Lesson for the Lord’s Day

March 18th, 2018

For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9

Among the fanciful creatures of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia stories are the centaurs. These creatures were highly intelligent, excellent archers, and were faithful to the great lion Aslan. Centaurs were highly unusual creatures, with the body and legs of horses and torso, arms, and legs of men. This was a combination that gave them the best physical features of both while not being entirely one or the other. Our text today tells of a Person who combined two even more divergent characters, that of God and man. Unlike the centaurs, Jesus Christ is real, not imaginary. Also unlike the centaurs, he is 100 percent God, and became 100 percent man while remaining God.

There is an interesting line in D’Arcy Champney’s lovely Hymn Jesus Our Lord With What Joy We Adore Thee that captures the truth of the incarnation: Verily God, yet become truly human. Our text also encapsulates this glorious truth, that everything that is God lives in the body that the Lord Jesus took upon Himself when He stepped into humanity – became flesh and dwelt among us. His perfect human body was perfectly human. This is a difficult concept to discuss, because I can’t understand it. Neither can you. I am not sure the angels can, either. And yet, this great mystery holds for you and me today the greatest truth that has ever gripped our souls, the fact that the Lord Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).

Reviewing what the Gospels reveal to us of the life of the Lord Jesus, we consider how all that is God was in the babe who the shepherds adored in Bethlehem’s manger and who Simeon and Anna worshipped in the temple. All that is God indwelt the itinerate Preacher who trod the Judean trails and preached the Gospel to the poor. All that is God inhabited the One Who was battered and bloody at Gabbatha and Who was covered in shame and reproach at Golgotha. In His life and in His death, the meek and lowly Jesus was always what He always is and will be. So too in His resurrection, the Lord Jesus was a man who emerged from the tomb in victory over man’s greatest enemy. And it is the Man Christ Jesus, Who has promised to come again for us. The One we will meet in the air and be forever with is God, and He is man.

How long must eternity be, to allow us to be able to plumb the depths of the great mystery of the incarnation, that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in the Lord Jesus bodily. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

March 17th, 2018

Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:7

Two girls from a Christian school applied for, and received, admission to a daycare program at the community college in Saint John. These girls, one of whom was my daughter, were amused at some advice given to the students by the principal of the community college. By way of encouraging the students at the opening-day assembly, he urged them to celebrate their accomplishments. He suggested that when they passed a test or an exam, they should go out and celebrate with a pizza and a beer. Many of the students followed his advice, and spent much of the school year wasting time and money in the bars each night. The girls from the Christian school ignored the dangerous advice; they knew better because they had been taught to do better. We who are taught by Assembly teachers in the Assembly environment are also able to withstand the world’s foolish advice, because we have been rooted and built up in Christ.

Professing Christendom knows nothing about being rooted and established in Christ. Even the so-called evangelical denominations receive teaching that is often fluffy, with little expounding of the Scriptures. The need for good teaching, consistent godly instruction among God’s people, has never been greater among our Assemblies. Young people need to be taught and encouraged, and given a solid foundation of understanding of New Testament Assembly principles. This foundation will serve them well when the entertainment and emotional attractions of the denominations come along. If they are rooted and built up in Christ, they will not be led astray with every wind of doctrine. That goes for everybody in the Assembly, not just for the young folks. But the young people will be the future of our Assemblies for a long time, and it is urgent that they are well prepared for the dangers ahead.

But being rooted and built up in Christ is not just to protect us against problems. Our text speaks of abounding therein with thanksgiving. Paul is even more interested in seeing the saints forging ahead victoriously and joyfully than he is with seeing them defending against attacks. Abounding refers to making the most of their salvation, living as good testimonies in the world, striving together for the furtherance of the Gospel, Abounding speaks of vibrant Christian families, strong and active Assemblies, and faithful Christian testimonies. And thanksgiving speaks of our attitude. Our world is largely thankless; perhaps they have nothing to be thankful for. But we do, we have every reason to praise our God every waking moment for what He has done for us and for what He can do through us.

Everything we need in order to make us the Christians and Assemblies we ought to be is found in the teaching that roots and builds us up in Christ. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

March 16th, 2018

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. Colossians 2:4

The lady with the pretty little girl gave me a friendly smile, and held up a colourful pamphlet. She quoted a verse from the Psalms and began gushing about how wonderful it is that God has rich blessings for us. I didn’t let her get any further, but raised my voice and ordered her off my property and told her to never come back. Her approach and her words were enticing, but her pamphlets were labelled by the Watchtower Society and could contain nothing but damnable heresies. If I could, I would have ordered her off the street, because I was concerned that her enticing ways might beguile some of our neighbours. Just as Paul was concerned that false teachers would beguile the Christians in Colosse. And that false teachers would beguile you and me.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of enticing words being peddled today, all with the goal of beguiling people who are not prepared to refute them. A wise person onetime said if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. And that seems to be the case today. As our education systems refuse to teach moral values to our children, the children become easy targets for the enticing words of those who would lead them into immorality, drugs, and crime. Environmentalists use their pretty words about saving our planet to entice folks into fighting against a global warming that is not happening and cannot happen. Islam hides behind its pretense to serve the same God as us to lure people into its slavery, brutality, and repression. The cults flood communities with their so-called good works and friendliness to entice people into listening to their heretical doctrines. These things should not be a threat to anyone with a good foundation of Bible truth. But there are more subtle dangers that we need to be aware of.

Some of the evangelical denominations have developed ways to attract more young people to their churches. They have music, sports, and other programs that appeal to young folks, with lots of excitement and entertainment. We need to be aware that these things can entice our young people, leading them away from the truths of Scripture and the New Testament principles on which our Assemblies are based. Something that the denominations have apparently failed to notice is that while these programs bring in people, they fail to produce anything of lasting value, beyond filling the pews on Sundays. Their easy-believism conversions fail to generate true children, and so they constantly need to recruit to fill up the ranks of the backsliders and false professors. We need to keep in mind that our commission is to preach the Gospel, not to recruit members.

The Word of God is our protection against enticing words that would beguile us. Its protection is of value only if we know it and use it. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

March 15th, 2018

In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3

What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Knowledge, for example, is knowing that a tomato is actually a fruit instead of a vegetable; wisdom is not putting the tomato into a fruit salad. We all know many people who have a great deal of knowledge, but we all know few people who have a great deal of wisdom. There is no scarcity of knowledge, although it all needs a good filter to separate the good from the bad, the useful from the useless, the benign from the harmful, and the practical from the nonsensical. Wisdom is a much more rare commodity, and much of what is touted as wisdom is actually the doctrine of fools. How do we know what is true and good when it comes to both knowledge and wisdom? Our text tells us that we find it in the Lord Jesus.

When it comes to knowledge about a car, the best source of information is the company that made the car. When it comes to our natural, physical world, the best source of knowledge is the One Who created the world. As so-called scientists probe the sub-atomic world to seek out answers to the nature of matter, as they peer into the far reaches of space to determine its extent and chart its splendours, as they work with the laws and principles on which our creation is based, they can never find the boundaries of all that the Creator understands and could teach them. Only by aligning their findings and decisions on the truth contained in the Bible can scientists maintain true knowledge. Although not specifically a science book, the Bible’s science is totally accurate and is far deeper than we can realize. The truths of Scripture are the keys to the knowledge available from the Lord Jesus.

Let us define wisdom as the correct application of that which is right. A wise man may lack knowledge but correctly uses the information he has. The world incorrectly identifies many people as wise who have incorrectly applied the knowledge they have to come up with false theories, doctrines, and programs. Look at how the evolutionists proven themselves fools by developing and promoting an impossible theory. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. The idea behind that verse is that the fear of the Lord provides the only sound foundation for wisdom. All wisdom that defies Scripture is a foundation that will eventually crumble and vanish. The words of the Lord Jesus are all wise, and the words that contradict His are all foolish.

The great mysteries of the person of Christ include the depths of the knowledge that is hid in Him, and the wealth of wisdom that is Himself. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

March 14th, 2018

For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh. Colossians 2:1

One of my sisters was visiting a dear old aunt on the west coast, a lady who most of my family had never met, because she had moved away before we were born. During the visit, my sister was amazed that the old lady knew so much about us, referring to us by name, and obviously aware of our ages and other information. My sister asked her how she could know so much about us. Auntie Lu replied, ‘How could I ever forget. I pray for you all every day.’ Auntie Lu was a bit like the apostle Paul in today’s text, carrying a burden for folks he had never met. Who do we pray for that we don’t know in the flesh?

It was one thing for our aunt to pray for us; she knew the family and all the connections, so she would have a natural interest in us. But Paul was praying for and working to help folks who were not connected to him in any way other than that they were Christians. He had never met them, he had not been involved directly in the Gospel work that had resulted in their salvation, and he had not been used to plant their Assembly. But Paul had a deep interest in something that you and I need to take a deeper interest in: the spread of the Gospel beyond our own location and our own people. This cost the apostle some effort and time, and it will cost us some effort and time. Paul would spend more time on his knees praying for the folks in Colosse and Laodicea. And, in order to pray, he would need to find out about the folks there, who were on the Assembly oversight, what problems the Assembly had encountered, what preachers had planted the Assembly, and what preachers had visited and ministered to them. He would need to learn names and situations, and many other details about those folks. This information would enable him to pray and to write to those folks. If Paul had written only to the Assemblies which he had seen planted, we would never have had this lovely epistle to the Colossians. Who knows what some Christians in a far-off place are deprived of because you and I fail to take an interest in them?

Like Paul, we can pray, once we find out about believers and their needs. In some cases, it is appropriate for us to contribute financially, and to take an interest in the Gospel as it is preached in their area. We can search out people who have a personal knowledge of people and places elsewhere, and find out from them what we can do. We need to understand that confining ourselves to the Lord’s work in our own little vineyard deprives ourselves of exercise and deprives others of blessing.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will bring out many surprises, not the least of which will be rewards for those who helped people they have never met here on earth. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

March 13th, 2018

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints. Colossians 1:26

Have you ever seen Clarence Larkin’s chart called Mountain Peaks of Prophecy? If not, Google it sometime. The chart provides an interesting explanation for some of the things that are presented to us by the Old Testament prophets. As they looked into the future that the Holy Spirit showed them, their view was like that of a man looking across a range of mountains, in which he could see the mountain tops but not the valleys between the mountains. They could see many of the great events that were to come, such as the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus, and His death on the cross, and many of the end-time events. However, there were critical valleys that those prophets were unable to detect, let alone peer into. The chart shows a great valley between the resurrection of Christ and Christ’s return to the Mount of Olives. This valley, referred to as the valley of the church age, was something that the prophets knew nothing about. This particular valley is the mystery that Paul is referring to in today’s text.

Old Testament prophets were Israelites, and a period of God’s dealings primarily with the Gentiles would have made no sense to them. There was no reason for God to reveal that period of the future to them. But when the Jews rejected their Messiah, there came a dispensation that differed radically from what the Old Testament saints knew and appreciated. Even Peter, before his experience with Cornelius, had difficulty understanding this mystery. From our vantage point, it is all very apparent, but what a shock it must have been for the apostles and early Jewish Christians. All of the laws and ordinances, and the reliance on the Aaronic priesthood was set aside. The new reality of justification by faith in the finished work of Christ was such a radical change in direction that, for decades, the early Assemblies had to battle the efforts of those who demanded that the elements of the Jews’ religion must be observed. They had a struggle to forget the weak and beggarly elements of a system that worked through a restricted class of priests and to accept the new order in which each believer is indwelt by the Holy spirit and is enabled to function as a priest.

The mystery that Paul unfolded as he planted Assemblies has been largely lost on professing Christendom today. Most denominations, and even some groups that would call themselves Assemblies, have reverted to the class system of priests. They elevate certain people to function according to the gifts God gave to His Assemblies. This practice negates the Holy Spirit’s removal of the limits of the old economy and returns those groups to the bondage and clericy of the law.

The mystery of this age of grace brings us not only into liberty, but also into the fulness of God’s purpose for His people. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

March 12th, 2018

For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created by Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16

When scientists draw diagrams of the Higgs boson, they draw it in the shape of a champagne bottle. Mind you, they have never seen a Higgs boson to know what shape it really is. In fact, they are still trying to find out if it actually exists. They built a huge apparatus called the Large Hadron Collider under the Franco-Swiss border, in a tunnel 27 kilometers in circumference, in an attempt to find proof that the Higgs boson exists. The costs run into the billions of dollars, and they are still not sure. The Higgs boson, they believe, is a subatomic particle that holds the key to how the universe holds itself together. Although most scientists generally dislike the term, media reports often refer to the Higgs boson as the ‘God particle’. They think it is that important. Our text today tells us that those silly scientists are all missing the boat. Thousands of years ago, the Bible told us what holds the universe together, and it’s not a Higgs boson.

What the Bible says about creation is true and accurate, regardless of the theories and postulations of so-called scientists. Not one word of Genesis Chapter One has ever been proven false, and never will. Creation is the work of the Lord Jesus. And our text today also reminds us that the very purpose behind creation is to bring glory to the Lord Jesus. Sin and our disobedience have robbed Him of much of what is rightfully His. But His obedience has restored that which He took not away, and now He receives glory from us who once were alienated from Him. We who were created for Him can now praise Him.

People in the world are always seeking for a purpose in life, a reason for their existence. Many people find a measure of fulfilment in their work, in the pursuit of high ideals or goals, or in their commitments to family, religion, or political organization. Still others stumble about all their lives, never able to make sense of what is happening around them, never able to see where they fit into any overall picture. Even many Christians are stumped about what the purpose of their lives are. Everything all boils down to one great question: Why? This is the great question of life, and the world has as many answers as it has questioners. But to this great question about the purpose of life, the purpose of ourselves, the purpose of everything around us, there can be only one true and all-encompassing answer: for the Lord Jesus. All of creation and everything that it contains and represents is for Him.

The goal and purpose for our lives today is to bring glory to the Lord Jesus. There is no higher purpose, there is nothing greater we can ever accomplish than that. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

March 11th, 2018

In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14

A scruffy looking, poorly shaved man meandered along the roadside, peering into the weeds and behind the rocks, pausing once in a while to bend over and pick up a can or plastic bottle. If the item was acceptable, he thrust it into a dusty burlap bag he was dragging, and moved on to find another can or plastic bottle. He was doing fairly well; the bag was about half full. This man was taking advantage of our province’s regulations that required redemption centres to pay five cents for each beverage container returned to the centres. It’s a good deal for the government, which taxes the containers a dime at the point of sale. Before this program came into effect, roadsides were often littered with unsightly cans and bottles. Now, it’s rare to see these items at all because most people don’t throw them away, and if they do, there is somebody in need of a nickel who will pick them up and redeem them. Without the redemption program, these items are just useless garbage. Without God’s redemption program, so are we.

Like an old pop can in a roadside ditch, you and I were once empty and useless, drained by Satan of our energies and abilities, and ruined by sin that destroyed any value we might have been to God. We needed a redeemer. But before we ever came to a realization of that need, God was already working. His great plan of salvation brought the Lord Jesus into the world. As God, He was qualified to be our Redeemer; as a man, He had a body to suffer and blood to shed, blood that would be the price for our redemption. There is a set price for the redemption of a beverage container in New Brunswick; there is also a set price for the redemption of lost sinners. As sinners, we have earned the wages of sin – death, which has been imposed on all of us, because we are all sinners. Because He was sinless, the Lord Jesus had no redemption required. Because He was sinless, the Lord Jesus could – and did – offer His life’s blood as the redemption price. And God has accepted that payment, because He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.

The redemption that God gives us includes forgiveness of sins. Because He paid for our sins with His blood on the cross, the Lord Jesus has removed the barrier to our acceptance with God. Grounds have been provided for God, Who cannot overlook sin, to forgive the sinner.

Because the price paid for our redemption is infinite, so too is the forgiveness that God is offering to sinners. We rejoice in that forgiveness, which is undeserved but unlimited. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

March 10th, 2018

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Colossians 1:13

Today’s text sounds like it could be taken directly from a Gene Roddenberry script. The creator of the Star Trek TV series and movies had all sorts of fascinating devices that will presumably be used three or four centuries from now. One of the most fascinating was the transporter, which beamed people from one place to another. A person on a transporter pad would be disassembled and would then be reassembled, atom by atom, in a target location. The entire Star Trek saga included many scenes in which the transporter rescued crew members who were in dangerous situations, and placed them within the safety of their own ship. It’s all pure fiction, of course, and scientifically impossible. But the translation spoken of in today’s text is of an even greater rescue from an even greater danger by an even greater miracle.

The powers of darkness were a greater danger to our souls than we could ever realize. The devil and his minions had access to us to bind us in a destructive life that would lead to a Christless eternity. The power of darkness was great, certainly greater than we could escape from on our own. It was so great that most of us were unaware that we were within its grip until the Holy Spirit brought us the Gospel that revealed to our souls our wretched estate. We came to understand that we were within a perilous situation that could only get worse, and we were helpless. Only then could our deliverance come, piercing the darkness and translating us out of the peril into the marvellous light of God’s grace.

Even if we wanted to – and none of us would – we cannot be translated back into the power of darkness. The translation into the kingdom of God’s dear Son is permanent and irreversible, even if the enemy does his best to make us think otherwise. Our deliverance is complete; the devil can no longer command us and seek our destruction. He has no power in the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, although he does have access to us to harrass us while we are still in the flesh. We already have the victory over him, and our Lord wants us to enjoy and appreciate that victory.

The kingdom of God’s dear Son is a wonderful domain. Within this kingdom are peace and joy because of sins forgiven and deliverance from punishment assured. Within this kingdom are also all the blessings that come from being a child of God, including all His protection and care. Within this kingdom is the blessing of Heaven’s promise now and Heaven’s presence to come. Within this kingdom is the fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with all of those who have been saved through Him.

No science fiction story can match the translation that God has accomplished for us; may we appreciate the place into which He has brought us. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

March 9th, 2018

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:12

If there is a large estate that has to be divided up, two means can be used to dispense of the inheritance: a will, and the law of intestancy. If there is a valid will, its provisions determine how the estate is resolved. If there is no will, the law of intestancy follows a pattern of dividing the estate among the closest relatives of the deceased. The law of intestancy determines who is, and who is not, qualified to receive part of the estate. For example, a spouse would be highly qualified, while a second cousin might be entirely disqualified. This law says, in effect, that some people have a right to the inheritance, and others do not. Our text today speaks of those who have the right to an inheritance. And what an inheritance it is!

The law of intestancy as a rule applies to relatives. So does the inheritance that Paul is speaking about in this text. We are to inherit because we are relatives by the new birth. We have been brought into the family of God. And our text tells us that it is the Father Who has done this. According to His Word, we are fully qualified heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We should be deeply thankful today, because we who once were so far away from God and alienated against Him have now been brought into the relationship of children. None of it is our doing, He has saved us and brought us into this wonderful relationship, and promised to us a great inheritance.

We are to receive the inheritance of the saints in light. Who are the saints in light? There are many possible answers to this question, but the most likely answer is that these are the glorified saints, those who are already in Heaven. For them, there is no more darkness or anything that relates to the power of darkness. For them, there are the glories of a beautiful home and the presence of their Saviour. Their endless day has begun. As the inheritors of the same, we can look forward to what they are enjoying and rejoice that no probate court can ever challenge what God has given to us as an eternal inheritance.

Just as there are responsibilities and behaviour appropriate for heirs of great earthly inheritances, so we should be mindful every day, every hour, of the responsibilities and behaviour that are appropriate for heirs of a heavenly inheritance. We have become representatives of a great family, and it should be an honour for us to live as the Lord Jesus lived. There is also no room for selfishness, either. We know how families often fight bitterly over earthly estates. There is no need with regard to Heaven’s inheritance, the more who enter into it has no bearing on how much we will receive. So Let us tell others about this great inheritance.

We are heirs of a fortune beyond our imagination. Let that thought thrill your soul today! – Jim MacIntosh