27 April 2011

Suitable Sorrow

“Moderation in all things” is not a bad motto. As with almost everything else, it applies to the sphere of mourning. On the one hand, there is a time to weep… a time to mourn (Eccl 3:4). We live in a fallen world and the days are evil (Eph 5:16). Tombstones around the globe stand as silent witnesses of death’s shadow which permeates every facet of human existence. Daily the obituaries testify to the passing of one generation and the rise of another (Eccl 1:4). In this scenario it is appropriate to grieve. Abraham mourned for his beloved Sarah (Gen 23:2), all Israel grieved the death of Samuel (1 Sam 25:1), and Jesus Himself wept for His dear friend Lazarus (Jn 11:35). Such sorrow is natural and expected. With it comes no shame or culpability. On the other hand, one must not indulge his grief overmuch. Like any passion excessively coddled, sorrow can become a snare to godly living. For example, the disciples failed to support their Master in His hour of greatest need because they were found sleeping for sorrow (Lk 22:45). Even after Christ’s command to pray and His warning of temptation, they slept because their souls were exhausted from the grievous news about His sufferings and betrayal.

So the proper course, the right way is to moderate our sorrows under God’s providential dealings. In this vale of tears we will suffer. Our Lord Himself showed that godly grief is both good and right. Yet as believers in a wise and gracious providence we must not let our losses and disappointments master our hearts. “Moderation in all things.” The extremes are worldly – all or nothing, overindulged heartache or callous insensitivity. The balance is Christian – a measured, faith-filled godly grief. The one produces death, the other leads to salvation without regret (2 Cor 7:10). Let us not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). For Jesus died and rose again. Hallelujah!

25 April 2011


Some people disparage modern conferences as a waste of time. “Can anything good come out of two day meeting?” they ask. “What does it profit a man to discuss the whole world and consider religious themes? Let’s just plod along faithfully in the ordinary path of weekly worship and gospel service looking for and expecting gradual growth.” Of course the latter approach is biblical, wise and profitable. But the former outlook is ill-advised and short-sighted. There is a place for conferences which strengthen one’s faith, build up the church, and encourage the fainthearted (1 Thess 5:14).

Consider the brief but productive conference that took place in Sychar. It was surprising given the animosity between first century Samaritans and Jews. Jesus astonished His disciples by stopping at a well to confer with a Samaritan woman. This was shocking, but they must have been flabbergasted when at the request of new converts He stayed there two days (Jn 4:40). As a result of that brief conference, Sychar enjoyed a revival of religion as many more believed because of His word (v. 41). As far as we know, He performed no miracles, exorcised no demons, displayed no feats of omnipotence in that place. He simply gave them His word which transformed a community. This small village enjoyed two whole days with Jesus. Neither His modest appearance nor his humble condition caused them to stumble. Those people would never be the same and that town was “turned upside down.” So the next time you have an opportunity to spend “two days with Jesus” discussing the world and considering religious themes, remember the Sycharian experience. It might just change your life.

04 April 2011

A Good Man

At a marriage seminar we considered hypothetically how each one would eulogize his or her spouse. It was an exercise designed both to provoke thought and to provide encouragement. Many nice things were said about our respective spouses. But nothing could have been said that would have surpassed what the Holy Spirit affirmed in describing one of the early church’s leading men. Barnabas rejoiced at the work of God in Antioch and exhorted the believers to fidelity, and the sacred text makes this observation: he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24).

Of course he was not inherently good, but became so as a result of the Spirit’s presence and faith’s exercise. With the blessed Promise filling his heart, he was divinely enabled to believe – it was granted to him (Php 1:29) – and in so doing he was able to receive and rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what made him good. That is what enabled him to rejoice in and work for the Kingdom. And that is why he was recognized and esteemed as a son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). In Barnabas we see an example of divine prophecy fulfilled. I will give you a new heart… and I will put My Spirit within you (Ezek 36:26-27). His soul and life were undeniably transformed by means of the gracious and powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. The same is true of every believer. Like Barnabas we have within our hearts a Presence that sanctifies and sweetens life. He sanctifies even to the extent that wicked sinners can now be classified as good. What a stunning transformation! What an amazing gospel! The Father chose us for this. The Son lived and died and rose again for this. The Spirit descends and indwells and disinfects for this. All of it unfolds for the glory of God and the good of His people.