THE INTERSECTION OF LOVE

It is true that he was weak when he was killed on the cross, but he lives now by God’s power. 2 CORINTHIANS 13:4

The cross. Can you turn any direction without seeing one? Perched atop a chapel. Carved into a graveyard headstone. Engraved in a ring or suspended on a chain. The Cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. An odd choice, don’t you think? Strange that a tool of torture would come to embody a movement of hope. The symbols of other faiths are more upbeat: the six-pointed star of David, the crescent moon of Islam, a lotus blossom for Buddhism. Yet a cross for Christianity? An instrument of execution? …

Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God’s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love; the other reflects the height of his holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standards.

from HE CHOSE THE NAILS

Not of This World

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We may believe that we’re avoiding worldly thinking, but to truly embrace Godly wisdom, we need to look below the surface—to a whole new way of seeing.

When you hear the term worldly, what comes to mind? It’s common for Christians to simply equate it with things the world values, such as material wealth, academic learning, the pursuit of pleasure—even blatant sin. The surprising fact is that the Bible usually refers to worldly “wisdom” in a far more complex way.

Because the struggle with worldliness was so pervasive in the early church, the apostles wrote frankly about its danger. They weren’t warning against human reasoning—which they themselves often employed when preaching in cultures that highly valued thoughtful speech. Neither was this worldliness primarily about outward morality. It went deeper than, say, drunkenness or sexual compromise or greed. Rather, we see it characterized in their epistles as a subtle force that could turn the most faithful churchgoer into a blind hypocrite, unaware of his growing enslavement to a mindset that turns the heart from God.

READ James 3:13-18

According to James, worldliness has a root of pride, a focus on self, and a desire to be recognized as superior to others—all of which begin with listening to Satan’s shrewd voice. Later in his letter (4:4-8), James confronted believers about worldly thinking that was causing them to, in effect, cheat on the Lord.

He urged them to resist this pull of the Enemy by deliberately humbling themselves and drawing near to God.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul likewise expressed frustration with the worldly, immature attitudes he’d seen in their church (3:1-3, 18-20). Essentially, they were thinking and acting on a surface level and refusing to go deeper. Paul was distressed that while they claimed to follow Christ, they were conforming to the world’s pattern of seeking to elevate the self while making it feel coddled and deserving of human applause—a dangerous façade that obscures what’s truly important to God.

Worldliness clouds spiritual vision. And its poison can impact anyone in any situation, whether in action or thought. It doesn’t just tempt within the arena of so-called “worldly” affairs—in fact, it can be more devastating within the church. This self-focused, counterfeit wisdom is at work in not only the atheist who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma on an online comment board but also the Christian who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma right back. More than the content of their thinking, it’s the heart-attitude from which they speak and act. Worldliness says, My way is right. My thinking is superior; therefore I am superior. That’s why arguing and self-absorption spring from this kind of “wisdom” (James 4:1-3; 3:15-16).

Both apostles came down hard on Christians for bending to this deception, because it works against God’s kingdom plans and His calling on our lives. Our reality should be different from the world’s, and the more aligned we are with Christ, the clearer our spiritual vision should be. (Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 that when we judge others in a worldly way, we’re actually refusing to align ourselves with the Lord’s perspective and purposes.) Godly wisdom is rooted in the truth of the Holy Spirit’s life-giving presence and power, which seeks to reconcile and to inject grace into that which lacks it (James 3:17-18).

This ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) is fertile ground for holiness—the purifying, creative work of the Lord that sets all things right, aligned with His heart. Ultimately, godly wisdom is driven by a passionate desire to see God’s redemptive hand have complete freedom to work in any situation—for His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth.

REFLECT + EXPLORE

• We may claim to know God and act in His name, but if we have fallen prey to worldly, self-important thinking, we’re in danger of missing or even rejecting all that Jesus is and the life He offers us.

Read John 5:39-44. How might prideful reliance on biblical knowledge turn someone’s heart away from gaining godly wisdom? In what way does Jesus’ warning to the religious people of His time speak to you personally?

• The fruit of godly wisdom turns us around and sends us back to complete reliance on the Lord, whereas a worldly perspective drives us further away from the life and redemption He offers.

Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. How can this principle help you take inventory of your heart and discern the root of your actions and emotions?

• When we rely on our own wisdom, we deceive ourselves and waste effort chasing counterfeits in the pursuit of meaning and satisfaction. In contrast, God’s ways and intentions run deeper than we can easily perceive at the surface. Staking our lives on them connects us to the fullness of His purposes and brings joy as they come to fruition.

Read Isaiah 55:1-3, 8-13. How would accepting God’s invitation to enjoy and surrender to His wisdom impact the way you see your life right now?

RESPOND

• Write down a few areas of your life that you want to see with godly wisdom.

• Take a moment to pray, asking the Lord to reveal His perspective as you surrender any worldly thinking to Him.

http://intouch.org/magazine

Propitiation

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Most of the words in the King James Bible are words of one or two syllables (our text verse, for example, has 21 such short words and only one big word; but that word, “propitiation,” has five syllables, and so has elicited much complaint from folks who don’t like to use dictionaries). What does “propitiation” mean?

The Greek word is hilasmos and occurs just two other times. These are as follows:

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

As an aside, note that these two verses contain two words of two syllables, three of three syllables, and 48 of one syllable. But both also include “propitiation,” and that seems to be a problem. Nevertheless, “propitiation” is certainly the most accurate word to convey the meaning of the original. The dictionary gives “expiation” and “conciliation” as definitions, but that probably doesn’t help much.

In any case, the action of the Lord Jesus in submitting His body to be a substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins and to endure God’s wrath against all the sins of the world, thereby enabling Him to be reconciled to us, with Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to our account, is seen in these three verses to be a basic theme of this great truth of Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross. And surely, as John says: “Herein is love,” that God would so love us that He would offer up His Son, and Christ would so love us that He would die for us. Surely, this is love! HMM

Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat

“And the Lord said… Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” (Luke 22:31, 32.)

OUR faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack. Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!—C. H. Spurgeon.

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things—this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I

“When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”Psalm 61:2

Most of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart; emptied as when a man wipeth a dish and turneth it upside down; submerged and thrown on our beam ends like a vessel mastered by the storm. Discoveries of inward corruption will do this, if the Lord permits the great deep of our depravity to become troubled and cast up mire and dirt. Disappointments and heart-breaks will do this when billow after billow rolls over us, and we are like a broken shell hurled to and fro by the surf. Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not without an all-sufficient solace, our God is the harbour of weather-beaten sails, the hospice of forlorn pilgrims.

Higher than we are is He, His mercy higher than our sins, His love higher than our thoughts. It is pitiful to see men putting their trust in something lower than themselves; but our confidence is fixed upon an exceeding high and glorious Lord. A Rock He is since He changes not, and a high Rock, because the tempests which overwhelm us roll far beneath at His feet; He is not disturbed by them, but rules them at His will. If we get under the shelter of this lofty Rock we may defy the hurricane; all is calm under the lee of that towering cliff. Alas! such is the confusion in which the troubled mind is often cast, that we need piloting to this divine shelter. Hence the prayer of the text. O Lord, our God, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach us the way of faith, lead us into Thy rest.

The wind blows us out to sea, the helm answers not to our puny hand; Thou, Thou alone canst steer us over the bar between yon sunken rocks, safe into the fair haven. How dependent we are upon Thee—we need Thee to bring us to Thee. To be wisely directed and steered into safety and peace is Thy gift, and Thine alone. This night be pleased to deal well with Thy servants.

Let Israel rejoice in him

“Let Israel rejoice in him.” Psalm 149:2

Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord. Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, “God, my exceeding joy.” Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that He sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things! Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness.

That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That He is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour. That He is full of grace, that He is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant He has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory—all this should tend to make us glad in Him. This gladness in God is as a deep river; we have only as yet touched its brink, we know a little of its clear sweet, heavenly streams, but onward the depth is greater, and the current more impetuous in its joy.

The Christian feels that he may delight himself not only in what God is, but also in all that God has done in the past. The Psalms show us that God’s people in olden times were wont to think much of God’s actions, and to have a song concerning each of them. So let God’s people now rehearse the deeds of the Lord! Let them tell of His mighty acts, and “sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously.” Nor let them ever cease to sing, for as new mercies flow to them day by day, so should their gladness in the Lord’s loving acts in providence and in grace show itself in continued thanksgiving. Be glad ye children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God.