Year 3 Day 98
Read - Titus 1
Message - Scott Woodburn
Throughout Paul's letters he makes reference to someone called Titus. Paul describes him as a brother (2 Corinthians 2v13), a comforter (2 Corinthians 7v6), someone who cared for the church (2 Corinthians 8v16), a partner (2 Corinthians 8v23) and a worker (2 Corinthians 8v23). He was from a Gentile background (Galatians 2v3) and had travelled to Jerusalem with the Apostle (Galatians 2v1). It is clear from Paul's testimony that Titus is a well valued worker of the Gospel, so-much-so that Paul leaves him on the island of Crete to oversee the work of the newly founded church (v5).
Titus' first task was to appoint elders in every town (v5). As Presbyterians we take our name from the Greek word for elder - presbuteros. We believe that the office of the elder is the highest office in the church and every local fellowship should be overseen by suitably qualified elders. As Titus sought to install elders in the Cretan church he was well advised as to what to look for.
The elder should be above reproach - he shouldn't be praising the Lord on a Sunday and fighting with the police late on a Saturday night (v6). He shouldn't be a womaniser with a girl in every town - he should be faithful to his wife and have children who aren't living in a manner opposed to the Gospel (v6b). An elder works for God as a steward of the church (v7a). He oversees the spiritual life of the congregation and therefore is to be above reproach. This is the second time Paul mentions this fact. An elder can't be living a double life. He shouldn't be overseeing the church accounts and then stealing money from the government. He shouldn't be peaceful at a church meeting and then running his own home with furious anger and threats of violence. An elder is to be above reproach.
Paul highlights other characteristics that shouldn't be evident in an elder's life. There should be no room for arrogance - he should understand that we boast only in Christ. He should not be quick-tempered - he should endure persecution and be slow to anger. He should be mindful of the sin of drunkenness and keep himself safe from this particular danger. An elder shouldn't be eager to throw punches - he should shun violence and keep his hands in his pockets. Finally, he should not be driven by a love of money always striving to put more cash in his pocket.
Instead an elder will be marked by his hospitality towards the church and strangers alike (v8). He will love that which is good always shunning wickedness and evil. An elder must be able to control himself - it might be around women, alcohol, food or sport but only Christ should be his master. He will be considered an upright, holy and disciplined man - he shouldn't be one thing in the meeting house and then another in the market square. Finally, he must be a man who holds fast to the Word of God. He should be able to teach the Word and instruct others in sound doctrine and just as he instructs, he should also rebuke those who go against the things of God (v9).
The necessity of good and Godly elders was underlined by Paul. On the island of Crete there were many enemies of the Gospel. They did not respect authority, their words were empty, they deceived with their talk and others insisted upon circumcision as necessary for salvation (v10). Such individuals needed to be challenged - their activity was causing turmoil for whole families who were listening to things that should never have been taught (v11).
Paul wasn't surprised. Cretans had a reputation even among their own prophets for being liars, beasts and lazy gluttons (v12). Imagine being described in this way! It sounds incredibly harsh but as far as Paul was concerned it summed up the Cretans accurately (v13). Therefore godly elders were required to rebuke the opponents of the Gospel sharply (v13b). This wasn't to destroy the Cretans but instead that they would be sound in the faith. The temptation was for them to be devoted to Jewish myths and the commands of false teachers (v14). It was the same message of the false teachers in Colossae - don't touch, don't eat, don't drink! Such individuals were defiled, unbelieving and impure therefore godly elders were an absolute necessity to combat the march of falsehood.
Reading such a passage causes me to fall before the Lord. The eldership is a high calling and an extraordinary privilege. As an elder I know that I often fall short of the required standard - may God forgive me and may God reform me. The need for godly qualified men to serve as elders is as important today as it always has been. We may not feel able to describe the people in our towns as liars, beasts and gluttons but make no mistake truth is still attacked and the Gospel is still despised. Brothers and sisters, pray today for your elders. May they take their call seriously and may the Lord equip them for their difficult but incredibly vital work. For Christ's sake. Amen.
Q92 What is a Sacrament? A Sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
Year 3 Day 97
Read - Ezekiel 10:1-2
Message - Alan Burke
If you can think back to chapter 1 of the book of Ezekiel, there we were told of the vision that came to Ezekiel of the living God. It is one that many have tried to explain with such weird and wonderful theories. It is a vivid picture, a literary picture, there were no images, photographs, no drawings or doodles, yet it is a vivid picture that is full of the Glory of God and as He approached on His throne chariot. Once more the throne chariot of God approach but here it is something altogether different, this time the coming of the throne represents the departure of the Lord God from among His people.
This vision assumes that we know what had come before in chapter one, there is much detail given there that is not repeated here. In chapter one we were told of the four living creatures and now it is revealed to us that they are indeed cherubim. Cherubim are the servants of Lord God, they are the guardians of His holiness. They first appeared in scripture in the book of Genesis as they guarded the way into the garden of Eden with their flaming swords flailing back and forth to man from the tree of life and the presence of God (Gen 3:24). In chapter one of Ezekiel we are given much more descriptive language of the cherubim about their appearance, their likeness, but just as there, here in Ezekiel ten they are not the focus.
Rather the focus is on the throne itself, for this was the throne of the Lord, His chariot throne. These Cherubim, the servants of the Lord the guardians of His holiness have come bringing the throne of God to take the glory of God from His earthly dwelling place. The Glory of the Lord will depart on His sovereign throne, a sapphire throne, of deepest blue that was above their heads. To the man in linen who had gone and placed a mark on the foreheads of all those who grieved and lamented, to him the Lord says that he is to fill his hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.
Among the throne there is fire, with their burning coals. Just like for Sodom and Gomorrah where God’s fire rained down from heaven in Judgement (Ge 19:24) symbolically here as the man in linen is told to scatter the coals from among the cherubim among the city it is in judgement for the sin of God’s people. They had been warned by the Lord God, in Deuteronomy God had forbidden idolatry and warned His people that He is a consuming fire, a jealous God, here the burning coals from the throne chariot, comes to scatter coals over the city in judgement. God’s perfect holiness demands judgment for sin. Here the coals represented the purging of sin, Jerusalem and its inhabitants who had sinned and refused to repent would face the consequences and shortly after this prophecy, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem by fire (2 Kings 25:9; 2 Chronicles 36:19). But we also have to remember that these coals were scattered and the judgement that came was also part of God’s redemptive purposes to purify.
When we think of the judgement of God throughout the history of His people we should know that it is redemptive in its purpose. Just as in the flood it was redemptive, it was to purify the world, in Ezekiel’s day it was redemptive to purify His people so that a remnant would be maintained. From this remnant the Lord Jesus Christ would come and in the judgement He took it was redemptive that there could be purification who repent and believe. God’s purposes in judgment are redemptive and on that great and final day in the Judgement of God it is to redeem a people for Himself, but for all those who have not trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ then they will not know redemption, but his judgment and a fire that is an unending punishment for sin. What God’s people faced was "pre-wrath wrath and pre-judgement justice” (GK Beale). They faced the consequences for their sin in this life and they are currently facing the consequences for sin in the next life right now.
Q91 How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, (1 Pet. 3:21, Matt. 3:11, 1 Cor. 3:6–7) and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them. (1 Cor. 12:13)
Year 3 Day 95
Read - Colossians 4v7-18
Message - Scott Woodburn
I sincerely hope by this stage that you know that I'm a Presbyterian. In Northern Ireland eyes often roll when my theological leanings are discovered. Some think we're apostate while others think we are as dead as the dinosaurs. Nevertheless I am a Presbyterian. There are many reasons why this is the case but one is to do with the inter-dependance of the church. As a Presbyterian in Ballynahinch I have a bond with my fellow Presbyterians in Downpatrick, Ardglass, Clough, Seaforde, Spa, Magherahamlet, Saintfield, Comber, Ballygowan, Killyleagh, Killinchy, Carryduff, Boardmills, Raffrey, Kilmore and Crossgar. Eyes may roll but I'm still an unashamed Presbyterian.
I don't know what Paul would say to Presbyterians in 2022. I'm sure he would have much to correct and I'm certain he would find cause to rebuke us, but I hope he would appreciate our commitment to the wider church. Paul wasn't a man who stood alone. As the letter to the Colossians draws to a close Paul finishes with a "who's who" of the church.
Tychius was charged with travelling to Colossae with news of the Apostle Paul (v7). The activities of the church around the world and even down the road should always concern us. We should be thankful for Gospel preaching in Downpatrick just as we should be praying against opposition to the Gospel in Saudi Arabia. Tychius was to tell the church how Paul was doing with a view to encouraging their souls (v8).
Tychius didn't travel alone, instead Philemon's runaway slave Onesimus was sent with him (v9). Throughout the Scriptures two or three witnesses are seen as a sure testimony of truth and so Onesimus would confirm Tychius' account. However it wasn't just for truth's sake that the men travelled together. Life is tough, the road is long and every Christian needs sweet fellowship. I'm certain Tychius and Onesimus were a tremendous help to one another on the way to Colossae.
Even those who wouldn't make the journey were still concerned for the welfare of the Colossian church. Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus (not Christ but a man who was also called Justus), Luke and Demas all sent greetings (v10&14). They were a real comfort to Paul and just as the Apostle loved the Colossians, so too did his friends.
Epaphras greeted the church too and more than that he struggled for the Colossians in prayer. He wanted them to grow in their faith so that they would be both mature and fully assured in God's will (v12). Epaphras prayed for them and had worked hard for the churches in Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis (v13).
Paul sent his own greetings to the church and to Nympha and the church that met at her house (v15). Additionally he commanded that his letter be read in both Colossae and Laodicea (v16) before finally sending word to Archippus that he was to fulfil the ministry that he had received in the Lord (v17). Comfort, command and challenge all formed a part of the relationship between Paul and the churches.
The Colossians were to remember Paul's imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel but with a handwritten greeting and a word of grace, the letter to the Colossians came to an end (v18).
It is tempting to breeze over these final verses. It is hard to pronounce some of these names and the content seems trivial compared to the rest of the letter. I hope we don't make that mistake. The final verses of this Spirit inspired and Spirit kept letter encourage us to think beyond the walls of our own church and the boundaries of our own town. Brothers and sisters, we are part of something much bigger than we can imagine. The church of Christ knows no borders and is not confined to one single nation. If you know Christ in Ballynahinch then you have a blood-won bond with Joonas in Finland and Olivia in Korea and Balint in Romania and Victor in Nigeria and Matt in Norway and Alan in Crossgar. Don't ever take it for granted but instead take your part in, pray for, love and encourage the beautiful Bride of Christ.
Q90 How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.
Year 3 Day 94
Read - Ezekiel 9:11
Message - Alan Burke
In this judgement of God against His rebellious people there is hope, that is something that we must not loose sight off! For in the judgement there are some who are spared. Ezekiel had cried out because of the outpouring of God’s wrath, but he had failed to understand that if God did not deal with sin then He would be to condone it, to say that sin did not matter, but sin matters a great deal. The people believed the Lord had forsaken the land, that He did not see that He was some kind of local deity who was confined to a place (9:12) but God is omnipresent, what ever we think, what ever people think, they are not living with God ignorant of what they do, all will be held to account. Yet as this section closes we are reminded of that hope. For the man dressed as a priest, who was to place the mark on those who grieved and lamented over the idolatry and sin of the people reports back to God declaring “I have done as you commanded.”
Why does this offer hope? It does so because it indicates that there will be a remnant preserved. Ezekiel’s concern for the survival of the Jewish people would have been alleviated when he heard this. God was preserving a remnant. God preserved a remnant as he was working out his great plan of salvation, one that would see the coming of the saviour Jesus Christ, the Long awaited Messiah. Remember that for those of us who have received Christ, as we have repented and believed we are the Lords, we have been marked as His, we can be assured of God’s favour. It does not mean that we will be free from pain and strive, it wasn’t the case for those who were marked in Ezekiel’ day. Their world was literally falling down around them, the bodies were piling up here in the temple, it was no longer was the house of the Lord where the living worshiped it was a funeral parlour, but those who loved the Lord could be secure, the temporal realities were hard, but they had the mark of eternal life, and likewise have eternal life. What ever we face, those who are the Lord’s are secure eternally.
For the church in Ezekiel’s day judgment was coming because the rot set in years beforehand. God’s people were to live in an exclusive relationship with their God, they were His chosen people, and their worship was to be exclusively to Him and for Him. The church in Israel and the seven churches listed in the book of Revelation, the church in Sardis was warned although and they act as a warning to us, we must see fidelity God and his word as important, it is the only thing that we have to offer the people in this sinful, decaying, dying world, it is a message of hope.
Let us be people of the book, people who are known for repentance and belief, know for faithfulness to our God and his word, remembering that the Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him (WSC2). It is not what we want, nor what the church down the road is doing, nor what we have done in the past that should be the vision of your church, rather the church should be founded upon and agreeable to the word. In Ezekiel’s day the time of judgment has come, and judgment will come again, our task is to preach the word, in season and out of season, to all people for there will be a day of judgment that comes on all, a sure and certain day.
Q89 How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building
Year 3 Day 93
Read - Colossians 3v18-4v6
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Gospel isn't just for Sunday, it has dramatic and counter-cultural relevance every single day. We live in a day and age of revolution inside and outside the home and so an incredibly controversial statement is when a Christian stresses that wives should submit to their husbands (v18). What is often heard when such a statement is made is that Christians believe a wife should be chained to the kitchen skin. Some think we mean that a wife exists to meet her husbands every demand, she should be quiet unless spoken to and she should always be ready to please her husband sexually when he demands.
I trust you won't be surprised when I tell you that all of the above is not what we mean by Christian submission. Firstly, as Christians we all willingly submit to the Lordship of Christ. He is in no way abusive towards us. He does not treat us harshly. He does not beat us or demean us or call us names. We willingly submit to a kind and loving Lord.
In the same way wives are to submit to their husbands - this is fitting in the Lord (v18). How so? The Lord made men and women in His image and therefore they enjoy equality before Him. However He gave them different attributes and abilities which made them distinct from one another. The husband of any home is expected by the Lord to be the leader of that home. He is to be wise and caring and he is to take the spiritual lead in his family. In this manner wives are to willingly submit to their husbands just as they willingly submit to Christ.
Husbands in turn are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Gentlemen there is no Biblical mandate to treat your wife harshly. We are not to raise our hands against our wives. We are not to mock them or to treat them as objects for our pleasure and gratification. This is not submission and it is certainly not Biblical. Husbands love your wives. Treat them well and honour them with your love, care, attention and prayer - this is pleasing to the Lord.
Children are to strive for obedience when it comes to their relationship with their parents. Our parents have no mandate to force us into sin but whenever possible we are to obey our mother and father (v20). It pleases the Lord when a child honours their parents in this way (v20b). Equally a father should not be harsh with his children (v21). Does this mean we shouldn't discipline our kids? No. Discipline that comes from a loving and kind fatherly heart is a good and necessary thing. However we are not to provoke our children. Fathers are not to mock their children's achievements or lack of them. Fathers are not to tell their children that they will never amount to anything. Fathers are to submit to the Lord and in turn cherish their children.
Even our working relationships are to be transformed by the Gospel. In Paul's day there existed a vast number of people born into slavery. If their master was kind they would enjoy a good life, if he was cruel then the slave's life could be made a misery. Paul's exhortation was that the slave should work as if they were serving Christ Himself (v23). Their service should be marked by fear of God (v22) and even if they were faced with a wicked master they should trust that the Lord would repay the wrongdoer (v25). In like manner Christians who owned slaves were to treat them justly and fairly in light of their own heavenly master (4v1).
In all of our relationships the Gospel is to abound. At no turn are we to be the abuser. It doesn't matter if it is inside the home or outside - as we submit to the Lord Jesus so our relationships are to mirror the beauty of the Gospel. It should go without saying that prayer is to underpin everything we do. We are to be watchful in prayer, ensuring that we make time for it and being thankful always. Indeed as we pray we are to ask that the Lord would open doors for the Gospel (v3-4). Time is short and so we are to walk wisely and we are to talk graciously to each person (v5-6).
When Paul speaks and urges us to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, he isn't just urging us to go to church on a Sunday. The glorious news of the death and resurrection of Christ is to flow through every aspect of our lives and relationships. May we take the call seriously and may the world see the evidence that we are indeed children of the living God.
Q88 What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption? The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, Sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Year 3 Day 92
Read - Ezekiel 9:5-10
Message - Alan Burke
The seven men that the Lord called to the city had come and stood beside the bronze altar, the one that had provoked the Lord’s jealously, six are the executioners whereas the seventh is to show the mercy of God. The seventh man will move throughout the city and mark those who are the Lord’s the others will follow him through the city and kill without compassion. Unlike the Passover when God came in judgment upon the enemies of God’s people (Ex 12:7, 13), this time it is God’s people themselves that would face judgement. Those who had the mark would be spare all others, the old, the young, men and maidens, women and children would be judged. The judgment is the guilty, it would come upon on, there would be no exceptions except those who were indeed His people who had the mark placed upon them.
This judgment was fulfilled in the death of the multitudes by famine, plague and the sword of the Babylonians. These angelic figures who come in the form of men obey the summons of the Lord God, they are symbolic of what the Lord was doing, for He in His judgment would use the Babylonians to invade, to wreak havoc on the people. The Babylonians are but servants or rather tools of the Lord in His judgement. God was using the enemies of His people to bring judgment upon them. Now this is something we are confronted with time and time again, God uses His enemies for His glory, in what is going on today, we do not have the Babylonians coming but we do face increasing opposition, yet God in His providence is working in the midst of all things and uses even those most opposed for His purposes. What a comfort, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring never mind in twenty years, but God is at work even though things may seem beak.
Although I want you to notice were this judgement begins, and who it begins with. It begins at the temple with those who should have known better. They were the twenty five, likely priests who were to be serving the Lord but had turned their back on Him and worshiped a false god, they had exchanged the truth for a lie. The Temple of God was holy, it was set apart, everything about the peoples worship was to teach them that God is holy and they are not. In 2 Kings we are told how Queen Athaliah was dragged out of the temple complex before being executed so it would not be defiled by her blood (2 Kings 11:15-16), but now the killing beings and takes place in the temple itself because by their idolatry it was already desecrated, it was unholy, defiled, it was worthless, and justice was more important than ritual purity. From there the executioners of God’s judgement spread out throughout the city bringing judgement.
The people of God both in the Old and the New Testament are told that we will be judged, Christ has paid the full penally of our sin, in 1 Peter the judgement that is spoken of has a broad meaning that comes with the purpose of discipline, we face suffering in our lives, sometime to test our faith to refine us, to give us greater strength. The outcome as the church is brought under judgement for sin is refining for those who know Christ and damnation for those who do not. In Judgement God’s true people will be strengthened and purified, this is what was happening in Ezekiel’s day and it happens today. While we may not always know why we suffer, God is using it for his purposes, we will either be purified, disciplined, or gain some kind of heavenly reward.
Q87 What is repentance unto life?
Repentance unto life is a saving grace, (Acts 11:18) whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, (Acts 2:37–38) and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, (Joel 2:12, Jer. 3:22) doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, (Jer. 31:18–19, Ezek. 36:31) with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience. (2 Cor. 7:11, Isa. 1:16–17)
Year 3 Day 91
Read - Colossians 3
Message - Scott Woodburn
When a sinner receives Christ by faith a radical transformation occurs. That individual is no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ. The repentant sinner has their name written in the Lamb's book of life. The chains of sin which once bound them are broken and they are declared righteous by God Himself. Unfortunately false teachers in Colossae had forgotten this wonderful news and instead were teaching that the true faith was one centred around earthly man-made rules.
Paul wanted to remind the Colossians that these seemingly wise rules could do nothing for their problem with sin. A faith that said "don't handle, don't taste or don't touch" could do nothing to change an individual's sinful heart. Only Jesus can transform us and give us hearts of flesh instead of hearts of stone. Therefore Paul told the Colossians about their union with Christ. By grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone they had been saved and were already spiritually raised with Jesus (v1).
In response to this Gospel truth the Colossians were to take their eyes of the earthly nonsense of the false teachers and instead set their eyes on heavenly realities (v1-2). Jesus is in heaven, seated at the Father's right hand (v1b) and Christ should always capture the attention of the Christian. Why? Because of the extraordinary transformation that Christ has worked in us. In Christ we have died to sin and been made alive through the Gospel (v3). Currently we enjoy a union with Christ that is "hidden" (v3) but when Jesus returns the reality of our union with Him will become absolutely clear (v4). Currently we know Jesus by faith but one day we will know Him by sight.
This is such wonderful news that it should have a dramatic Spirit-worked impact on the Christian. As the work of sanctification takes place the believer is to put to death old earthly attributes (v5). Paul mentions all sorts of sinful practice - sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. None of this has any place in a Christian's life. God's anger burns against these sins (v6) and everyone of us once walked in these ways (v7). But now the Christian should shun anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (v8). Our words to one another should always be true because the old self has gone and the new self has come (v9-10). Indeed this new self is being sanctified, it is being renewed each day and at the last day we will once again bear the image of God untainted and undefaced by sin.
Paul doesn't direct a certain type of Christian on the path of sanctification. It doesn't matter if you are from a Greek or Jewish background. It doesn't matter if you are master or slave. It doesn't matter if you are from Ballynahinch or Ballygobackwards. Christ is all, and in all and His followers are to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel (v11).
As we take off the old self we are to put on new clothes. We all like clean clothes when we realise the old ones are dirty and stained. The Christian's clothing is compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (v12). If we argue and fall out then we are to be quick to forgive (v13). The Lord has forgiven us more than we can imagine and therefore we are to forgive one another. We are to be loving in all our words and deeds and this love binds everything else together in perfect harmony (v14).
Gazing above to where Jesus is causes great peace to rest and rule in our hearts. This peace overflows into our fellowships where we are to live in peace for there is only one body (v15). Thankfulness is to abound in the Christian life (v16) and we are to be saturated by the living Word of Jesus (v16). As we ourselves are taught the Word so too we teach others and on occasion we may have to warn our brothers and sisters. But when the warning is done we sing Psalms together, we sing the great hymns of the Christian faith and we sing spiritual songs. We are to be a thankful people doing everything in the name of Christ and giving thanks to God (v17).
The false teachers couldn't have been more wrong with their focus on endless rules and regulations that could not save and could give no assurance. The Christian faith on the other hand is not a dead empty letter but a living breathing faith in a living breathing Saviour. We are united to Christ by faith and He sends the mighty Spirit into our lives to transform. If today we find our eyes focused on the muck and the mire of modern living then may we heed the Apostolic call - "seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
Q86 What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
Year 3 Day 90
Read - Ezekiel 9:1-4
Message - Alan Burke
The judgment of God here that is before us is not palatable to people, it wasn’t any more palatable to those in Ezekiel’s day as it is in ours, we hear of these things and they leave us reeling, and yes God is love, but God’s love also includes judgement. For what kind of loving God would let sin go unpunished, what kind of love would God have if there were no consequences for our rebellion or sin, He’d be a monster, evil would continue unchecked, sin would increase. But God doesn’t let sin go unchecked, He hates sin, He deals with sin and for us He has dealt with our sin through another, Jesus Christ who took our sin upon himself so that we might we saved from the Judgement that we deserve.
This passage acts as a warning to us of the judgment of God. It also teaches us and warns us that that God can withdraw His glory from the Church today. Knowing that, we need to be careful that we do not fool ourselves into thinking that what matters today is our presbyterian heritage, our buildings, our programs, or attendance or the vestiges of religion, for these things will not save us, what matters is that God is known in this place and that Glory is given to His name in all that we do.
With the people were shouting (8:18), the Lord speaks and the peoples shouts are drowned out by Him, as He calls His executioners. These six men are the executioners of God’s judgment. They are described as men but they are angelic beings who elsewhere in scripture appear as men, (Gen 18:2; 32:24; Dan 10:5). They come from the north in obedience to the Lord from the direction of the upper gate, that’s the gate where the idol that provoked the jealously of God was (8:5,16) and the Lord calls them to dispense His judgement. But there is another man one clothed in linen.
The seven men have two different tasks. The seventh man, the one dressed in linen, is dressed as a priest of the Lord, the writing kit of a scribe and this man is there and will reveal the mercy of God in the midst of the judgment. He is to use the writing kit to put a mark on the forehead of those who have remained faithful, they will be spared, those who have sighed and groaned about the abominations that were committed. This mark is to distinguish the righteous people of God from the wicked who have sinned against the Lord God in the abominable practices.
Even in the midst of this judgment that is coming, God is merciful, those who were truly God’s people would be saved. In the book of Revelation 7(v3), where those who are to be delivered who are the servants of our God, we are told will have a seal on their foreheads, they will be marked out. Likewise in Revelation 14(v1) as John looked and saw the lamb standing on Mount Zion with him the 144,000 figuratively speaking of a great multitude with Him, upon them on their foreheads the name of the Father was written.
Upon God’s people He has placed His mark. Today if you have repented and believed, if you have come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ then you are a child of God and upon you there is a mark, a seal, for you are sealed by the work of God the Spirit. No matter what lies ahead for you, if there is much suffering in this life, if you die for your faith and there are many who in this world do, if you live to a ripe old age, or what ever you face, know that God has placed his mark on you and that eternally you have nothing to fear, for His mark is upon you! Those who hare the Lord’s can have confident hope. For in God’s judgement there will be mercy, there was in Ezekiel’s day and there there will be again when Christ returns to Judge the living and the dead.
Q85 What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and cursedue to us for sin?
To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, (Acts 20:21) with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption. (Prov. 2:1–5, Prov. 8:33–36, Isa. 55:3)
Year 3 Day 88
Read - Colossians 2
Message - Scott Woodburn
Christ is not an optional extra nor is He second-rate substitute. The one who is in Christ lacks nothing. Paul may have been far away in Rome but he still loved the Colossians and the church in Laodicea (v1). Therefore he wanted them to know that in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (v3). There may be those who attempt to delude us with plausible arguments, but if we are in Christ then we are to stand firm in the truth. Jesus is supreme over all - He is not one possible solution, He is the solution. May our hearts be encouraged and find joyous assurance and understanding in Christ (v2).
We are to walk in Jesus or in other words, we do not start with Christ and then run on ahead. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, we are to keep Him in sight so that we may be built up and established in the faith (v6-7). This remains of vital importance. There are those in the world who would seek to take us captive with philosophy, lies, human tradition and the elemental spirits of the world (v8).
It is clear from Paul's words that there were those in Colossae seeking to lead the church away from Jesus. Their wisdom was based on lies and was according to the traditions of humanity. More than that, they also focused on the elemental spirits of the world. What does this phrase mean? The false teaching in Colossae pointed to the stars, the sun, the moon and the earth. Many have sought answers in these elemental things seeking creation rather than the creator. Even today there are those who think the position of the stars in the sky can impact their lives. Others think that the earth radiates mystical energy that you imbibe by visiting certain special locations.
The Christian doesn't need any of this superstition. Christ is true God, true man, without sin (v9) and through faith in Christ we have received every spiritual blessing imaginable (v10). In Christ we have been transformed. Paul uses the imagery of circumcision to make his point. Christ has cut us off from the old flesh (v11) with a circumcision not made with hands. In other words we have been made clean by the circumcision of Christ, we have been buried with Jesus in baptism and raised with Him by the work of God (v12). The old has gone and the new has come!
We were once dead in our sins but God has forgiven us in Christ (v13). A great debt was owed by every single Christian and yet the Lord took that debt and nailed it to the cross (v14). The false teachers may have pointed to the elements for guidance and they may have taught that we should seek hidden wisdom from other spirits, but the reality is that Christ triumphed over the unseen forces of evil (v15). He has disarmed Satan and his legions and put them to open shame at Calvary.
In light of this Paul urged the Colossians to reject those who passed judgement on them over elementary things. Then, as now, there are those who judge you because of what you eat and drink (v16) and they judge you because you don't hold to their observance of certain days or festivals. Others will seek to disqualify you completely calling into question your salvation. Why? Because you don't live a severe life like them. You don't live in a barn in a field on an island eating only bread and water. You refuse to worship the angels and you pay no regard to empty vain visions (v17).
Paul is clear - we are to realise the substance of every good thing is found in Christ (v17). We are to hold fast to Him for He is the head of the church and it is only in Christ that the church can grow (v19). The Christian faith is not “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (v21). It is not a self-made religion that demands you beat your body into submission. The rules and regulations of the false teachers may have had an appearance of wisdom but ultimately they could nothing to stop the indulgence of the flesh (v23).
Instead Christ takes weak, sinful, fallen people and He brings real transformation to them. He is our Saviour. He is our circumcision. He is our baptism. He is our freedom and in Christ, we are free indeed.
Q84 What doth every sin deserve? Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.
Year 3 Day 87
Read - Ezekiel 8:18
Message - Alan Burke
Do you remember the Disney film The Jungle Book from 1967. For many of us it captivated our imaginations and there is a song that goes;
Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You'll see it's true
An ape like me
Can learn to be humen too
If you find yourself sitting humming that for the rest of the day it’s your own fault! The reason why I mention it is because it is what came to mind when I started this devotion or rather the words, “I wanna be like you”. Well God’s people wanted to be like everyone else. Think how they had desired to be like the nations around them in Samuel’s day, when they desired a king (1 Sam 8:5). Years had since past, they wanted to be like the nations in having a king, but it ended up they were like the nations in how they did not worship the living God, actually they were worse. They had degenerated in every way, the verdict was in, God would make His glory known among them, they will receive what they deserve as the Lord would deal with them in His wrath, He would not have pity, He will not spare them, they will cry aloud for help but He would not listen (v18), this is a frightful judgment but it comes because of their wanton rebellion against the Lord.
The Lord was going to make His glory know, they had rebelled, they had turned from the Lord their God, they had broken His covenant, they had shown a total disregard for His glory and His truth but the Lord wasn’t going to let them off with it. We like to think of God as “the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Ex. 34:6–7). Yet God has also promised that He “does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” For many people today this is horrible, unpalatable but the New Testament speaks just as clearly about the wrath of God that comes on unrepentant sinners, they are storing up wrath for the day when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. (Rom. 2:5)
Here God’s people were doing much that was an abomination to Him, instead of giving Him the glory they were worshiping false gods. There are some today who think that all religions are valid, it’s a nonsense, there are some who think that it doesn’t matter how we worship, it’s also a nonsense. There is only one way and it is God’s way, salvation only comes through the son Jesus Christ. He the way the truth and the life, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12), and how we worship should be in accordance with His word for it is our rule and guide, it teaches what we are to believe of Him and what duty He requires of us.
As we close I want to leave you with another song, not the “I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)” it goes like this;
I want to walk with Jesus Christ
All the days I live of this life on earth
To give to Him complete control
Of body and of soul
Follow Him, follow Him, yield your life to Him
He has conquered death, He is King of kings
Accept the joy which He gives to those
Who yield their lives to Him
Let us walk with Jesus Christ, yielding our lives to him!
Q83 Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others. (Ezek. 8:6,13,15, 1 John 5:16, Ps. 78:17,32,56)