Friday, February 12, 2016

Sons of the Mighty

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
(Psalm 29:1-2)

We are all naturally proud, defiant, and inclined to suppress the true knowledge of God while giving ourselves most of the credit for things pertaining to this life - and the one to come. Some, however, seem to be a little more brazen and obvious than others simply because of the position they are in. Those in places of power are who David had in mind here, and we could easily add others who wield influence through their fame and fortune - celebrities and such. While his words clearly speak to all of us, these are the "sons of the mighty" to whom this psalm is specifically addressed.

His concern is with the fact that in a fallen world - no matter the age in which we live - the closer we get to the top of the pecking order the more self-congratulating people are and the less of a factor God seems to be. David found it particularly troubling when the eyes and attention of the masses were riveted on a select few who were quite comfortable hoarding for themselves the glory that belongs to God alone. An image of the swelling ego of King Herod comes to mind on that memorable occasion in the book of Acts when the people kept crying out "The voice of a god and not of a man!" - just before the Lord struck him down and fed him to the worms "because he did not give God the glory" (Acts 12:22-23). It is to the LORD that all men are commanded to "ascribe" glory, but He seems especially jealous to receive it from those He has been pleased to place within view of the watching world.

The opportunities for application here are wide and varied, but is any more obvious than today's professional athlete, particularly those professing to be Christians, who withold glory from God every Lord's Day by choosing to be on the field or the court rather than assembled with His people, under the ministry of His Word, rejoicing in the death and resurrection of His Son - ascribing to Him the glory due His name? It is not the trite gesture of a finger pointing to Heaven, or the quick, conspicuous drop to the knee that captures David's meaning here. God is glorified on His terms, not ours' - and without any particular regard for our perceived achievements or success. To "worship the LORD in holy array" is, in fact, to look away from ourselves altogether - always in a spirit of contrition and confession of sin - prostrating ourselves before the majesty of the Almighty, trusting Christ to take away our filthy rags, clothe us in His own righteousness, and present us blameless before the Father that in humility and gratitude we may ascribe all glory to Him alone.

May true zeal for His glory lead many such people to count all things loss for the sake of Christ, dismiss themselves early from a career that too often competes with the interests of His kingdom, and take their place quietly among the worshipping children of God - of whom this world has likely never heard, nor is it worthy. Amen.

Copyright 2012 K.V. Holley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Out of the Heavens

... and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased." (Mark 1:11)

It is no small thing for Him who dwells in the splendor of sovereign majesty, under Whose judgment this fallen world abides, to declare from Heaven the one great object of His pleasure - His "beloved" and only begotten Son. We are foolish enough to think that He could be pleased with much in and about this world because we are strangers to holiness and have mistaken measureless expressions of His goodness and mercy for the approval we need but He could never rightly give. If even "the heavens are not pure in His sight" (Job 15:15), surely the deeds corrupt people so carelessly call "righteous" are to Him nothing more than "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). Pleased with sinners He cannot be - "There is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:3).

All the more reason to heed the divine approbation Christ received both here and again on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). His person, His words, and His work receive the highest possible commendation from the Righteous One whose Law we have broken, and whom we will all one day have to face. The only hope of standing in favor with God is to be found in Him whom the Father divinely approved to accomplish the redemption of His people - His obedience for our justification, His death for our pardon, and His resurrection for new life now and glory in the regeneration.

Even the benefits of salvation we presently enjoy by faith are ours' because God is well-pleased with Him. All things have been given to the Son by the Father, and the Son reveals the Father to whomever He wills (Matt. 11:25-30). Everyone who comes to Christ finds rest for His soul in the knowledge that we are reconciled to the Father in the Son. The Father is pleased with the Son and thus we are declared righteous, our sins are forgiven, and we are children by adoption. In the words of the beloved Son Himself - of whom God fully approves - that voice from above belonged not only to His, but to our "Father in Heaven" (Matt. 6:9).

Copyright 2013 K.V. Holley

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sons of the Mighty

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
  (Psalm 29:1-2)

We are all naturally proud, defiant, and inclined to suppress the true knowledge of God while giving ourselves most of the credit for things pertaining to this life - and the one to come. Some, however, seem to be a little more brazen and obvious than others simply because of the position they are in.  Those in places of power are who David had in mind here, and we could easily add others who wield influence through their fame and fortune - celebrities and such.  While his words clearly speak to all of us, these are the "sons of the mighty" to whom this psalm is specifically addressed.

His concern is with the fact that in a fallen world - no matter the age in which we live - the closer we get to the top of the pecking order the more self-congratulating people are and the less of a factor God seems to be.  David found it particularly troubling when the eyes and attention of the masses were riveted on a select few who were quite comfortable hoarding for themselves the glory that belongs to God alone.  An image of the swelling ego of King Herod comes to mind on that memorable occasion in the book of Acts when the people kept crying out "The voice of a god and not of a man!" - just before the Lord struck him down and fed him to the worms "because he did not give God the glory" (Acts 12:22-23).  It is to the LORD that all men are commanded to "ascribe" glory, but He seems especially jealous to receive it from those He has been pleased to place within view of the  watching world.

The opportunities for application here are wide and varied, but is any more obvious than today's professional athlete, particularly those professing to be Christians, who withold glory from God every Lord's Day by choosing to be on the field or the court rather than assembled with His people, under the ministry of His Word, rejoicing in the death and resurrection of His Son - ascribing to Him the glory due His name?  It is not the trite gesture of a finger pointing to Heaven, or the quick, conspicuous drop to the knee that captures David's meaning here.  God is glorified on His terms, not ours' - and without any particular regard for our perceived achievements or success.  To "worship the LORD in holy array" is, in fact, to look away from ourselves altogether - always in a spirit of contrition and confession of sin - prostrating ourselves before the majesty of the Almighty, trusting Christ to take away our filthy rags, clothe us in His own righteousness, and present us blameless before the Father that in humility and gratitude we may ascribe all glory to Him alone.

May true zeal for His glory lead many such people to count all things loss for the sake of Christ, dismiss themselves early from a career that too often competes with the interests of His kingdom, and take their place quietly among the worshipping children of God - of whom this world has likely never heard, nor is it worthy.  Amen.

Copyright 2012  K.V. Holley 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lead Us Not

Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  (Matthew 6:11-13)

True prayer is the fruit of the Gospel.  At no time are the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection more evident and effectual than when reconciled sinners bow before God as their "Father in Heaven", expressing concern for His glory above needs most keenly felt and closely acquainted with their well-being in this world. Only sovereign grace so radically reorients the interests of the soul that "Thy name ...Thy kingdom ... and Thy will" are given a greater place in the revolving pile of petitions than the believer's "daily bread".  Life on Earth possesses altogether new and different meaning for those redeemed with precious blood.

As a matter of fact, the Gospel not only creates a praying people but continues to fashion the way we pray. Seeing God for who He is and what He desires leads us to think quite differently about ourselves, even while much about life remains the same.  Requesting the Lord to "forgive us our debts" reveals an ever-present awareness that our lives in relation to Him are not defined primarily by daily circumstance and experience, or even long-term goals and dreams, but by the Law and the Gospel.  No matter who we are or how hard we try, we still fail to keep the commands God has given with no recourse except the blood of Christ for assurance of a right standing before Him.  And the grace we receive is the grace we learn to bestow on all who have sinned against us.

Of course forgiveness today provides no remedy for sinning tomorrow, so the grace that teaches us to hate the transgressions behind also trains us to fear those lying somewhere out in front.  The Lord Himself tempts no man (James 1:13-15), but He leads us through a dark and fallen world where the right combination of remaining sin within and pressing temptation without might land us in the very last place we want or need to be.  We simply cannot trust ourselves, thus we plead "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil", leaning hard upon Him who also prayed not that the Father would take His own out of the world but keep us from the evil one (John 17:15).  And His prayer is always answered, in spite of how faint ours' may be.

Copyright 2014  K.V. Holley     

                 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Things Hidden, Things Revealed

The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.  (Deuteronomy 29:29 HCSB)

Christians are stewards of things divinely revealed, which shouldn't be taken lightly.  Israel took it for granted and paid a great price, forfeiting God's blessing and suffering all the curses He warned them about if they proved unfaithful to His covenant.  We must be all the more careful because what is revealed to us in Christ is better in every way.  He is superior to the prophets, the angels, the priesthood, and the Law - how, then, "shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:1-4).  It is a matter of great consequence to hear of God's free grace in Christ and think little or nothing of it.  All that remains is a "terrifying expectation of judgment" for those who disregard the death and resurrection of God's Son as their only hope of pardon and forgiveness (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Yet there are many whose primary spiritual concern in life is to ponder the mystery of all the Lord has been pleased to keep hidden - wondering why things happen the way they do, what tomorrow holds, or how it will all turn out in the end.  These are all matters about which the Lord has been pleased to keep silent, except as they pertain to Christ and His kingdom. It is not our place to know all that the Lord has included in His purpose for His people and His plans for this world.  We must not involve ourselves in things too difficult for us (Psalm 131:1), a device the devil employs all too often to lead us astray from the "simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3).  Rather, we're to keep "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter faith" (Hebrews 12:2) who alone is able to help us run this race with the endurance and patience we need to finish strong, even as we are resting in Him and the work He has already finished on our behalf.

Copyright 2012  K.V. Holley

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Being Filled

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

The goal of salvation is worship - "speaking to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (vs. 19-20).  And true worship is always the result of being "filled with the Spirit".  It is the Lord's will for us to walk wisely and make the best use of every opportunity for growing spiritually in these evil days that we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and delight ourselves in the Lord so as to glorify Him with grateful hearts and joyful tongues continually filled with praise. The difficulty we face is with our inability to do the very thing the Apostle Paul tells us must be done - "be filled with the Spirit".  It is a command we should never cease to obey in a matter that lies entirely beyond our control.  Where do we even begin?

Human nature wants a formula for most everything we do.  Modern life has conditioned us even further to expect everything at the push of a button, nurturing a false sense of control that leaves us impatient with things that don't happen when and how we want - and our spiritual lives are no exception.  However, when it comes to being filled with the Spirit, Christ did not leave us with a button to push but a promise to believe - "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever" (John 14:16).  Those in Christ are no longer "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9).  We belong to that domain in which the Holy Spirit is present in power to carry out the Father's purpose in redemption through the Son.  Understanding this is the only way forward in our obedience to this command. 

Long ago the captain of a ship with orders to sail across the sea knew it was not within his power to get from one side to the other, but he knew where to find the wind and how to harness it when he did.  He hoisted his sails, stayed his course, and trusted the wind to do the rest.  We have no more authority over the Holy Spirit's work in our lives than he had over the wind filling the sails.  No amount of effort on our part can generate the filling of the Spirit, regardless of how zealous and sincere.  Our concern is simply to use the means the Lord has given (the word, prayer, and worship with His people) - lifting our sails so to speak - and trusting the Spirit to come alongside and fill us, exercising His holy influence on mind, will, and emotions as He gives us the very mind of Christ and makes us more like Him in the way we think and feel and live. With His help alone will we continue in the course the Lord has set for the lives of His people, and learn to delight ourselves in Him and "greatly rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

Copyright 2013  K.V. Holley



  




Sunday, January 5, 2014

Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread.  (Matthew 6:11)

If not for recurring matters of earthly interest one wonders how long many professing Christians would continue to bow their heads and beseech the Lord with any real patience and perseverance.  Even the most spiritually-minded among us tend toward a preoccupation with things that concern us right here and now, which makes the first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer (Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will) necessary not only as a reflection of God's true purpose in creating and upholding this world, but for correcting our self-centered perspective on life and reorienting our souls to things eternal and glorious.  True prayer is neither natural nor easy, but it humbles us before God and enlarges our hearts with His concern.

Here we have the fourth petition - "Give us this day our daily bread".  At this point our needs can be properly considered without being regarded as all-important.  It's not that our attention now turns from the Lord's interests to our own, but that we can now address our needs in proper context.  We only look rightly at ourselves and everything pertaining to life in this world once God's glory in the face of Christ brings us to forget ourselves altogether.  The desire for daily bread is no longer about our needs being central to everything God does, but one of the many ways in which helpless creatures learn to hallow His name.

It is a request for what we cannot provide for ourselves, and in offering it to Him we both acknowledge and glorify the Lord as the great Giver of all good things - "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17).  He is not only the source and fountain, however, from which endless mercies flow, but the reason why a thousand things come together every day so that our needs are richly supplied according to His riches in glory.  As Moses reminded Israel before entering the land of promise, "...man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8:3).  The commanding word of His providence so rules the world that sunshine and rain, farmer and baker, truck-driver and shelf-stocker all work together to deliver our daily bread - such that we learn in the repeated offering of this petition to "withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in Thee" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 125).

Copyright 2014  K.V. Holley