I’m currently reading Luke’s Gospel in my morning devotions. Today I was considering the birth of John the Baptist and in particular the story of Zecharias (John the Baptist’s father). He and his wife Elizabeth had endured many years of affection (in their culture childlessness was seen as a shameful thing). Then the Lord spoke into their pain! Yet Zecharias’ heart was hard, in unbelief, towards the Lord. This led him into a season of isolation (you might prefer the word training like in Hebrews 12). Yet when he came out the otherwise, he was a new man! God had hemmed him in so that he might be transformed at a heart level. How do we know this was a heart transformation? Look what we read in Luke 1:64: “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God”. The heart always ‘leaks’ into the mouth, and Zecharias heart had been transformed was filled with gratitude, love and affection for his God. Listen to what the wonderful J.C. Ryle had to say about Zecharias transformation:
“He shews that his nine months’ dumbness had not been inflicted on him in vain. He is no longer faithless, but believing. He now believes every word that Gabriel had spoken to him, and every word of his message shall be obeyed.
Let us take heed that affliction does us good, as it did to Zecharias… “Sanctified afflictions” … are “spiritual promotions.” The sorrow that humbles us, and drives us nearer to God, is a blessing, and a downright gain. No case is more hopeless than that of a man who, in time of affliction turns his back upon God.”
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Here in these opening verses of Psalm 95, we come face-to-face with a whole raft of reasons to sing when the wind is howling:
V3 – Our God is a great God.
V3 – Our God is the King above all gods.
V4 – Our God is the creator of everything earthen.
V5 – Our God is the creator of everything oceanic.
However, the crescendo of this riff of praise is the best:
V7 – Our God is our God!
V7 – Our God has made us his people and we live under his good care.
If you’ve not seen this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website relating C.S. Lewisadvice to people facing the atomic bomb and coronavirus, then can I suggest you take a couple of minutes to read it. It is brilliant.
In my morning devotions, I’m currently working my way through Philippians in the company of Alec Motyer (through his excellent commentary). In Chapter 1:13-14, Paul is explaining how his suffering is advantageous for the advance of the gospel. Listen to how Alec Motyer unpacks this:
“He [Paul] did not see his suffering as an act of divine forgetfulness )’Why did God let this happen to me?’), nor as a dismissal from service (‘I was looking forward to years of usefulness, and look at me!’), nor as the work of Satan (‘I am afraid the devil has had his way this time’), but as the place of duty, the setting for service, the task appointed. When the solider came ‘on duty’ to guard Paul, did the apostle smile secretly and say to himself, ‘But he doesn’t know that I am here to guard him — for Christ’?”
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blamesless for the day of Christ …”
Here is an excellent and challenging comment on these verses from Alec Motyer:
“the hymn-writer caught the matter perfectly:
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
In this respect Christian love is no different from any other sort of love: it can both waste itself upon unworthy objects and also bestow itself on proper objects in unworthy ways. In other words it needs divine illuminative knowledge in order to know what to love, and discernment to know how to love.”
Following on from quote yesterday from Alec Motyer, here is another section which speaks (again) with such clarity into local church life:
“the scattered churches were not isolated. Their great link with each other was the person of the aspotle; they also shared apostolic letters with each other; and in addition there is evidence in the New Testament of a variety of travelling ministers, dependent on the hospitality and support of the churches to which they came.”
If apostolic ministry is still a legitimate ‘function’, then the picture painted by Alec Motyer must help shape our understanding and expectation of what it means to be part of a family of churches.