Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Satisfied Servant (Isa. 53:1-12)

In this Servant Song, Isaiah is the main speaker.

What’s Isaiah’s theme? His theme is Jesus. The chapter is quoted seven times in the NT (Matt. 8:17; Mk. 15:28; Jn. 12:38; Acts 8:32–33; Rom. 10:16; 1 Pet. 2:22, 24–25). Equally important is the fact that this chapter is quoted by each of the major NT authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter. They use this chapter to work out the theological significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

What’s Isaiah’s purpose? His purpose is to account for man’s unbelief. He asks two questions in v. 1, which John quotes as follows: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” (Jn. 12:37–38).

(1)   The Reason for Unbelief (vv. 2–3)

Isaiah explains why people don’t believe in the Servant. In a word, He’s unappealing.

The Servant is unimportant to the natural man (v. 2). His family isn’t powerful. His family isn’t wealthy. His family isn’t connected. In a word, He’s nobody. Who wants to associate with someone so insignificant? We’re drawn to people of power and influence.

The Servant is unattractive to the natural man (v. 2). There’s nothing appealing about Him. He isn’t the kind of man that people naturally follow – no charm, no beauty, no glamour, and no charisma. Who wants to associate with someone so ordinary?

The Servant is unpopular to the natural man (v. 3). He’s so miserable in terms of His disposition that He’s despised. No-one wants to keep company with Him. Who wants to hang out with someone so serious?

(2)   The Remedy for Unbelief (vv. 4–12)

Isaiah explains why people should believe in the Servant. He says four things about the Servant’s suffering, designed to make Him appealing to us.

First, the Servant suffered vicariously (vv. 4–6). That is to say, He suffered for our griefs, sorrows, transgressions, and iniquities. There’s a profound truth in Rembrandt’s painting, The Raising of the Cross. It depicts the cross as Roman soldiers hoist it into place. In the background stands a priest, encircled by the mocking crowds and grieving women. At the feet of Jesus stands an out-of-place man wearing a blue painter’s hat. He’s helping the soldiers hoist the cross. It’s Rembrandt. He painted himself into the scene as one of those who crucified Christ. Why? He understood that his sin was the cause of Jesus’ suffering. As Martin Luther says, “We carry the nails of Calvary in our pocket.”

Second, the Servant suffered willingly (v. 7). He was silent in the face of abuse, betrayal, and abandonment. He never hurls screams of rage toward the heavens. He never hurls threats of defiance toward the crowds. He never utter sobs of self-pity. He only speaks to pray for others or cry to God. His silence demonstrates the depth of His devotion to God: “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). And His silence demonstrates the depth of His affection for us: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1).

Third, the Servant suffered unjustly (vv. 8–9). The council sought “testimony against Jesus to put him to death.” The whole thing was a sham. He was innocent in word and deed. Humanly speaking, His crucifixion was the greatest miscarriage of justice ever committed.

Fourth, the Servant suffered triumphantly (v. 10). Notice three details. (1) The cause of His suffering: “it was the will of the LORD.” In other words, it was foreordained. (2) The nature of His suffering: “when his soul makes an offering for sin.” Far eclipsing the torment of His body was the torment of His soul, as He experienced His Father’s displeasure. (3) The fruit of His suffering: “He shall see his offspring.” Christ counts the salvation of sinners to be satisfaction enough for all His suffering.

Do our hearts melt in wonder of His love?


Quotable: “Christ took our misery that we might have His glory” (Thomas Manton).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas Message for GCC

I want us to “focus our attention” this Christmas Eve. Undoubtedly, many of us are thinking about lights, trees, gifts, relatives, cards, carols, tinsel, chocolate, eggnog, mistletoe, etc. That’s great. I’m all for it. But, for a few moments, I want us to “focus our attention.” Listen carefully to what God declares in His Word:

   Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
   he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.

   As many were astonished at you—
   his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
   and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
   so shall he sprinkle many nations; 

   kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
   for that which has not been told them they see,
   and that which they have not heard they understand.

   Isaiah 52:13–15

“Behold.” The word implies looking or gazing or focusing attention. That’s simple enough. “Behold, my servant shall act wisely.” God calls us to focus our attention on a person: His Servant – Jesus. What does Jesus do? He acts wisely.

First, Jesus is a wise king: “He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”

Here, we’re reading history. These things have already happened. “He shall be high.” This occurred at Jesus’ resurrection. “He shall be lifted up.” This occurred at Jesus’ ascension. “He shall be exalted.” This occurred at Jesus’ coronation at God’s right hand.

Jesus is a king. He’s a wise king. So let me ask you. Are you worried this Christmas Eve about Islamic extremism or secular liberalism? Are you perplexed this Christmas Eve by widespread poverty and suffering? Are you worried this Christmas Eve about economic chaos and social injustice? Are you perplexed this Christmas Eve by mounting personal problems? God calls to you: Behold Jesus – a wise king!

Second, Jesus is a wise priest: “As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations.”

Here, God announces two causes of astonishment.

The first is Jesus’ appearance. Simply put, He was disfigured beyond human recognition. This brings us directly to the foot of the cross. “Who wants to hear of the cross at Christmas?” objects the sentimental soul. It’s impossible to divorce the manger from the cross. Two pieces of wood – equally remarkable! The manger – oh, the wonder that God became man! The cross – oh, the wonder that the God-man suffered! This is astonishing.

The second cause of astonishment is Jesus’ atonement. He sprinkles many nations. He sprinkles them with what? His blood! He suffers the wrath of God, in order to bring salvation to His people among the nations. Personally, that means His death secures my life. His punishment secures my forgiveness. His condemnation secures my justification. His separation from God secures my reconciliation to God. His crown of thorns secures my crown of glory. This is astonishing. 

Jesus is a priest. He’s a wise priest. So let me ask you. Are you humbled by the crushing weight of your sin this Christmas Eve? Are you troubled by an unsettled conscience this Christmas Eve? Are you horrified by the prospect of facing a frowning God this Christmas Eve? God calls to you: Behold Jesus – a wise priest!

Third, Jesus is a wise prophet: “Kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.”

The greatest of men are silent on account of Jesus. Why? His message reaches them. It reaches them externally, in that they hear Him with the ear. It also reaches them internally, in that they hear Him with the soul. In this, we see the going forth of the Word of His power.

Jesus is a prophet. He’s a wise prophet. So let me ask you. Are you seeking truth this Christmas Eve? We live in confusing days. There are innumerable ideas, theories, opinions, and philosophies out there. We’re surrounded by a multitude of ultimately meaningless sound-bites. Are you looking for someone whose wisdom is unsearchable? Are you looking for someone who knows the end from the beginning? God calls to you: Behold Jesus – a wise prophet!

This Jesus “was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He stands as the central figure of the human race. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as has this one solitary life” (Phillip Brooks).

My simple prayer for you this Christmas Eve is that you might heed God’s call to behold His Servant – Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Vindicated Servant (Isa. 50:4-11)


One hundred years ago, British explorer Ernest Shackleton captained a ship to Antarctica. His goal was to reach the South Pole. That was before his ship became stuck in the ice. After that, his goal was simply to stay alive. He and his crew struggled for months. Of all the hardships, Shackleton said the darkness was the worst. In Antarctica, the sun doesn’t appear from the middle of May to the end of July. That kind of prolonged darkness confuses, burdens, isolates, and ultimately maddens.

I doubt any of us have ever been through anything like that. But what about a prolonged darkness of the soul? Have you ever walked through a valley in which the shadows cast a debilitating aura? Are you walking through such a place right now? This Servant Song is for all of us. It’s particularly for those of us who find ourselves walking in a prolonged dark night of the soul.

What does the Servant say?

(1) God teaches me (vv. 4–5)

Twice, the Servant describes Himself as “taught.” He mentions three results of this divine teaching.

First, He possesses a skilled tongue (v. 4). God teaches His Servant to such a degree that He’s able to sustain the weary with a word. “Grace was poured into His lips,” writes Matthew Henry. In other words, the Servant knows how to speak to a troubled conscience.

Second, He possesses a trained ear (vv. 4–5). God awakens His servant “morning by morning” to teach Him. He didn’t possess perfect wisdom and knowledge as He was lying in the manger. Luke tells us that “Jesus increased in wisdom.” How? He read, studied, and memorized Scripture. That’s how He resisted temptation, debated the scribes, instructed the multitudes, and persevered through trials.

Third, He possesses a submissive heart (v. 5). The Servant pleased God in His thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). There was never a hint of self-interest in His words or deeds.

(2) God helps me (vv. 6–7)

The Servant cries, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” The Servant embraces His suffering upon the cross. He empties Himself of all that’s exalted, and humbles Himself to all that’s debased. He foresees great humiliation, yet He never turns back. He sets His face like flint. Flint is a hard rock. When struck against steel, it produces sparks to start a fire. Setting our face like flint implies that we expect to be struck. Setting our face like flint means we regard the striking as ultimately worthwhile. That’s how God helps His Servant. He promises Him that His suffering will resound to His eternal glory.

(3) God vindicates me (vv. 8–9)

Let’s imagine you’re wrongly accused of a crime. You claim to be innocent. But you’re ignored, tried, condemned, and jailed. Years later, you’re able to prove your innocence. You’re vindicated. The verb vindicate comes from the Latin vindicare, meaning to claim or avenge. In other words, vindication is a form of vengeance. You avenge yourself by proving your claim to be innocent.

God vindicates (or avenges) His Servant. The Servant asks three questions. Who will contend with me? Stand up! Who is my adversary? Come near! Who will declare me guilty? Perish! When does God vindicate His Servant? The resurrection! He “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Application:

The Servant concludes by making a distinction between believers and unbelievers: “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant?” (v. 10).

He speaks a word to believers: “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (v. 10). Are you walking in darkness? Are you spiritually depressed or discouraged? Trust in the Lord. “O you redeemed ones, on whose behalf this strong resolve was made—you who have been bought by the precious blood of this steadfast, resolute Redeemer—come and think awhile of Him, that your hearts may burn within you and that your faces may be set like flints to live and die for Him who lived and died for you” (C. H. Spurgeon).

He speaks a word to unbelievers: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment” (v. 11). Are you pursuing human devices of salvation? A believer’s way might be dark and difficult, but it ends in everlasting light. An unbeliever’s way might be light and easy, but it ends in everlasting darkness.

Behold the Servant’s humility in leaving a crown of glory for a crown of thorns. Behold His resolve in enduring untold suffering. Behold His perfection in satisfying of God’s offended justice. Behold His love in giving Himself for those who hate Him. Behold His ability to sustain with a word those who are weary. “Come to me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Honored Servant (Isa. 49:1-10)

When studying a book of the Bible, it’s helpful to keep its context and message in view.

What’s Isaiah’s context? The Israelites have given themselves to idolatry, thereby violating their covenant with God. God punishes them by sending foreign invaders: the Assyrians and Babylonians. In accordance with their policy for conquered territories, the invading armies lead the surviving Israelites away into captivity.

What’s Isaiah’s message? Clearly, the captivity is God’s punishment upon the Israelites for their idolatry. But God is going to use Cyrus (king of Persia) to restore a remnant to the land. Couched in this event is something of far greater significance. God is going to use His Servant to deliver His people from spiritual bondage to sin.

The book of Isaiah includes four detailed portraits of the Servant. These are known as “the Servant Songs.” In the first (chapter 42), God describes His relationship with His Servant. In the second (chapter 49), the Servant describes His relationship with His God. In these two texts of Scripture, therefore, we’re listening to a personal conversation between the Father and the incarnate Son.

What does the Servant say in Isaiah 49?

(1)   God called me (v. 1)

“The LORD called me from the womb.” The Servant recognizes that God has set Him apart for a special purpose – a purpose that extends back through human history into God’s eternal counsels.

(2)   God named me (v. 1)

“From the body of my mother he named my name.” The Servant celebrates His special relationship with God. This “naming” points ahead to the time when the angel declares to Joseph: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The name Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. It declares the Servant’s identity and mission.

(3)   God equipped me (v. 2)

“He made my mouth like a sharp sword.” The Servant acknowledges that God has equipped Him to pierce as far as “the division of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12). He discerns man’s innermost thoughts and intentions. “All are naked and exposed before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13).

(4)   God protected me (v. 2)

Apart from one incident in the city of Jerusalem, the Servant’s life (prior to the start of His ministry) is clouded in secret. What was happening? Here’s a glimpse: “In the shadow of his hand he hid me.” There’s only a shadow when the hand is closed. It denotes protection. “He grew up before him like a young plant” (Isa. 53:2). It’s easy to destroy a young plant. It’s tender, delicate, and vulnerable. Therefore, it requires attention and protection. Similarly, God watched over His Servant.

(5)   God cherished me (v. 2)

“He made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me.” A polished arrow receives extra care and attention. It’s hidden away for a special purpose. Similarly, God cherishes His Servant. He keeps Him for just the right moment – the fullness of time. And then, He sets Him in His bow, and releases Him to accomplish His mission.

(6)   God commissioned me (v. 3)

“And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” In the first part of the book, Isaiah speaks of Israel as the Servant. God summoned Israel to serve Him – to be a light to the Gentiles. But Israel failed miserably. In the second part of the book, Isaiah speaks of the true Servant – an individual who would be all that Israel was not. Israel proved to be a faithless son; Jesus is a faithful Son. Israel failed to bring light to the Gentiles; Jesus brings light to the Gentiles. Israel failed to glorify God; Jesus glorified God.

(7)   God honored me (vv. 4–8)

The Servant declares, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity” (v. 4). Humanly speaking, the Servant’s ministry was an abysmal failure. By the end of His earthly ministry, how many followed Him? Very few! But He doesn’t despair. He sees things from God’s vantage point: “Yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God” (v. 4). The Servant comforts Himself in the knowledge that He’s engaged in God’s cause. He adds, “I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength” (v. 5). How?

First, God has honored His Servant by making Him a restorer of nations (vv. 5–6). See Acts 13:47. Second, God has honored His Servant by making Him a ruler of kings (v. 7). See Acts 4:26. Third, God has honored His Servant by making Him a redeemer of prisoners (vv. 8–10). See 2 Cor. 6:2.

We often feel as though all is vanity, but the Servant takes us on a journey. It begins with redemption (v. 9), and extends to provision, protection, and direction on our long journey home (vv. 9–10). In a word, He abundantly satisfies our wants as we journey home. See Rev. 7:16–17.


Quotable: “The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most sweet and comfortable knowledge” (John Flavel).

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Chosen Servant (Isa. 42:1-7)

We find the first of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah 42:1–7. Here, God encourages us to gaze upon the dynamics of His relationship with His servant (Jesus), especially as it relates to our salvation. In particular, He encourages us to consider four truths.

(1)   The Servant is Beloved by God (v. 1)

God “upholds” Jesus. In other words, He empowers Him to accomplish His mission. He protects and preserves Him. That’s the reason Jesus spends so much time in prayer. He prayed at His baptism. He prayed before choosing His disciples. He prayed before revealing His approaching death to His disciples. He prayed at His transfiguration. He prayed before teaching His disciples how to pray. He prayed for Peter’s perseverance. He prayed in Gethsemane. He prayed while on the cross. He prayed continually, because He fulfilled His mission in complete dependence upon God’s strength.

God “delights in” Jesus. What do we hear Him declare at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration? “This is my beloved Son (my chosen), with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). In this declaration, God ministers to Jesus. (1) He emphasizes His relationship with Him: “You’re my Son.” (2) He emphasizes His affection for Him: “You’re my beloved Son.” (3) He emphasizes His satisfaction in Him: “In whom I am well pleased.”

(2)   The Servant is Anointed by God (v. 1)

God empowers Jesus through a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus preaches in the power of the Spirit, prays in the power of the Spirit, resists temptations in the power of the Spirit, and endures trials in the power of the Spirit.

This anointing occurs at the time of His baptism, when the Spirit descends in the likeness of a dove. Why a dove? I think the answer is found back in Gen. 1:2, where we read that the Spirit hovered (fluttered) over the face of the waters. The Aramaic translation inserts the phrase “like a dove.” And so, God created by the Word through the Spirit. The Spirit’s descent “like a dove”at Jesus’ baptism is designed to make us think of creation. Why? The point is God triune is re-creating; that is to say, Jesus’ ministry ushers in a new creation.

(3)   The Servant is Commissioned by God (vv. 1–4)

God declares that Jesus “will bring forth justice” (vv. 1, 3, 4). How? Jesus produces justice by bearing God’s curse on the cross. And He proclaims justice by preaching the gospel – the justification of believers and condemnation of unbelievers. He does so . . .

Humbly (v. 2): Jesus experiences indifference and belligerence throughout His earthly ministry. (See Matt. 12). How does He respond in the face of such arrogance? He never loses it. He never screams wildly at people. He never attacks them personally. He meekly continues on His appointed mission.

Compassionately (v. 3): Jesus never breaks a bruised reed or extinguishes a smoldering wick. Instead, He invites those who bear the crushing weight of their sin, guilt, and shame to come to Him, assuring them that He’ll receive them: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Faithfully (v. 3): Jesus lays aside self-interest. He proclaims, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 6:38). He never veers off course. He remains true to His mission.

Patiently (v. 4): Jesus experiences great distress on account of what people say about Him. They misinterpret, misrepresent, mock, and malign Him. They accuse Him of rejecting the Scriptures, dishonoring the temple, serving the devil, and breaking the Sabbath. They accuse Him of blasphemy. How does He respond? “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return… but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23–24). He does so because He has a glorious end in view: the cross.

(4)   The Servant is Sustained by God (vv. 5–7)

In vv. 1–4, God speaks about Jesus. In vv. 5–7, He speaks to Jesus. Why? He’s encouraging Him. How?

First, God declares who He is (v. 5). He stresses His work of creation. “The universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3). God continues to uphold what He created. It’s impossible for any part of creation to exist for a moment apart from Him. He holds all things together. He gives being to all things. His power is infinite.

Second, God promises to sustain His Servant (v. 6). He calls Him “in righteousness” – rather, for a righteous purpose. His purpose is to display Him publicly as a propitiation in His blood (Rom. 3:25–26). The horror of the cross! Yet God sustains Jesus in His fulfillment of His mission. He takes Him by the hand and keeps Him.

Third, God promises to bless His Servant (vv. 6–7). He give Jesus as a covenant for the people, and a light for the nations – to open eyes and release prisoners. The sword of infinite justice pierces the heart of God’s Son. In so doing, it opens a fountain of cleansing blood, which cleanses God’s people from the guilt and filth of their sin. We’re no longer enslaved but redeemed; no longer estranged but reconciled; no longer condemned but justified; no longer alienated but adopted.

A Pleasurable and Comfortable Truth:

Are you like a bruised reed or burning wick – humbled and bruised by the weight of sin? Here’s what you must know: (1) Jesus won’t break a bruised reed – “The Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (Jas. 5:11); and (2) Jesus won’t extinguish a smoldering wick – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). What an incentive to repent and believe!


Quotable: “The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most sweet and comfortable knowledge” (John Flavel).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Peace With God

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

We have peace with God. Paul isn’t describing a feeling, but a status or condition. The term “peace” means binding together what was separated. And so, Paul’s point is that those who believe in Christ are bound together with God.

How? Six times in verses 1-11, Paul uses the preposition dia - through. In so doing, he makes it clear that the reason we have peace with God is Christ. Christ reconciles God to us and us to God by bearing the penalty for our sin.

In Christ, God is our Friend and Father. In Christ, God’s throne isn’t a judgment seat but a mercy seat. In Christ, God isn’t a terrifying Judge but a loving Father. In Christ, God isn’t a condemning God but a pardoning God. In Christ, God isn’t a threatening God but an accepting God. In Christ, we no longer have any reason to fear the sting of death, the terror of judgment, the torment of hell, or the wrath of God. Christ has swallowed it all. He has left nothing for us. Our peace with God is such that He loves us as if we had never been the object of His wrath.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living

 
 
This review was first published at Books at a Glance: www.booksataglance.com
 
The Beauty & Glory of Christian Living consists of the twelve addresses delivered at the 2013 Puritan Reformed Conference, an annual conference hosted by the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this book, Joel Beeke (the president of the seminary) has edited the twelve addresses, and arranged them according to three sections.

“Christian Living in Its Divine Roots”


The first section contains four chapters, considering the source of Christian living. Together, the chapters demonstrate that Christian living is rooted in Christ and cultivated by the Holy Spirit, who produces spiritual-mindedness in God’s people through the ordinary means of grace. Ian Hamilton comments, “It is the Word preached, made visible in the sacraments, applied to the life of the church, and voiced in Spirit-inspired prayer that the Holy Spirit uses to make us more like our Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 45).

When it comes to Christian living, the relationship between grace and obedience is extremely significant. If we fail to maintain the balance between the two, we create all sorts of confusion and inflict all sorts of damage. The two most common mistakes people make are as follows. Some think they can obey God without knowing His grace (which leads to moralism), while others think they can know God’s grace without obeying Him (which leads to libertinism).

This first section strikes the balance between grace and obedience, stressing the fact that we must begin with the “hidden life” (who we are) before moving to the “seen life” (how we live). As Michael Barrett remarks, “It is always the case that right thinking about the gospel produces right living in the gospel” (p. 3).

“Christian Living in Its Human Branches”


The second section contains three chapters, explaining how growth in Christ-likeness is made evident in the principal spheres of life. Chapter 5 deals with the family, specifically God’s purpose and principles for marriage, the spirit of parenting, and the tasks of parenting. Chapter 6 deals with the workplace, highlighting God’s design and desire for our particular vocations. Chapter 7 focuses on what it means to live evangelistically in a fallen world.

We often forget that the reality of our Christian profession shows itself primarily in the mundane of daily living. Many of us give the impression (consciously or not) that the heart-beat of the Christian faith is found in solving theological puzzles, pursuing grandiose experiences, enduring great hardships, mastering spiritual disciplines, or engaging in cutting-edge ministries. While not disparaging any of those things, we need to remember that they don’t represent the heart-beat of the Christian faith. This place of distinction belongs to our most familiar relationships.

This second section places the emphasis in the right place. Joel Beeke stresses the fact that “the Christian’s relationship with his family is inseparable from personal sanctification” (p. 68). William VanDoodewaard demonstrates that God’s kingdom is expressed by “a beautiful, honorable integrity in respectful submission toward those in workplace authority” (p. 81). For their part, Brian Najapfour and Josh Dear make it clear that evangelism is a “vital part” of our life in Christ (p. 91).


“Christian Living in Its Earthly Storms”


The third section contains five chapters, demonstrating how Christians are to live during seasons of affliction. Chapter 8 explains why we should be prepared for suffering. Chapters 9–11 address three specific cases of affliction: living in an immoral world; living in a hostile culture; and living through sickness and death. Chapter 12 provides a brief look at the Book of Judges, emphasizing the “tenacity of God’s grace over the trauma of our sin” (p. 159).

Probably far more often than we care to admit, we murmur under God’s yoke. We tend to allow affliction to disrupt our marriages, ministries, relationships, and a host of other things. This often leads to murmuring, which is really an ungrateful sin because it means we’ve lost sight of God’s abounding grace in our lives. Moreover, it renders us vulnerable to rashness and bitterness, opening the door of our heart to all sorts of sins.

This third section orients our thinking heavenward. In particular, Gerald Bilkes reminds us that “every furnace the Christian endures comes from the sovereign and all-sufficient God” (p. 116). God is sovereign; thus his control is absolute. He’s immutable; thus his will is certain. He’s mighty; thus his power is limitless. He’s wise; thus his plan is perfect. He’s incomprehensible; thus his providence is inscrutable. While not always understanding God’s ways with us, we’re absolutely certain he’s in control.

Recommendation

The Beauty & Glory of Christian Living will assist Christians in living out the faith. It features excellent expositions of God’s Word. It also includes many helpful insights from the Puritans. The writing style makes the book accessible to all, while its subject matter makes it profitable to all.
 
J. Stephen Yuille