Thursday, January 27, 2022

Trusting God Amid Evil (Psalm 10)

"Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none" (Psalm 10:15).

Psalm 10 accurately captures the distress of the righteous man continually facing the atrocities of a wicked society. The ungodliness that abounds around him even causes him to despair that God is not involved in executing justice.

The psalmist seems to lose heart at the beginning of this psalm, but he quickly recovers his faith in God’s providence: “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.” He regains confidence when he dwells not on the evil of society but on his sovereign God. As long as we dwell on the unrighteousness around us, whether it be in our family, school, workplace, or even our church, we will find only despair. Instead of failing under the weight of this ungodliness, we must turn our thoughts to God’s providence and present our petitions to Him.

The psalmist describes in a very poignant manner the ways of the wicked. They abuse the weak, glory in their hedonism, seek instant gratification, indulge themselves in all manner of depravity, and delude themselves that there is no God. The wicked consider themselves innocent, suppressing their guilt by hardening their hearts. They revile God, saying, “He won’t call me to account.”

As we look at the world around us, each of us can relate to the psalmist’s words. It is easy to lose heart, thinking that God has deserted His people. Yet just as the psalmist regains his confidence by praying to God, so should we ask God to hasten His assistance and His vengeance. Instead of trusting only human means to battle ungodliness, first give these concerns to God that He might direct and give strength. Calvin said, “God does not allow the faith of His servants to faint or fail, nor does He allow them to desist from praying; but He keeps them near Him by faith and prayer until it actually appears that their hope has been neither vain nor ineffectual.”

Even though God seems delayed in taking vengeance, we must be patient and bear the afflictions laid upon us in His providence. This is difficult for all of us, for we would prefer to have no troubles. But if we truly desire to obtain God’s assistance, we must restrain our impatience, keep our sorrows within due bounds, and wait on the Lord to manifest His grace.

Make a list of situations in which you see wickedness abounding (abortion, homosexuality, and the like) List things that cause you to despair and to become impatient. Tell God about these, describing the wickedness you see. Ask Him to give you patience in facing these situations and hope that He will overcome all ungodliness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Sunday Bible Class, January 23, 2022

Lesson: "How Satan Attacked the Churches in Revelation 2-3...and Attacks Us Today!"

Series: How to Meet the Enemy: A Bible Study on Spiritual Warfare

Giving God the Glory (Psalm 9)

"But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness; and He shall administer judgement for the peoples in uprightness" (Psalm 9:7–8)

Returning to the Psalms, we study Psalm 9, in which David exalts the righteous power of God. David celebrates victory over his enemies and gives God the glory for all his deliverances. David remembers the displays of God’s power from the violence of his many foes: “My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.” David gives all credit for his victories to God. He does not exalt his own military abilities, but wisely recognizes that God upheld his cause, that God rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked.

Instead of exalting himself as many leaders do in times of victory, David praises God. David knew, as Calvin wrote, “God cannot bear with seeing His glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to Him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure His glory as far as they can.” David does not seek to obscure God’s glory but to proclaim it in the assembly of His people and to the nations.

Though David endured trials at the hands of his enemies, he knew that God would be glorified in delivering him in righteousness. David put his confidence in the very nature of God and exalted Him as a King who reigns with justice. Believers should not focus on their own circumstances but rejoice in God alone. Nothing gives believers more joy than to see God glorified. They recognize that they cannot be truly joyful except when glorifying God in all things. Calvin said, “He who begins his prayer by affirming that God is the great source and object of his joy, fortifies himself beforehand with the strongest confidence, in presenting his supplications to the Hearer of prayer.”

When we give God the glory for our successes and stir others to do the same, we honor our Lord and gain much confidence before God in prayer. We rest in His righteous judgments and take comfort that God will deliver us from the hands of the wicked in future confrontations. We find security that He reigns forever, that He is a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold in times of trouble, and that He does not forsake those who seek Him. When we put forth all the glorious attributes of God and when we glorify Him for His righteousness, we gain a deeper trust in the power of our God.

Read Isaiah 51:1–16. Who does the Lord speak to in this passage? Based on this, what is a presiding characteristic of God’s people? What attribute of God is glorified in this passage? What reasons does God give that we should hope in Him and have no fear of man?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Extent of Our Sin (John 6:25-69)

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44)

While most churches have a doctrine of original sin, not all agree on the extent to which that sin affects humanity. The conflict comes in understanding what is meant by free will. Many have asked the question, “Why would God command us to conform to His law if we do not have the ability to obey?” How you answer this determines your view of how extensive sin has affected fallen humanity.

Three prevalent views on this subject are Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Augustinianism. Each maintains that man has free will, but they define and apply it differently. Freedom means that man has the ability to choose what he wants. Pelagianism, named after the fourth-century monk Pelagius, says man has the ability to choose the good. Pelagius argued that man can obey God perfectly, and thus gain eternal life, without any grace. He rejected Augustine’s view that original sin prohibits man from pleasing God. He believed man has the ability on his own to achieve perfection.

Pelagianism stands in stark contrast to the truth of the Christian faith. The heart of Christianity is the redemption of man. Because man is sinful and cannot earn salvation, he can only obtain eternal life through faith in Christ. Only through His righteousness can man be saved. Only by God’s grace can man receive the ability to choose according to God’s desires. Fallen man has free will, but his desires are sinful. He is in bondage to his own sinful inclinations that flow from a sin nature. Only when God changes our hearts can we have the freedom to obey Him.

Semi-Pelagianism maintains that fallen man needs God’s grace to come to faith in Christ and lead a life of obedience, but man must meet God half-way. This view says original sin has affected man but not so thoroughly that he is unable to turn to God in faith. Semi-Pelagianism would say that fallen man needs help from God, that man is not dead in his sins but merely sick.

The Scriptures clearly proclaim that man is dead in his sins and that no man can come to Christ unless the Father enables him. Only God can change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Only by grace alone can fallen man embrace Jesus Christ who takes away our guilt and declares us righteous before a holy God.

Read Romans 6:15–23. Examine your own desires. Are you a slave to your sin or to righteousness? In what ways have you been set free from your bondage to sin? Paul says we are slaves to the one we obey. How do we have freedom in Christ when we are slaves to righteousness?

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Depth of Sin (Romans 3)

There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:10–11).

Most people believe in their hearts that when they stand before God on judgment day they will be exonerated because of their worthiness. They will admit they have not been perfect, but they will say they haven’t been too bad either. They believe that what counts is that they tried to do their best. This is a grave error. To assume that a holy God winks at sin and grants eternal life on the basis of our performances is the greatest deception plaguing mankind.

Too often people consider sin to be an external blemish, but the problem goes much deeper—it is rooted in man’s very nature. This is original sin. When we speak of original sin, we are not referring to Adam’s first sin, but the effects of that sin on his progeny. Every person is born with a sinful condition. They sin throughout their lives because they are, by their very nature, sinners.

According to God’s Word, man is not basically good but is altogether unrighteous: “There is no one who does good, not even one.” Man’s definition of good is not God’s. Paul says, “there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God.” We don’t have right behavior because we have no understanding of God’s standards and we do not seek after God. Some people think man can seek after God, but Scripture clearly says the opposite. People who say they seek God are actually looking for peace of mind, relief from guilt, or significance in their lives. While they seek these things, they are running way from God. It is part of our fallen nature to flee from a holy God. Those who truly seek Him do so by His Spirit—and they find Him. Apart from His grace no one seeks God.

Only by God’s grace can a person realize that God’s standard of goodness is unattainable by natural man. People diminish the seriousness of sin by believing they can attain that standard. Many believe they have conformed to God’s law, but His commands go much deeper. Not only are we to conform to His law, but our obedience must flow from a heart that loves God. But because sin touches us in every part, we cannot love God and meet His standard. Without Jesus Christ, we are sinful to the core and enemies of God. Only in Christ is there redemption and cleansing from sin.

Read Luke 19:16–30. What did the rich young man want from Jesus? On what basis did he believe he could receive eternal life? Why did Jesus say only God was good? What standard did Jesus give the young man for attaining eternal life? What truth did he not understand? How does this apply to your life?