"I have much people in this city."
This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ's property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them he will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which his Son has paid. He will not suffer his substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.
Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "Neither pray I for these alone," saith the great Intercessor, "but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on his breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. "The time of figs is not yet." The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have his own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when he cometh forth with fulness of power--they must become the willing servants of the living God. "My people shall be willing in the day of my power." "He shall justify many." "He shall see of the travail of his soul." "I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong."
"Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
This groaning is universal among the saints: to a greater or less extent we all feel it. It is not the groan of murmuring or complaint: it is rather the note of desire than of distress. Having received an earnest, we desire the whole of our portion; we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last vestige of the fall; we long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonour, and to wrap ourselves in incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the spiritual body which the Lord Jesus will bestow upon his people. We long for the manifestation of our adoption as the children of God. "We groan," but it is "within ourselves." It is not the hypocrite's groan, by which he would make men believe that he is a saint because he is wretched. Our sighs are sacred things, too hallowed for us to tell abroad. We keep our longings to our Lord alone. Then the apostle says we are "waiting," by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah, when they said, "Let me die"; nor are we to whimper and sigh for the end of life because we are tired of work, nor wish to escape from our present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to himself. This "groaning" is a test. You may judge of a man by what he groans after. Some men groan after wealth--they worship Mammon; some groan continually under the troubles of life--they are merely impatient; but the man who sighs after God, who is uneasy till he is made like Christ, that is the blessed man. May God help us to groan for the coming of the Lord, and the resurrection which he will bring to us.
Today's reading: Ezekiel 47-48, 1 John 3 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 47-48
The River From the Temple
1 The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.
3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”
Today's New Testament reading: 1 John 3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him....
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." -Luke 1:26-31
Can any of us fathom the immense amount of faith Mary was called on to have? She was young. She was a virgin. She was probably expecting to lead no more than an ordinary life in a no name Galilean town.
Then the message came from heaven.
To be visited by an angel would be miraculous in itself. But the words! Those powerful, surreal words: "The Lord is with you." Certainly that is true for all of us, generally speaking, but in this case the emphasis was: The Lord is with you, Mary. The creator of the universe has handpicked "you who are highly favored". As with Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ruth and David, God had chosen Mary to be his instrument, to do his work in the world. A high favor indeed.
"You will be with child," in a way that no woman before or since has been with child. A virgin, and yet, with child. It is a difficult concept for us to grasp. Within Mary, God did something utterly unique-not too hard for him to do, but often very complicated to understand. Is it too hard for the Creator of the universe to cause a woman to have, by an act of creation, a complete zygote that would become an embryo, which would become a fetus, which would become a newborn baby? No. The virginal conception is only impossible to believe if you think that the Creator can never do anything just once. But who can make up such a rule for God?
Mary is a pivotal figure worth consideration this Christmas season. She stands at the crossroads between the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New. The channel for the old prophecies to be fulfilled, and the new salvation given-the womb that carried the Heaven's prince, the woman who had faith enough to bring to term our liberator from death.
She was asked to believe something that many of us struggle to even imagine. From that frightful day when she was face to face with a strange messenger, to the cold night in the stable, to the mournful day her son was mounted on a cross-Mary's entire life witnessed and nurtured Jesus' message. Stop and ask yourself: If Mary were here today, how would she celebrate Christmas?
When you find yourself lost or in despair, know that you have the same capacity for the extraordinary faith that Mary did. She was human, as you and I are. Ask yourself, how might I fortify my faith every day? Who else inspires me with their extraordinary faith?
Will I be prepared when a time comes for me to have great faith?
Prayer for today: Lord, help me to trust you in the choices you make. Help me to have even a measure of the faith that Mary had. Lord, do whatever you choose to do in my life. Let me grow stronger ever day in the assurance of your message and your grace.