First Pastorate Problems

by Frank Jones


“Not long after I was chosen Pastor at Park Street, I was interviewed by a good man who had left the church, having been, as he said, “treated shamefully.” He mentioned the names of half-a-dozen persons, all prominent members of the church, who had behaved in a very unchristian manner to him,—he, poor innocent sufferer, having been a model of patience and holiness! I learned his character at once from what he said about others (a mode of judging which has never misled me), and I made up my mind how to act. I told him that the church had been in a sadly unsettled state, and that the only way out of the snarl was for every one to forget the past, and begin again. He said that the lapse of years did not alter facts; and I replied that it would alter a man’s view of them if in that time he had become a wiser and a better man. I added that all the past had gone away with my predecessors, that he must follow them to their new spheres, and settle matters with them, for I would not touch the affair with a pair of tongs. He waxed somewhat warm; but I allowed him to radiate until he was cool again, and we shook hands, and parted. He was a good man, but constructed upon an uncomfortable principle, so that, at times, he crossed the path of other people in a very awkward manner; and if I had gone into his case, and taken his side, there would have been no end to the strife. I am quite certain that, for my own success, and for the prosperity of the church, I took the wisest course by applying my blind eye to all disputes which dated previously to my advent. It is the extremity of unwisdom for a young man, fresh from College, or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one-half of his people.” (C.H. Spurgeon. Autobiography, Vol. 1 & 2, Pilgrim Publications, 362-363.)


In Good Health

by Frank Jones


For the mid-week devotional at our prayer meeting, see sermonaudio.com.

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1-2)

Within the last couple of weeks – as part of my weekly regiment – I was listening to a cycling podcast. Most of my podcasts are sermon-related. However, a major portion of my weekly exercise is on a bicycle. Therefore, I listen for training, health-related issues, and general encouragement. I also usually listen during “admin” time, so I am not giving my whole attention but loosely paying attention. One sentence in a recent podcast caught my attention. It ran along these lines.

“The body’s natural state is one of health.”

My next thought was, “Is this true?” This statement is an unchallenged statement, not only in the culture but also among many, if not the majority of genuine believers.

After some reflection that day, I want to propose that the answer to the question, “Is our body’s natural state one of health?” is, “no.”

Apologetic

  • These were some of my thoughts concerning this over several days.

  • 3 John 2 – a prayer is a request formed out of need. The Apostle acknowledges the prosperity of Gaius’ soul. Gaius is walking in truth and manifesting cruciform love before the church. These are an indication of a soul flourishing in Christ. John makes request from the Lord that things would go well for Gaius in this world and for the state of his body to be in good health. For our purposes, if the default state of the body is health then what is the point of praying for his health? One might pray that Gaius would be guided to the right foods so that his default state of health might return. This is not the concern of John. John’s prayer and desire for Gaius is that he would be in good health. This implies that perhaps Gaius’ natural state is not one of good health.

  • Psalm 103:3 – this is in keeping with this psalm of thanksgiving. Bless the Lord … who is healing all your diseases. Salvation is of the Lord, and one of His physical deliverances is our body from disease.

  • Job 1:9-12; 2:5 – the thought that came to mind immediately after the question, “Is this true” was Job. Satan accused God of putting a protective fence of protection around Job, his household, and all that he possessed. There was no crack in the wall of protection (on every side). Satan destroyed all he possessed – his children, his business, his wealth. Satan then sought to destroy Job’s flesh. The only protective fence that remained was to take Job’s life. Please note how quickly Satan moves to murder Job. This is the Adversary.

Thoughts

  • The natural state of anything is under the curse of sin and death. Corruption pervades all things.

  • Apart from God’s mercies, mankind would be destroyed – soul, body, and possessions. Lost mankind shares under the wrath of God but presently it is mixed with mercy – their health, their wealth, their family, and their affairs. Believing mankind has protective fencing around them. Apart from these mercies of the Lord, our natural state is dying and death.

  • Saying that “our body’s natural state is health” misunderstands the curse due to Adam’s sin.

  • The understanding that our all is due to the Lord’s common and special grace preserves both a thanksgiving and growing gratitude in Christ. When calamity comes, believers know that it has been filtered by His mercy, for our good, and for His glory.


Fear of the Lord

by Frank Jones


Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Psa 34:11)

“David was a famous musician, a statesman, a soldier, but he doth not say to his children, I will teach you to play upon the harp, or to handle the sword or spear, or draw the bow, or I will teach you the maxims of state policy, but I will teach you the fear of the Lord, which is better than all arts and sciences, better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. That is it which we should be solicitous both to learn ourselves, and to teach our children.” (Matthew Henry)


The Spirit, The Word, & the Love of God

by Frank Jones


And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you … (Col 3:16a)

A Spirit-filled believer is a Word-filled believer.

And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (Joh 17:26)

A Spirit-Word-filled believer is a Love-filled believer.

A Spirit-Word-Love-filled (for these are One) believer speaks according to the Word, serves one another in humility, and is thankful in all things for tendered mercies (Eph 5:19-21).


A Superior Fear

by Frank Jones


Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; (Hebrews 5:7)

In all my fears may one fear prove superior— the fear of the Lord.


Humanity Recognizes Jesus Deity

by Frank Jones


“In the passion narratives Mark portrays Jesus chiefly according to the model of the suffering servant of Isaiah. Immediately before the passion Jesus tells a parable about the only son of a vineyard owner who suffers rejection and death at the hands of insolent tenants (12:1–12). The parable ultimately reflects Jesus’ own fate, which transpires in the crucifixion account. Ironically, his death on the cross is the place where both his mission and his identity as Son of God converge, and as such the cross is the first place where humanity recognizes him as God’s Son (15:39).” (Edwards, James. The Gospel According to Mark. PNTC, 16)


Seeing the Glory of God

by Frank Jones


And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:3–6)

“In context, he is making it clear that this rejection is not due to any flaws in the message or even in the messengers. If unbelievers reject the gospel, it is because Satan has blinded their minds. But the passage does not simply state that Satan blinds unbelievers from seeing the gospel. Verse 4 says that Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So, the devil keeps people trapped in condemnation by blocking their vision of the “glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The heart of the gospel message, therefore, is the glory of Christ. Verse 6 further expands on God’s glory in the gospel by describing the gospel message as “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” The gospel that saves people is a gospel that reveals God’s glory in Jesus Christ. If people don’t accept the gospel, it is because they don’t see God’s glory in it. The verse that comes between these two phrases further reinforces this truth. It is precisely because the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” and “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” that Paul without hesitation claims, “we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord.” Contrary to many contemporary approaches of evangelism that tailor-make the gospel to fit the needs of the hearer, the biblical gospel focuses first on Christ, not the sinner. We preach Christ, not an eternal life insurance policy or keys to changing your life. The gospel, the message that is the heart of missions, is the truth that God’s glory is revealed in Jesus Christ. He is Lord before whom all will bow, either now in repentance or later in judgment.(David M. Doran, For the Sake of His Name (Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2018), 16-17)


Evening, Morning, and Noon I Call Upon Your Name

by Frank Jones


As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice. (Psa 55:16-17)


“Regularity, setting specific times apart for prayer — and keeping to them in a disciplined way — is something the Bible encourages. We all find the story of Daniel’s practice in prayer moving to read (Daniel 6:10). How, in spite of the king’s foolish, self-glorifying edict, he went to his upper room, with its windows toward Jerusalem, and knelt down three times a day. We sense not only the old man’s yearning heart for the city of God, but his confidence in prayer and his commitment. I wonder if Daniel had caught the vision of the threefold discipline from Psalm 55:17, ‘evening and morning and noonday’? How to end one day and begin another; how to stop in the middle of a busy life and turn to God. Isaiah made a forecast that the Servant of the LORD — the Lord Jesus — would practice the discipline of what we used to call ‘the morning watch’ (see Isaiah 50:4), and Mark 1:35 records an occasion when he did just that. In Acts 3:1 we find Peter and John keeping the statutory hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and the devout Cornelius testifies to the same prayer discipline (Acts 10:30). Should we be ‘evening, morning and noon’ people? The answer is ‘Why not?’ Two truths are important before we make excuses about the busyness of life today. First, prayer is a simple thing, not necessarily prolonged (Matthew 6:7-8), and secondly, none of the passages we have referred to says anything about the time when we pray or for what length of time. As soon as we think of starting the day with God, our minds begin thinking about four or five a.m. or some other unearthly hour — because we read somewhere that some great prayer-warrior was always up and about by then! ‘Setting aside time’ means just that — doing what is possible for us within our God-given day and our God-given abilities. Time to read a verse of the Bible; time to call upon God. … If we say we are those who trust, those who are saved by faith, then a primary way this shows itself is to balance life’s demands with life’s prayers.” (Motyer, Alec. Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, 147.)


Sifting Peter like Wheat

by Frank Jones


But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” (Luk 22:60–61)

Satan desired to sift Peter like wheat in order to permanently collapse Peter’s faith. Our Lord prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. Jesus allowed Peter to be sifted in order to collapse Peter’s pride.

Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Tim 2:7)


Old Testament Revelation to the Suffering, Risen Christ

by Frank Jones


As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. (1 Pet 1:10-12)

“Peter, however, does not press the privileged status of his readers. Rather, he builds on the unity of the OT prophetic message with the Christian gospel as an apology for the cross and a foundation for his exhortations that follow. It does not appear that it was primarily Peter’s knowledge of the OT prophecies that led him to the Messiah. Rather, it was actually seeing and hearing Jesus. But after he recognized Jesus as the Messiah on the basis of Jesus’ teachings and miracles, the prophets’ forewitness provided a biblical basis that helped Peter later come to grips with the necessary suffering and death of the Messiah, the very concept he had once so resisted as unthinkable (Mark 8:31–33). By witnessing to the sufferings of the Messiah before they happened, the prophets provide a confirming forewitness that a crucified man would indeed be the long-awaited Messiah.

Peter knows his readers also needed to understand what he himself had come to know: that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ was not an untimely accident or tragic mistake but rather a necessity that had long been foretold. After the Christ has suffered, the predictive aspect of prophecy recedes, and the prophecy becomes a confirmation for the benefit of the generation who would see the Messiah suffer, and for the generations to follow them, that they might rightly understand the cross of Jesus. They need to know that the foreseen suffering of the Messiah necessarily preceded the expected glory of the Messiah. Peter extends this concept to develop the idea that as followers of Christ, his readers should therefore not be surprised when they, too, suffer (1 Pet. 4:12). Their sufferings for the name of Christ unite them to the experience and purposes of their Lord.” (Jobes, Karen. 1 Peter, BECNT, 103-104.)



The Inner Room

by Frank Jones


But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Mat 6:6)

In a previous post, we looked at Jesus’ command of secret prayer to an invisible God. We are to avoid doing our religious practices to be seen of men.

The inner room, this geographical location, should be a location not to be seen of men (6:5). The contrast is compared to standing and praying in the synagogue (among gathered people) or on the street corner.

The inner room should be a place of privacy (go & close the door). The Greek term is used in various forms in the New Testament (Mat 6:6; 24:26; Luk 12:3, 24) and in the LXX (Exo 8:3; Jud 3:24; 15:1; 16:12; 2 Chr 18:24; Pro 20:21; 24:4; 26:22). It is translated in the NASB, bedroom (Exo 8:3; Jud 15:1), cool room (Jud 3:24; probably a bathroom), inner room (Jud 16:18; 2 Chr 18:24; Mat 6:6; 24:26; Luk 12:3), inner part (Pro 20:21), rooms (Pro 24:4), innermost part (Pro 26:28), and storeroom (Luk 12:24). The inner room is a place for keeping valuables or an interior room in a home (BDAG). In other words, it is not to be a frequented location.

We are to shut your door. The verb carries the idea of locking or barring the door. Once you enter this retired place – pray to your Father. In other words, pray. Praying is the business of the hour and the prayers do not have to be lengthy. People suppose that the longer one prays, the more “spiritual” that person. However, this is not always the case.

Lengthy, repetitious praying does not cause God to hear us. This is incorrect and is illustrated from Mat 6:9-11 in our NASB. Six requests are in the model prayer with a thankful conclusion. Six categories of need are prayed in approximately 68 words and 30 seconds! Surely, every believer can get private to pray for 30 seconds?

1.    Praying for the sanctification of God’s Name takes 10 words

2.    Praying for the coming of God’s kingdom takes 3 words

3.    Praying for God’s will to be accomplished takes 11 words

4.    Praying for our daily food takes 7 words

5.    Praying for forgiveness takes 12 words

6.    Praying for deliverance from evil takes 12 words

7.    Praying a thankful closing takes 13 words.

Our Lord is not a reluctant prayer-answering Lord. He already knows our need. To be rewarded with answered prayer is not an exercise in sweat in order to get His ear. I am the Lord that answers prayer (1 Pet 3:12).

— for the exhortation at our midweek prayer meeting, see sermonaudio.




Thought from Isaiah 63:15-64:12

by Frank Jones


“Did you notice the telling similarity of wording in 63:14 (‘your mansion of holiness and beauty’) and 64:11 (‘our house of holiness and beauty’)? The former is the Lord’s heavenly habitation, and the latter the early house where he promised to live among his people (cf., Exod. 25:8). The former is inviolable in holiness and beauty; the latter, given into the charge of his earthly people, is caught up int he disaster caused by their sin (cf., Ps. 74:4-7). In the divine intention the earthly was meant to be the replica of the heavenly (cf., Exod. 25:40). The truth remains the same today: the Lord’s earthly people are themselves the temple in which he lives by his Spirit (I Cor. 3:16), the locus and display of his holiness and beauty. Well may we mourn that our sinfulness, divisiveness, our failure in biblical distinctiveness, and our manifest lack of holiness have marred the image. Who, looking at today’s church — denominational or local — can see the likeness of Jesus? And this is not a matter only of denominational failure, thought that is all too plain. The Bible knows nothing of our ‘denominationalism’, and if Isaiah’s wording prompts us to put our hand to reform and renovation then its proper focus is the local church to which we each belong. When we look at the merest sliver of a crescent, then we don’t say, ‘Oh, there’s part of the moon’. We say, ‘Look, there’s the moon.’ In the same way each local church, however small, or in the eyes of onlookers, insignificant — is meant to be a mirror and image of the whole, an earthly replica of the heavenly reality where Christ is all. We should be able to look at the fellowships to which we belong and say, ‘There is the Church’, bearing the two outstanding marks of holiness and beauty; obeying the command, ‘Be holy because I am holy’ (Lev. 19:3), and display the beauty of Jesus in all its gatherings, relationships, and individual characters.” (Motyer, Alec. Isaiah by the Day,306.)