Tidings for Tuesday

January 16th, 2018

We then as workers together with Him beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 Corinthians 6:1

A friend of mine who has a good, well-paying job decided to do something for his parents who are retired and living on a modest pension. Because of the rising price of gasoline, they did not travel far in their car, using it only for short trips to the grocery store and bank. My friend presented them with a credit card for a gasoline company, and urged them to use it as much as they wanted, to take trips and enjoy themselves in some travelling. He promised he would receive and pay the bill himself, and there would be no cost to them. To his surprise, he received no bills for the first two months. So he asked his parents why they weren’t using the card. They replied that they found it inconvenient, and they didn’t want to be a burden to him. They sound like Christians who Paul warns against having received the grace of God in vain.

God has given you and me something much better than a credit card. He has brought us within the scope of all of His resources, and has granted to us all of the privileges and responsibilities of an eternal relationship with Himself. But there are several ways in which we receive the grace of God in vain, negating all of the value of this precious resource.

If you or I have unconfessed sin in our lives, the grace of God will be ineffective as a resource. That sin will prevent the Holy Spirit from directing and enabling us in any service for our Lord. We will also be ineffective if the Word of God is not daily read and fed upon. Without this spiritual food, we will have no energy or intelligence on which the grace of God can work. Another hindrance to the grace of God is the lack of obedience to direction that God has already given us. For example, a believer who has not obeyed the Lord in baptism can expect little more in terms of direction from God for their future. As recipients of the grace of God, we need to be aware of our responsibilities for enabling that grace in our lives.

When we consider what the grace of God is capable of doing for us and in us, we should become excited. The grace of God enables us to be happy in the Lord, rejoicing in His manifold blessings to us. The grace of God enables us to be fruitful for the Lord, empowering and guiding us to serve Him as we should. The grace of God enables us to be faithful to our Lord, directing our lives as good testimonies to His Name. The grace of God enables us to be soldiers for our Lord, standing firm against the wiles of the devil and against the world’s attacks on God and His people.

Our prayer for today should be that the grace of God that we have received today will not be in vain today. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 15th, 2018

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

Disturbing news accounts from Tehran told of angry Iranians attacking and ransacking the British embassy, apparently with the sanction of the Iranian authorities, who made no move to stop the crime until most of the damage was done. This outrageous behaviour prompted objections and complaints, not just from Britain, but from throughout the civilized world. Embassies, and the ambassadors who are in charge of them, are required by all nations to be protected and respected. But Iran, run by a demented toady of radical islamist clerics, failed on that occasion to provide the necessary protection. The world we live in today offers no more respect for God’s ambassadors. But Paul reminds us that we are all still to carry out the office of ambassador.

There are several aspects of earth’s ambassadors that apply well to God’s ambassadors. For one thing, we are citizens of a different country from the one in which we live. This places some limitations on us. Like earth’s ambassadors, we are not to become entangled in the affairs of this world. Also, like earth’s ambassadors, we do not live according to our own desires and interests but according to the desires and interests of our home government. No ambassador is ever to place himself above the country from which he is sent. As Christians, our allegiance is primarily to Christ. And our task is to ably represent Him in the place where He has placed us.

An ambassador is responsible for promoting his own country’s interests in the country where he is placed. To be given the position of ambassador is a high honour. Any Canadian would consider it a very high honour to be appointed as an ambassador to most of the countries of the world. The honour comes, not from the country to which they are going, but from the country from which they are being sent. But no Canadian ambassador has been as highly honoured as the humblest Christian. The Lord Jesus has made us His personal representatives. He has much business to conduct in this world, and He relies on us to represent Him in this business.

Sometimes, an ambassador can say things or be involved in matters that are an embarrassment to his home country. As Christians, this is a concern for us as well. When those around us know that we are Christians, they expect us to act accordingly. If we fail to do so, it reflects badly on our Lord. We become a poor testimony and are a hindrance to the business that the Lord Jesus wants to conduct.

As ambassadors, we should strive for the furtherance of the Gospel, the edification of the Lord’s people, and the honour of our Saviour’s Name. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 14th, 2018

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Recall the account of the scape goat that was employed by the Children of Israel in the ceremony of Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16). Goats are incapable of performing, or even imagining, the types of sins that the Israelites were involved in. And yet, the high priest would pronounce the sins of the people over that goat, and the goat would be deemed to bear all of those sins. In a small way, that scape goat was a little picture of the Lord Jesus, as described in today’s text: One Who was incapable of sinning was deemed to be bearing the sins of an entire human race.

When our text tells us that the Lord Jesus became sin, it does not say, or even imply, that He was in any way sinful. That is impossible. As God, He could not sin, and nothing in His holy nature could in any way respond to or be drawn to sin. Our text does not contradict the truth that He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26). Nor does our text imply that the Lord Jesus was guilty. He could not be; He could always declare that He did always those things that please the Father (John 8:29). We need to be very careful in preserving the words and the sense of this portion as God intends, because it is critical that the One the Father sent to be the Saviour of the world is worthy of being so.

This is not the only portion of Scripture that uses the same word for sin as for sin-offering. Remember God’s words to Cain about sin lying at the door? An offering was available to Cain, and offering that he refused. Although all of Scripture, and all of Heaven, proclaims the innocence of the Son of God, the wrath of God fell upon Him because of sin. From Heaven’s throne poured the judgment that our sins deserved until the full measure of judgment for all sins was meted out. Only then could the Lord Jesus utter that victorious cry ‘Tetelestai!’ ‘Finished’. He Who was made sin for us fully met the sin payment.

Our text tells us the results of His being made sin for us: we are made the righteousness of God in Him. Because of the completeness of His fulfilling God’s requirement for judgment against our sin, we can enter into a sphere from which our sins blocked us before we were saved. The righteousness of God is a standing that surely exceeds our minds’ capacity to grasp. But it refers to our having received the very righteous nature of God. We have entered into far more than Adam was removed from in the Edenic fall.

It is only through making His Son sin for us that God has made us His righteousness. If we can’t understand this, we can at least accept it and give thanks for it. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

January 13th, 2018

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

How many times have you seen an out-of-bounds sign? Such signs remind us that there are some places where some people are not supposed to be. An ‘Employees Only’ sign reminds us of that, too. Once in a while, some people are allowed to enter a place where they have no right to be. I was allowed to enter such a place one time when developing some courses for a major technology firm. I was taken into a vast laboratory in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where hundreds of workers were developing and testing software and hardware products. I was given a first-hand view of some exciting projects, and was allowed to see some things that nobody outside of that company had ever seen. But my stay there was short, and my special pass to enter that laboratory quickly expired, and I was probably forever barred from entering there again. To regain access, I would have to become an employee of that company. That would be a major change in my status, although not as major a change as those mentioned in our text, who are described as being ‘in Christ’.

When you and I were saved, we truly became new creatures. The sentence of death was lifted from us, the shackles of sin were removed, and we entered into the glorious liberty of eternal life. We were translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. We rejoice every day at those things that became new to us. The presence and comfort of the Holy Spirit, the unfolding of the Word of God, and the fellowship of the Lord’s people are but a few of the things that are ours because of the great change that God has wrought in our experience. Even the dramatic example of a lowly caterpillar being transformed into a lovely butterfly becomes insignificant when compared to the transformation of a wretched hell-bound sinner into a child of God. But I think the apostle had more in mind when he penned these words.

The appreciation of our salvation is but one aspect of being ‘in Christ’. Our lives as believer can be transformed in a wonderful way when we discover the truth of being completely submitted to the will of Christ. This occurs as we – like John Baptist – allow Him to increase as we decrease. A wise teacher once observed that there are three stages to a believer submitting to the will of our Lord: learning God’s will, living God’s will, and loving God’s will. In each of these three stages, we undergo a transformation into something better than what we were before.

To be in Christ is to be a new creature. To have Christ filling each area of our lives is the greatest aspect of such a new creature. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 12th, 2018

For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead. 2 Corinthians 5:14

We all know that old saying that it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. Something that is sweet is more likely to draw attention than something that is sour. Our text today speaks of something that is sweet – the love of Christ. It is this love that constrains us. To constrain simply means to hem in or to prevent from getting out of line. In this case, it refers to our behaviour. We know that the fear of the Lord will affect our behaviour, just as the fear of any authority will have an impact on us. Our fear of the traffic police will keep us (reasonably) close to the speed limit when we drive. Our fear of our parents kept us from misbehaving in public when we were children. But our text tells us there is an even greater incentive for us to conduct ourselves carefully and wisely – the love of Christ.

Is Paul speaking here of our love for Christ? If so, we can understand that this love will cause us to want to do that which pleases the One we love. Because we love Him, we will seek ways to display that love, and will strive to remind ourselves and our Lord that we love Him. this is surely an excellent constraining power in our lives. But I don’t think this is what Paul had in mind, exactly.

I believe Paul is speaking of the love that Christ has for us. Why do I think that? Because the remainder of the verse speaks of One Who has died for all. The great motivating force behind all of God’s outreach to us is His love. The reason the Lord Jesus came into the world is His love for us, His compassion for lost and helpless sinners. As our text says, this great love is our great constraining force. When we consider such love for us, how can we not respond by regulating our lives in a way that He will approve?

Our text tells us that because Christ died, all of us die as well. That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it. We know that because Adam sinned, and died because of his sin, we are all doomed to die, because we are sinners just like Adam was. The first Adam died in defeat. The Last Adam died in victory. When the Lord Jesus died, He overcame death, and He provided a way for us to overcome death, in Him. Before we were saved, we were dead in trespasses and sins. Now that we have been redeemed, we are dead to sin. So Christ’s death leads to the death of everybody. Those who will not avail themselves of the virtue of His death are doomed to destruction. Those who have availed themselves of the virtue of His death accept His death as our payment for sin and are alive to God.

The love of Christ is the greatest motivator for you and me to constrain our lives to that which will please Him. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 11th, 2018

For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

Early in January, all of us in our work group were given appointments for our job evaluations. One by one, we met with the supervisor, who went over our work history, discussed our weaknesses and strengths, discussed some of the areas where we might try to improve, and were told how much of a raise in pay we were to receive. I doubt that anybody really enjoys such evaluations, but it is very much a part of what many companies do to improve the productivity of their work force. The idea is that the workers will do a better job in the coming year than they did in the previous year. But that’s not the thought behind the evaluation mentioned in today’s text. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a wrapup evaluation of each Christian’s life, a final tally of reward won or lost.

Job evaluations can often be very incomplete. Good things can be overlooked, and misbehaviour can often be ignored or undetected. But there is nothing incomplete about the Bema of Christ. Every idle word must be accounted for, and every cup of cold water must be accorded its reward. There is that about the Judgment Seat of Christ that should frighten us, as we think about the things we left undone and the things we should not have done. There is that about the Judgment Seat of Christ that should thrill us, as we think about the those things that we were obedient in and the ways in which we delighted to please our Lord. All in all, this is a very solemn occasion, and a reminder that this event is drawing near should have an impact on the life we live while we are still in the body.

One of the unfair things about job evaluations is that some folks are always exempt or they are given pretty much a free ride because of their close friendship with the job evaluator. No such unfair situations arise at the Bema, because we must all appear there. And the Evaluator is none other than the Lord Jesus. Nobody gets an inside edge on the rewards because of who they know, and nobody has any shelter from wrongdoing and sloth. One big question is whether our appearance at the Bema is a private audience or a public one. We would certainly like to have the bad things hidden from everybody. And it would be nice to have the good things addressed with lots of folks looking on. I can’t say exactly how it will be, but either way, we should be prepared to have our deeds assessed in the way that the Judge deems right. And that should have a sobering effect on how we live for our Lord.

The certainty of our coming appearance at the Judgment Seat of Christ has been given to us as an incentive to live a holy God-fearing life. The Lord Jesus wants us to have a good evaluation. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 10th, 2018

We are confident, I say, and willing, rather, to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

The most powerful instinct in all of nature is that of self preservation. This is true of all animals, and it is true of all humans. We will do whatever is necessary, in most cases, to keep ourselves alive. In dangerous situations, we go to great lengths to make sure we don’t encounter personal harm or death. The reason there are so few true heroes around us is that so few people are actually willing to place their lives on the line to rescue or protect others. If someone were to attempt to take their own life, we know that person is suffering from a serious mental illness. Our own life is the sweetest commodity we have, and none of us want to give it up. We dread the thought of a deathbed and what lies beyond. But like the apostle Paul, those of us who belong to Christ have something far more glorious to look forward to in the next life than we could ever experience in this poor world of sin and death.

Paul was not suicidal. He knew that his life was precious, and he held onto it as long and as fully as he could. But he had no fear of that time when he would have to face the hereafter. Like us, he dreaded death itself, but he was able to see what lay beyond that king of terrors, and he was content to endure whatever was necessary because of his confidence in his eternal future. Paul never forgot the vision he received on the Damascus Road. He had seen the Lord, a sight that forever changed everything about himself. During the years since that moment, he had often gone back to the memory and rejoiced. But now he is getting along in years and his time for departure to his heavenly home is getting closer. Mingled with his wonderful memory of seeing the Lord on the Damascus Road is the wonderful anticipation of seeing the Lord in Glory. Such a glorious anticipation can help us today to put the fear of death in its place, because we too are hastening to that moment when we will be forever with the Lord.

There is nothing morbid in our anticipation of Heaven. In fact, a proper appreciation of where we are going should serve to cheer us today and to give us a proper perspective in this life. The trials and struggles of this live will be lighter as we grasp the reality that our afflictions are temporary and our eternal bliss is eternal. We can face trials and struggles more easily when we remember that the most thorny road leads to Jesus’ presence. We can appreciate the delights and joys that we receive each day so much the more when we sense the Lord’s desire to magnify those delights and joys in His own presence.

We can’t understand how it will be for us to depart from our bodies. Nor can we enter into the wonder of being present with the Lord. But it is worth our thinking about today. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 9th, 2018

Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17

People in the apartment building had not seen the old lady for awhile. Not that they ever saw much of her; she kept to herself and rarely went out. She spoke to those she met, but kept conversations brief, and had no close friends among the folks in the building. After a week of not seeing her or not hearing any sounds from her apartment, some of the neighbours called the authorities. Police who entered the apartment were appalled at the poverty they encountered, with no food in the cupboards, and very little furniture – none of it of any real value. In the bedroom, they found the body of the old woman, who was later found to have died of malnutrition. As they searched the apartment, the officers discovered a bag containing several hundred thousand dollars. In addition, they found a stack of uncashed pension cheques. With wealth at her fingertips, the woman had died like a pauper. She was like some Christians, who never avail themselves of the liberty that God has brought us into.

Romans 8:15 tells us we have received the spirit of adoption, allowing us to claim our relationship with our heavenly Father. No royalty on earth can claim such a relationship or have access to such a family. We have been brought into a royal household and will forever be free to enjoy our Father’s presence. Do we appreciate this liberty?

Earlier in the chapter in which our text is found, Paul speaks of us being made able ministers of the new testament. This tells us that we have been given the liberty to serve our God and His Gospel. We were unable to do so before we were saved.In fact, were incapable of wanting to serve God. But that great barrier has been removed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A great door of opportunity has been presented to us to serve our God in many ways. Do we exercise this liberty as we should?

In Psalm 32:8, we read, I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Before we were saved, we knew nothing of such instruction and guidance, but now that we belong to God, we have the liberty to allow Him to teach us and to direct our paths aright. How open are our hearts to His instruction and our feet to His guidance?

Before He returned to Heaven, the Lord Jesus told His disciples that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit, to become witnesses unto Him in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). How much of this great liberty to witness do we access?

The Spirit of the Lord is with us today; let us exercise the liberties that He has granted to us. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 8th, 2018

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy Name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1

Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name in a book or on the Internet? You can find out where your name came from, what it was originally intended to describe, the different variants and diminutives of the name, and what famous people have had that name. Some names are fairly common, while others are unique, or at least unusual. Prospective parents spend a considerable time picking out names for the baby, because they know the importance of selecting just the right name, something that will be an important part of that baby for the rest of his or her life. Some names are ordinary or straightforward, others are fancy and colourful. Certainly, nobody ever selects a name that will sound offensive or insulting (although nicknames can sometimes break that rule). But of all the wonderful names that are given to children all over the world, none is so excellent as the name of our Lord!

Before He was born, Jesus’ earthly parents were told what His name was to be. His name means Saviour, and we are thankful that He lived up the the meaning of His name. His life’s mission was to seek and to save that which was lost. When we consider our own experience, in which we as lost sinners were brought to the truth of the Gospel, we rejoice that we ever came to know Him as our Saviour. And we are reminded of His saving power every time we read or hear His Name.

Isaiah reminds us (Isaiah 7:14) that His name is also Immanuel, which means God with us. When we consider that name, we are amazed that God would ever be willing to dwell with men. We read of Jesus’ humble birth, his lowly residence in a Jewish backwater town, His willingness to be familiar with the tools of a poor workman’s trade, and his poverty during His years of public ministry. None other than the God of eternity stooped to become Immanual and dwell with us upon a sinful earth.

Other names were given to the Lord Jesus by those around Him. Some would call Him Rabbi, recognizing His leadership and His teaching. Others called Him Master, acknowledging His lordship. Whatever name His followers would give Him, He was qualified to fulfill.

You and I may or may not live up to whatever our names mean, and it doesn’t really matter. But the Lord Jesus was given the most excellent names in all of earth and Heaven, and He lived up to those names perfectly. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 7th, 2018

For we are not as many which corrupt the Word of God, but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:17

Until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster occurred when the Jonestown cult in Guyana performed a mass murder/suicide of 909 people, including more than 200 children. The leader of the cult, Jim Jones, had convinced his followers that, if they all died together, they would be translated to another planet, where they would all live together in bliss. Jones had concocted his religion by mixing together some parts of the Bible with parts of Marxism, Nazism, atheism, and several other extreme doctrines. As a result, he came up with some of the most outlandish ideas, the most degrading practices, the most repressive rules, and the most dangerous teachings that have ever been assembled in the name of a religion. He went as far as is possible to imagine to corrupt the Word of God, with brutal and tragic results. Jim Jones serves as a warning to all, including Christians, to be sincere and faithful to the Word of God.

A wise man once said that if we take our ideas to the Word of God, we will generate error. But if we take our ideas from the Word of God, we will preserve truth. We need to remember that it is only as we are faithful to the Bible that we are faithful to God’s purposes. Jones was not the first person, nor will he be the last, to take his own ideas and wrap religion around them for his own purposes. This is a favourite tactic of all the cults and false religions. And this approach can only do harm, especially among the many who are deluded and led astray. For example, the founders of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses cult injected their own blasphemous ideas into a mis-translation of the Bible, a mis-translation that the member of that cult follow devotedly to their damnation. The cults are full of sincere people who have believed the lies and distortions of their founders and leaders. But they get no marks for sincerity, if they are sincerely wrong. Are you or I ever sincerely wrong?

Did you notice in our text that Paul spoke of handling the Word of God in the sight of God? In other words, he was constantly aware that God was watching his every move, listening to his every word, and monitoring his every thought. He was fully and totally devoted to sincerity in the presence of his God. We should have that same attitude as we read our Bibles, and as we seek to live as Christians in a wicked world. If we strive to always be faithful to what God says and what God desires, we will be faithful to what God has written. And we will not corrupt His word with our ideas. – Jim MacIntosh