Christ… is the absolute owner. Go out to your car this afternoon and you just stop in your tracks and look at it and you recognize that’s His. Look at yourself in the mirror those eyeballs in your head those are His. Your hand, it’s His. He can take it away from you.
Many of you are familiar with Abraham Kuyper’s quote: There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry “Mine!” It is His.
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on April 27, 2017
How should this truth of the providence of God affect our lives?
First of all: This ought to fill all of us with great humility. Great humility. Everything we have. Everything we are. Everything we have accomplished. Even the fact that you are alive here tonight, sitting here tonight, is hanging from the slenderest thread of God’s merciful providence.
You have a strong body? So did Christopher Reeve, Superman, till he got thrown from a horse and became a quadriplegic who had to be on a breathing apparatus for the rest of his life.
You have good eyes? So did Fanny Crosby till the doctor put the wrong thing in her eyes when she was a little girl, and made her go blind.
Are you athletic? So was Joni Eareckson until she jumped into that water that was too shallow and broke her neck.
Mona and I were in a coma unit a number of years ago there was a fellow in there maybe in his forties. We said what happened to him? Well the wife and husband were out riding their bikes and they got tangled up somehow and fell down. They were not going fast. They were just out for a little bike ride. Fell down he hit his head on the pavement and he’d been in a coma ever since. One little chance accident.
You have financial prosperity? There are so many people in human history that thought they had it made they lost everything just like that. And you could too.
Paul says in in 1 Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you had not received?” And we might well add to that and what would be what have you received that God hasn’t sustained moment by moment or you would have lost it by now.
So I want to say to you beloved: What are you tempted to be proud of tonight? Are you girls, tempted to be proud of your beauty? Do you realize you could lose that in a second? Are you proud of how smart you are? One little thing and it could be gone and you can’t even put sentences together.
Beloved, we’re being upheld by this slender thread of providence all the time. Everything, everything you have, everything you are, everything that you’ve accomplished, its been accomplished through grace, grace, grace all along the way. And every little individual thing that has kept you alive to get you here tonight.
If you’re not a Christian, don’t go out of here without crying out to God.
If you are a Christian, God have mercy on you if you’ve got pride welling up in you. Moment by moment sustained by unspeakable, slender, thread of providence.
Proverbs 16 Geneva Bible (1599)
16 1 The [a]preparations of the heart are in man: but the answer of the tongue is of the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are [b]clean in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the spirits.
3 [c]Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be directed.
4 The Lord hath made all things for his own sake: yea, even the wicked for the day of [d]evil.
5 All that are proud in heart, are an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
6 By [e]mercy and truth iniquity shall be forgiven, and by the fear of the Lord they depart from evil.
7 When the ways of a man please the Lord, he will make also his enemies at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without equity.
9 The heart of [f]man purposeth his way: but the Lord doth direct his steps.
10 A divine sentence shall be in the lips of the king: his mouth shall not transgress in judgment.
11 A true weight and balance are of the Lord: and the weights of the bag are his [g]work.
12 It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is stablished [h]by justice.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and the king loveth him that speaketh right things.
14 The wrath of a king is as [i]messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life: and his favor is [j]as a cloud of the latter rain.
16 How much better is it to get wisdom than gold? and to get understanding, is more to be desired than silver.
17 The path of the righteous is to decline from evil, and he keepeth his soul that keepeth his way.
18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an high mind before the fall.
19 Better it is to be of humble mind with the lowly, than to divide the spoils with the proud.
20 He that is wise in his business, shall find good: and he that trusteth in the Lord, he is blessed.
21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent and [k]the sweetness of the lips shall increase doctrine.
22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto them that have it: and the [l]instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise guideth his mouth wisely, and addeth doctrine to his lips.
24 Fair words are as an honey comb, sweetness to the soul, and health to the bones.
25 There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the issue thereof are the ways of death.
26 The person that travaileth, travaileth for himself: for his mouth [m]craveth it of him.
27 A wicked man diggeth up evil, and in his lips is like [n]burning fire.
28 A froward person soweth strife: and a taleteller maketh division among princes.
29 A wicked man deceiveth his neighbor, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.
30 [o]He shutteth his eyes to devise wickedness: he moveth his lips, and bringeth evil to pass.
31 Age is a crown of glory, when it is found in the way of [p]righteousness.
32 He that is slow unto anger, is better than the mighty man: and he that ruleth his own mind, is better than he that winneth a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap: but the whole disposition thereof is [q]of the Lord.
(James Smith, “Sighing for Jesus!” 1858)
“As the deer pants for streams of water–so my soul pants for you, O God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God! When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2
I have just been reading of the last days of a true believer, and his whole dying experience was comprehended in one sentence, “I am sighing for Jesus!” He did not sigh for life, nor for ease–but he was sighing for Jesus.
I cannot help observing, how much of my experience now, is expressed in those words, “I am sighing for Jesus.” Yes, yes, I can do without riches, or fame, or the honor which man confers. I am pretty well content with what providence sends me–and yet I often sigh, and sigh deeply too. Some would think me unhappy–but I am not. Some may conclude I am discontented with my situation in life–but I am not. Yet I sigh–I often sigh.
I have read of a bird, which if caught and caged–never ceases to sigh, until it obtains its liberty, or dies. I am somewhat like that bird, and I expect I shall continue to sigh–until I obtain my desire.
I have had a glimpse of Jesus–and I sigh for a full view of Him.
I have tasted the sweetness of communion with Him–and I sigh for uninterrupted fellowship.
I have felt a little of the cleansing influence of His precious blood, and Holy Spirit–and I sigh for a thorough cleansing, that I may be perfectly and forever holy.
I sigh for Jesus–that I may . . .
know Him more perfectly,
love Him more entirely, and
enjoy Him uninterruptedly!
I sigh to be exactly like Jesus!
I sigh to be forever with Jesus!
I believe that if I were just like Him, and always with Him–that I would sigh no more; and I think that nothing else will put a complete stop to my sighing.
Yes, the day is coming, and it may be very near–when the days of my mourning will be ended, and when I shall heave the last sigh, and begin the never-ending song! My sorrows will soon end, and my sighing will forever cease! I shall soon be with Jesus, like Jesus, and everlastingly employed in praising Jesus! And then, I shall sigh no more!
“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow andsighing will flee away!” Isaiah 51:11
“We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.
Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us–in every way in all our lives–run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own–who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.” -Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion — “A Little Book on the Christian Life” ed. Denlinger & Parsons, Reformation Trust
The account of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree is found in two different gospel accounts. First, it is seen in Matthew 21:18-22, and then also in Mark 11:12-14. While there are slight differences between the two accounts, they are easily reconciled by studying the passages. Like all Scripture, the key to understanding this passage comes from understanding the context in which it happened. In order to properly understand this passage, we must first look at the chronological and geographical setting. For example, when did this occur, what was the setting, and where did it happen? Also, in order to fully understand this passage, we need to have an understanding of the importance of the fig tree as it relates to the nation of Israel and understand how the fig tree is often used in the Scriptures to symbolically represent Israel. Finally, we must have a basic understanding of the fig tree itself, its growing seasons, etc.
First, in looking at the general chronological setting of the passage, we see that it happened during the week before His crucifixion. Jesus had entered Jerusalem a day earlier amid the praise and worship of the Jewish people who were looking to Him as the King/Messiah who was going to deliver them from Roman occupation (Matthew 21:1-11;Mark 11:1-11). Now, the next day, Jesus is again on His way to Jerusalem from where He was staying in Bethany. On His way, both Matthew and Mark record that He was hungry and saw a fig tree in the distance that had leaves on it (Mark 11:13). Upon coming to the tree expecting to find something to eat, Jesus instead discovered that the fig tree had no fruit on it and cursed the tree saying, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:14). Matthew records the cursing and the withering of the fig tree all in one account and includes it after the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple of the moneychangers. Mark explains that it actually took place over two days, with Jesus cursing the fig tree the first day on the way to cleanse the Temple, and the disciples seeing the tree withered on the second day when they were again going to Jerusalem from Bethany (Mark 11:12-14 and Mark 11:19-20). Of course, upon seeing the tree “withered from the roots up,” the disciples were amazed, as that would have normally taken several weeks.
Having reviewed the general chronological setting of the story, we can begin to answer some of many questions that are often asked of it. First of all is the question, Why did Jesus curse the fig tree if it was not the right season for figs? The answer to this question can be determined by studying the characteristics of fig trees. The fruit of the fig tree generally appears before the leaves, and, because the fruit is green it blends in with the leaves right up until it is almost ripe. Therefore, when Jesus and His disciples saw from a distance that the tree had leaves, they would have expected it to also have fruit on it even though it was earlier in the season than what would be normal for a fig tree to be bearing fruit. Also, each tree would often produce two to three crops of figs each season. There would be an early crop in the spring followed by one or two later crops. In some parts of Israel, depending on climate and conditions, it was also possible that a tree might produce fruit ten out of twelve months. This also explains why Jesus and His disciples would be looking for fruit on the fig tree even if it was not in the main growing season. The fact that the tree already had leaves on it even though it was at a higher elevation around Jerusalem, and therefore would have been outside the normal season for figs, would have seemed to be a good indication that there would also be fruit on it.
As to the significance of this passage and what it means, the answer to that is again found in the chronological setting and in understanding how a fig tree is often used symbolically to represent Israel in the Scriptures. First of all, chronologically, Jesus had just arrived at Jerusalem amid great fanfare and great expectations, but then proceeds to cleanse the Temple and curse the barren fig tree. Both had significance as to the spiritual condition of Israel. With His cleansing of the Temple and His criticism of the worship that was going on there (Matthew 21:13;Mark 11:17), Jesus was effectively denouncing Israel’s worship of God. With the cursing of the fig tree, He was symbolically denouncing Israel as a nation and, in a sense, even denouncing unfruitful “Christians” (that is, people who profess to be Christian but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ).
The presence of a fruitful fig tree was considered to be a symbol of blessing and prosperity for the nation of Israel. Likewise, the absence or death of a fig tree would symbolize judgment and rejection. Symbolically, the fig tree represented the spiritual deadness of Israel, who while very religious outwardly with all the sacrifices and ceremonies, were spiritually barren because of their sins. By cleansing the Temple and cursing the fig tree, causing it to whither and die, Jesus was pronouncing His coming judgment of Israel and demonstrating His power to carry it out. It also teaches the principle that religious profession and observance are not enough to guarantee salvation, unless there is the fruit of genuine salvation evidenced in the life of the person. James would later echo this truth when he wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), not just give an appearance of religiosity. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).
The following excerpt is taken from The Fountain of Life, a book by the Puritan John Flavel
How this gift of Christ was the highest, and fullest manifestation of the love of God, that ever the world saw: and this will be evidenced by the following particulars:
(1.) If you consider how near and dear Jesus Christ was to the Father; he was his Son, “his only Son,” says the text; the Son of his love, the darling of his Soul: His other Self, yes, one with himself; the express image of his person; the brightness of his Father’s Glory: In parting with him, he parted with his own heart, with his very affections, as I may say. “Yet to us a Son is given,” Isa. 9:6, and such a Son as he calls “his dear Son,” Col. 1:13. A late writer tells us, that he has been informed, that in…
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“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). We have been much impressed by the fact that the wondrous and precious Psalter opens with the word “Blessed,” and yet a little reflection shows it could scarcely begin with any other. As most of our readers are doubtless aware, “Psalms” means “Praises,” and the key note is here struck at the very outset, for it is only the “Blessed man” who can truly praise God, as it is his praises which are alone acceptable to Him. The word “Blessed” has here, as in so many places in Scripture (like Matt. 5:3-11), a double force:
First and primarily, it signifies that the Divine benediction—in contrast from God’s curse, rests upon this man.
Second and consequently, it denotes that he is a happy man.
“Blessed is the man,” not “blessed are they“—the singular number emphasizes the fact that piety is strictly a personal and individual matter.
It is very striking to observe, that God has opened this book of Psalms by describing to us, the one whose “praises” are alone acceptable to Him. In all that follows to the end of verse 3, the Holy Spirit has given us a portrait (by which we may honestly compare ourselves) of the man on whom the Divine benediction rests—the only man who can worship the Father “in spirit and in truth.” The outstanding features in this portrait of the “blessed” man, may be briefly expressed in three words—
his separation (v. 1)
his occupation (v. 2)
his fertilization (v. 3)
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