Sweet-Smelling Sacrifice

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May 24, 2017
Sweet-Smelling Sacrifice
“I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

The reference in this text goes back to the “sweet savour” that God smelled when Noah offered his initial sacrifice after disembarking from the year-long Flood. That offering triggered a promise from God that He would never again curse the earth or destroy every living thing with water, as the Flood had done. Furthermore, the Lord promised to maintain the seasons and functions of the earth until the end (Genesis 8:20-21).

Later, Moses would bring the Lord’s instructions for those laws of Israel that would keep the nation separate from the rest of the world and constantly remind them of the very personal relationship that the Creator of all things was establishing with them. Some of the sacrifices would be an “offering by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice in performing a vow, or in a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, to make a sweet savour unto the LORD” (Numbers 15:3).

It is interesting to note that the twice-born are “unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Our very existence as His children smells good to our heavenly Father! We are also compared to living stones that are being built into a spiritual house that is “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Our bodies are to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) that render the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15), while God Himself is making us “perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21). HMM III

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Christ’s Strength

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May 22, 2017
Christ’s Strength
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

This little verse gets quoted out of context a lot. It is used to justify bizarre plans and dreams, as well as to suggest that every Christian should be rich and healthy all the time. Not only are such applications without any support in Scripture, they are completely out of the context of this passage.

In the previous verses, Paul lists a variety of circumstances that he had faced, from poverty to wealth, learning to be “content” in each of these developments. Then he notes that he “can do all things” through the strength that the Lord provides during conflicting circumstances.

The “do” of this text is the prevailing of the power of God in which and by which we minister. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

The early church experienced a stunning growth in converts as it preached and testified of the resurrected Christ. This result, however, is due to the fact that the Word of God grew “mightily . . . and prevailed” (Acts 19:20).

Our fight is not a physical one. We wrestle against the great spiritual powers of wickedness that have their source in the heavenlies. The history of God’s people is replete with the battle that was begun in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lost because they sought to deal with the issue on their own. We win or prevail only when we arm ourselves with God’s armor and become “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). HMM III

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Right Thinking

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May 19, 2017
Right Thinking
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, . . . honest, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Our lives are surrounded with ungodliness and demands that often bleed away our thoughts until we are worn and weakened. Reflect for a few moments on this inventory of empowering thinking.

  • Truth—Literally “that which is not hidden”; Jesus Himself (John 14:6); the Word of God (John 17:17; Psalm 119:11).
  • Honesty—Not just accuracy, but “sober” and “venerable”; sometimes “magnificent” or “great”; used of church officers (1 Timothy 2:2; 3:8).
  • Justice—Righteous, just, right, suitable; “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom. . . . The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable” (Proverbs 10:31-32).
  • Purity—Morally and sexually chaste; closely connected with “holiness”; the emphasis is on physical and mental purity (1 John 3:2).
  • Loveliness—Beauty, friendship, delight, and wonder are all suggested by the “good love” of this word (Luke 12:27).
  • Good News—This takes discipline, because there is far more bad news than good in this world; we are admonished to take “inventory” (dwell on, recall) the “good reports” (Proverbs 25:25).

These excellent and praiseworthy matters should dominate our thinking in a conscious “inventory” of the attributes on this final list. If we do so, God promises His peace in our lives. HMM III

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Careful for Nothing

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keep going or moving don’t quit or stop continue don’t give up signMay 17, 2017
Careful for Nothing
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)Many of us know those types of precious people who seem to thrive on making sure the details are right. They keep us careful, ensure our safety, and strengthen our plans, and yet that same strength can lead to anxiety, troubling our souls and dominating our lives. Our verse today warns us about this facet.Our Lord gently admonished in Luke 10:41: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.” Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazurus were longtime associates of the Lord Jesus. He had spent many hours in their home and had come to love them as close friends. No doubt Martha had often “given thought” to Christ’s visits and had been “in turmoil” over the details many times. But our gracious Lord saw the circumstances controlling Martha, and He softly insisted that she not lose the thing of greatest value by sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate.And that is the admonition in our text. Nothing should absorb us so much that we attempt to solve things on our own before submitting our requests to our Lord. Jesus made it pretty clear: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). Look around, our Lord insisted. The birds and the flowers can’t be altered by our “thoughts.”After all that Job’s friends did to “encourage” him, our great Creator reminded Job of the many wonders that he could see if he paid attention. Nothing is beyond the care of our Lord. Sometimes, we need reminding, too. HMM III

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The Mother of Us All

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May 14, 2017
The Mother of Us All
“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20)

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was called the mother of all “the children of promise” (Galatians 4:28), and the wife of Noah was the mother of all post-Flood mankind, but Mother Eve, alone, was “the mother of all living.” “Adam was first formed, then Eve,” Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:13, and so-called “Christian evolutionists” have never yet been able to explain God’s unique formation of Eve’s body in any kind of an evolutionary context.

Eve, as our first mother, experienced all the great joys and great sorrows that all later mothers would know. She evidently had many “sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4) and probably lived to see many generations of grandchildren. With Adam, she had even known paradise, but sin had entered their lives when they rebelled against God’s Word, and God had to say, “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). The greatest sorrow was no doubt when Cain slew Abel, and as with another mother whose Son’s innocent blood was shed many years later, it was like a sword piercing her own soul (Luke 2:35).

Nevertheless, as near as we can tell, after her first great sin, Eve trusted God’s Word henceforth and received His forgiveness and salvation. Later, as the mother of Seth, she taught him and her grandson, Enos, about the Lord and all His promises. “Then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26).

Most Christian believers are looking forward to seeing their own mothers again someday—restating their love and appreciation for all they did in bearing them, and in caring, teaching, and praying for them. But it will be a wonderful experience to meet our first mother, also, as well as Sarah, Hannah, Mary, and all the other godly mothers of old. HMM

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Things We Cannot Do Without

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May 11, 2017
Things We Cannot Do Without
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20)

There are many things in life we can well do without, but there are at least seven things a Christian simply cannot do without. These are:

1. The Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking of the heathen nations before Christ, Paul said: “At that time ye were without Christ, . . . having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

2. Christ’s shed blood. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, . . . But with the precious blood of Christ” (Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

3. Christ’s sinlessness. The Lord Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, He could die for our sins.

4. Faith in Christ. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is” (Hebrews 11:6).

5. Faith-generated works. True faith in Christ inevitably produces good works. As our text reminds us, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

6. True holiness. “Follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Genuine faith in Christ both receives His imputed holiness and also generates practical holiness in the believer.

7. Heavenly chastisement. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin in a Christian’s life must receive chastisement from the Father. “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye . . . not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).

Without saving faith in the Lord, we have nothing of eternal value, but with Him, we have “all things” (1 Corinthians 3:21). HMM

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The Promise of Liberty

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May 9, 2017
The Promise of Liberty
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” (2 Peter 2:19)

This chapter consists of a strong denunciation of false teachers. They are, among other things, sensuous, beguiling, covetous, and accursed (v. 14). They desire personal wealth (vv. 15-16), but their message is empty, and even destructive, and will be judged (v. 17), appealing to the pride and lusts of their hearers (v. 18).

In our text we see the false teachers are quick to make promises. Promises are cheap; they cost nothing. Satan first revealed himself to mankind with a promise: “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5), and later attempted to seduce the Son of God with “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matthew 4:8). Empty promises are Satan’s golden hook, and many are the foolish ones who take the bait.

In this case, the false teachers promise liberty—liberty to act without the shackles of responsibility and moral law. But they themselves are “servants of corruption,” slaves of a most abhorrent mentality. And who are they to offer liberty? These are indeed “great swelling words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18), for slaves cannot rightly offer liberty.

How is this promise kept? Bondage. Bondage to that which has overcome. The liberty that sin promises is slavery, and the greater the sinner, the greater the bondage to the sin. There is perhaps no more wretched a state than to be in bondage to abject corruption in the name of liberty. It is a bondage of the spirit; a captivity of the soul. Of all states of slavery, it is the most lasting.

On the other hand, through grace we can “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” with no need to be “entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). JDM

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