"Exceeding great and precious promises."
2 Peter 1:4
If you would know experimentally the preciousness of the promises, and enjoy them in your own heart, meditate much upon them. There are promises which are like grapes in the wine-press; if you will tread them the juice will flow. Thinking over the hallowed words will often be the prelude to their fulfilment. While you are musing upon them, the boon which you are seeking will insensibly come to you. Many a Christian who has thirsted for the promise has found the favour which it ensured gently distilling into his soul even while he has been considering the divine record; and he has rejoiced that ever he was led to lay the promise near his heart.
But besides meditating upon the promises, seek in thy soul to receive them as being the very words of God. Speak to thy soul thus, "If I were dealing with a man's promise, I should carefully consider the ability and the character of the man who had covenanted with me. So with the promise of God; my eye must not be so much fixed upon the greatness of the mercy--that may stagger me; as upon the greatness of the promiser--that will cheer me. My soul, it is God, even thy God, God that cannot lie, who speaks to thee. This word of his which thou art now considering is as true as his own existence. He is a God unchangeable. He has not altered the thing which has gone out of his mouth, nor called back one single consolatory sentence. Nor doth he lack any power; it is the God that made the heavens and the earth who has spoken thus. Nor can he fail in wisdom as to the time when he will bestow the favours, for he knoweth when it is best to give and when better to withhold. Therefore, seeing that it is the word of a God so true, so immutable, so powerful, so wise, I will and must believe the promise." If we thus meditate upon the promises, and consider the Promiser, we shall experience their sweetness, and obtain their fulfilment.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God's book against his people: he seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ forever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God's angry hand--nay, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except "I have absolved thee: thou art acquitted." For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way, and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ. Do believe it, Christian, that thy sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, "nailing it to his cross." Go now and mortify it, and the Lord help you to live to his praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear, is gone.
"Here's pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And, O my soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come here's pardon too."
Today's reading: Psalm 43-45, Acts 27:27-44 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 43-45
1 Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
3 Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Today's New Testament reading: Acts 27:27-44
27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feetdeep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away....
[JÅhn] - jehovah hath been gracious.
- A kinsman of Annas the High Priest (Acts 4:6).
- A son of Mary, sister of Barnabas, and surnamed Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37). See MARK.
- The son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, who appeared as the forerunner of Christ, and who was beheaded by Herod ( Matt. 3:1, 4, 13).
The Man Who Was Plain But Powerful
With the appearance of John the Baptist we have the burial of the Old Dispensation and the emergence of the New. We seem to see his rugged figure standing with arms outstretched, as with one hand he takes the Old Testament, and with the other holds the New, and who, through his ministry, makes the transition from Law to Grace. He was the foreclosure of the old and the forerunner of the new. Perhaps we can helpfully gather the witness of John around these salient features:
I. His parentage. John came as the child of promise and was born in a city of Judah when his parents were old, and his mother long past conception (Luke 1:7, 13, 39). His parents were of priestly descent, his mother being a kinswoman of Mary the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:36).
II. His ascetic affinities. John, as a man of the desert, knew what it was to practice self-denial (Matt. 3:4 ). A Nazarite from his birth, he developed self-reliance and spiritual strength as he communed with God in the desert solitudes he loved (Luke 1:15). He was a plain man in every way, akin to Elijah whom many took him for.
He was plain of dress. He dressed simply, his raiment consisting of camel's hair, that is, either a robe of camel's skin or cloth woven from camel's hair. What a humble habit compared with the luxurious robes of soft wool worn by the fashionable and great of his time!
He was plain of food . No sumptuous dishes for this Elijah-like prophet. It was on rough food he thrived. Vegetable honey exuding from fig-trees and palms, and edible locusts, classed among the flying, creeping things the Israelites were allowed to eat (Lev. 11:22), formed his diet (Matt. 3:4). John the Baptist could subscribe to the words of a devout Englishman of a past century:
I shall be spare of sleep, sparer of diet, and sparest of time that, when the days for eating, drinking, clothing, and sleeping shall be no more, I may eat of my Saviour's hidden manna, drink of the new wine in my Father's kingdom, and inherit that rest which remaineth for the people of my God for ever and ever.
He was plain of speech. Living near to nature, he heard God's voice in solitude as well as in Scripture. Familiar with the Old Testament, he made frequent use of its picturesque language (Luke 3:17; Isa. 66:24; with Amos 9:6 ). After his sojourn in the desert, brooding over the need and peril of his time, he came forth to speak of barren trees fit only for burning - vipers fleeing before the flaming scrub. John saw in his desert surroundings much that symbolized his nation's calamity and which lent color to his solemn warnings of impending doom.
There is a great deal we would like to say about this man sent from God who had the privilege of acting as the forerunner and then as the baptizer of Jesus, who said of him that he was greater than a prophet. Space, however, forbids a full exposition of this mighty character in the Bible's portrait gallery. The preacher might be able to expand the following features: his self-denial (Matt. 3:4); courage (Matt. 3:7; 14:4); powerful preaching (Mark 1:5); humility ( Mark 1:7); holiness (Mark 6:20); burning zeal (John 5:35); honor (Matt. 11:11); ministry of witness (John 10:41); preparatory work (Matt. 11:10); testimony ( John 1:29-36); results (Matt. 9:14); death ( Matt. 14:10), of which Spurgeon said, "John was the first Baptist Minister to lose his head through dancing."
4. John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, the fisherman who became the beloved disciple, The Apostle of Love.
The Man Whom Jesus Loved
This younger brother of James has the rare distinction of being known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The original of his name means, "whom Jehovah loves" and John's experience corresponded to his name. From the many references to this honored disciple we can gather these facts:
He was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee.
His godly parents were probably cousins of Christ, and John was their youngest son.
His mother followed Christ, ministered unto Him, was at the Cross and among those who went to anoint the body of Christ with sweet spices.
His father was a fisherman owning his own vessel and prosperous enough to hire servants.
John himself was also a successful fisherman.
He was called to discipleship while plying his nets.
He was the youngest of the disciples, the Benjamin among the Twelve.
He was one of the select triumvirate, Christ's inner cabinet of three, Peter and James being the other two.
He was surnamed by Christ as a son of "Boanerges" because of his prophetic zeal and resolution to witness for Christ.
He was treated by Christ with greater familiarity than the others enjoyed.
He sat next to Christ at the Last Supper.
He was intrusted with the care of the mother of Jesus.
He died when he was almost one hundred years of age.
He wrote the gospel and three epistles bearing his name, and also the Book of Revelation. How true are Wesley's words of John the Beloved:
A Caesar's title less my envy moves
Than to be styled the man whom Jesus loves;
What charms, what beauties in his face did shine
Reflected ever from the face divine.
From manifold references in the four gospels, the Acts and Revelation, the preacher can develop these traits in John's character: his natural energy (Mark 3:17); his intolerance (Mark 9:38); his vindictiveness (Luke 9:54); his ambition (Mark 10:35-37); his eagerness to learn ( John 13:23; I John 2:9); his sympathy (John 19:26); his love (1 John 4:7-21).