I recall an interesting conversation I once had with a young first-time mom while she allowed me to hold her infant son. I commented, “It’s hard to believe that they are born with a sinful nature.” She protested, and I thought it best not to argue with her. But I would have liked to call her a couple of years later when the boy was a toddler to see if she thought any differently!
At one point or another, all of us have felt a tug to do something that we knew was wrong. As adults and believers, we’ve learned that giving in to temptation is a sin against God. But small children do exactly as their nature dictates. Mother says, “Don’t touch,” but they reach out anyway. Little ones do not yet see the wisdom of following a parent’s rules. Boys and girls must be taught to recognize the difference between good and evil before they can make the wise choice to do right.
In the early years, a child is in a state of innocence. He is neither righteous nor saved, but he is safe from God’s wrath—if he dies, he goes to heaven. We saw in yesterday’s devotion that this state of innocence is referenced in Scripture (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isa. 7:16), confirming that there is a period of time when children are not morally accountable for their conduct.
The age when a child comes to understand moral responsibility is different for each one. As children grow, they develop the spiritual capacity to pursue righteousness or knowingly give in to evil. The years of innocence are the time for parents to impart sound biblical training and lessons on obedience so that when they’re older, they “will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
The Hebrew word for “remember” actually means to “mark” or “set aside.” The Israelites didn’t need to be told to “remember” the sabbath, because all nations had been keeping time in weeks ever since creation (Genesis 2:1-3). (Note the references to the sabbath in the sending of God’s manna, prior to the giving of this commandment [Exodus 16:23-29].) But they did need to be reminded to mark it as a holy or rest day, as God had done in that first week.
The Hebrew word for “sabbath” does not mean “Saturday” any more than it means “Sunday.” It means, simply, “rest” or “intermission.” The institution of the sabbath (that is, one day out of every seven days to be “set aside” as a day of rest, worship, and remembrance of the Creator) was “made for man” and his good (Mark 2:27). It was even of benefit to the animals used by man (note the mention of “cattle” in the commandment). It had been a pattern observed since the completion of God’s six days of creation and making all things at the very beginning of world history (note Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:11).
It is still appropriate today, as well. “There remaineth therefore a rest [that is, ‘a sabbath-keeping’] to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). All men have a deep need to remember their Creator and His completed work of creation at least once each week, as well as His completed work of salvation—especially in these days when both of these finished works are so widely denied or ignored. HMM
Dr. Hanna has beautifully said: “Here, amid the triumph of enemies, and the failure of the faith of friends, is one who discerns, even through the dark envelope which covers it, the hidden glory of the Redeemer, and openly hails him as his Lord and King. Marvellous, indeed, the faith in our Lord’s divinity which sprung up so suddenly in such an unlikely region. Are we wrong in saying that, at the particular moment when that testimony to Christ’s divinity was borne, there was not another fill believer in that divinity but the dying thief?… And what a tenderness of conscience is here; what deep reverence for God; what devout submission to the divine will; what entire relinquishment of all personal grounds of confidence before God; what a vivid realising of the world of spirits; what a humble trust in Jesus; what a zeal for the Saviour’s honour; what an indignation at the unworthy treatment he was receiving! May we not take that catalogue of the fruits of genuine repentance which an apostle has drawn up for us, and applying it here, say of this man’s repentance: Behold what carefulness it wrought in him; yea, what clearing of himself; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge! In all things he approved himself to be a changed man, in all the desires and dispositions and purposes of his heart.”
The dying Saviour reigns on the cross, and allots a place in paradise to his companion in death. Here is no hint of purgatory, the pardoned thief is with Jesus that very day. So also shall all believers be with Jesus immediately they leave the body.
A cry in which every word is emphatic. Read it over as many times as there are words, and see a new force of meaning each time. Jesus cried in this manner, that none of his saints might ever need to do so.
Thus jesting at his prayer. Oh, horrid cruelty!
What a grand utterance! Now are we safe, for salvation is complete.
These were early proofs of his resurrection power. These firstfruits prove that the harvest is sure.
For the body is not one member, but many… Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:14, 27)
Stating it in the most simple terms, the Christian Church, called to be the Body of Christ on earth, is the assembly of redeemed saints.
We meet in local congregations and assemblies, yet we know that we are not an end in ourselves. If we are going to be what we ought to be in the local church, we must come to think of ourselves as a part of something more expansive, something larger that God is doing throughout the world.
There is an important sense here in which we find that we “belong”—belonging to something that is worthy and valuable, and something that is going to last forever!
These are considerations concerning the whole Church, the Body of Christ, and the fact that in our local congregation we have the joyful sense of belonging to an amazing fellowship throughout the world. Every believing church has a part with us and we a part with them.
Brethren, the Church must have the enabling and the power of the Holy Spirit and the glow of the Shekinah glory—God within us. For then, even lacking everything else, you still have a true church!
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” 1Peter 5:6
This is tantamount to a promise: if we will bow down, the Lord will lift us up. Humility leads to honor: submission is the way to exaltation. That same hand of God which presses us down is waiting to raise us up when we are prepared to bear the blessing. We stoop to conquer. Many cringe before men, and yet miss the patronage they crave; but he that humbles himself under the hand of God shall not fail to be enriched, uplifted, sustained, and comforted by the ever-gracious One. It is a habit of Jehovah to cast down the proud, and lift up the lowly.
Yet there is a time for the Lord’s working. We ought now to humble ourselves, even at this present moment; and we are bound to keep on doing so whether the Lord lays His afflicting hand upon us or not. When the Lord smites, it is our special duty to accept the chastisement with profound submission. But as for the Lord’s exaltation of us, that can only come “in due time,” and God is the best judge of that day and hour. Do we cry out impatiently for the blessing? Would we wish for untimely honor? What are we at? Surely we are not truly humbled, or we should wait with quiet submission. So let us do.