New Every Morning

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“Lamentations” is a book of sorrow, pain, anguish, and judgment. But Jeremiah, despite his depression and being brought very low (v. 18), still exults in Jehovah’s faithful love and mercy. Are these contradictions? They seem to be, but of course are not. When we “recall to mind” (v. 21) the great faithfulness of our God, we see clearly that his mercies are “new every morning.” How encouraging this is! The Lord’s daily love and compassion call for daily praise and daily worship!

“Great is your faithfulness.” We must often repeat these four great words to ourselves and to others. Yes, men wrong us, and there is much evil in the world. But we must not allow sin and wrong to overcome us with such anxiety that we forget how indebted we are to the “rich mercy” of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Note verse 26:“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” This holy “salvation” is all wrapped up in the one, precious Savior of sinners, “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who know and love Christ are the recipients of abounding grace and measureless mercy. Believers can truly say with much rejoicing, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

God’s love is steadfast, and his love never ceases; Yahweh’s great mercies will never come to an end; every single morning we can be assured that God will be faithful to us. Is not this great cause for praise to Christ Jesus? Yes, and we are glad to read this: “It shall be well with them that fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12). “Well” means no wrath, no judgment, no rejection, but acceptance, love, favor, and mercy through the finished work of Calvary’s bloody cross. When we camp around Calvary our personal depression seems so small and insignificant compared to the Lord of life dying as our Substitute. His death and resurrection assure us of real victory over all sin, all depression, and all the fretting of this life. Let’s praise our Savior anew every morning! “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (Romans 16:27).

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A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

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Heaven A World of Love

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

No writer, in my estimation, exudes the fragrance of Christ more than Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Anyone who reads him will attest to this fact. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said of Edwards, “He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time.” This cannot be refuted. It is sad, however, that Edwards has been neglected among the “lesser lights” in the church. May we all be stirred to read him anew! The blessings will be inestimable! Nothing ever written on 1 Corinthians 13 could possibly exceed what Edwards wrote in Charity and Its Fruits, from which these extracts are taken:

The apostle speaks, in the text, of a state of the church when it is perfect in heaven, and therefore a state in which the Holy Spirit shall be more perfectly and abundantly given to the church than it is now on earth. And it is also a state in which this holy love or charity shall be, as it were, the only gift or fruit of the Spirit, as being the most perfect and glorious of all, and which, being brought to perfection, renders all other gifts that God was wont to bestow on his church on earth, needless.

I would consider, first, the great cause and fountain of love that is in heaven. Here I remark that the God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. The apostle tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love.

There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

Second, I would consider the objects of love that heaven contains. There are none but lovely objects in heaven. No odious, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing that is wicked or unholy. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination” (Revelation 21:27).  There are many things in this world that in the general are lovely, but yet are not perfectly free from that which is the contrary. But it is not so in heaven. That blessed world shall be perfectly bright, without any darkness; perfectly fair, without any spot; perfectly clear, without any cloud. No moral or natural defect shall ever enter there; and there nothing will be seen that is sinful or weak or foolish.

The Son of God, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, appears there in the fullness of his glory, without that garb of outward meanness in which he appeared in this world. The whole church, ransomed and purified, shall there be presented to Christ, as a bride, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”(Ephesians 5:27). Wherever the inhabitants of that blessed world shall turn their eyes, they shall see nothing but dignity, and beauty, and glory. “And the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations were of all kinds of precious stones. The twelve gates were twelve pearls”(Revelation 21:18-21). And all these are but faint emblems of the purity and perfectness of those that dwell therein. And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us “the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10,16).

~Adapted from Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven a World of Love,” Charity and Its Fruits, pages 325-332

Note: Surely we cannot read the above precious lines from Edwards without tears of joy! And let us all sing anew very loudly, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

wfb (October 24, 2016)
A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

The Attributes of God

book-1210030_1280A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet” (Psalm 18:9). “Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the habitation of his throne” (Psalm 97:2).
 

The greatest study one can ever make is to study the character of Almighty God as revealed in Scripture. We know that YHWH is the great four-letter “name” of the living God (with vowels supplied it is written Yahweh). God’s “attributes” and perfections are so glorious, no one can ever fathom them.

I began studying God’s attributes and compound names in 1972, and immediately began teaching them in various church meetings, not only here in Georgia, but in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina. These were some of the most blessed, enriching times I have ever experienced in the gospel ministry. None of us can ever study “who God is” too much. No wonder A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Absolutely!

“Concerning the character of God,” Bro. Henry Mahan once said, “what gross mistakes men make. I believe it is a mistake about the person of God himself that is the root and foundation of all mistakes in theology.” How solemnly true! Yahweh is transcendent, infinite, eternal, immortal, invisible, wise, sovereign, holy, just, righteous, yet is longsuffering, kind, gracious, loving, and merciful.

David said Yahweh “bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet.” Darkness? Yes, but we also read, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). No darkness! “The darkness and the light are both alike to thee” (Psalm 139:12). Both alike? What mystery! How can we understand this unless we believe wholeheartedly in God’s absolute self-sufficiency? God’s ways and works are indeed “past finding out,” aren’t they? They can never be fully explained by any creature. This alone is pure sovereignty.

“Clouds and darkness are round about him.” Then we are told, “A fire goes before him, and burns up his enemies round about” (Psalm 97:3). “Darkness,” yet “fire.” The purpose for fire is “to consume and burn up,” and it is the exception when it does not, as in the case of Moses when he saw the burning bush “not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Along with mystery, we note what glorious majesty and honor belong to the Lord our God! “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Do we really believe this? His holiness burns in splendor, his righteousness is like the great mountains, and his vengeance shall be known to all his enemies.

The Lord Jesus Christ was “God manifest in the flesh,” the God-Man wondrously concealing his attributes as needed. Yet, he was fully God and fully man. Christ is our Mediator, and no sinner could ever “approach” the living God apart from this one Advocate (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 2:1). Otherwise, the all-consuming holiness of Jehovah would burn up all sinners immediately! Sinners do not flippantly do business with a holy God. Is this what you believe?

Yet, in condescending mercy, our Lord Jesus Christ says to sinners, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Yes, by faith “go to Jesus,” for what rich grace, love, and mercy flows to poor sinners through the cross of Calvary. This is why we exclaim with Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33). “O the depth,” so let us all bow in holy wonder and holy worship of our thrice-holy God.

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Shipwreck and Apostasy

ship-wreck-1882087_1920A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander” (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

The two men named by Paul are sad examples to us. We are warned in Scripture not to judge or be critical of others (James 4:11), but we are also admonished to “judge ourselves.” “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be condemned” (1 Corinthians 11:31). What a word of warning not to “suffer shipwreck concerning the faith.” How seriously do we take this? “Wage the good warfare” implies constant diligence.

“Apostasy” means “rebellion, revolt, falling away, to depart from” (see Acts 21:21 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 for the two occurrences of the Greek word apostasia)The warnings and admonitions of Scripture are for our benefit. We are always, as true believers, to “rejoice in Christ” and his full and free salvation, yet we must never neglect those portions of God’s word relating to our obedience. Christians always, with Paul, “glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” but we must also heed the warnings about “leaving our first love,” and becoming “lukewarm” (Revelation 2:4; 3:16). We are admonished clearly, “Walk worthy” and “Walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 4:1; 5:15).

We should all desire, by the grace of God, to finish our race faithfully, being well-pleasing to the Lord. Don’t we honestly want to hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), with no desire to be like Hymenaeus and Alexander? We are not saved by works, yet we know that we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Not “by works,” which are of the flesh, but certainly “unto good works,” which are of the Spirit. “Showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). Yes, “adorn the doctrine,” proving our faith, never living a contradictory, unholy life. By both our belief and behavior, we thus avoid “shipwreck” and being an “apostate.” As Paul says, “Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

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January 22, 2018

Afflictions Are Limited

alone-boy-child-256658 (1)A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Nahum 1:12

The entire human family, including God’s elect, will at times suffer various afflictions; however, our great and wise God, “according to the multitude of his mercies,” assures us that they are limited (see Lamentations 3:31-33). The rod does not last forever. Just as the prophet Nahum (“comfort”) gave a message of comfort to the nation of Judah in the seventh century B. C., revealing that Jehovah would eventually remove the Assyrian rod from their land, so too we are assured that the trials and sorrows of God’s people will one day come to an end: “Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Thus we have this comforting promise to us in the New Testament:”Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Note, “receiving!” 

It was C. H. Spurgeon who once said, “Our Father in heaven takes away the rod when his design in using it is fully served.” Yes, whatever that “design” is, our merciful God will some day take it away. So, let us “be of good cheer,” looking to our Lord Jesus Christ alone, who knew all about afflictions of soul and body when hanging on the tree of Calvary as our Substitute. Dying for his people, “the just for the unjust,” he was identifying himself with us in all of our afflictions, according to 1 Peter 2:23-24; 3:18. What wondrous love, mercy, and condescension this was from our precious Savior!

Whatever trials we are facing today, let us learn anew that “in the faith” we must look beyond our present circumstances to a brighter day. Satan, our enemy and adversary, will not win in the end, so we are admonished: “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:9-11).

“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”
John Newton (Gadsby’s #295)

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Pour Out Your Heart

pray-2558490_1920A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

As Christians, we must humbly desire to pray aright. Our text is the what, the how, and the why of true prayer. Note that we must “pour out” our hearts before God! This is essential if we pray correctly. Listen to Ambrose Serle (1742-1812) on this subject: “When the mind is truly touched by grace, it will and must pray. If the heart cannot find words to carry up its request, it will send them forth in earnest groans.

Prayer can no more be kept from ascending than flame from the fire. ‘Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26).  The cries of a drowning man are above the formality of words, and forcibly pierce the ear for help; so the deep-felt anguish of a convinced heart is inexpressibly eager for mercy, and with moans and groans sues it out from God in right earnest.”

What powerful, searching words! Note the importance of the mind being touched by grace with heart-felt anguish, moans, and groans. We need more than “formality of words” or “florid oration” or “fine speech.” To truly pray there must be “grace” in the heart, which alone produces “earnest groans” and “tearful sighs.” The Greek text of Romans 8:26-27 further clarifies the doctrine of prayer: “groanings” is from stenazo, “to sigh,” and such “unutterable groans” are attributed to the Spirit of God making “intercession on behalf of” the saints. The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order “to rescue us” with “sighs that baffle words,” Paul picturing the Spirit “taking hold at our side” as our Paraclete “at the very time of our weakness” (A. T. Robertson).

Some think Jesus taught us to pray something like this: “But when you pray, tilt your head, close your eyes, and listen to the designated person leading in prayer.” Is this not sadly so? Is that the only kind of “praying” you know? But the Master taught us that true prayer is personal, spiritual, of the heart, spontaneous, done mostly in secret, and is not with “vain repetitions” or “many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). An unbeliever cannot pray! The world cannot pray (John 17:25). Bought by Christ’s blood at Calvary, the quickened children of God alone can and do truly pray.

Let us earnestly seek to know prayer’s spiritual power by “humbling ourselves” before the great and awesome Yahweh (Nehemiah 1:4-5; James 4:10). God indeed is the majestic Sovereign, before whom we must come in contrition and fear, being commanded, “Ye people, pour out your heart before Him.”  True prayer affects our hearts, often causing groans and sighs and tears, or just an “Abba, Father.” May we know this experimentally through our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

A form of words may please
A sinner dead in sin;
But quickened sinners want to pray,
As prompted from within.
Gadsby’s Hymns #725

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