Peter preached on the day of Pentecost about the resurrection of Jesus. He said, “God raised him [His Son] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to held by it” (Acts 2:24). Then Peter proved his point by quoting Psalm 16:8-11 and made the following application.
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29–32)
David had the hope of eternal pleasures not just for one of his descendants, but in his descendent. This is also the hope that every believers has in Jesus.
As it says in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These blessings were purchased for us by Christ.
Jesus is the first-fruits of those raised from the dead. When we pause around the Lord’s Table, we remember the path of life. To get on that path we believe in Him who descended from the Father, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. When we believe, we are identified with Him in life and death, with His people, and with His path. We thank Him in joy and follow His way of loving sacrifice for others.
The communion meal provides a practice place for us to rejoice in our life, in our future resurrection, and to delight the communion of saints who are on the same path.
Where the old [way of education] initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry–keeper deals with young birds–making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation–men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.
—C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
We’ve arrived at the turn of the calendar when people typically consider their food intake and the health of their hearts. God’s people ought to do the same, not only in terms of physical well-being, but also evaluating and planning Bible intake as the year turns.
If you’re a Christian, whether you’re seven or eighty, you should be craving to eat more Bible. There are many reading plans and more than one type of media, but God’s Word must be gotten in. Young believers can read picture Bibles, more mature believers have a multitude of options. Read big chunks, listen (for free) when you wake and walk around and lay down. We have many printed copies of God’s Word in a variety of translations. If you’re tired of the one you have been reading, get another one.
There is no command in Scripture to read it every day. That’s mostly because for most of history, God’s people did have their own copies; commanding them to read it would have been inappropriate. But there is a command to mediate night and day. If check boxes help you to get the Book in front of your eyes, then use the tool. A good tool doesn’t mean you’ve built anything, but a good tool may be of good use for your meditation project.
There isn’t any other writing that offers so much profit. God’s Words are more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold. As we receive and keep His testimonies we find great reward. As David wrote for a nation to sing (Psalm 19):
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
Scripture awakens and enlivens our souls. The Bible revives; it makes alive. When it restricts, it only only does so like a guardrail that keeps your car from plummeting to the bottom of the cliff. Delight in the law of the Lord to be rooted, fed, and fruitful. It promises to make you complete and equip you for every good work. What is your plan to get the Word into your heart this upcoming year?
Justin Taylor has provided a splendid list of Scripture reading plans, listening options, and recommended resources. Check out some of the Bible overview videos from The Bible Project near the end as well.
It is worth returning regularly to John’s vision of the throne and the Lamb in Revelation 5. We are reminded what the Lamb has done and what He is making. In doing so we are also reminded of what we are part of.
John saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, and four living creatures and twenty-four elders who were singing a new song.
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
What He has done is lay down His life to pay our ransom from captivity to sin. We owed righteousness and we had none to our name. He spent Himself on behalf of those the Father gave to Him. What He is making is a kingdom of lesser kings, those who will serve Him with responsibilities to rule.
And He redeemed people, we might say, from every county, state, and country on earth. He’s saving from all kinds of cultures, languages, and families. His His goal is a unified body with each part working properly so that it builds itself up in love. His blood overcomes family feuds and sibling rivalries and generational wars.
Thou; the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we it’s glories see?
(“Savior of the Nations, Come”)
We eat and drink together not only to remember that this will happen, but our eating and drinking together is evidence that it is happening. It is good news for all people. Savior of the nations, come!
The first man to get drunk that we know about was Noah. He’s given credit for consummate obedience in the matter of the ark, he’s given credit for cultivating science in the matter of the vine, and he’s given no free pass in the matter of his overindulgence. He sinned, albeit in the privacy of his tent, because he drank too much.
We ought to appreciate Noah’s viniculture. As the psalmist sings, God causes plants to grow that man cultivates for wine that gladdens man’s heart (Psalm 104:15). Drinking wine and beer and strong drink can be done for God’s glory; the Israelites were commanded to do it as worship during certain festivals (Deuteronomy 14:26). The goodness of fermented grain and grapes is something that not everyone is persuaded of, and it’s worth more attention at another time. But what must be received without question or qualification is that drunkenness is always wrong.
God prohibits it in both Testaments, before and after the coming of His Son (Ephesians 5:18). Drunkenness is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:21). Drunks are listed among sinners who cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
The reason for the prohibition is that drunkenness scotches the image of God in man. It disrupts, if not ruins, relationships and it impairs ability to fulfill responsibilities. Drunkenness is a state of control by something else when, for Christians, we are to be controlled by the Spirit.
Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, is no good god. The best he offers is forgetfulness and, even that is temporary and incomplete. As Jim West has written, unbelievers drink to forget but believers drink to remember and to give thanks to God for specific gifts. That can’t happen when the brain is foggy. Drunkenness is not funny and it is not godly, not ever.
For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
—C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
If one of the central sins in the heart of man is grabbiness (and it is), then what would be the best solution?
When the kids can’t wait to rip open the twelfth present before they’ve finished opening the seventh, what do responsible parents do? They calm everyone down with a grapefruit face, then make a mental note that next year no kid get more than six presents. Actually, they don’t need any.
When a greedy man gathers as much as he can, hoarding it away not just for himself but away from others, how would we counsel him? We’d say he’s wrong because having more doesn’t guarantee happiness. Look around.
When a critical woman complains and lost her gratitude in the back of the pantry months ago, how would we help her? Similar to the above, we’d probably tell her that she’s not looking hard enough, and, if she did, then she would realize it isn’t as bad as it could be and, that it turns out she has plenty of good.
I’m not saying that self-control or training your kids to have self-control is bad, nor am I saying that mammon gluttony and whiners don’t need an attitude adjustment. But when we see how God responds to grasping, grabbing men, we see that He gave.
To save us from our selfishness God gave His Son as a sacrifice and His Spirit as our strength. Greed is overcome by a superior satisfaction not by trying to gut desire. God so loved the world, which He saw enslaved to grabbiness, that He gave the spotless Lamb. Law doesn’t change man’s heart, grace does, and from Christ’s fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
I am fond of saying that there are a lot of ways to mess things up. Gift-giving is one of those subjects that falls under such a proverbial tree. Let’s say that there are four kinds of ribbon you can use to wrap your gifts, and only one of them is well-received.
Three kinds of ribbons stick to your fingers. First is giving wrapped in guilt. You feel like you must give because that’s the “tradition,” or you must give because the other person gave you something last year and it was better or nicer than what you gave him. Or you give because you just haven’t been around or you haven’t been kind to that person, or your kid. The present functions as a kind of payment.
Second is giving wrapped in fear. You are worried about what that person is going to think about you if you don’t give or depending on what you give. Or you are worried that they won’t give you something nice if you don’t give them something nice. Or you are afraid (parents) that you will ruin their idea of Christmas for years to come if you don’t make it special.
Third is giving wrapped in self-righteousness and pride. This may be the worst because it often looks like a different color on the top of the ribbon whereas guilt and fear show quickly. This gift-giving terrorist knows how to wait. He gives to be given back to, not in terms of a gift but in terms of recognition and appreciation. She counts how many days it takes for the thank-you card to arrive. This is grab-giving, taking by giving.
The last is giving wrapped in love. It is free, glad, and humble, It seeks to make happy, not to fulfill an obligation or to make a requirement. This is true giving, the only kind with no strings attached.
We have many opportunities to give and be given to, especially around this time of year, and there are a lot of ways to sin. By God’s grace we can repent, and we can also get His grace to help us do it right.
I assume most of you heard about the massacre in San Bernardino two weeks ago. Fourteen people were killed and twenty-one wounded in a terrorist attack. Within hours of the shootings, a number of conservative politicians used their social media channels to communicate their “thoughts and prayers” for the families of the victims. The Daily News (a newspaper in New York City) printed their front page with pictures and brief passages of praying sound bytes with the headline: “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” The page also included the following: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
Setting aside the “innocent” adjective applied to Americans as well as the leading label of a “gun scourge,” the mockery has been called “prayer shaming.” It’s as if the media snorted, “Oh, you’re praying? How ridiculous. What a fool. Why don’t you do something.” It’s trying to embarrass the prayers.
I cannot say for certain that these politicians weren’t posturing. But the Daily News wasn’t accusing them of hypocrisy. I also won’t say that praying is the only and final response. But the purpose of this shaming headline is an attempt to bring believers to their knees before cultural and governmental gods.
Perhaps the biggest shame is that we Christians have prayed so little in front of the world that it’s taken until now to get such clear and negative press. If, as a believer, you have ever lamented that you don’t know “how to make a difference in the culture,” just pray in public and be ready to give an answer for the prayer that is in you. It’s not a good sign that our society wants to pile on the uselessness of praying, but it is a good opportunity to shine as light in the darkness. Prayer is our thing. We can do this! Don’t hide your prayer behind a newspaper.
Be much in private prayer, too, and give up any desire to be rewarded by men. Don’t pray for the photo op, but do pray so plainly and freely and perseveringly and hopefully that others would see your good supplications and glorify God in heaven.
How do we learn what we should do on Christmas? By remembering what God did at Christmas.
Celebrate the stuff. Use fudge and eggnog and wine and roast beef. Use presents and wrapping paper…You do not prepare for a real celebration of the Incarnation through thirty days of Advent Gnosticism. At the same time, remembering your Puritan fathers, you must hate the sin while loving the stuff. Sin is not resident in the stuff. Sin is found in the human heart–in the hearts of both true gluttons and true scrooges–both those who drink much wine and those who drink much prune juice. If you are called up to the front of the class and you get the problem all wrong, it would be bad form to blame the blackboard. That is just where you registered your error. In the same way, we register our sin on the stuff. But–because Jesus was born in this material world, that is where we register our piety as well. If your godliness won’t imprint on fudge, then it is not true godliness. Some may be disturbed by this. It seems a little out of control, as though I am urging you to “go overboard.” But of course I am urging you to go overboard. Think about it–when this world was “in sin and error pining,” did God give us a teaspoon of grace to make our dungeon a tad more pleasant? No. He went overboard. (God Rest Ye Merry, 89-90).