward the name of God, that reveals more deeply than anything our attitude toward the God of the name.

If you have been guilty of using God’s name in a casual fashion, take hold of yourself now and break that habit. If you have grown accustomed to hearing the Lord’s name used lightly in conversation or on television, ask God to restore your sensitivity to such blasphemy. Cultivate a holy revulsion against the abuse of God’s name.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is God Cruel?

"Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit …” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened" (Acts 5:3, 5).

When godly men encounter the holiness of God, they become aware of their sinfulness and cry out for salvation. The primary way we come to see God’s holiness is in His law. Today we want to consider the punishments for sin that are included in God’s law.

In the Mosaic law, which God gave to Israel, we find over 30 offenses for which God commanded the death penalty. Capital punishment could be measured out not only for murder, but also for homosexual acts, adultery, or consulting a fortune teller. Liberal theologians regard these laws as cruel and bloodthirsty, unworthy of the “merciful God” revealed (they say) in the New Testament. 

According to the Bible, though, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. It was the “God of the New Testament” who slew Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him. You see, the problem is not that a holy and righteous God punishes willfully disobedient sinners. The mystery is that such a God can tolerate such cosmic treason on the part of His creatures for generation after generation.

Even though there are some 30 capital punishments in the Old Testament, this is not a sign of God’s severity. Actually, it represents a massive reduction in the number of capital crimes. Remember the rules set forth at the beginning. All sin was viewed as a capital offense, even taking a single bite of the forbidden fruit!

And notice, it was not a threat of eventual death, but God said, “The very day you eat of it you shall die.” This does not mean just spiritual death. It means that you shall die physically the day you sin. It is only of the forbearance and mercy of God that He did not kill Adam and Eve immediately.

Far from being cruel, God is most merciful, acting with a measure of grace even unto those who scorn Him. In Romans 2:4, Paul asks. “Do you show contempt [for God], not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” God has not exacted from us what His justice would demand. In your prayer time today, thank God for His lovingkindness toward you.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Living Coram Deo

"Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance” (Exodus 34:8–9).

Last week we considered the revelation of God’s holy glory to Moses and to Isaiah. Today we need to consider their responses. Notice that when Moses caught a tiny glimpse of God’s glory, he was immediately struck with a sense of his sinfulness and that of the people. He fell to the ground, admitted that he needed God’s favor, and begged God to forgive the sins of the people.

Just so, when God revealed His holy glory to Isaiah, the prophet cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). What stands out here is that the first prophetic oracle pronounced by the prophet is an oracle of woe against himself. When Isaiah saw God in His glory, he saw himself as he really was.

The revelation of God’s holiness, powerfully communicated through His glory, caused these righteous men to feel their utter depravity by comparison. This is the first step in reformation. Almost anyone we meet will readily admit that he does wrong sometimes, that occasionally he sins. Sadly, that does not seem to bother people at all.

There is not one person in a thousand who will claim to be perfect, but there is not one person in a thousand who understands the seriousness of not being perfect. You see, God does not judge us on the curve; rather, the standard is that of God’s perfection. But we are comfortable with our imperfection. We judge ourselves by each other. No matter how ashamed I may be at the sins in my own life, I can always look around and find somebody who is more depraved than I am.

What we need is a vision of God’s holiness and glory, a vision that will bring us back to reality, and start us on the road to true reformation. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and if we would be wise, we must start by saying, “Woe to me!”

Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” When you are before God’s face in prayer, do you perceive His awesome holiness as you should? As your inflated view of self is diminished in His presence, be moved like Isaiah, first to repentance and then to praise.