HOLY – WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH ME?

As a child, I remember singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” with great gusto in my home church with my mother and father standing by my side. 

Then, as I got older in my faith walk with the Lord, I sang the hymn with less gusto and more meaning as I pondered each of the words while singing them.

Some places just evoke a feeling of sacredness, of being a special place where we feel close to God.     Consider the Canterbury Cathedral, where worship services to God have been conducted for over 1400 years!

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Or, consider Bryce Canyon where we see the majesty and jaw-dropping creativity of our Sovereign God.  The beauty and sheer magnitude of the canyon evokes a feeling of gratitude to God for the beauty of His creation.

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon with its “hoodoos” – spires standing up over the base of the canyon!

Or, consider Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and pools of water that exceed the boiling point, spewing steam and sulfur continually from their fissures.

Yellowstone 083
Yellowstone National Park. The pavement in the parking lot gave way under the pressure of the geyser beneath.  

These things tell us that God is different than we are … that He is far greater than our finite minds can comprehend. 

We say God is holy, that we have the Holy Bible, that Jesus foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we know that are to be holy but: “What is ‘holy’?” 

The Hebrew word for “holy” as found in Strong’s concordance is Strong’s Number H6944 which matches the Hebrew  קֹדֶשׁ  English transliteration “godesh”.  This word occurs 519 times in 382 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the NASB

The word signifies apartness, sacredness, separateness and it is used in relation to God, places and things.  There is a “set-apartness” for that which is holy.  In reading Leviticus we see how the tabernacle and all its furnishings and utensils were “consecrated to God”, another way of saying they were set apart for God’s use, specifically for use in their worship of Him.  The clothing that the priests wore was consecrated for when they were performing their priestly duties.  They were set apart for use in the worship and service of God, taken out of the ordinary and set apart for God.

We remember that when Moses was in the wilderness and saw the burning bush, he walked over to it and, when he approached the bush, God spoke and told him to remove his sandals because the ground where he was standing was holy ground.  Before the bush started burning the ground around it was just regular ground, like all the rest of the wilderness.  But God’s presence, His use of the bush to get Moses’ attention, set the bush and surrounding ground apart from the rest: it became holy. His sandals that were covered in the dust of the ordinary had to be removed because they were contaminating the ground that had become holy.

God directed Moses to tell the people that they were to be holy because He, their God, is holy.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 19:1-2

God elaborates upon His relationship with His people in the next chapter:

You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Leviticus 20:26

God set apart His people for His own purposes, that they should be His and that they should follow no other god.  He separated them from all the peoples on the earth and they are His.  They are a holy people – not because of their own abilities or value. 

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

God’s people are His because He has chosen them and He is faithful to fulfill all the promises that He made to the patriarchs of old. 

In the New Testament, Peter tells the Christians that they are God’s children and that they are to be “holy” in their conduct!

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

We know, of course, that we cannot be holy on our own – we need the Holy Spirit to bring us the holiness that we need so we can show God’s holiness to the world.  We are sinful creatures and cannot be “holy” in our own right.   Because God is holy, we are to be holy as His children.  Holiness is to be a family trait!

So, what does this have to do with me, or with you?  We need to remember that, as Christians, we have dual citizenship – we are citizens of the place on earth where God has put us for His purposes, and we are citizens of God’s kingdom. As much as we are involved with the workings of our homes, cities, governments, schools, etc., these take second place when we think about our ultimate, eternal citizenship. 

God’s world is a beautiful, magnificent creation that reflects His glory daily.  But Scripture tells us that this world will pass away, but God’s Kingdom will never pass away.

Jesus said that our focus should not be on this world, but rather on heaven.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:19-20

Be holy because God is holy.  Think of the words of the hymn as  you listen to it being sung on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise and Comfort, by Columbia Publishing House.

Father, I know that I cannot be holy other than by Your grace and mercy through the power granted to me by the Holy Spirit.  Enable me to grow in holiness so that others may see You reflected in my life.

IMMANUEL CAME TO US – PRAISE HIS NAME!

The advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” originated in part from the “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy.  In the 13th century a metrical version of five of the verses appeared on the musical scene.  That version was translated into English in 1851 by J. M. Neale.

The tune for this hymn is Veni Immanuel, originally music for a Requiem Mass in a 15th century French Franciscan Processional.  The chant tune was adapted to the poem by Englishman Thomas Helmore (1811-1890) and was published in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854). 

Tradition tells us that on each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse of this carol would be chanted, each stanza referencing a different Old Testament name for the Messiah who would be coming.

The text for this 8th century hymn comes from a 7 verse poem that was used in a call and response fashion during vespers, or the evening, service.  As a side-note, the original text created the reverse acrostic “ero cras,” which means “I shall be with you tomorrow,” words that are particularly appropriate for the advent season.  

Here is the text of this beloved Christmas hymn. As with all carols that have been sung through the centuries, there are variations in the content of the verses.  So, if the following stanzas do not include one that you are familiar with, forgive me; I believe that the majority of the verses in use today are reflected in this listing.

Please feel free to read this as you listen to an instrumental version by The Piano Guys on their album A Family Christmas.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

Refrain

3 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

Refrain

4 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

Refrain

5 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

Refrain

Although many hymnals do not include all the 5 verses translated by Neale, each verse is an acknowledgement of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies and we can consider the names and think about what they mean to us and for us in our walk with Jesus.

  • “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23) means “God with us”
  • “Adonai” (Leviticus 18:4) which is a name for God that means “the giver of the law”.
  • “Branch of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) refers to Jesus’ lineage
  • “Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 3:7) refers to Jesus’ lineage as well as His high calling in the kingdom of God – He has the key to heaven and only He can open/shut its door.
  • “Daystar” (Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79, Revelation 22:16) this refers to the East and the dawn of the morning star, daybreak or the sunrise

We sing this hymn recognizing that the Kingdom of God has already come but is not yet here in its completion.   Christ’s first coming gives us a reason to rejoice again and again. Yet the minor tone of this carol reflects our realization that all is not well with the world. So along with our rejoicing, we plead using the words of this hymn that Christ would come again to perfectly fulfill the promise that all darkness will be turned to light.

As we read these words and think about their meaning through the centuries of Christianity, we come to a new realization of the power of our Lord and His Word.  We mourn for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in physical danger and exile in today’s world.  But even if we are not in physical exile, we experience the separation from society that comes when we follow the commands of our Lord which run counter to the culture around us.  In short, we are different or as Peter puts it:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: [KJV]

1 Peter 1:9.  The English Standard Version translates “a peculiar people” as “a people for His own possession”.  In short, although we reside in our various countries on earth, believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of another kingdom in which Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and in which we are brothers and sisters in Him.

Each of the verses of this beautiful carol ask that the Lord would guide us so we could live in His kingdom that was ushered into this world by the birth of the Babe in the Manger. 

While it has been over 2,000 years since our Lord was born, our God is the same today as He was when Christ was born and as He was before the creation of the world.  He does not change and He will be with us today and through the end of time.  Time has no hold on Him and His names that applied in the millennia before the coming of the Babe in the manger still apply in the millennia since that Christmas blessing.  

Take time to praise Him as you contemplate these names of God and the incredible Gift that He has given to us both in the Babe at the manger as well as in the salvation that comes through that Babe’s atoning sacrifice on the cross thirty-three years later.  Listen to the carol and sing it to yourself, letting the names of our God and His Christ resonate within your heart and soul.  Celebrate Immanuel’s coming as God is surely with us!

Father, I thank You that Emmanuel did come to this earth as a human Babe. I further thank You that He lived a perfect life that I cannot live, and that He took my sin upon Himself and died an atoning death on the cross of Calvary.  Finally, I thank You that He conquered death and is currently alive in heaven, interceding on my behalf before Your throne.  Thank You for salvation that was the very reason that He came at Christmas.  Thank You that in the manger, we see the shadow of the cross, all for the saving grace extended to Your children through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“YOU SURE LOOK LIKE YOUR FATHER!”

Many years ago, before my biological children were born, we were foster parents for several children who were placed, for a variety of reasons, in a nearby children’s home. 

As an “adventure” one weekend, we took our foster children to a Civil War battlefield, complete with canons and stacks of cannonballs.  It also had a museum and much for the children to interact with as they learned about what happened at the Chickamauga Battlefield so many years earlier. 

When we went to the cashier to pay for our souvenirs, the Park Ranger standing there looked at our family and said to our son, “Boy, you sure look like your Father!” and to our daughter he said “And, you really look like your Mom!”  We smiled at him and paid for our goodies, and then left. 

In the car, we chuckled about the Ranger’s well-meaning comments.  They were especially humorous since both children were in foster care and of no blood relation to us.  Furthermore, they were not brother and sister but were from two separate families. 

Ultimately, I did have two children, a son and daughter, and when they were in preschool, my husband left us and divorce ensued.

Then the Lord brought Bill into our lives and, 31 years later, we are still married and the “children” (now in their 40s) are very much in love with him.   

When Bill had taken our son to the store for some clothing, the cashier looked at the two of them and said “Boy, your sure look like your Father!”   Without correcting the clerk, without discussing step-relationships, and without missing a beat, our son said “Yes, I do.”

Father and son marathon cropped
Father and son running in a marathon.

We were thinking about these comments recently and I wondered if I looked like my Father.  Do you?

We have just concluded consideration of just a few of the attributes of God, the Father, and I thought we should bring those discussion down to earth.  Do we look like our Heavenly Father?

I know that we cannot be like God, we are merely creatures who are sinful and who live in a fallen world.  But some of the attributes that are of God can be found in us if we let Him live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

For example, Eternality is totally outside of our experience, we are time-bound, temporal, finite.   But Mercy is something that we can extend to those who wrong us in some way.

Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence are attributes that no one would ever credit me with having, that’s for sure.  They reside within God and are not communicable to either you or me. 

Holiness is surely one of the attributes that sets God apart from the sinful creation ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.   But, Scripture says that we are to be holy. 

“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.””

Leviticus 11:45

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

1 Peter 1:15-16

I cannot be holy on my own nor can I become holy through any effort or action that I take.  I am sinful and will be sinful all my life.  But through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in the eyes of God, I can be holy.

Justice is another attribute of God that is tied to His Holiness.  God is repeatedly called Just in Scripture and we are told that His actions are always just. 

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

While Justice is an attribute of God’s intrinsic nature, it is also something that we are commanded to be.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Love, the attribute of God’s nature which Jonathan Edwards called “the sum of all Christianity”.  God loved us even when we were sinners and unable to approach Him even in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we were made part of God’s family because of His love.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree into which branches have been grafted, the tree, rooted in Jesus Christ, is referencing the Jews while the branches that were grafted onto the tree reference the Gentiles. 

Adoption is another image presented in Scripture with respect to God’s love.  The Amplified Holy Bible renders Ephesians 1:4-6 as follows:

Just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself] [as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

We have been loved by God, through Christ Jesus, and have been adopted into His family.  What does that mean for us here on earth, surrounded by so many who do not know Him?  We are to love each other and are to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ so that men can see Him when looking at us.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

John 15:8-9

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:16-17

So, the question hangs in the air – do you look like your Heavenly Father?

          At church on Sunday morning?

          At the supermarket on Tuesday?

          At the work meeting where your project is being criticized?

          When someone cuts you off on the highway?

          When you can’t think because the neighbors’ dogs are barking?

Do you look like your Heavenly Father?  Do I?

 

Father, we so easily call You Father even though we had nothing to do with Your adoption of us.  Your grace in giving us eternal life came at the incredible cost of Your Beloved Son’s atoning death.  Your mercy was extended to us even while we were still wallowing in our sin. Oh, Father.  Your love and compassion is too wonderful for us to comprehend.  All we can do is thank You and pray that we would be transformed through Your Spirit into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May we look more and more like Jesus and, thus, more and more like You each day.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – MERCY

Last week we considered Justice, one of the attributes of God which is difficult to discuss because, inevitably, we know that we have sinned and that when God metes out His justice, we will be found wanting, fully deserving His punishment.

This week we are considering the attribute of Mercy.  Mercy is the flip side of Justice.

Dr. R. C. Sproul contrasts God’s justice and mercy by reference to the land of Canaan when the children of Israel were going to overrun the people and claim the land as their Promised Land from God.

Of the multitudes of women and children living in Canaan, none was innocent.  The conquest of Canaan was an explicit expression of God’s righteous judgment on a wicked nation.  He made that point clear to Israel.  He also made it clear to the people of Israel that they also were not innocent.  It was not as if God destroyed a wicked people for the sake of a righteous people.  To the Canaanites God poured out justice.  To the Jews God poured out mercy.  He was quick to remind the Jews of that in Deuteronomy 9:4. 

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 119.

The verses referenced by Dr. Sproul are instructive here:

Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

Deuteronomy 9:4-6

To the Canaanites God poured out justice.  To the children of Israel God poured out mercy.

This is consistent with God’s character as He revealed Himself throughout scripture.  There is no deviation.

“And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

Exodus 33:19

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13

Salvation cannot be earned, we cannot work to avoid the consequences of our sin.      

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Paul puts the very granting of the faith to come to Jesus seeking salvation from our sin in the hands of the grace of God.  Our works cannot obtain this salvation, so no one can boast that anything that we did accomplished it.  The grace of God gave us this gift, and that my friend is mercy. 

Mercy results in the withholding of that which is deserved so that the object of mercy is unharmed.

As we saw last week, sin, which is disobedience to God’s law, must result in punishment because God’s justice mandates such a result.  However, when God grants mercy to an individual, that judgment is withdrawn, and His mercy eradicates the infraction which otherwise deserved judgment.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”

Titus 3:4-5

The result of God’s mercy is that we can come to God as our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior.  The writer of Hebrews says this about the result of God’s mercy:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16

We can come to God, with confidence, because He has showered us with His mercy.  Indeed, we can rejoice with Peter:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

1 Peter 1:3

God’s mercy is amazing.  Each person on this planet enjoys God’s mercy when He allows us to live, when He grants rain and sunshine, even though we sin and worship other gods, such as money, family, fame, fortune!  God does not destroy us instantly when we have such idols in front of our eyes, rather than focusing our attention on Him.  Instead, He has chosen to bless all people with His mercy now.  For those in His Son, Christ Jesus, we will receive His mercy both now and forever more.

Father, we are humbled and once again left without words to express our thankfulness and wonder at the gift of mercy that You have given to us.  May we walk in Your mercy and may we express Your love to others so that, by our words and actions, we may point people to Your Son, the giver of life and the sacrifice that atoned for our sin.  We are blessed beyond compare, and we praise Your holy name.

THE WORD OF THE LORD, FOR US

Bible - Grandfather's bible given to him in 1939 by wife and son
My Grandfather’s Bible given to him in 1939 by his wife and his son, my Dad.

The Holy Bible tells us:

“’All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”  

1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV

The phrase “the word of the Lord” is first referenced in Genesis and runs throughout the entire Holy Bible.  Space does not allow for a complete listing, but here are some of the references to the “word of the Lord”:

The word of the Lord came to Abram – Genesis 15:1

The word of the Lord came to Samuel – 1 Samuel 15:10

The word of the Lord came to Elijah – 1 Kings 21:17

The word of the Lord created the heavens – Psalm 33:6

The word of the Lord remains forever – 1 Peter 1:25

Of course, Israel had the word of the Lord as given to them through the Torah, the prophets and the writings, in essence what we call the Old Testament.  And we now have both the Old Testament as well as the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, along with the letters and record of the ministry of the various apostles, and the prophetic writing of the Apostle John in The Revelation.  This collection of books is the New Testament. 

Holy Bible parallel translation
The Parallel Bible with 4 versions side by side, the King James Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible and the Revised Standard Version.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

In other words, the entire Holy Bible, ALL Scripture, is God’s word and is profitable for us in numerous ways.  So, what does “breathed out by God” mean? God-breathed means that the words were inspired. 

Irenaeus. a 2nd century cleric from Lyons, France, said that we should be “most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”  Martin Luther said, “Scripture, although also written of men, is not of men nor from men, but from God.” 

From the 2nd Century to today, we see the same thought regarding God’s involvement in the Scriptures.  In an article entitled “God-Breathed Scripture” prepared by Ligonier Ministries, we read the following:

The Greek word translated as “breathed out” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is theopneustos, and Scripture is the only thing described as such by the Apostles. Thus, Scripture has a unique character as the voice and words of the Lord. It uniquely serves as God’s special revelation, as His inspired and revealed will for His people. Nothing else today is theopneustos, so we can point to nothing but Scripture as the Word of God. 

When we speak of Scripture as theopneustos, we are pointing to its divine inspiration. The Word of God written is identical to God’s speech. It is exactly what He intended us to have as the revelation of His will and how to please Him. At the same time, this does not take away from the Bible’s human character. God breathed out His Word, but He did so through the instrumentality of His prophets and Apostles. So, for example, the book of Romans is Paul’s word, bearing the Apostle’s unique style and character. Nevertheless, it is also God’s Word, given by Him. That our Lord used a man to give us the book of Romans does not in any way make it less than the very speech of God. And this applies to all books of Scripture. 

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/god-breathed-scripture/ 

The Holy Bible is not only translated and printed into books, it is now online and is also available in e-book text for viewing on all sorts of electronic devices.  This presents a new issue for modern Christianity.  Are we letting the multitude of Bibles in the house and the easy accessibility of it through internet and online sources render it just another book to throw on the floor or to dust around on the coffee table.

Beware!  It is NOT the Reader’s Digest or the daily newspaper. 

Does it retain the holy place it deserves in our minds and hearts or has it lost, for us, the power of The Word of God?  

My prayer is that the ready accessibility of The Holy Bible in our country will not cloud our minds or distort our perception of how cherished and sacred the Scriptures should be.   The Holy Bible as a printed book is not some magical relic that has powers if we hold it to our breast.   

It is even more profound.  The words in The Holy Bible do, most surely, have power through the Holy Spirit because they are, indeed, THE Words of God.  

When we contemplate the grandeur of this Book that God has, through His grace, placed in our hands, we can begin to realize how blessed we are.  What a treasure it is to have the very words of our Sovereign God in our possession.  The most important document that you could possibly possess is a Bible, the message of God to you, and to me.  Don’t neglect its divinely inspired message to you.

Do you?  

Do I?

Father, forgive me when I have neglected to read and study Your Word.  I pray that I would give Your Word the proper respect and reverence that it deserves.  I pray that I would read it and place its words into memory, and that I would do what The Holy Bible directs, so that I would reflect its words to those around me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

The advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” originated in part from the “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy. On each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse would be chanted, each including a different Old Testament name for the coming Messiah.

The text for this 8th century hymn comes from a 7 verse poem. It was used in a call and response fashion during the vespers, or evening, service. In fact, the original text created the reverse acrostic “ero cras,” which means “I shall be with you tomorrow,” and is particularly appropriate for the advent season.  

nativity-from-the-alamo-in-san-antonio
Nativity depiction from a San Antonio mission

In the 13th century a metrical version of five of the verses appeared on the musical scene.  That version was translated into English in 1851 by J. M. Neale. Although many hymnals do not include all the 5 verses translated by Neale, each verse is an acknowledgement of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.  Each of the five verses expounds upon one of the names for the Messiah:

  • “Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23) means “God with us”
  • “Adonai” (Exodus 19:16) is a name for God, the giver of the law
  • “Branch of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) refers to Jesus’ lineage
  • “Daystar” or “Oriens” (Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79) is the morning star
  • “Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22) again refers to Jesus’ lineage

(This listing compiled by Greg Scheer, 1994)

We sing this hymn recognizing that the Kingdom of God has already come in Christ Jesus but it is not yet here in its completion.   Christ’s first coming gives us a reason to rejoice again and again. Yet the minor tone of this carol reflects our realization that all is not well with the world. So along with our rejoicing, we plead using the words of this hymn that Christ would come again to perfectly fulfill the promise that all darkness will be turned to light.

The tune for this hymn is Veni Immanuel, originally music for a Requiem Mass in a 15th century French Franciscan Processional.  The chant tune was adapted to the poem by Englishman Thomas Helmore (1811-1890) and was published in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854). 

Here is the text of this beloved Christmas hymn. As with all carols that have been sung through the centuries, there are variations in the content of the verses.  So, if the following stanzas do not include one that you are familiar with, forgive me; I believe that the majority of the verses in use today are reflected in this listing.

Please feel free to read this as you listen to an instrumental version by The Piano Guys on their album A Family Christmas.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

3 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain

4 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain

5 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

As we read these words and think about their meaning through the centuries of Christianity, we come to a new realization of the power of our Lord and His Word.  We in this world mourn as many Christians are in physical danger and exile in today’s world.  But even if we are not in physical exile, we experience the separation from society that comes when we follow the commands of our Lord which run counter to the culture around us.  In short, we are different or as Peter puts it:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: [KJV]

1 Peter 1:9.  The English Standard Version translates “a peculiar people” as “a people for His own possession”.  In short, although we reside in our various countries on earth, believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of another kingdom in which Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Each of the verses of this beautiful carol ask that the Lord would guide us so we could live in His kingdom that was ushered into this world by the birth of the Babe in the Manger. 

While Christmas Day is past, our God is the same today as He was two days ago and even as He was before the creation of the world.  He does not change and He will be with us today and through the end of time, and even past that into eternity because He is omnipresent, omniscient, the Almighty God.  Time has no hold on Him and His names that applied in the millenia before the coming of the Babe in the manger still apply in the millenia since that Christmas blessing.  

Take take time to praise Him as you contemplate these names of God and the incredible Gift that He has given to us both in the Babe at the manger as well as in the salvation that comes through that Babe’s atoning sacrifice on the cross thirty-three years later. 

Father, I thank You that Emmanuel did come to this earth as a human Babe. I further thank You that He lived a perfect life that I cannot live, and that He took my sin upon Himself and died an atoning death on the cross of Calvary.  Finally, I thank You that He conquered death and is currently alive in heaven, interceding on my behalf before Your throne.  Thank You for salvation that was the very reason that He came at Christmas.  Thank You that in the manger, we see the shadow of the cross, all for the saving grace extended to Your children through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 24, SELF-CONTROL part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 24

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART TWO

 

Developing the fruit of the Spirit of self-control is not instantaneous once we become Christians.

 

G. K. Beale says it like this:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175. [Emphasis mine]

 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, we have the seed of the fruit within us because the Holy Spirit resides within the Christian, but that seed may not have grown very much yet.  We have to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He can develop the character and image of Christ in us.

Remember our thoughts last week comparing a life without self-control to a jungle while a life with self-control is rather like a  well groomed, tended garden.

jungle-scene
   Jungle scene from Parrot Jungle in Kings Bay, Florida.
garden-walkway-parrot-jungle
Beautiful garden walkway from Kings Bay, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One characteristic of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to bridle the wild impulses that lead to destruction — self-control.  Note, we can have self-control in one area but not in another.  The Spirit will encourage you to increase self-control so that it encompasses all the areas of your life, not just some of them!

 

How do we develop self-control of the Holy Spirit?  There is no pill to take for it and there is no substitute for hard work.  We train ourselves, just as an athlete would do, so that we learn to exercise self-control through God’s grace and His Spirit.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

So, what does the scripture say about temperance [abstinence or restraint]?

 

Consider Eating:

 

Table manners are important!  Proverbs 23:1-3 speaks of restraint when eating with those over you:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.  Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.  

 

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

Proverbs 25:16

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. … “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” … At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1:8-16.  Honor God in controlling our appetite for food and beverages.

 

Consider Desires and Passions:

I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.

 Job 31:1

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,… 

 Titus 2:11-12

 

Consider our Dress

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9

 

Consider our Speech and Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Philippians 4:5

 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

 

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:6-8

 

Consider the standard for Christian Leaders

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8

 

Older Christians to be models for younger Christians

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

 Titus 2:2-5

 

Consider Self-Control In all things

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

 Titus 2:11-12

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

The temperate person lives within restraints and keeps his life under control.  Self-control is not strict adherence to rules.  Further, this is not done through sheer willpower, through grit teeth or rank stubbornness … it is done through the Spirit of our Lord and the strength that only He can give.  It is for the purpose of glorifying God by living self-controlled, upright and godly lives before those we come in contact with, in direct contrast to the worldly life that is so chaotic and random, without control or order.

 

Thinking back to last week’s lesson, is our life a jungle or a garden?  Are we tending it and, through self-control, weeding out the bad and developing the good for our Lord’s sake?  Have we committed ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can transform us into the image of Christ?

 

Let us develop self-control to the honor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit!

  

Blessings to you and I pray that you have been blessed as we have studied about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.   Next week we will have the final conclusion for the study; please join me as we seek to learn and do the will of our Father. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 8 – JOY, Part Two

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART TWO

In the last post we began thinking about Biblical Joy.  In so doing, we noted that Joy is the first fruit, not gift, of the Spirit.  This means that Joy is not bestowed on one person as a gift but someone else does not have that gift so they don’t have Joy.  Rather, the Christian has Joy in her heart because she has the Holy Spirit in her heart — it is there, whether or not she feels it at this moment!

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

In the New Testament church, we can see evidence of the Joy in the Lord by the rapid expansion of the church.  [After all, who wants to join a bunch of sourpusses?]

 

These Christians had something that no one else had to offer … not just eternal life after death, but a way of living that gave them Joy even in the dreary, persecution filled existence that the people experienced in their day-to-day lives.

 

Picture Paul and Silas – they are in prison after freeing a slave girl from a demonic spirit.  In Acts 16 we have the full story.  The relevant part for this discussion comes after they have been severely beaten, put into the inner cell, and fastened by their feet in the stocks.

 

I don’t know about you, but I would be particularly happy in this situation.   But, listen to what Scripture says Paul and Silas were doing:

 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was such a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

Acts 16:25-28.

 

The jailer brought them out of jail and that very night, the jailer and his whole family believed on the Lord Jesus and received eternal life.  Paul and Silas understood that their physical comfort was irrelevant — if they could win one person, whether prisoner or jailer, to Jesus, the pain of prison was worth it.  The joy they had was from a supernatural source – it certainly was not just positive thinking!

 

In 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter tells the people that they can rejoice in salvation through Jesus Christ even though they are suffering now, knowing that their suffering is proving their faith which is more precious than gold and it would all be to the praise and glory of Christ.

 

Both secular and Biblical History tell us that the 1st century was no picnic for Christian believers.

 

Charles Spurgeon, a minister of the 19th century (1834 – 1892) became the pastor of the Park Street Church in London, England and, in 1855, began to publish his sermons weekly.  Today, they make up 57 volumes of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.  In a sermon on the fruit of the Spirit – joy, [contained in volume 27,] Spurgeon references the 1st century Christians and their experiences in the catacombs.

 

Turn now to the poor, hunted Christians and read the inscriptions left by them in the catacombs.  They are so calm and peaceful that you say instinctively – a joyous people were wont [inclined] to gather here.  Those who have been most eminent [prominent] in service and in suffering for Christ’s sake have been of a triumphant spirit, dauntless because supported by an inner joy.  Their calm courage made them the wonder of the age.

 

Spurgeon continues –

 

I do not know how much Tiberias and Nero used to sing – happy men they certainly were not.  I can hardly imagine them singing, except at their drunken orgies, and then in the same tone as tigers growl.  But, I do know that Paul and Silas sang praises unto God with their feet in the stocks and the prisoners heard them.  I also know that this was the mark of the Christians of the first age, that when they assembled on the Lord’s day it was not to groan but to sing praises to the name of one Christos, whom they worshiped as a God.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

How did those 1st century Christians have such joy even in horrific circumstances?  Jesus answered this question when He said:

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

The Christian’s Joy is not superficial or fake.  It is not a plastic smile.  This mandate is not superficial cheerfulness or irrational escapism but our joy is grounded in the cosmic reality that our Savior has overcome the world, sin and death.  His victory means that we too have overcome the world – not because of anything that we have done but because He is covering us with His blood stained arms.

 

Listen to the text of John 16:33 as found in the song entitled “I Have Overcome the World,” sung on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album “Overcoming Guilt.

 

So, where do you find your Joy?

 

Look to Jesus Christ.  Only through His work alone can you received His Joy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, NO. 6, LOVE, PART THREE.

We are continuing Dr. R.C. Sproul’s identification of the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian’s life and heart when Agape love is present through the Holy Spirit.  We began consideration of these characteristics last week by noting that:

  • Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God;
  • Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word; and
  • Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.

 

What does Scripture say?

Let us now consider several additional characteristics of Agape love.

  1. Agape love enables us to desire justice for others.

 

David, in Psalms 82:3-4 says:

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

The prophet Micah says that God has told us what we are to do in Micah 6:8:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

 

Of course, we know that Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor” in Luke 10:29 and in response, the parable of the Good Samaritan was given, telling us that all persons are our neighbors.  Agape love enables us to want, and to work for, justice and mercy for persons we come in contact with, whether physically or through hearing of their difficulties.  They are our neighbors and Agape love encourages our participation with them.

 

  1. Agape love encourages us to be content in any situation.

 

Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance presented in Philippians 4:11-12.  Paul exhibited this contentment when he and Silas were in prison and, after being beaten and put in chains, they were praying and singing praises to God, so loudly that the other prisoners heard them.  Acts 16.

 

Paul understood that contentment is possible when we remember that God is sovereign and that He is in control of the events and circumstances that confront us.  Therefore, through His sovereignty, we know that He will use the situation for His purposes and for His glory.  We often may not know why certain things happen, but we know the One who has ordained and permitted those things for His reasons and for our ultimate benefit. We, therefore, can be content in His provision and grace.

 

In 1 Peter 1:6 the demand for contentment sounds impossible when Peter says:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….”

 

Rejoicing while suffering — this is evidence of Agape love because only the Holy Spirit can enable us to do so.

 

  1. Agape love enables us to resist the sin of bitterness.

 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:31:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

 

The writer of Hebrews 12:15 warns:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….” 

 

James 3:14 warns that bitter envy and selfish ambition do not come from heaven but rather are earthly, unspiritual and of the devil.  James then says:

 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

James 3:16

 

Jonathan Edwards describes the response to bitterness in Charity and Its Fruits as follows:

An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction.  It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

 

Simply put, bitterness, gossip, resentment … none of this has any place in a heart that is filled with Agape love.  Using Christ as our Guide, we see no evidence of this response when He was lied about by false witnesses, rejected and abandoned by His own disciples, accused by the hypocrites in the Synagogue, or when He heard cries for His crucifixion from the very people who within that same week were clamoring for Him to become their leader.  Another example of Jesus’ Agape love was His response when He was nailed to the cross and people were “wagging their heads” at Him.  Mark 15:29.  Rather than bitterness, Jesus’ prayer was

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” 

Luke 23:54.

There are times that we forget that the Agape love in our heart through the Holy Spirit is simply another way of saying God’s love is within us.  The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has the same power and strength as the other Persons in the Trinity and it is this Spirit that has the power to enable us to love as only God can love.   The Holy Spirit can impart God’s love to us because He is God … and He has provided this same love to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think about the awesomeness of Agape love that is available to us, and then let us commit ourselves to putting that love in practice as we go through our lives, day by day.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

Let’s get practical – What can we do to exercise each of these characteristics?

 

Dr. Sproul suggests using what he calls the Judgment of Charity.  The Judgment of Charity is simply the practice of giving others the benefit of the doubt, believing them to have acted in love and not hate, responding in love and not as an enemy.  Charity makes it a practice to consider other’s communication in the best light, or the best case scenario, even when that person’s actions or words have wounded us.

 

Rather than thinking of some negative ulterior motive for why they acted the way they did, the Christian exercising this fruit of the Spirit views the actions of others through the lens of Agape love.  In so doing we are following the example of Jesus in our relationship with Him.

 

How often have we hurt our Savior by failing to honor our commitments, by failing to obey His commands, by failing to serve Him to the utmost of our abilities even when we have promised to do so?  Yet, despite knowing our failings, He went to the cross for us, took our shame and punishment, and paid the price of our sin.

 

The evidence of the fruit of Agape love in our heart is the Spirit’s enabling us to love God and others as Christ loved us.  It is a love that honors God and His Word.  It is a love that serves others without demanding anything in return.  It is a love that enables the Christian to love the unlovely, precisely because the Christian is also aware that she is a sinner and is repugnant to our Holy God, BUT FOR the righteousness of Christ that she has been given through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Praise the Lord for His wonderful mercy and grace and for Agape Love.

 

Damaris sings How Deep the Father’s Love for Us on her The Heart of God album.  It is a beautiful song that touches my heart each time I hear it.    Let the words speak to you as you consider Agape Love and your response to the Spirit as He leads you into a new appreciation of God’s Love!  Praise His Holy Name!

 

Agape love – it truly is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

Next week we will begin our look at the fruit of the Spirit – Joy.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.