Are You an Enemy of the Cross ?

Are-we-living-as-enemies-of-the-Cross

But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
–Galatians 1:7

They are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
–Philippians 3:18

Often, the best way to positively set forth the gospel message is by exposing those things which stand against it.

Not only are we armed with “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), but also with “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). We are not only to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), but to be even as Paul,“set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). We must not only build the walls with carefulness, but we must be at all times prepared to defend those walls against their enemies (see Neh. 4:17). One of the old Puritans, Thomas Manton (1620-1677), said,

“It is our duty not only to fodder the sheep, but hunt out the wolf. Error is touchy, and is loath to be meddled with; yet we must warn, and warn often.”

We indeed seek to warn the children of the Living God, even with tears as the apostle “that many walk,… that… are enemies of the cross of Christ”… These “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) must needs be exposed.

When we say ‘enemies of the cross’, what do we mean? Simply this: ‘the cross’ is often used in the Scripture to denote ‘the gospel’ (1 Cor. 1:18, Gal. 5:11, 6:12).

Those who are ‘enemies of the cross’ are enemies of the gospel which is the message of God’s redeeming grace revealed in His son, Jesus Christ. An enemy of the gospel is ultimately an enemy of Christ.

I believe these ‘enemies of the cross’ fall into three categories:

1.   Those who openly oppose the gospel and teach against it. These enemies are seen quite clearly, so very few words of warning are needful. We are not sent to do battle with infidels and supposed atheists, but we will”let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”(Mt. 15:14). They are “raging waves of sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).

2.   Those who make no profession of love for Christ nor faith in His person. This group is often not so easily distinguished as ‘enemies’ of Christ as the first group clearly is. contained in this category are those who are obviously opposed to Christ for their false Gospel is an open sin and they heed not the warnings of the gospel to “flee from wrath to come” (Mat. 3:7) nor obey its commands to repent (Acts 18:30) and believe the gospel and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). But this group also contains those who do not live in open sin and unrestrained wickedness, yet do not follow Christ and profess Him before men. While those of the latter division are esteemed more highly in the eyes of men, they are equally condemned in the sight of the Lord, who said, “he that is not with me is against me” (Mat. 12:30). “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him sill I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32,33). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).

3.   Those who professedly and seemingly walk in the gospel, yet in reality are set against it. This category is the most difficult to deal with; for those who make it up are often extremely hard to distinguish from the true bearers of the cross. Therefore they are the most dangerous enemies and the ones which Paul specifically warns us of in the texts. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14,15). Another difficulty in dealing with this group is that many sincere people (and I doubt not, come true children of God) follow the teachings of these false prophets out of ignorance. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John. 4:1).

These enemies of the cross are those who set up any standard for faith, conduct, doctrine, or practice, other than the Holy Scriptures.

Of course they would not be bold so as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the Word, yet they subtly set up other standards. Such persons rely on tradition (“Well, we have always believed this or done this”), what their denomination or church teaches (“If it’s not what my church believes, I don’t even want to hear it or think about it”), special revelations and leadings of the Lord (“I feel like the Lord is leading me to…”), or their own ideas and understanding (“That doctrine cannot possibly be true because I don’t understand it”), rather than being like the Bereans who, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They are the ‘enemies of the cross’ for, “if they speak not according to this word (the law and testimony) it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Those who teach that the free will of man is the determining factor in salvation are also subtle ‘enemies of the cross.’

Their teaching has spawned a generation of hypocrites who “draw near (the Lord) with their mouth… but have removed their heart far from (Him) and their fear toward (Him) is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Many have been swallowed up by their zeal to make converts. but oh how many true converts are there in this day of those “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19) and have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2:5)? Who can give “a reason of the hope that is in them” (1 Pet. 3:15)?

These are also ‘enemies of the cross’ whose message of salvation begins, is sustained, or ends with anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some give pre-eminence to the Holy Spirit, and truly He is to be worshipped, but His presence is always marked by the fact that Christ alone is exalted. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come… He shall glorify me (Christ).” (John 16:13,14).

Finally, they are ‘enemies’ who preach any message which gives men any thing that they can glory in or boast of in their salvation. From the beginning to end, our salvation is all of God’s grace. He has designed it, He has provided it, He applies it, and He sustains it. He is going to have all the glory in salvation of men and He will not share that glory. Salvation is in Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12). We are helpless and hopeless. We need Him. He does not need us. We are shut up to His mercy. A man will not be saved unless God is pleased to grant mercy. There is no salvation but that which He wills to bestow upon men. Oh but this is good news, for He is a God who delights in mercy. He has shown to thousands who call on His name. My friend, I plead with you to fly to His throne this moment and seek that saving mercy. Perhaps He shall be pleased to save you from your certain ruin. Bow down at His feet today; call upon Him while He is near. But oh believe not the great swelling words of those who tell men that they can be saved anytime they want to by an act of their own will. I tell you even weeping, ‘they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’.

–Mike McInnis

How Charles Spurgeon found the Gospel

gospel

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow.”
    and coming to this moment, I can add-
    “Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant.

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.

I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul-when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man-that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.

One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment- I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

A Concise Statement Regarding the Relationship between the Law and the Gospel.

Taken from, Luther’s Table Talk
Written by Martin Luther
Edited for thought and sense

law_gospel

It is no small matter that we should rightly understand what the law is, what it serves, and what is its proper work and office.

We do not reject the law and the works thereof, but we confirm and erect the same, and do teach that we ought to do good works; and we also affirm that the law is very good and profitable, yet so far, that we give him his right, and suffer him to remain within his bounds, that is, by his own proper work and office; namely,

First, that thereby outward sins be withstood and hindered.

Secondly, that inward and spiritual sins may be discovered, confessed, and acknowledged.

Therefore the law is a light which lights everything, it opens and makes everything visible, –but not God’s grace and mercy, nor does it display unto us the imputed righteousness whereby we obtain everlasting life and salvation: oh, no! In no wise: but the law opens and displays unto us our sins, our weakness, death, God’s wrath and judgment.

But the light of the Gospel is far another manner of light; the same enlightens the affrighted, broken, sorrowful, and contrite hearts; it revives, comforts, and refreshes them. For it declares, that God is merciful to unworthy condemned sinners for the sake of Christ, and that a blessing thereby is presented unto them that believe; that is, grace, remission of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life. When seen in this way we distinguish the law and the Gospel, and then we attribute and give to each his right work and offices.

Therefore, I pray and truly admonish all the lovers of godliness and pure religion (especially those who in time are to be teachers of others), that with highest diligence they would learn this message, which I much fear, after our time, ‘will be darkened again, if not altogether extinguished.

We must also respond with the Ten Commandments in due time and place. The ungodly out of the Gospel do suck only carnal freedom, and become worse thereby; therefore not the Gospel, but the law belongs to them. Even as when my little son Hans offends, if then I should not whip him, but call him to the table, and give him sugar and plums; thereby indeed I should make him worse, yea, should quite spoil him.

The Gospel is like a fresh, mild, and cool air in the extreme heat of summer, that is, it is a solace. But we must also realize that as the heat proceeds from the rays of the sun, so likewise a terrified conscience must proceed from the preaching of the law, so that we may understand and know that we have offended against the laws of God.

And when our minds are refreshed again by the cool air of the Gospel, do not be idle, do not lie down and spiritually sleep; even though our consciences are settled in peace, and are quieted and comforted through God’s Spirit, no, this is the time that we must show and prove our faith by such good works as to that which God has commanded.

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL MESSAGE?

Written by, J. I. Packer

page52_picture0_1325201370

IN a word, the evangelistic message is the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified…

…the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a message made up of four essential ingredients.

1. The Gospel is a message about God.

It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, and what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us that we owe our very existence to Him; that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye; and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory. These truths are the foundation of theistic religion; and until they are grasped, the rest of the Gospel message will seem neither cogent nor relevant. It is here with the assertion of man’s complete and constant dependence on his Creator that the Christian story starts.

We can learn again from Paul at this point. When preaching to Jews, as at Pisidian Antioch, he did not need to mention the fact that men were God’s creatures. He could take this knowledge for granted, for his hearers had the Old Testament faith behind them. He could begin at once to declare Christ to them as the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. But when preaching to Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Old Testament, Paul had to go further back and start from the beginning. And the beginning from which Paul started in such cases was the doctrine of God’s Creatorship and man’s creaturehood. So, when the Athenians asked him to explain what his talk of Jesus and the resurrection was all about, he spoke to them first of God the Creator and what He made man for. “God…made the world…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made…all nations… that they should seek the Lord” (Act 17:24-27). This was not, as some have supposed, a piece of philosophical apologetic of a kind that Paul afterwards renounced, but the first and basic lesson in theistic faith.

The Gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God…

…and that He, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us. Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is, and only when we see what sin is can we understand the good news of salvation from sin. We must know what it means to call God Creator before we can grasp what it means to speak of Him as Redeemer. Nothing can be achieved by talking about sin and salvation where this preliminary lesson has not in some measure been learned.

2. The Gospel is a message about sin.

It tells us how we have fallen short of God’s standard, how we have become guilty, filthy, and helpless in sin, and now stand under the wrath of God. It tells us that the reason why we sin continually is that we are sinners by nature, and that nothing we do or try to do for ourselves can put us right or bring us back into God’s favor. It shows us ourselves as God sees us and teaches us to think of ourselves as God thinks of us. Thus, it leads us to self-despair. And this also is a necessary step. Not until we have learned our need to get right with God and our inability to do so by any effort of our own can we come to know the Christ Who saves from sin.

There is a pitfall here.

Everybody’s life includes things that cause dissatisfaction and shame. Everyone has a bad conscience about some things in his past, matters in which he has fallen short of the standard that he set for himself or that was expected of him by others. The danger is that in our evangelism we should content ourselves with evoking thoughts of these things and making people feel uncomfortable about them, and then depicting Christ as the One who saves us from these elements of ourselves, without even raising the question of our relationship with God. But this is just the question that has to be raised when we speak about sin. For the very idea of sin in the Bible is of an offense against God that disrupts a man’s relationship with God. Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all. For sin is not a social concept; it is a theological concept. Though sin is committed by man, and many sins are against society, sin cannot be defined in terms of either man or society. We never know what sin really is until we have learned to think of it in terms of God and to measure it, not by human standards, but by the yardstick of His total demand on our lives.

What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not at all the same thing as conviction of sin.

It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself, your failures, and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith if a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, and cheer him up, and make him feel confident again.

Nor should we be preaching the Gospel if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a man’s felt wants: “Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; He will meet your every need”—as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother or a super-psychiatrist…To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one is an all-round flop, but to realize that one has offended God, and flouted His authority, and defied Him, and gone against Him, and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One Who through His cross sets men right with God again…

It is indeed true that the real Christ, the Christ of the Bible, reveals Himself to us as a Savior from sin and an Advocate with God, does in fact give peace, and joy, and moral strength, and the privilege of His own friendship to those who trust Him. But the Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ—in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation. We must be on our guard, therefore, against equating a natural bad conscience and sense of wretchedness with spiritual conviction of sin and so omitting in our evangelism to impress upon sinners the basic truth about their condition—namely, that their sin has alienated them from God and exposed them to His condemnation, and hostility, and wrath, so that their first need is for a restored relationship with Him…

3. The Gospel is a message about Christ—Christ, the Son of God incarnate;

Christ, the Lamb of God, dying for sin; Christ, the risen Lord; Christ, the perfect Savior.

Two points need to be made about the declaring of this part of the message:

(i) We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work. It is sometimes said that it is the presentation of Christ’s Person, rather than of doctrines about Him, that draws sinners to His feet. It is true that it is the living Christ Who saves and that a theory of the atonement, however orthodox, is no substitute. When this remark is made, however, what is usually being suggested is that doctrinal instruction is dispensable in evangelistic preaching, and that all the evangelist need do is paint a vivid word-picture of the man of Galilee who went about doing good, and then assure his hearers that this Jesus is still alive to help them in their troubles. But such a message could hardly be called the Gospel.

It would, in reality, be a mere conundrum, serving only to mystify…the truth is that you cannot make sense of the historic figure of Jesus until you know about the Incarnation—that this Jesus was in fact God the Son, made man to save sinners according to His Father’s eternal purpose. Nor can you make sense of His life until you know about the atonement—that He lived as man so that He might die as man for men, and that His passion, His judicial murder was really His saving action of bearing away the world’s sins. Nor can you tell on what terms to approach Him now until you know about the resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session—that Jesus has been raised, and enthroned, and made King, and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge His Lordship. These doctrines, to mention no others, are essential to the Gospel…In fact, without these doctrines you would have no Gospel to preach at all.

(ii) But there is a second and complementary point: we must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. 
Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: “Believe that Christ died for your sins.” The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Savior Who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made atonement. We must not, in presenting the Gospel, isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ Whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Savior. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” said Paul (Act 16:31). “Come unto me…and I will give you rest,” said our Lord (Mat 11:28).

This being so, one thing becomes clear straight away: namely, that the question about the extent of the atonement, which is being much agitated in some quarters, has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point. I do not propose to discuss this question now; I have done that elsewhere. I am not at present asking you whether you think it is true to say that Christ died in order to save every single human being, past, present, and future, or not. Nor am I at present inviting you to make up your mind on this question, if you have not done so already. All I want to say here is that even if you think the above assertion is true, your presentation of Christ in evangelism ought not to differ from that of the man who thinks it false.

What I mean is this: it is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement, “Christ died for every one of you,” made to any congregation, would be unverifiable and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his Gospel preaching. You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon. But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say or ever has reason to say when preaching the Gospel. For preaching the Gospel, as we have just seen, means [calling] sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Savior, Who, by virtue of His atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the Gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all…The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him.

The Gospel is not, “Believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore for yours,” any more than it is, “Believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not for yours”…

We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement. Our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him…This brings us to the final ingredient in the Gospel message.

4. The Gospel is a summons to faith and repentance.

All who hear the Gospel are summoned by God to repent and believe. “God…commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” Paul told the Athenians (Act 17:30). When asked by His hearers what they should do in order to “work the works of God,” our Lord replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:29). And in 1 John 3:23 we read: “This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ…”

Repentance and faith are rendered matters of duty by God’s direct command, and hence impenitence and unbelief are singled out in the New Testament as most grievous sins.

With these universal commands, as we indicated above, go universal promises of salvation to all who obey them. “Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Act 10:43). “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). These words are promises to which God will stand as long as time shall last.

It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling.

Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man…faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ Who gave those promises. Equally, repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place…Two further points need to be made also:

(i) The demand is for faith as well as repentance. It is not enough to resolve to turn from sin, give up evil habits, and try to put Christ’s teaching into practice by being religious and doing all possible good to others. Aspiration, and resolution, and morality, and religiosity, are no substitutes for faith…If there is to be faith, however, there must be a foundation of knowledge: a man must know of Christ, and of His cross, and of His promises before saving faith becomes a possibility for him. In our presentation of the Gospel, therefore, we need to stress these things, in order to lead sinners to abandon all confidence in themselves and to trust wholly in Christ and the power of His redeeming blood to give them acceptance with God. For nothing less than this is faith.

(ii) The demand is for repentance as well as faith…If there is to be repentance, however, there must, again, be a foundation of knowledge…More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 16:24-25). “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also (i.e., put them all decisively second in his esteem), he cannot be my disciple…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:26, 33). The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims that He may make on their lives…He had no interest in gathering vast crowds of professed adherents who would melt away as soon as they found out what following Him actually demanded of them. In our own presentation of Christ’s Gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything; or else our evangelizing becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.

Such is the evangelistic message that we are sent to make known.

Golan, the Sixth Wonderful Portrait of Christ, CITIES OF REFUGE, Part 7.

refugeThe cities chosen as Cities of Refuge were Kedesh of Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (also known as Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. The Lord also instructed that three cities be set aside for this purpose on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. They were Bezer, in the wilderness of the land of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth of Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan of Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. These Cities of Refuge were for foreigners living in Israel as well as for the Israelis themselves, so that anyone who accidentally killed another man could run to that place for a trial and not be killed in revenge. –Joshua 20:7-9 Living Bible (TLB)

Golan: The Sixth City and Last City of Refuge.

Golan was situated in Bashan, in the tribe of Manasseh, among the pastoral hills north of the lake of Gennesaret, which is also called the Sea of Galilee.

It formed the most northerly Refuge-Sanctuary on the east side of Jordan, as Kedesh did on the west; but there are no particular events connected with it in Bible story.

What does the name of this last City of Refuge tell us regarding Jesus?

We-Who-Have-Fled-For-RefugeGolan literally signifies Joy. Jesus is truly the Golan of His people; they may have many others, but He is their “chief joy!” “Well may they call Him Golan; for not one joy could have ever visited them had it not been for Him. The world would have been to them, from first to last, a “valley of Baca,” (weeping,) had not Jesus died for their sins, and saved their souls. Well might the angel say, when he came to the plains of Bethlehem to announce the Savior’s birth, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy!”

There is not one step the Christian takes but Jesus is Golan to him –“joy.” The sinner is straying, –a lost sheep on the dark mountains, in search of peace; Jesus meets him, and says, “Your sins are all forgiven you;” he is joyful at that. He is a wandering prodigal from his Father’s house: Jesus brings him to his lost home, and calls him His own child; and he is joyful that the lost sinner is saved.  God’s child has to travel a long and dreary journey before he reaches his true home in heaven: but Jesus gives him His arm to lean upon; and he “goes on his way rejoicing.”  God’s child has many fiery trials to try him: but Jesus tells him not to think these “strange,” but rather to “rejoice,” inasmuch as He is “partaker with him in his sufferings.” He has, at last, to walk through the dark Valley; but Jesus Meets him there, and supports him there. He sees “the King in His beauty,” and the land that is yet “afar off;” and, believing, “He

When Jesus beholds him from His throne in judgment, what are to be his blessed words of welcome?”

Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”  And when, as a ransomed one, he enters the streets of the New Jerusalem, at whose feet is it that he is to cast, through all eternity,-his crown? “In thy presence,” O Savior God, is “fullness of joy!”

Let us love to often gaze on the walls of this City of Refuge. The sacred writer, in giving the list of these six cities, seems to have kept it to the last because it is a happy word, and speaks of the happy prospects of all those that love the Lord Jesus. Believe me, there is no true joy but in God.

The joy of the wicked is like that of a noisy stream –noisy because it is shallow. On the other hand, the joy, which Jesus gives, is like a great river, –deep, calm, ever-flowing, overflowing; –not full in winter and dry in summer, but full, and clear, and refreshing all the year-long. It may always be truly said of Jesus, the great Gospel Refuge, and of those who have fled to Him, what was said of old about Samaria, “There was great joy in that city.”  It was the object of all that Christ did and said on earth to give you this joy.  “These things have I spoken unto you, says He, “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might he full.”

Love Him now, and serve Him now and follow Him now, that you may come at last to the true Golan, in His glorious presence above, and “rejoice evermore!”

——————————————-
Written by John Ross Macduff.
Published in 1865.
Edited for thought and sense.
———————————————–
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Ross Macduff (23 May 1818 – 30 April 1895) was a Scottish divine and a prolific author of religious essays. Born in Bonhard, Scone, Perthshire, Macduff was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and was ordained as minister of Kettins, a parish in Forfarshire in 1843. He returned to St Madoes, a parish in Perthshire in 1849, which he left to take charge of Sandyford, a new church in Glasgow. He preached there for fifteen years (until 1870), and then went to live in Chislehurst, Kent, in order to focus entirely on writing. His best known books were: “The Prophet of Fire”; “Memories of Bethany”: “Memories of Gennesaret”; “The Shepherd and His Flock “: “Sunset on the Hebrew Mountains “; “Comfort Ye”; “The Golden Gospel”; “Morning and Night Watches”; “The Bow in the Cloud”; “The Story of a Dewdrop”; and “The Story of a Shell.” Macduff died in Chislehurst.

Ramoth, the Fifth Wonderful Portrait of Christ, CITIES OF REFUGE, Part 6.

foster_bible_pictures_0083-1_the_city_of_refugeThe cities chosen as Cities of Refuge were Kedesh of Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (also known as Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. The Lord also instructed that three cities be set aside for this purpose on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. They were Bezer, in the wilderness of the land of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth of Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan of Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. These Cities of Refuge were for foreigners living in Israel as well as for the Israelis themselves, so that anyone who accidentally killed another man could run to that place for a trial and not be killed in revenge–Joshua 20:7-9 Living Bible (TLB)

Ramoth: The Fifth City of Refuge.

we-who-have-fled-for-refugeRamoth was situated in Gilead, within the tribe of Gad, and somewhere near the banks of the brook Jabbok, where, as you know, Jacob wrestled in prayer with the angel. It must have occupied a commanding position among the beautifully wooded glens of Gilead, and, like Bezer, been strongly fortified. We infer this latter from the many sieges it had undergone. Being not only, like the other, a border town of Palestine, but situated in the direct route taken by the invading Syrian armies, it must have been constantly exposed to hostile attacks.

You can think of Ramoth, then, among the hills and slopes on the other side of the Jordan, with their forests of native oak, which the famous “bulls of Bashan” (herds of wild cattle) roamed at large; while more peaceful flocks browsed on the meadows which fringed the mountain streams.

What does the name Ramoth tell us regarding Christ?

 Ramoth literally means Exaltation. Jesus is the true Ramoth: He is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour! “He was once lowly, despised, rejected, crucified, slain. He compares Himself to a poor outcast and exile amid these forests of Gilead: “Many bulls have compassed me: strong hulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.” But having been exalted on the cross as a suffering Saviour, He is now exalted on the throne as a glorious King, “God hath highly exalted Him –angels exalt Him –seraphs adore Him –saints praise Him –the Church on earth magnifies Him –the Church redeemed in heaven will magnify and exalt Him for ever and ever!

 My friend, may I recommend that you delight often to mentally walk around the walls of Ramoth, and think of Jesus “exalted at God’s right hand.” He is there pleading your cause. Though exalted, He has not forgotten the lowest or humblest of His people. He is the Greatest of all Beings, but He is the kindest of all too.

The first time after His exaltation when He came down to earth to speak: to the aged apostle John, John wondered if the glories of heaven had altered His love and tenderness. He remembered how often before he used to lean on His bosom. When he looked, however, now, upon the glorious Being that stood before him in His lustrous garment, with ” His eyes like a flame of fire,” he fell down at His feet like one dead.” But the same gentle hand touched him, the same gentle voice he was wont to hear so often in past years, said to him, “Fear not!” How sweet for us to think that we have exalted on the highest throne of the universe an unchanged and unchanging Savior, an ever-living,never-dying Friend.

“Though now ascended up on high,
He bends on earth a brother’s eye.”

Jesus is exalted in heaven, and exalted by all the glorious family of heaven. But alas, there is one place where He is often not exalted, but rather cast down, and that is the human heart. That heart has been too truly compared to the inn of Bethlehem, where there was room for every guest but the Lord of glory! Ye, whom Christ loved so much on earth –whom He fondled in His arms of mercy; see that it is not so with you. “My son,” He says, “give me thine heart.” See that He is enthroned, there as Lord of all. Exalt Him in everything: in your thoughts, in your words, in your deeds. Welcome Him, as the children of the temple welcomed Him to Jerusalem of old. Take up their song, and sing, “Hosannah to the Son of David! Hosannah in the highest!”

——————————————-
Written by John Ross Macduff.
Published in 1865.
Edited for thought and sense.
———————————————–
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Ross Macduff (23 May 1818 – 30 April 1895) was a Scottish divine and a prolific author of religious essays. Born in Bonhard, Scone, Perthshire, Macduff was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and was ordained as minister of Kettins, a parish in Forfarshire in 1843. He returned to St Madoes, a parish in Perthshire in 1849, which he left to take charge of Sandyford, a new church in Glasgow. He preached there for fifteen years (until 1870), and then went to live in Chislehurst, Kent, in order to focus entirely on writing. His best known books were: “The Prophet of Fire”; “Memories of Bethany”: “Memories of Gennesaret”; “The Shepherd and His Flock “: “Sunset on the Hebrew Mountains “; “Comfort Ye”; “The Golden Gospel”; “Morning and Night Watches”; “The Bow in the Cloud”; “The Story of a Dewdrop”; and “The Story of a Shell.” Macduff died in Chislehurst.

 

 

Bezer, the Fourth Wonderful Portrait of Christ, CITIES OF REFUGE, Part 5.

111The cities chosen as Cities of Refuge were Kedesh of Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (also known as Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. The Lord also instructed that three cities be set aside for this purpose on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. They were Bezer, in the wilderness of the land of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth of Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan of Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. These Cities of Refuge were for foreigners living in Israel as well as for the Israelis themselves, so that anyone who accidentally killed another man could run to that place for a trial and not be killed in revenge. –Joshua 20:7-9 Living Bible (TLB)

BEZER: The Fourth “City of Refuge”

Bezer -was situated beyond the Jordan, in the tribe of Reuben. Although its precise site has not been discovered, we may infer that it was perched on one of the many rocky heights among the mountains of Abarim, –perhaps a spur of the great mount Nebo, from whose summit Moses was permitted, before death, to get a view of the Land of Promise.

we-who-have-fled-for-refugeThe northern portion of the waters of the Dead Sea would be seen from it, and the pastoral mountains of Judah in the distance. From its name, as well as from its being a border town, and subject to attack from the warlike tribe of Moab. Bezer would probably be strongly fortified –similar, perhaps, in this respect to the towns in the neighbourhood, with which the Israelites were so struck on their first approach to Canaan, with “their walls great and high, reaching to heaven.”

What does the name Bezer tell of Christ?

It literally means, “Stronghold” or Rock. The sinner is in danger everywhere else, but in Jesus he is safe. He is invited to “turn to the stronghold” as a “prisoner of hope,” and once within its gates, “though a host encamp against him,” he need “fear no evil.”

What a mighty force does encamp against him! There is God’s Holy Law, with all its terrible threatenings and curses. But sheltered in the true Bezer he can triumphantly say, “It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?”

There is Satan, with his artful wiles and countless temptations. He was once a bright angel himself. He knows what holiness and happiness is. But being now a wicked spirit, he would make others as wicked and unhappy as himself. He is spoken of in the Bible as “a strong man armed.”  But Jesus is “stronger” than this strong man.

Jesus is the believer’s Bezer.

If you have fled for refuge to this great gospel Bezer seated within its secure bulwarks you can joyfully exclaim, “I will say of the Lord, He is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength in whom I will put my trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”

There is your own Wicked Heart, -with its sinful thoughts, and vain imaginations, and deep corruptions” for a man’s “worst foes are often those of his own household. One of those heart-foes will tempt you to tell a lie; another to swear; another to be dishonest; another to be selfish; another to be passionate; another to be unkind. But He that is for you, is greater than they that are against you.

Safer than in any earthly castle, you can take up your warrior-song, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteousness runneth into it, and is safe.”

There are the Trials and Sorrows and Distresses of this world, “those things that cause sad hearts and tearful eyes. But that blessed Saviour is your Rock and Stronghold –“knows your sorrows,” for He felt them. He marks your tears, for He shed the same himself. Fleeing to this true Bezer in the time of affliction, you can dry your tears and sing, “God also will be a refuge for the distressed, a refuge in the time of trouble; and they that know thy name shall put their trust in thee.”

And there is Death, the last enemy of all. But even over this King of terrors and Terror of kings, you can shout in triumph from your Divine shelter, “0 death, where is thy sting, . . . Thanks be to God, who giveth me the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.” And Jesus is a Stronghold for all.  I have already spoken of the little children of old rushing to its gates,” infants smiling fearless in the Saviour’s arms.  He combines the majesty of Deity with the tenderness of man. If He had been the great God alone, you might have been awed at the thought of going to Him.

We-Who-Have-Fled-For-RefugeBut what says the prophet Isaiah of this true Bezer?  

…”A MAN shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” He Himself says in another scripture, “I will turn mine hand upon [for] the little ones.” In one of the great strongholds that were besieged in our last Indian Rebellion, Christian mothers were wont to hush their infants asleep by singing, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” 

My friends, “as one whom his mother comforts” so is God willing to “comfort you;” and here is a word of comfort: “The Lord is good, a STRONGHOLD in the day of trouble ” and he knows them that trust in him.”

In the old Cities of Refuge no weapons of any kind were allowed to be made.

Those who possessed them had to surrender them. This is true in a nobler and better sense regarding the Gospel Stronghold. There can be no deadly weapons forged there. Their edge is blunted: “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Satan’s armoury has been plundered; the “Stronger than he” has “taken from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divided the spoil.”

“Trust in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (literally, “the Rock of Ages”).

——————————————-
Written by John Ross Macduff.
Published in 1865.
Edited for thought and sense.
———————————————–
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Ross Macduff (23 May 1818 – 30 April 1895) was a Scottish divine and a prolific author of religious essays. Born in Bonhard, Scone, Perthshire, Macduff was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and was ordained as minister of Kettins, a parish in Forfarshire in 1843. He returned to St Madoes, a parish in Perthshire in 1849, which he left to take charge of Sandyford, a new church in Glasgow. He preached there for fifteen years (until 1870), and then went to live in Chislehurst, Kent, in order to focus entirely on writing. His best known books were: “The Prophet of Fire”; “Memories of Bethany”: “Memories of Gennesaret”; “The Shepherd and His Flock “: “Sunset on the Hebrew Mountains “; “Comfort Ye”; “The Golden Gospel”; “Morning and Night Watches”; “The Bow in the Cloud”; “The Story of a Dewdrop”; and “The Story of a Shell.” Macduff died in Chislehurst.