December 31, 2008

Destroy This Temple, And In Three Days I Will Raise It Up

This is a recent sermon by John Piper on John 2:12-22.

Destroy This Temple, And In Three Days I Will Raise It Up

The whole thing is worthwhile, and in the last 10 minutes he addresses why bookstores in Churches are not a contradiction of this text, and why Santa Claus is. Also, see the excerpt below for a comparison of Santa's gospel and Jesus' gospel:

December 22, 2008

Psalm 138 ~ Thanks From A Whole Heart

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart…

Do I, Lord? Search me and show me
Have I, Lord? Walk with me, know me
You’ve given me life, and many joyful days
I cried to you for a wife, now I stand here amazed

Standing before angels or kings
My whole heart should burst out and sing
You’ve answered me whenever I call
You’ve lifted me whenever I fall

You have glorified your word and name
Give me strength, Lord, that I do the same
You are magnified above all kings on earth
And they’ll testify to your surpassing worth

Though you are high and lifted up
You still draw nigh to the lowly and sup
I weep at your feet as one in mourning
For your mercies are new every morning

Though I face death, or more likely humility
You give me life; you’re my rock of stability
Adversaries and sins perplex me in every way
But you have said, “Vengeance in mine. I will repay.”

I know that forever your love endures
And your purposes for me are secure
I seek to give you thanks with all that I can
I ask that you don’t forsake me, the work of your hands

Romans 6 ~ Dead to sin, Alive to God

This is a small group study for Romans 6, with a summary of the text, introduction to some of the theological issues, and application/discussion questions.

Download here (pdf file)

December 12, 2008

My Help Comes From the Lord! ~ Psalm 121

Psalms 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

This Psalm is one of the “Psalms of Ascent,” often thought to be sung by pilgrims on the way to Zion during one of the annual feasts (Exo. 34:23; Deut. 16:16; 1 Sam. 1:3; Luk. 2:41). You can imagine the psalmist, looking off into the distance at the foreboding journey, and feeling quite uneasy about what lies ahead.

                In some ways, I can see this psalm as a parable of my own life and faith. I will often find myself imagining Jesus saying to me, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mat. 8:26; Mat. 14:31; Mat. 16:8; Luk. 12:28). The arrows come from all sides, “Fear this! Fear this!” Pondering the journey ahead, just as the psalmist looked to the hills towards Zion, we can’t help but ask in our hearts, “From where does my help come?” Some may not even ask the question at all. Instead they just assume there is no help coming, and we need to rely on our own strength or we will fail.

                We know better than this, right? We must ask the question, if only for a chance to give the answer: 

~My Help Comes From the LORD~

                Easy to say, but on what basis can we say that? Why should I be confident in the Lord’s help? Well, for one, he is able, seeing as he “made heaven and earth.” Hebrews 11:3 says this:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

How often do you stop to consider this simple fact - “He created the universe?” Think about it, and you can see where the psalmist is going. If we confess (as every Christian does) that God made the universe, what exactly are we saying if we don’t trust him? Obviously, he’s powerful enough to help (he made the universe!). Then what? By not trusting him, we are essentially saying that either he is not good, or he is not on our side.

                We know better than this, because we know that he keeps (guards) Israel as a people, and anyone who is in Israel as an individual. We might also say that he keeps and guards Christ, and anyone who is in Christ. On what basis? Well, Jesus prayed for it:

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:11-15, 20-21)

In many ways, our foundation is more secure than the psalmist, since we know him – not only as Creator of the universe and keeper of Israel, but also as Redeemer and Friend (John 15:13). We also have the confidence of rock solid logic. That is, we believe that Christ died for our sins. More than that, we believe that the Father sent his Son with the express purpose of dying for our sins. Therefore, if he has already done the most difficult thing to keep us, guard us, and save us, how can we not trust him in the infinitely smaller and easier things (cf. Rom. 8:31-32)?

                Never lose sight of the glorious gospel of Christ, and never stop pursuing a deeper understanding of it. For the gospel is the power of God, not only to bring us to Christ, but to keep us in Christ. Belief in the gospel is not only the means by which we are justified (that is, forgiven and counted righteous before God), but it is also the means by which we are being sanctified (that is, made to be righteous).

                We have a superior revelation and a better covenant than the psalmist, so our hope should be all the surer. If we can confidently say in our hearts, “My help comes from the LORD,” then we have found the key to overcoming sin and temptation, fear and unbelief, and any troubles that we encounter in this life – from this time forth and forevermore.

December 1, 2008

Why is the Old Testament shut out of church?

Old Testament commentator Ralph Davis has a challenging article on why much of the OT is avoided in preaching and study. He gives five reasons:
  1. Scholarly Barrenness
  2. Evangelical Sloppiness
  3. Superficial Assumptions
  4. Hermeneutical Intimidation
  5. Spiritual Deficiency
"Maybe our problem is a spiritual one--maybe we are not salivating for the triune God as we read our Bibles. Maybe we're focused on sermons rather than worship.  If once you have found God fascinating...that goes a long way towards curing the 'problem' of the OT."

It's worth the 5 minute read: Read it here

November 30, 2008

The Bible on the Treatment of Immigrants

The Old Testament has some interesting things to say regarding the treatment of immigrants among the people of Israel:

  1.        Prohibitions on oppression and unfair treatment (Exo. 22:21; Exo. 23:9; Deut. 10:18-19; Deut. 24:17; Eze. 22:7; Eze. 22:29; Zech. 7:10)
  2.        They are held to the same laws as natives (Exo. 12:19; Lev. 17:15; Lev. 24:22; Num. 9:14; Num. 15:15; Num. 15:30; Lev. 19:34)
  3.        They are included in the provisions for the orphans, widows, and other poor (Lev. 19:10; Lev. 23:22; Deut. 14:29; Deut. 24:19-21; Deut 26:12-13)

While we can’t take the laws and customs of the Israelites and transplant them directly to a Christian era under secular governments, there are certainly underlying principles that apply regardless of the culture and context. Throughout the Old Testament, the reason God gives for this treatment of sojourners or foreigners is that the Israelites themselves were once sojourners in the land of Egypt. Christians everywhere should be able to relate to this sentiment, seeing as we are but sojourners ourselves with a heavenly citizenship (Php 3:20; Heb. 13:14)

November 29, 2008

Losing your life for Christ - John 12:23-26

And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:23-26

Two things are in view in this passage:

1.       We have Jesus, the Son of God, taking up his cross in obedience to his Father, forsaking his own life and dying in order to glorify both the Father and the Son.

2.       We have Jesus telling those who would be his disciples that they must hate their lives in this world and follow him – with the promise of suffering even as Jesus suffered, but also being honored with eternal life.

There is really only one theme here: that of the master leading the way and the servants following suit, forsaking everything just as their master has done. It’s jarring to note that this statement of Jesus – “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” – occurs in all four of the gospel accounts, sometimes two or three times, making one of (if not the) most repeated sayings of Jesus in the Bible.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

Our call as disciples of Christ is to relinquish our claim to everything we have and everything we are, realizing that we are not our own but have been bought with a price, and that we do not have anything that we have not received as a gift. Knowing this, we are to sacrifice everything for the sake of obeying the will of God.

                This is the design of the kingdom of God and in this sacrifice of everything the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies. Jesus Christ is the primary and ultimate fulfillment of this, forsaking everything he had or might have had in this world, resisting any desire that would conflict with his Father’s will, and becoming obedient even to the point of death on the cross. And in this death, he purchased the salvation of all who would believe in him, bearing much fruit.

                Following after Christ, Christians throughout history have been God’s instruments for bearing fruit. Remaining steadfast in their confession, in the face of persecution and even to the point of death, these Christians have fueled the growth of the Church from its early days up to the present day. These dying grains of wheat have produced more fruit than any man can number. In the second century, Tertullian bore witness to this phenomenon:

“We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us - the more you kill the more there are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church…Because those who see us die wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves and criminals. And when they find out, they join us.”

                The faith whose hope transcends all earthly passions and even life itself, which even makes men willing to be lead as sheep to the slaughter for the sake of the joy that awaits them beyond that – this faith is a living witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fact is, we are all called to be martyrs and we must all lose our lives for Christ’s sake. This may not manifest itself in physical torture or death at the hands of persecutors, though that undoubtedly may be true for some of us. Nevertheless, loss and persecution are the norm for Christians.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

                This persecution can take many forms beyond beatings and imprisonment. It may be verbal abuse or humiliation by friends, family, or co-workers when you remain firm in obedience to Christ in opposition to conventional wisdom. It may mean losing a job or being passed up for a promotion when you refuse to comply with ethically dubious business practices. The list goes on… We need not seek physical martyrdom – if we seek out and live the will of God in our lives, we will lose our lives in this world sure enough.

                In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“To endure the cross is not a tragedy: it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. The cross means sharing in the suffering of Christ to the last and to the fullest… As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death – we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

                In the great hall of faith of Hebrews 11, we find several examples of people who lost their lives in obedience to God’s will, and in the process gained life:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Hebrews 11:8-9

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." Hebrews 11:17-18

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:24-26

In Philippians 3, we see Paul, who by most standards had much to be proud of:

Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:5-6

 Of this he says:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11

Finally, we see Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

                Let us despise the shame that comes with being obedient to Christ, not counting it worthy of our concern. Let us seek out his will, which has been revealed to us in the Bible, and then let us take up our crosses and follow him, sharing in his sufferings and knowing that we will also share in his glory.

I leave you with this exhortation from Hebrews 13:

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:12-14

They Loved the Darkness More than the Light - John 3:16-21

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." John 3:16-21

            This passage contains what is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, where we have God demonstrating His love for the world by sending His one and only Son into the world to give life to those who believe. It’s well-known for good reason, because it is on this rock of God’s love that we find the basis of our hope. In Romans, Paul uses this gift of love as the foundation for his confidence in God in the face of trials, suffering, and death:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:31-34

            The message is clear: God gave up His most precious Son Jesus, so that we would have life. In the face of this, how can we not rest confidently in Him? We know that we are not condemned, because Christ died and was raised. Therefore, if He is trustworthy in the greatest sacrifice to meet our greatest need, we should not doubt that He is trustworthy in everything – because he has also promised that for those who love God, all things work together for good.

            No condemnation...all things working together for good…eternal life…peace with God. That’s the message of John 3:16 for those who trust in Christ. But, what about those who don’t believe? In verses 17-21, John continues to develop the thought began in verse 16 and answers this question for us.

            God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it through Jesus…but in verse 18 we see that those who do not believe are condemned. Why? They are condemned because they have not believed in Jesus.

The verdict against them is this:

            The light (that is, Jesus) has come into the world, and men have loved the darkness more than the light. Their sinful thoughts, desires, and deeds are comfortably hidden in the darkness of their hearts, deceiving their conscience that all is well. One of the effects of light is to show things for what they really are, and one of the effects of seeing Christ is that our thoughts, desires, and actions are exposed for what they really are – horrible, ugly sins. Those who don’t believe Christ are condemned because they prefer to remain in darkness rather than have their sins exposed for what they are.

            We who believe in Christ welcome the light. Upon seeing the horror of our sin, we flee to Christ for mercy. As we begin to walk in the light, Christ begins to live through us. Now, the same light that exposed our sin, exposes our new life for what it is – the very work of God in us through Christ. Let us give thanks to God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” that he has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor 4:6). In his death and resurrection we find hope, and His light shines to guide our path, exposing our sin and leading us in paths of righteousness.

            But also remember that the same Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world,” also said “you are the light of the world.” Therefore, let’s be conscious of letting Christ’s light shine out of us in such a way that when people see our love, compassion, and generosity, God gets the glory, not us. This not only includes our acts of love, but also the way we handle our sin and suffering. We should pray for the grace to recognize sin, and the strength to flee from it. If we sin against others, we should repent to them in a spirit of humility, knowing that not doing so would defame the name of Jesus. When wronged by others, we should be gracious, obeying Christ’s command to love our enemies, and we should seek to overcome evil with good. In suffering, we trust patiently in the Lord, knowing that are afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. When others see our actions and hear our words, whether they praise us or persecute us, let it be because we faithfully represented Christ to them.

The Way of the Righteous - Psalm 1

Psalms 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Very happy and full of joy is the man who:

  1. Doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked:
    Our walk concerns the action and direction of our lives. The happy man doesn’t heed the advice of the wicked and set his feet towards their ways (Prov. 1:15). The key here is whose advice he follows. He refuses to heed the counsel of the wicked, though their advice may seem tempting or even rational, because he knows and delights in the Word of God and sets his feet according to that instead. Does your advice come from the world of the ungodly, or from Christ? Are your views of money and relations shaped more by Fortune magazine and Cosmo, than the Bible? Is your direction set by the wisdom of a world enslaved by idolatry, or by the wisdom of the God? Happy is the man who forsakes the former and clings to the latter.
  2. Doesn’t stand in the way of sinners:
    Beyond our actions lie our dispositions. Though sinners may not be actively committing injustice or violence, they have a disposition towards sin. They have no concern for God, and haven’t seen any reason why they need to. They have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). The man who no longer stands in the way of sinners has a new outlook, and his yearning is for God. He has been born again. He is now justified before God and stands in the Way of the righteous (which is Christ – John 14:6; 1Cor. 6:11). He now sees God, and seeing Him, he longs for Him.
  3. Doesn’t sit in the seat of scoffers:
    The scoffers aren’t walking or standing, but sit and mock those who are (possibly both the righteous and the wicked) – They enjoy it when sinners fall into sin and ruin, and they mock the righteous in Christ. The scoffer sees the sinner struggle and does nothing to lift their burden. They see the righteous cry for mercy and laugh in derision. They pray, but their prayer is “'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” (Luke 18:11). The man who doesn’t sit in their seat knows that he too has walked in wickedness and stood as a sinner, and that except for the grace and mercy continually bestowed to him in Christ, he would do so again. He would prefer to lift the sinners’ burdens (Matt. 11:28-30) and encourage the righteous rather than scoff at them.
  4. Delights in the law of the Lord:
    He delights in every precept and law of God and loves them. Though he stands condemned under the law, he delights that the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law, and rests in His righteousness. As Christ is the fulfillment of the law, it can be said that the man delights in Him and His commandments. His desire is for Christ, and his satisfaction is found in Him.
  5. Meditates on it day and night:
    Not the passive meditation of the eastern religions, but an active study and committing to memory. In the same manner that his delight is in the law, so is his meditation. He meditates on Christ as the Word of God day and night. Though he goes about the day, the man has the Word close to his heart and it is ever before him.

The man is joyful and happy because of these things, but how does he get there? Can I just decide to not walk in the ungodly way, not stand with the sinners, not sit with the scoffers, but instead delight in the law of God? No sooner than a leopard can change his spots (Jer. 13:23). Romans 3:10-18 gives us the reason – “No one seeks for God.” We all like sheep have gone astray. We’ve all exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the glory of created things. So how may we be like this man, and find happiness?

“He is like a tree planted by the streams of water”
This man is like a tree, receiving its life from a stream of water. What is this water? How does the tree get planted by the water? We learn from Jesus that the tree is planted by God (Matt. 15:13; Isa. 60:21), and that the stream of water is the Holy Spirit flowing from God:

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

Jesus expounds on His own teaching a little further on:

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:38-39

Those who trust in Christ will receive the Holy Spirit, Who will flow out of their heart in a river of living water. The Spirit will well up in them to eternal life, and will overflow out of them to bring that life to others.

That yields its fruit in its season”
      The tree planted by the water will yield fruit, and we can be confident of it because it is the Holy Spirit Who is giving the tree life. In fact, it is through these fruits that we recognize a tree as having been properly planted and watered by the Holy Spirit:

And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.… As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:8, 15

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciplesJohn 15:8

Elsewhere, our Lord shows us that our fruits are manifest in a large part by our words:

"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:43-45

We also see that the Spirit works fruit in us, and from it we shine as bright lights in the darkness:

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

“And its leaf does not wither”

      Because our lives and our fruit are supplied by the Holy Spirit, we rest assured that “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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”(1 Peter 1:3-5).  We see in this a picture of Eternal Security, or Perseverance of the Saints – namely, that God who planted the tree will water and grow it to fruition by the power of the Holy Spirit, not allowing its leaves to wither. This is the promise of our blessed Savior:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:27-30

“Whatever he does shall prosper”
The man who abhors the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of scoffers, and delights in Christ and His words can rest on this promise:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

This is the promise given for a saint who abides in Christ, and walks by the Spirit which gives him life. He asks and receives, because in everything he seeks to glorify God. The apostle James gives a solemn warning to those whose goal is to fulfill their worldly passions:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4

They fight and covet for things they desire, but never think to ask for those things in prayer. So common it is for many to try and make their own way, rather than turning to the Creator and Sustainer of all things for help. Then, there are some who do ask, but they don’t receive because they’re asking to fulfill their worldly pleasures! James calls people that do this adulterers and adulteresses. They ask God to give them things that they can use them to be unfaithful to Him. As John Piper describes it, people who pray for fulfillment of their worldly lusts are “like a wife who asks her husband for $50, and when she gets it, she goes to her boyfriend and gives him the $50 so he will take her out and sleep with her. They make a cuckold of God.”

Rather, the heart of the man in Psalms 1 asks and receives because he asks according to God’s will, seeking His glory:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

Not only in asking and receiving does he prosper, but in doing as well. Much like Hezekiah:

And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21

      The analogy of the tree is very strong and used throughout the scriptures. In Jeremiah, we find a very similar passage from the Lord, which yields some additional insight:

Thus says the LORD:
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
 in an uninhabited salt land.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
 for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:5-8

      Of particular interest are the phrases “does not fear when heat comes” and “is not anxious in the year of drought.” In these verses we see the picture of various types of trials and sufferings that come upon him whose trust is in the Lord and that even during these times, “its leaves remain green” and “it does not cease to bear fruit.”

      Picture for a moment a forest of trees, all green and healthy. Then comes a scorching heat that bears down on the trees and they all start to dry up and shrivel. Then a drought comes and they all die and begin to waste away. Now, in the middle of that scene of gloom and death, picture a lone tree, as green as a summer meadow, filled with fruit. Oh, how beautiful that tree is, and how brightly it shines in the darkness!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Our Lord Jesus also shows some of the temptations that will threaten the trees:

And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them… When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Matthew 13:4-7, 19-22

“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”

      The wicked are compared to the shriveled trees, which are driven away when the wind blows. Jeremiah contrasts these men with the righteous. They “trust in man” and make flesh their strength. Their end is well known (Matt. 3:12; 7:19; 15:13)

“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”

The Lord knows and loves the way of the righteous as a Father knows a Son and loves Him. God loves the way of the righteous because God loves His Son, and all who follow that way shall live because that way is also life:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

      The way of the ungodly is sin, death, and hell. These shall perish alongside the ungodly.

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:13-15


Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

Casting Your Cares on Him - 1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
A few things to note:
1. The phrase "humble yourselves" is passive in the greek, with the sense of "be humbled" or "allow yourself to be humbled by God"
2. The clause "casting all your anxieties" is dependent to v.6 and explains the way in which we humble ourselves
3. The phrase "all your anxieties" is literally "the whole of your anxiety," as in the totality of it
Our refusal to cast all of our concerns on God and be totally dependant on him is rooted in pride. We seek to be self-sufficient and do things of our own resources. We are humbled by casting all of our anxieties (concerns, cares, desires, fears) on him. The previous verse says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." When we are proud, God will often oppose us to humble us and bring us to the point of casting all of our cares on him, trusting that he cares for us. This is part of his work of conforming us to the image of his Son.
This page has a great in depth study on this verse:

November 28, 2008

Romans 5:12-21 ~ Death in Adam, Life in Christ

This is a small group study for Romans 5:12-21, with a summary of the text, introduction to some of the theological issues, and application/discussion questions.

Download here (pdf file)