Saturday, June 3, 2023

Pride Breeds Contention (Proverbs 13:10; 1 Samuel 18)

"By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom" (Prov. 13:10).

The proverb “Pride breeds contention” has been affirmed time and again throughout history. Wars have erupted, families divided, and churches split because people have contended, not for the glory of God, but for their own pride. Many will often try to hide their pride under the cloak of serving God, but as contention mounts around them, their true motivation is often exposed.

Are you quick to defend yourself? Are you more concerned about your honor than peace? Are you jealous of those who are more righteous, more talented, more intelligent than you are? Do you find it difficult to rejoice when others succeed? When they do succeed, are you unable to rest until you have surpassed their accomplishments? What motivates you in your work, or even in your spiritual duties? Is it to be esteemed by men, to emblazon your name on the tablets of history? If you answer yes to any of these questions, pride is at the root; and if it is not dealt with, it will eventually breed contention, not only with others, but in your own heart.

Saul is a prime example. He began his service to the Lord in humility. When others despised him and refused to honor him, he “kept silent.” But as his fame spread and his successes mounted, pride began to fester in his heart. Eventually, he considered his own ambition more important than God’s commands. When Samuel confronted him for his disobedience, he tried to hide his pride under the false pretenses of religion. But God knows the heart, and He stripped Saul of his honor. Then, when David arrived on the scene, Saul despised him. This small shepherd boy grew in stature as Saul decreased. In his vexed and ambition-driven state, Saul lashed out and pursued David. He could not stand the thought of David succeeding him. When the people cried, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” Saul was very angry. He became threatened, and from that point on he kept a “jealous eye on David.”

Instead of humbling himself before the Lord and men, Saul sought to exalt himself. He would have done well to learn Paul’s lesson: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:13).

Read 1 Samuel 10:26–27; 13:11–14; and 20:30–31. How does Saul’s pride breed contention with God and others? How are you like Saul? Do you argue over trivial matters? If so, pride could be the cause. Try to make it through the weekend without defending yourself or getting into an argument—even a little one.

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Call to Humility (Proverbs 16:5; PHIL. 2:1–12)

"Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; though they join forces, none will go unpunished" (Prov. 16:5).

It has often been said that the theology of Scripture is a theology of opposites. We must die so we can live; we must become the least so we can become the greatest. Likewise, those who humble themselves will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be brought low.

God calls us to live as Christ, who humbled Himself and became obedient even to death on a cross. The King of heaven became a suffering servant on earth. He veiled His robes of majesty with the lowly dress of humanity, that He might be exalted above all for the salvation of our souls. He who descended into the depths of the earth has been raised to the highest heavens. He who kneeled to wash the feet of His sinful disciples now sits at the right hand of God the Father. He who was beaten, cursed, scorned, and killed now reigns on high, brandishing the sword of judgment and holding forth the olive branch of peace.

It was not at Christ’s ascension that the Father declared His pleasure in the Son, but it was when He was humbled beneath the waters of baptism. In the same way, God is pleased with us, not when we exalt ourselves, but when we are clothed in humility. God loves the Davids, Jeremiahs, Johns, and Marys of this world—not the Sauls, Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzars, or Herods. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD,” says the proverb. Those who think highly of themselves, who seek after their own gain and exalt themselves even above God Himself will not receive the blessed pronouncement “in him I am well pleased.” They will only hear “away from Me, I never knew you.”

William Gurnall described pride as that which “loves to climb up, not as Zaccheus to see Christ, but to be seen.” The proud imagine themselves to be greater than they are. Like Pharaoh, they scoff at God, asking “Who is the LORD?” It took the crashing waves of the Red Sea for him to discover the answer. Pharaoh’s pride was in his power. But it can also be in beauty, talents, position, even goodness. Whatever the source, all the proud have this in common: they have forgotten that they are but worms striving with their Maker, and they “have nothing which they have not received.”

Give serious thought to your own pride. How does it manifest itself in your life? Ask a trusted friend or spouse if they see ways in which you are prideful. Write those prideful tendencies on a piece of paper and put it in your Bible. Every time you pray or read the Scriptures, ask to be made humble in these areas.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Wedding of the Lamb (Revelation 19)

“The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1–2).

Marriage is the most intimate union between two people. In that relationship, the two are made one: the bride takes the name of her husband; they dwell joyfully with each other. The bride submits to her husband, honoring him and serving him. The husband selflessly loves the wife. While the temporal marriages of this life are a poor image of that heavenly union between Christ and the church, the earthly example provides much insight into what it will be like in heaven. Like the bride on her wedding day, the church will be beautifully arrayed in purity. Like the conjugal union between man and woman, the union of Christ and His church is sealed by a solemn and eternal promise. God has promised to dwell with His people forever—that is their glory and their joy.

Heaven will be an eternal union between Christ and His church. The espousal will be pure and free from the corruptions of sin. Even though we struggle with sin now, one day we will be free from it. Just as the engaged couple yearn for their wedding day, the church longs for that wedding feast in heaven. “Only in heaven does the striving of the ages and the longing of all the saints come to its ultimate fruition,” Gerstner wrote. “Not only are the spots and wrinkles of the bride of Christ herself removed, but the disfiguring presence of those who do not truly belong to her company is removed. Only the bride in all her loveliness is present for the wedding ceremony, which can take place only when she has been made fit for her divine husband. This is manifestly the supreme goal of the church.”

The day described by John in Revelation is the day of Christ’s final triumph over sin and death. It will be a day of feasting, and pomp, and reveling in the presence of the Lord. And unlike the marriages of this life that are separated by death, our marriage with Christ will never end as we enjoy His love and fellowship forever.

How does a bride treat her husband? She keeps herself pure, she serves him, she leaves her family to be with him, she sacrifices her own life for him, she is faithful to him, she listens to him. Continue this list, marking those areas in which you need growth. Take practical steps each day to live as an honorable bride.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Raised in Glory (1 Corinthians 15)

"The body is … sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory" (1 Cor. 15:42–43).

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” God created the world for His glory and for the happiness of His chosen people. Where will this happiness and this manifestation of God’s glory be more realized than in heaven? There the saints will glorify God and enjoy Him, not for a lifetime, not for a moment of bliss, but for eternity. We will untiringly and unceasingly worship and adore God in the company of the heavenly host.

While the concept of eternity is incomprehensible to finite beings, it is not entirely unknown to us—even in our fallen condition. Eternity has been stamped upon our nature. All people are made in the image of God, and while we are not eternal like God is eternal, we are immortal, and we have a sense of the immortality (Eccl. 3:11).

Jonathan Edwards urged his hearers to spend eternity in heaven, to take it by storm, and never to rest until it is a secure inheritance. Like Edwards, every Christian in every age should be urging others to seek the kingdom of heaven instead of foolishly living it up in this world. Human beings are not mortal creatures placed in this world to have fun, or to gut it out, and then to face the inevitable. Death will come, but that is not the end of your existence. Human beings are immortal. Yes, this mortal shell is dying day by day, but our lives are a prelude either to heaven or hell. We will not cease to exist following death, but, if we are redeemed, we will enter a world beyond our greatest expectation.

Heaven will be an eternity filled with purity, happiness, harmony, and loving communion with our eternal Father. In heaven, the souls of the saints will be reunited with glorified bodies, bodies that will be fitted for the uses of a holy and glorified soul. Man is not simply a spirit, but a physical being—and that is how he will exist for an eternity. All the disease, decay, and decadence of this life will drop away at the gates of heaven. There, the saints will be clothed in righteousness in body and soul. In this state, the saints will glorify God. This is the ultimate purpose and destiny awaiting the elect—a destiny that will only be realized in heaven.

Are you afraid of dying? Do you become depressed as you watch your body age, as you face illness and feel the pains of old age? If so, meditate on 1 Corinthians 15. Thank God that one day you will have a glorious body that will live forever. Be encouraged. Live this life confident of the wonderful reality yet to come.

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Purpose of Heaven (John 14)

“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may also be” (John 14:3).

It would not be difficult to understand why someone would reject the idea of hell, but of heaven? Yet arguments against the Christian doctrine of heaven are not uncommon. We see this manifested in existential philosophy, which is prevalent in the arts and literature of today. In the existential scheme, man exists simply to face the hardships of life with courage, to perform his duties despite the odds, to exert his indomitable will in the varied and arduous circumstances of life, and to stare death in the face without fear. The existentialism of Nietzsche and Sarte permeate the works of Camus, Hemingway, and even the sci-fi sagas of Star Trek. Virtue is defined as the ability to overcome struggle, weakness, and even death. They brand as meaningless a life of ease and tranquility, asserting that only in hardship, in duty, does one find purpose and ultimate meaning.

The existentialists of the post-modern era, along with the existentialism of days gone by, reject heaven not only because of their underlying atheism, but because, to them, it represents stagnation. They maintain that a world of bliss and serenity would rip apart the fabric of humanity—after all, they would ask, isn’t our courage to face our imperfections, our ability to own the reality of death, and our acceptance of mortality the building blocks of human existence? For the existentialist, reality, meaning, and purpose culminate in death, not in heaven.

This is where they tragically miss the point. Heaven is not empty of purpose simply because it is free from struggle. The essence of human existence is not facing trial and death with courage. Heaven is not the stagnation of existence but the culmination of existence. It is the very essence of purpose—not the purpose posited by existentialism, but the purpose of God, which is nothing less than glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. Heaven overflows with meaning because there people actively and completely fulfill their greatest purpose—to worship the Lord and to enjoy a love that is “as strong as death” and “burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song 8). In heaven, we will not wander aimlessly on enraptured clouds, but we will find purpose and meaning in Christ, our King and our God, for eternity.

Read 1 Corinthians 7:29–31 and 1 John 2:15–17. What occupies your mind the most throughout the day? Do you think about God, heaven, or spiritual things, or are you preoccupied with earthly concerns? At the beginning of each day, ask God to help you think about spiritual matters and not be consumed by worldliness.