The 11 Beliefs You Should Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses When They Knock at the Door
Aug 17, 2017 | Justin Taylor

 

The following is a brief overview of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, along with what the Bible really teaches, printed among the many articles and resources in the back of the ESV Study Bible (posted by permission).

1. The divine name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s one true name—the name by which he must be identified—is Jehovah.

Biblically, however, God is identified by many names, including:

God (Hb. ‘elohim; Gen. 1:1),
God Almighty (Hb. ‘El Shadday; Gen. 17:1),
Lord (Hb. ‘Adonay; Ps. 8:1), and
Lord of hosts (Hb. yhwh tseba’ot; 1 Sam. 1:3).
In NT times, Jesus referred to God as “Father” (Gk. Patēr; Matt. 6:9), as did the apostles (1 Cor. 1:3).

2. The Trinity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Trinity is unbiblical because the word is not in the Bible and because the Bible emphasizes that there is one God.

Biblically, while it is true that there is only one God (Isa. 44:6; 45:18; 46:9; John 5:44; 1 Cor. 8:4; James 2:19), it is also true that three persons are called God in Scripture:

the Father (1 Pet. 1:2),
Jesus (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8), and
the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
Each of these three possesses the attributes of deity—including

omnipresence (Ps. 139:7; Jer. 23:23-24; Matt. 28:20),
omniscience (Ps. 147:5; John 16:30; 1 Cor. 2:10-11),
omnipotence (Jer. 32:17; John 2:1-11; Rom. 15:19), and
eternality (Ps. 90:2; Heb. 9:14; Rev. 22:13).
Still further, each of the three is involved in doing the works of deity—such as creating the universe:

the Father (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 102:25),
the Son (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), and
the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30).
The Bible indicates that there is three-in-oneness in the godhead (Matt. 28:19; cf. 2 Cor. 13:14).

Thus doctrinal support for the Trinity is compellingly strong.

3. Jesus Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was created by Jehovah as the archangel Michael before the physical world existed, and is a lesser, though mighty, god.

Biblically, however, Jesus is eternally God (John 1:1; 8:58; cf. Ex. 3:14) and has the exact same divine nature as the Father (John 5:18; 10:30; Heb. 1:3).

Indeed, a comparison of the OT and NT equates Jesus with Jehovah (compare Isa. 43:11 with Titus 2:13; Isa. 44:24 with Col. 1:16; Isa. 6:1-5 with John 12:41).

Jesus himself created the angels (Col. 1:16; cf. John 1:3; Heb. 1:2, 10) and is worshiped by them (Heb. 1:6).

4. The incarnation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that when Jesus was born on earth, he was a mere human and not God in human flesh.

This violates the biblical teaching that in the incarnate Jesus, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9; cf. Phil. 2:6-7).

The word for “fullness” (Gk. plērōma) carries the idea of the sum total. “Deity” (Gk. theotēs) refers to the nature, being, and attributes of God.

Therefore, the incarnate Jesus was the sum total of the nature, being, and attributes of God in bodily form.

Indeed, Jesus was Immanuel, or “God with us” (Matt. 1:23; cf. Isa. 7:14; John 1:1, 14, 18; 10:30; 14:9-10).

5. Resurrection.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was resurrected spiritually from the dead, but not physically.

Biblically, however, the resurrected Jesus asserted that he was not merely a spirit but had a flesh-and-bone body (Luke 24:39; cf. John 2:19-21).

He ate food on several occasions, thereby proving that he had a genuine physical body after the resurrection (Luke 24:30, 42-43; John 21:12-13).

This was confirmed by his followers who physically touched him (Matt. 28:9; John 20:17).

6. The second coming.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the second coming was an invisible, spiritual event that occurred in the year 1914.

Biblically, however, the yet-future second coming will be physical, visible (Acts 1:9-11; cf. Titus 2:13), and will be accompanied by visible cosmic disturbances (Matt. 24:29-30). Every eye will see him (Rev. 1:7).

7. The Holy Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force of God and not a distinct person.

Biblically, however, the Holy Spirit has the three primary attributes of personality:

a mind (Rom. 8:27),
emotions (Eph. 4:30), and
will (1 Cor. 12:11).
Moreover, personal pronouns are used of him (Acts 13:2). Also, he does things that only a person can do, including:

teaching (John 14:26),
testifying (John 15:26),
commissioning (Acts 13:4),
issuing commands (Acts 8:29), and
interceding (Rom. 8:26).
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19).

8. Salvation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that salvation requires faith in Christ, association with God’s organization (i.e., their religion), and obedience to its rules.

Biblically, however, viewing obedience to rules as a requirement for salvation nullifies the gospel (Gal. 2:16-21; Col. 2:20-23). Salvation is based wholly on God’s unmerited favor (grace), not on the believer’s performance.

Good works are the fruit or result, not the basis, of salvation (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-8).

9. Two redeemed peoples.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there are two peoples of God: (1) the Anointed Class (144,000) will live in heaven and rule with Christ; and (2) the “other sheep” (all other believers) will live forever on a paradise earth.

Biblically, however, a heavenly destiny awaits all who believe in Christ (John 14:1-3; 17:24; 2 Cor. 5:1; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 1 Thess. 4:17; Heb. 3:1), and these same people will also dwell on the new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4).

10. No immaterial soul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that humans have an immaterial nature. The “soul” is simply the life-force within a person. At death, that life-force leaves the body.

Biblically, however, the word “soul” is multifaceted. One key meaning of the term is man’s immaterial self that consciously survives death (Gen. 35:18; Rev. 6:9-10). Unbelievers are in conscious woe (Matt. 13:42; 25:41, 46; Luke 16:22-24; Rev. 14:11) while believers are in conscious bliss in heaven (1 Cor. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 7:17; 21:4).

11. Hell.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe hell is not a place of eternal suffering but is rather the common grave of humankind. The wicked are annihilated—snuffed out of conscious existence forever.

Biblically, however, hell is a real place of conscious, eternal suffering (Matt. 5:22; 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev. 14:11; 20:10, 14).

 

THEOLOGY LEARNED IN THE FLAMES OF ADVERSITY

Theology Learned in the Flames of Adversity
FROM Steven Lawson;  Aug 11, 2017 

 

In 1527, Martin Luther experienced a trial so severe that church historian Philip Schaff described that year simply as “the disastrous year.” It was the time of Luther’s “severest spiritual and physical trials.” As the leading figure of the Reformation, Luther paid a high price in the struggle for truth, and his physical condition deteriorated under the movement’s mounting demands. On April 22, 1527, Luther was so overcome by dizziness in the pulpit that he stopped preaching and was forced to retire. Other physical problems followed for the Reformer, including severe heart problems, digestive ailments, and fainting spells. He also began to wear down emotionally, suffering bouts of discouragement and depression.

On July 6, another attack struck Luther. He was entertaining friends for dinner when he felt an intense buzzing in his left ear. He had to be carried to bed, where he frantically called for water or else, he believed, he would die. Luther became so chilled that he was convinced he had seen his last night. In a desperate prayer, he surrendered himself to the will of God and prepared to meet his Maker. Though Luther remained seriously ill for days, he eventually regained his strength.

In August, the Black Plague rapidly spread among the people in Wittenberg. Many died, and others fled for their lives. The University of Wittenberg moved to Jena, Germany. Frederick urged Luther to escape to spare his own life. Adding to the danger, Katie was pregnant and they had a one-year-old child, Hans. Luther, however, considered it his moral duty to remain and minister to the sick.

Weighty trials rested heavily upon Luther’s shoulders. Death surrounded him on every side. He watched people die in his house and in the streets. He chose to transform his spacious house into a hospital to care for those suffering from the plague. Hans became desperately ill, and Luther became so heavily burdened that he could not eat for eleven days. He was deeply concerned for Katie’s safety and grew weak with despair.

In a letter to his trusted friend and coworker Philip Melanchthon, Luther acknowledged his increasing bouts of depression:

I spent more than a week in death and in hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.
In November, Luther wrote a theological tract titled Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague. He argued that a spiritual leader must stay with the community of believers under his care during a time of extreme duress. Certainly, the outbreak of the plague qualified as such a crisis, as extreme stress weighed heavy upon his heart and drained his body of strength. But in his weakness, Luther found new strength in God.

During these difficult years filled with controversy, death, and trial, Luther penned his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This magnificent work is based on Psalm 46, a worship song of unshakable trust in God. For years, Luther had translated and taught the Psalms, a book he deeply loved. This inspired collection of ancient worship songs was, in fact, the first book of Scripture that Luther had taught in the classroom. An exposition of selected penitential psalms was the subject of his first printed work.

In hard times, when Luther often found himself terribly discouraged and downcast, he would turn to Melanchthon and say, “Come, Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm.” They would sing it in Luther’s original version:

A sure stronghold our God is He, A timely shield and weapon:
Our help He’ll be and set us free From every ill can happen.
Concerning the singing of this favorite psalm, Luther said:

We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends His church and His word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh and sin.
Out of Luther’s dark distress shined this brightest light of confidence in God. Philip Schaff marvels that this monumental hymn could issue from such deep travails, saying, “The deepest griefs and highest faith often meet.” This was the case with Luther, as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was “born of deep tribulation and conquering faith.”

The 1520s proved to be a turbulent time for Martin Luther, one in which he found himself engaged in many battles. In the face of mounting struggles, Luther fought the good fight and remained unwavering in his devotion to the truth of the Bible. Through these sufferings, he grew deeper in the truth and stronger in faith.

Luther recognized that these conflicts came by divine design to make him the theologian God desired him to be. In commenting on Psalm 119, the Reformer expressed this conviction when he wrote about what he saw as the correct way to study theology. He affirmed three non-negotiables for learning biblical doctrine: “Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout the psalm and thus: Oratio, meditatio, tentatio.” These three Latin words translate as “prayer,” “meditation,” and “trial.” It is this third prerequisite that should arrest our attention. Luther calls tentatio “the touch- stone” for learning the truth.

Luther believed that trials in the life of any believer, especially a theologian, are necessary in order to grow in the truth. He said that affliction “teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.” In other words, Luther maintained that theology is not learned only in the safety of a lecture hall, but in the flames of adversity. In fiery trials, one is humbled and broken. It is then that a leader is made most teachable. In difficult times, the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit often shines brightest. Broken hearts make for receptive minds.

Such affliction increases in intensity as the servant of God ministers the Word. Luther explained, “As soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word.” Luther thanked the devil and papists for “beating, oppressing and distressing” him to the point that they turned him into “a fairly good theologian.”

Amid his mounting conflicts, Luther stands as a towering example of the steadfast loyalty to the gospel that is required by God. Ministry is never without its difficulties. There are no easy places to serve the Lord. In perilous times, Luther demonstrated the unwavering devotion needed to persevere.

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This excerpt is adapted from Steven Lawson’s contribution Legacy of Luther edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols.

 

 

DAVID BRAINERD AND THE PURSUIT OF GOSPEL HOLINESS

David Brainerd and the Pursuit of Gospel Holiness
by Al Baker; PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELISTIC FELLOWSHIP
August 8, 2017

On my bed night after night I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him but did not find him. –Song of Solomon 3:1

David Brainerd was born in Haddam, Connecticut in April, 1718 and regularly attended the local Congregational Church, as almost everyone did in Eighteenth century New England. However when he was twenty years old Brainerd came under a long, profound, and earth shattering conviction of his sin, being very fearful for the eternal destiny of his soul. Brainerd kept a journal and upon his early death from Tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine in October, 1747, his friend, Jonathan Edwards, whose family nursed him the last few months of his life, compiled his diary while making pertinent comments on his life. Brainerd’s diary has edified millions of believers for over two hundred years and countless missionaries have said that it inspired them to go to the mission fields of the world to publish the glad tidings of salvation through Christ.

While recently reading The Life of David Brainerd I was struck with the intense nature of his relationship with the Lord Jesus. It took Brainerd a year or so to see, by God’s sheer grace, that his obedience and law keeping could never save him. But after being born again, Brainerd’s own personal walk with Christ reads like a fervent love affair between a man and a woman.

While at Lebanon, Connecticut in November, 1742 he says that God of late has been pleased to keep his soul hungry almost continually so that he was filled with a kind of pleasing pain. In preparing to go to the Kaunaumeek Indians, residing half way between Stockbridge, Massachusetts and Albany, New York, Brainerd said on November 27, 1742, ‘Surely I may well love all my brethren; for none of them all is so vile as I; whatever they do outwardly, yet it seems to me none is conscious of so much guilt before God. O my leanness, my barrenness, my carnality, and past bitterness, and want of a gospel temper! These things oppress my soul. Rode from New York, thirty miles, to White Plains, and most of the way continued lifting up my heart to God for mercy and purifying grace; and spent the evening much dejected in spirit.’

However, while feeling dejected and estranged from God, Brainerd was able to write on December 1, ‘My soul breathed after God, in sweet spiritual and longing desires of conformity to him, and was brought to rest itself on his rich grace, and felt strength and encouragement to do or suffer anything, that divine providence should allot me.’

As he came to the Kaunaumeek in April of 1743 he wrote, ‘I was greatly exercised with inward trials, and seemed to have no God to go to. O that God would help me.’ A few days later he wrote, ‘In the morning was again distressed as soon as I awaked.’ Later Brainerd writes, ‘In the morning I enjoyed some sweet repose and rest in God; felt some strength and confidence in him; and my soul was in some measure refreshed and comforted.’

Brainerd’s zeal for Christ is instructive in a number of ways. First, he came to understand that his salvation rested only on what Christ had done on the cross for him. He knew that he was in Christ. This, however, did not stop him from being deeply agitated when he felt that his sin had brought separation between him and the lover of his soul. He is like the bride in Song of Solomon who longs for her groom, yearning for him to come and make love to her, the one whom she loves with her whole being. She is grieved, agitated in her heart when she believes her behavior has driven him from her. Our pursuit of Jesus ought to be marked with a similar intensity. We ought to be so sensitive to the Spirit’s presence that His absence immediately causes us to recognize this, to take great pains to restore our fellowship with Him.

Consider this-before you were married, you pursued with great zeal the one whom you wished to marry. You read every letter carefully. You parsed every conversation, every note, wanting to discern the degree of love your special one had for you. If anything seemed to breach that love, then you were desperate to do what it took to remove the obstacle.

Unfortunately, after you were married, if you are like most married people, this zeal to remove any offense to your spouse slowly dissipated. You began to take for granted your spouse’s love for you, and you took liberty with this love, perhaps going days or weeks without making overtures of forgiveness and restoration of a loving, affectionate relationship. You thought, ‘I am married. I know I love my wife and she loves me. That ought to be good enough.’ But that is a very poor marriage and one that will die if that assumption continues.

You, likewise, are married to Christ by virtue of His death and resurrection. Nothing can alter the eternal bonds of His covenant on your life and soul. How foolish, however, to take for granted that relationship, to assume that you can live any way you wish, neglecting Him, flagrantly disobeying Him. You will suffer the pains of estrangement, if you continue in your folly, when He deserts you-like the bride in Song of Solomon. You will long for Him but not be able to find Him. Has He left you eternally? No, if indeed you are in Christ; but persistent, willful rebellion may eventually result in your apostasy from the faith, proving that you never had true faith in the first place.

The power of David Brainerd’s short life, the remarkable usefulness to God with the heathen Indians of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut came from his intense love affair with Jesus. Brainerd would not settle for a mere relationship based on the grace of justification. Knowing his own fleshly vileness and perverse tendencies, he found it necessary to seek God daily, to draw near to Him, to humble himself in the presence of God. He sought Christ in prayer until he found Him.

This means a tender conscience, an abiding sensitivity when offending God, and a God inspired resolve to make things right with Him is something we need to develop. Our tendency is to treat God like we do our spouses-to presume upon our union, forgetting the beauty and necessity of a growing intimacy.

What must you do to develop such an intimate intensity? It comes down to the same things I so often mention-you must get a fresh, full, and clear sense of the vileness, corruption, and wickedness of your own flesh and indwelling sin. You must be totally ruthless concerning your sin. You must distrust completely your own assessment of your spiritual condition. Instead you must look at what God’s word says about your conduct, motives, and idols. And second you must also see the profound love of God in Christ for you. You must see the complete sufficiency of Jesus to justify, sanctify, and glorify you.

You must draw near to God, believing that He will draw near to you. When you feel far from God, seek Him until you find Him.

* * *

The Diary and Journal of David Brainerd (with preface and reflections by Jonathan Edwards) is available from the Banner of Truth Trust website.

 

REMEMBERING ERROLL HULSE (1931-2017)

Remembering Erroll Hulse (1931-2017)

August 10, 2017

On August 4th, the family informed us of the passing of Pastor Erroll Hulse in the Wetherby Manor Nursing Home. He had been cared for there recently, after suffering a stroke three and a half years ago.

Erroll was born in South Africa in 1931 and graduated in Architecture at Praetoria University. He was converted under the preaching of the Welsh Evangelist, Ivor Powell and came, with his wife Lyn, to study at London Bible College as ‘a dogmatic Arminian’.

Through the lectures of Dr E. F. Kevan, the preaching of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and the friendship of the Rev Iain Murray, he was greatly helped to accept the doctrines of grace. He later acknowledged that ‘it was the reading of the recently published commentary by Robert Haldane on Romans in five volumes (published by Jay Green) that cured me completely of Arminianism. By the end of Romans chapter three I was a firm five point Calvinist.’

With a growing conviction of the need for Reformed books, he joined with Iain Murray in the pioneer work of the Banner of Truth Trust, in 1957, acting as manager. In 1962 he accepted pastoral oversight of Cuckfield Baptist Church, continuing with the Trust until 1967, when he became full-time pastor at Cuckfield. While there he exercised a wide and varied ministry. In 1970 he launched Reformation Today magazine, serving as editor until 2013. He also organised the Carey Conference which still meets in January each year.

After leaving Cuckfield in 1985, he was Pastor of Belvidere Road Church in Liverpool for three years before joining the pastoral team at Leeds Reformed Baptist Church, in which he served until his illness.

Erroll was characterised by warmth and enthusiasm. This was evident in the preaching of the Gospel, in a great heart for evangelism, in the concern for revival, in worldwide mission interest and in the translation and distribution of Reformed writings. He was a gifted conference speaker and organised conferences all over the world. He will be particularly remembered as the inspiration behind, and the organiser of, conferences for black ministers in South Africa and elsewhere. It was during one such Conference that he took the severe stroke that handicapped him, but for three and a half years he continued his fervent interest in and prayer for mission work worldwide even from his sickbed, and was an encouragement to many who visited him.

We remember his family Sharon, Michelle, Neil and Joanne, who cared for him so lovingly. His wife Lyn predeceased him in 2013.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the formation of the Trust. We honour a colleague who was a blessing to all who knew him and played a vital role in that Reformed recovery, which has reverberated round the world.

‘Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them’ (Revelation 14.13).

* * *

The Funeral and Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Cuckfield Baptist Church, Haywards Heath, RH17 5GP at 2pm on Monday 21 August (DV).

PRAYER IS BORING

 

Prayer is boring
Aug 10, 2017 | Ray Ortlund; CHRIST IS DEEPER STILL

 

“The work of the Spirit can be compared to mining. The Spirit’s work is to blast to pieces the sinner’s hardness of heart and his frivolous opposition to God. The period of the awakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired. The time between the awakenings corresponds, on the other hand, to the time when the deep holes are bored with great effort into the hard rock.

To bore these holes is a task which tries one’s patience. To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting work. One sees ‘results’ from such work. It creates interest too; shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction. . . . .

The Spirit calls us to do the quiet, difficult, trying work of boring holy explosive material into the souls of the unconverted by daily and unceasing prayer. This is the real preparatory work for the next awakening.”

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Ole Kristian Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis, 1944), pages 76-77.

THE KEY TO THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY by R. C. Sproul

The Key to the Christian’s Joy
We have to be careful when we come to the text of the New Testament that we do not read it through the lens of the popular understanding of happiness and thus lose the biblical concept of joy.

Written by R.C. Sproul | Monday, August 7, 2017

Over and over again in the pages of the New Testament, the idea of joy is communicated as an imperative, as an obligation. Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

The word joy appears over and over again in the Scriptures. For instance, the Psalms are filled with references to joy. The psalmists write, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5b) and “Shout for joy to God, all the earth” (Ps. 66:1). Likewise, in the New Testament, we read that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), which means that it is a Christian virtue. Given this biblical emphasis, we need to understand what joy is and pursue it.

Sometimes we struggle to grasp the biblical view of joy because of the way it is defined and described in Western culture today. In particular, we often confuse joy with happiness. In the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–11), according to the traditional translations, Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.… Blessed are those who mourn.… Blessed are the meek …” (vv. 3–5, emphasis added), and so on. Sometimes, however, translators adopt the modern vernacular and tell us Jesus said happy rather than blessed. I always cringe a little when I see that, not because I am opposed to happiness, but because the word happy in our culture has been sentimentalized and trivialized. As a result, it connotes a certain superficiality. For example, years ago, Charles M. Schulz, in the comic strip Peanuts, coined the adage, “Happiness is a warm puppy,” and it became a maxim that articulated a sentimental, warm-and-fuzzy idea of happiness. Then there was the catchy song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” released by Bobby McFerrin in the 1980s. It suggested a carefree, cavalier attitude of delight.

However, the Greek word used in the Beatitudes is best translated as blessed, as it communicates not only the idea of happiness but also profound peace, comfort, stability, and great joy. So, we have to be careful when we come to the text of the New Testament that we do not read it through the lens of the popular understanding of happiness and thus lose the biblical concept of joy.

Think again about McFerrin’s song. The lyrics are very odd from a contemporary perspective. When he sings, “Don’t worry, be happy,” he is issuing an imperative, a command: “Do not be anxious. Rather, be happy.” He is setting forth a duty, not making a suggestion. However, we never think of happiness in this way. When we are unhappy, we think it is impossible to decide by an act of the will to change our feelings. We tend to think of happiness as something passive, something that happens to us and over which we have no control. It is involuntary. Yes, we desire it and want to experience it, but we are convinced that we cannot create it by an act of the will.

Oddly, McFerrin sounds very much like the New Testament when he commands his listeners to be happy. Over and over again in the pages of the New Testament, the idea of joy is communicated as an imperative, as an obligation. Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

Of course, there are times when we are filled with sorrow. Jesus Himself was called “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ” (Isa. 53:3). The Scriptures tell us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting” (Eccl. 7:2a). Even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Given that the Bible tells us it is perfectly legitimate to experience mourning, sorrow, and grief, these feelings are not sinful.

However, I want you to see that Jesus’ words could be translated as “Joyful are those who mourn.” How could a person be in mourning and still be joyful? Well, I think we can unravel that knot fairly easily. The heart of the New Testament concept is this: a person can have biblical joy even when he is mourning, suffering, or undergoing difficult circumstances. This is because the person’s mourning is directed toward one concern, but in that same moment, he possesses a measure of joy.

How Can We Rejoice Always?
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul speaks about joy and about the Christian’s duty to rejoice over and over again. For example, he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4a). This is one of those biblical imperatives, and it leaves no room for not rejoicing, for Paul says Christians are to rejoice always—not sometimes, periodically, or occasionally. He then adds, “Again I will say, Rejoice” (v. 4b). Paul wrote this epistle from prison, and in it he addresses very somber matters, such as the possibility that he will be martyred, poured out as a sacrifice (2:17). Yet he tells the Philippian believers that they should rejoice despite his circumstances.

That brings us back to this matter of how we can be joyful as a matter of discipline or of the will. How is it possible to remain joyful all the time? Paul gives us the key: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (emphasis added). The key to the Christian’s joy is its source, which is the Lord. If Christ is in me and I am in Him, that relationship is not a sometimes experience. The Christian is always in the Lord and the Lord is always in the Christian, and that is always a reason for joy. Even if the Christian cannot rejoice in his circumstances, if he finds himself passing through pain, sorrow, or grief, he still can rejoice in Christ. We rejoice in the Lord, and since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice always.

© 2017 Ligonier Ministries

 

HOW THE DEVIL SPOKE THROUGH AN APOSTLE by Ray Ortlund

 

How the devil spoke through an apostle
Aug 07, 2017 | Ray Ortlund; CHRIST IS DEEPER STILL

 

When Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the Lord replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:16-17). Peter’s declaration was not from his own mind. God illumined Peter’s mind with a new sense of the glory of Jesus. Peter’s decisiveness was the touch of grace from above.

What happened next, therefore, is all the more astonishing. When Jesus pointed to the cross, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you’” (Matt. 16:22). Peter began dictating to Jesus how world redemption was (or was not) to be gained, and no way would there be a cross! Peter’s heart must have been swelling with emotions of loyalty to Jesus. But the Lord saw what was really happening. He confronted Peter with these disturbing words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matt. 16:23).

God illumines Peter’s mind. Then Satan deceives the same Peter. Jonathan Edwards warned us: “It is a grand error for persons to think they are out of danger from the devil and a corrupt, deceitful heart, even in their highest flights and most raised frames of spiritual joy.”

Did Peter choose to lend himself to evil? No. Jesus explains how he went so wrong: “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matt. 16:23). Peter didn’t have to set his mind on the things of Satan to be useful to Satan; all he did was set his mind on the things of man. If not identical with “the things of God,” “the things of man” seem distant enough from “the things of Satan” to be plausible. But Jesus can see that the reasonable “things of man” and the horrible “things of Satan” are both opposed to the redemptive “things of God,” so diametrically opposed that “the things of man” can serve “the things of Satan.”

What then are “the things of man” that exposed Peter’s heart to Satanic evil? The understandable human instinct of self-preservation. So Jesus made it clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

Any time you and I reject the cross and, in effect, rebuke our Lord for choosing that path for himself and us, can we be sure what influence will come out of our mouths next, even if we have also served as voices for God? At that moment, we might not even be aware of the difference. Peter wasn’t, until Jesus reproached him.

Every day we face decisions that require us to die. We may find ourselves thinking a very human thought like, Far be it from me, Lord! This shall never happen to me. I cannot allow myself to lose, to be diminished, to be misunderstood and misjudged. But if we set our own preconditions on the Lord, we might hear him say to us, as in fact he said to no one less than the apostle Peter, “You are a stumbling block to me. You do not understand that new life always comes through death. If you want to follow me there, I welcome you to. But you’ll have to pick that cross back up again. Yes, the one you just threw away.”

In the dying words of the Scottish martyr John Nisbet, “Be not afraid of his sweet, lovely, and desirable cross.”