by David Zhang
The King’s Herald by Patrick Cho (Mark 1:2-8)
- Who was John the Baptist?
- The Gospel is the major theme of Mark. Here is a series of articles on the Glorious Gospel by Patrick.
by Pastor Patrick Cho
Faithfulness is a quality that every Christian should seek to cultivate. Indeed, God’s people are called to do so in Scripture (Ps. 37:3). Generally speaking, faithfulness is defined as trustworthiness or dependability. Simply put, to be faithful means that you will do what you say. But I wonder if there is something deeper and more foundational to its definition. In Proverbs 27:6, it says that the wounds of a friend are faithful. What does this mean in light of our working definition: “to do what you say?” Does a true friend first promise to wound and then follow through with this promise? Is that the intention of the verse?
Likewise, what does the psalmist mean when he says, “…in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119:75). What do the trials and troubles we face have to do with God’s faithfulness? Is it that our troubles are the fulfillment of God’s promise? It seems verses like these demonstrate that our simple definition of faithfulness is too simple.
A better way to understand faithfulness is that a person acts in accordance with who they are. In other words, when it comes to God, He is faithful in that He will never cease to be God or act like God. In this sense, God’s faithfulness is tied to the doctrine of His immutability or constancy. God will always be God and God will always act like God. This means that He will dependably be Himself regarding all that we know about Him. For instance, we know that God is a God of love, and so His love will be a faithful love.
Faithfulness, then, is part of what it means to be God. He must be faithful because He is God. This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. God will remain faithful even in light of our unfaithfulness not only because He cannot lie or that He is a God of truth, but because He cannot deny Himself. His faithfulness in some way is the definition and outworking of His God-ness.
What does this definition of faithfulness mean for the believer since believers are likewise called to be faithful? If all people are inherently sinful and depraved, wouldn’t faithfulness mean that they would always act in accordance with their sinfulness? No, because in Christ we have been forgiven, redeemed, and transformed. We are not the same as we used to be. What this means, though, is that our faithfulness finds its appropriate application in Him.
Any unbeliever can do what he says he will do, but the Bible calls faithfulness a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). One must have been saved by the grace of God in order to be faithful in God’s sight. To be faithful means to act consistently with our new identity in Christ. The fact that we are called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called is itself a call to faithfulness (Eph. 4:1).
Therefore, the psalmist can conclude that God has afflicted him in His faithfulness. This means that even though he is facing some of the most difficult trials of his life, he can trust that God will not cease to be God in the midst of them. God is not acting out of evil. God has not forgotten him. The psalmist can trust that God continues to be who He has revealed Himself to be – faithful to His word, the defender of the weak, the Savior of His people. And when in the Proverbs it teaches that the wounds of a friend are faithful, it means that the one who is “being wounded” can trust that his friend is acting in love because he is a friend.
Do you trust in God’s faithfulness? Even when you face various difficulties, would you trust that God will faithfully be God in the midst of them? Also, do you seek to cultivate faithfulness as one who is in Christ? Do you understand that true faithfulness can only be lived out in Him because of the inner change that He brings about by saving us? Certainly, we ought to be faithful because God is faithful.
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Some Christians are sadly prone to look on the dark side of everything, and to dwell more upon what they have gone through than upon what God has done for them. Ask for their impression of the Christian life, and they will describe their continual conflicts, their deep afflictions, their sad adversities, and the sinfulness of their hearts, yet with scarcely any allusion to the mercy and help which God has vouchsafed them. But a Christian whose soul is in a healthy state, will come forward joyously, and say, ‘I will speak, not about myself, but to the honour of my God. He hath brought me up out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. The Lord hath done great things for me, whereof I am glad.’ Such an abstract of experience as this is the very best that any child of God can present.
It is true that we endure trials, but it is just as true that we are delivered out of them. It is true that we have our corruptions, and mournfully do we know this, but it is quite as true that we have an all-sufficient Saviour, who overcomes these corruptions, and delivers us from their dominion. In looking back, it would be wrong to deny that we have been in the Slough of Despond, and have crept along the Valley of Humiliation, but it would be equally wicked to forget that we have been through them safely and profitably; we have not remained in them, thanks to our Almighty Helper and Leader, who has brought us ‘out into a wealthy place.’ The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, ‘He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’
“For whenever we make the warrant to believe in Christ to any degree dependent upon our subjective condition, we distort it. Repentance, turning from sin, and degrees of conviction of sin do not constitute the grounds on which Christ is offered to us. They may constitute ways in which the Spirit works as the gospel makes its impact on us. But they never form the warrant for repentance and faith.” (Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters)
by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz
Feliz Friday! The week has finally come to an end, so why not spend some time focused on Christ? Hopefully, these links will accomplish this end!
That’s all for this week! Please be in prayer for Salt and Light, as they will be at their retreat this weekend, as well as the youth, who are meeting at church tonight. See you all on Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria
by Ryan McAdams
I previously mentioned that we would venture into the New Testament through our curriculum in our Sonlight elementary and Sparklers preschool ministries, and we did have a profitable study through the earthly life of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But our journey has taken us now to the book of Acts, into unfamiliar territory for many of our young souls.
Through our study, I hope both we the teachers and the students can more greatly appreciate the gracious gift that God has given us in this book. Without the book of Acts, we would all struggle to make sense of the New Testament, most likely inventing wild bridges to correlate the accounts of the life of Jesus to the letters (Epistles) that followed. We would laboriously hunt for the identity of that Paul fellow, and lose the drama of the incredible conversion that God orchestrated for him. Perhaps most significantly, while we would have the Great Commission that Jesus delivered to his followers, to make his disciples in every nation, we would lack some of the understanding of how God intended to accomplish that mission, namely the vehicle of his church.
Jesus reiterated his Great Commission to his disciples in Acts 1:8, saying “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And for the rest of the book, we read how the Holy Spirit brought believers together into churches, starting in Jerusalem, and propagating to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Traditionally, the church has entitled this chronicle by Luke The Acts of the Apostles, which we shorten to Acts. And while the apostles certainly performed many acts to advance the gospel throughout the earth, the Holy Spirit empowered and drove them to establish the churches all over the Roman Empire and beyond. So, arguably more accurately, some theologians have instead called the book The Acts of the Holy Spirit.
As our pastor Josh recently taught, borrowing a bit from John Piper, God has worked to bring all nations into the white-hot worship of himself throughout both the Old and New Testament ages. Through our study of Acts, hopefully the children can see how God intends to draw all nations to himself in this New Testament age and gain a greater measure of awe for God and his sovereign hand over human history.
by Pastor James Lee
Dr. Robert Somerville, in his autobiographical book If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed? writes very candidly about his own recent struggles,
“Depression can often come from a spiral of worry and anxiety that lands a person in a morass of negativity. In a flash your thoughts can go down roads you’ll never actually need to travel and cross bridges you’ll never need to cross. You end up like Elijah in a deep pit of despair and depression in which there is no peace to be found! In my depression this was my state of mind. There was always an anxiety factor present. It manifested itself in a wild imagination. I worried about everything in life. I was never going to teach or preach or earn a living again. I would probably end up in my brother in law’s basement. Who would take care of my wife? I even experienced an anxiety attack for the simplest of directions… What was wrong with me? Yet in the negative grid of the depression they were overwhelming and impossible.”
Some of us understand what he’s sharing, I certainly do. In a time past, my heart was crushed, my fearful paranoid mind was twisted in knots, inventing living nightmares that sometimes had nothing to do with reality. My physical body was wracked in pain, I couldn’t function very well. The wounds of being deeply hurt by others accumulated over two decades of ministry, combined with the self-inflicted consequences of my own sinful responses and idolatries had taken their toll. I experienced breakdown and burnout. I’d alternate from staring blankly out a window to curling up in the fetal position, crying for hours, not knowing why. I wanted to run away and to die like Elijah. It felt like being buried alive, like drowning. The poet John Milton aptly described the vulnerability of our minds, in how they often fall short of the mind of Christ, “A mind is its own place, and in itself – Can make a heav’n of hell, and a hell of heav’n.”
And like with Elijah, like with Dr. Somerville, like with some of you, we need others given by the Lord to patiently, but firmly, come alongside us in love, to get us to stop listening to ourselves, and to hear and embrace the truths of His Word, so that we can eventually experience stability and peace and hope and joy of service once again. And life for me came back again! But it came by “coming home” to the basics of what it means to abide in Christ, of the gospel, of trusting the Lord for every little thing, but primarily via the means of the Word and prayer. The most productive, most beneficial, and most necessary thing one can do on a daily basis is to read and obey the Bible, and live out a prayerful reliance on Him each moment.
As our hearts and minds go, so all else goes. Proverbs 4:23 commands, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And that’s where Satan attacks, when our hearts and minds are vulnerable and weak! That’s often where the battle is! Jesus Himself when He quoted the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 in Mark 12, made an important “addition”. Don’t just love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, but also fourthly, love Him with all your “mind”! With all our minds! Cornelius Plantinga comments, “If a 4 year old prayed outright: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my brain to keep’? You would notice.” That is what our Lord demands, that by His grace, we keep our minds! Sometimes, honestly, we are out of our minds! John MacArthur exhorts, “Spiritual stability is directly related to how a person thinks about God.”
The problem is not, that we don’t think, but that we don’t think well. The states of our mind and heart impact whether we will respond out of a well which is saturated by the Scriptures, or react from the sewer of our flesh. The beloved doctor, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, comments, “Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching is primarily thinking, and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him… Christian faith is essentially thinking… The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask, What is going to happen to me? What can I do? That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord here, is urging us to think and to think in a Christian manner.” By the way, that’s really the conclusion to Paul’s magnificent epistle on joy, in the fourth and last chapter of Philippians. That’s also a primary aim of biblical counseling, the fruitful one another ministry of the body of Christ, to help each other think rightly.
So this is the place we’re going to drop our anchor and pitch our tent. There’s a time for slowing down, stopping, getting out of the car for a longer and more careful look. And that’s, in fact, what Paul is directing us to do at the end of his letter on rejoicing! Everything in the letter is food for our meditation, but the end of v. 8 explicitly tells us and commands us to, “let your mind dwell on these things.” The ESV translates, “think about these things”, the NKJ similarly says, “meditate on these things.” Dwell! Think! Meditate!
It’s just one Greek word, but large doors swing on relatively small hinges. Let your mind dwell, think, meditate – the word is logizomai and it’s not merely to entertain thoughts superficially. But it means to seriously and slowly evaluate, consider, calculate, set your fullest faculties upon, take them into account, give them weight in your decisions, ponder deeply, reflect upon them so as to shape your conduct.
So the next question becomes, what are “these things”? Certainly it’s everything just stated in v. 8 already, whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, anything excellent and worthy of praise. But it really includes everything Paul has previously said in this letter. Things about the necessity to be joyful and how to be joyful, even in the face of imprisonment, persecution, friends slandering you and abandoning you, of knowing to live is Christ and to die is gain, of what it means to be humble and considering others as more important than ourselves just as our Lord humbled Himself, even to the point of death on a cross, so that we are to do all things without grumbling or disputing with others. But we instead fully pour out our lives as a drink offering, because we put no confidence in the flesh, and we want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on in the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as citizens of heaven, and not as enemies of the cross… That’s kind of this quick fly by, and there’s a lot more we jetted over. But for this series on “Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing”, let’s limit ourselves to the more immediate context:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)
We’re going to take some extra time to unpack that, because we can’t do that quickly or we might miss it. So I’m going to put the car in reverse to take a closer look on a monthly basis, but from the particular perspective of his command to “think continually on these things.” But as we do, my prayer is that it will profit us, strengthen us, so as to be better equipped in life and ministry for the joy that is ours in Christ.
That’s certainly part of what it means to dwell on these things, think on these things. It means we’re thinking intentionally, deliberately, purposefully, directionally, joyfully, not haphazardly. The idea of our mediating, of course is not eastern mysticism – it is not emptying our minds, but filling up our minds with healthy and true thoughts. It’s to analyze and mine it from every angle, to chew the cud extracting every ounce of nutrient and flavor. So to think well is to think intentionally for God’s glory. 2 Cor 10:5 says positively, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Colossians 2:8 adds negatively, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Both ways, be purposeful.
How many of us have said, after something foolish we’ve done, like buying a used car way under market value in a back alley with no pink slip, like forgetting our keys in the front door, like taking an extra helping at the buffet… “What was I thinking?!” We way overvalue spontaneity and quickness. Truth is that we’re so impatient in our microwave, 4G LTE, click it and Amazon Prime has it on your door step culture. We’re not filling up our hearts with the things that will prepare us to respond, rather than react. We’re not consciously putting off self-exalting thoughts and putting on God-exalting thoughts. We have to be deliberate in our holiness, because our default state functionally is not holy; it’s selfish!
When we’re not intentional about thinking how to glorify the Lord in any situation, then we’re only listening to ourselves, our desires, our feelings, our idols, our pain, our discontentment, our hurt, and guess who we’re not trusting? The Lord! We come up with our own terms, timing, and talents, while we blaspheme the sovereign love and perfect wisdom of God by taking matters into our own hands. It’s like attempting to solve a million piece jigsaw puzzle in 30 minutes without the picture on the box, or building a complicated robot while deliberately throwing away the instructions and manual while spitting in the face of the designer. And we wonder why all our prideful efforts have not worked out? Even more, we all are guilty, at the foot of our idols, of having the audacity to blame the Lord and everyone else and everything else? We all think, but do we think rightly or wrongly? We all think, but we’re not all thinking well.
One of the terrible counselors we listen to instead of the Lord and godly people is ourselves, namely our feelings. There is nothing wrong with having feelings, but when our feelings control us and drive us, against the Word of God, the Bible calls it carnality. Eric Davis points out, “Feelings are the golden calf of our day. We worship our feelings and hold them higher than anything, especially truth. Our feelings become the determiner of what is good and bad; judge of what is right and wrong. If you hurt my feelings, then you are a villain. Never mind that I probably needed wounding (Prov 27:5-6). And never mind looking at what idols and sinful cravings might be fueling my hurt feelings (Jam 4:1-2). And if you hinder this cause, and do not help it, then you are labeled ‘unloving.'” That’s why counseling is difficult, because it’s not a mere problem of deduction, but a problem of depravity. Usually there is a combination of sin and suffering, so when ministering to fellow sinners caught up in life-dominating dysfunction, we’re concerned about both their sin and their suffering. But listen, suffering doesn’t cause sin, rather sin causes suffering. It’s why the Bible doesn’t coddle us, but it often confronts before it comforts, saying what is needful to address the heart of problems, rather than just symptoms. Otherwise, we’re caught up in repeating a cycle of death.
Let’s take for example Paul’s command back in v. 4, to “rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!” He commands us to do that, precisely because it’s not easy or natural for us to do, for often we don’t rejoice. Note that this is the 3rd time we’re commanded to rejoice in the letter. Question: Are we pondering it purposefully, or do we just let it go in one ear and out the other? Do we nod in agreement and then forget it, or do we find ourselves thinking about what it means to rejoice throughout the day and the week, especially when we’re pressed hard, so that we’re preaching to hearts, “Man, you need to rejoice!” Some of us don’t think that makes a difference, but it really does. Implicit in the command is the call for each of us to intentionally think that we need to be joyful always. So that when we’re fighting for our joy, asking His help, we’re thinking intentionally and purposefully as to why we’re not and why we must.
Our trials ask, “Is Jesus enough for my life?” Yes, trials test us… but are we thinking accurately by faith that they will be used to strengthen us and bless us as the Lord delights to do? Contentment will say, “Yes”, while discontentment, anger, envy, anxiety, will want to say “No.” Where is the source of our joy? Where do we place our hope? What will make us truly happy? How do we respond to disappointment, hurt, and failure? Hab 2:18 challenges, “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it?” That old Johnny Lee song describes our culture, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” Jon Bloom says, “The power to change self-indulgent behavior is believing a different promise for happiness.” Part of why we don’t rejoice well is because we don’t think well, and because we don’t treasure well. We’re not considering all the facts in our favor, especially the fact of our Savior! But the sick mind can’t remedy itself, it needs Scripture’s medicine. All we see is what’s wrong, and we’re blind to all that is good. We’ve been saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, made rich in Christ, have a history of sweet providences! We don’t think about His unchanging grace and infinite power. So where there should be a defiant “nevertheless”, we’re whining about what we don’t have and who’s not giving it to us, as we talk back to the Lord, that we deserve better! The joy of the Lord is not our strength, there is no new song in our mouths, we don’t rejoice with joy inexpressible. But when we find Paul in prison singing, the elderly sister smiling with gratitude when you change her bed pan, then we’re being taught when our greatest desire is Christ, and see He’s all we need, everything pales and fades in comparison, and joy just explodes! Bring on the world! The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
God had made a positive promise to Moses that for the space of a whole month He would feed the vast host in the wilderness with flesh. Moses, being overtaken by a fit of unbelief, looks to the outward means, and is at a loss to know how the promise can be fulfilled. He looked to the creature instead of the Creator. But doth the Creator expect the creature to fulfil His promise for Him? No; He who makes the promise ever fulfils it by His own unaided omnipotence. If He speaks, it is done-done by Himself. His promises do not depend for their fulfillment upon the co-operation of the puny strength of man.
We can at once perceive the mistake which Moses made. And yet how commonly we do the same! God has promised to supply our needs, and we look to the creature to do what God has promised to do; and then, because we perceive the creature to be weak and feeble, we indulge in unbelief. Why look we to that quarter at all? Will you look to the north pole to gather fruits ripened in the sun? Verily, you would act no more foolishly if ye did this than when you look to the weak for strength, and to the creature to do the Creator’s work.
Let us, then, put the question on the right footing. The ground of faith is not the sufficiency of the visible means for the performance of the promise, but the all-sufficiency of the invisible God, who will most surely do as He hath said. If after clearly seeing that the onus lies with the Lord and not with the creature, we dare to indulge in mistrust, the question of God comes home mightily to us: ‘Has the Lord’s hand waxed short?’ May it happen, too, in His mercy, that with the question there may flash upon our souls that blessed declaration, ‘Thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not.’
“Every true man is resentful of slanders against a human friend. Should we not be grieved ten times more by slanders against our God? How can we possibly listen with polite complacency, then, when men break down the distinction between God and man, and drag God down to man’s level? How can we possibly say, as in one way or another is so often said, that orthodoxy makes little difference. We should never talk in any such way about a human friend. We should never say with regard to a human friend that it makes no difference whether our view of him is right or wrong. How, then, can we say that absurd thing with regard to God?” (J. Gresham Machen, The Person of Jesus: Radio Addresses on the Deity of the Savior)
by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz
Feliz Friday! I hope this week has been full of opportunities of glorifying our God and loving one another! I also hope these links will continue to further those goals for you all! So here we go!
That’s all for this week! Please be in prayer for the youth and collegians, who will be meeting tonight at church. See you all on Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria
by Pastor Patrick Cho
One of the places in Scripture to find a wealth of helpful principles for parenting is the Proverbs. Almost every book on parenting will reference these Scriptures repeatedly because of the wisdom they contain. Besides the plethora of verses that apply to parenting indirectly, several passages address parenting specifically.
“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects his son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)
Solomon knew the Lord’s discipline from experience. There was a keen awareness that God had purposed good for the one He reproves, and that His discipline is an act of love towards His children. While this passage is more about the Lord than it is about parenting, there is an important principle involved for parenting: Discipline, understood and exercised according to Scripture, is an act of love. When parents correct their children, the intention is always to be instructive and the motive is always to be love.
This is one of the many passages that speak against punishing children out of anger or without restraint. A loving father has a plan in his discipline, and he practices correction because of his delight in his son and not his hatred. When we as parents meet opportunities to help our children when they disobey, our first thought in the discipline needs to be, “Am I seeking to help my child in the Lord? Am I instructing my child toward greater godliness to love and fear God, or am I through my angry outbursts actually deterring faith in my child?”
One reason parents ought to discipline their children toward godliness is because this is what the Lord does for His children. Parents, then, can mimic the Lord and even represent Him through their loving and formative discipline. As their child grows up, hopefully they will come to appreciate their parents’ correction because they understand that they were being steered towards Jesus and away from the things that would take their hearts farther from Him. This is also the reason discipline must be accompanied and applied with prayer to orient a parent’s heart toward God and help curb sinful attitudes and emotions. Depend upon the Lord to use godly discipline to steer your child’s heart to Him.