Does the Lord Delight

  • Posted on: 26 August 2018
  • By: Chris Strevel

Does the Lord Delight?

Monday, August 27

 

Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams

 ~ 1 Samuel 15:22

 

            This is a question few consider. There is a great deal of “I like” and “I want,” but very little asking, “Does the Lord delight?” “Does he like this?” “Is my life pleasing to him?” And if we ask these questions, a vital corollary follows, “How do I know that he likes this?” This question leads us to his word, for therein alone do we learn what pleases the Lord.

            The question should be personal and pressing for each of us. By it, the Lord tells us that nothing pleases him more than when we obey his voice. He had given Saul a command to destroy the Amalekites completely. Saul reserved the best of the animals for a sacrifice. The Lord said, “Your worship is nothing to me unless you are obeying my voice. Do not even try to buy me off with these trifles.”

            This is a profound insight into what priorities should dominate us. Disobedience to God’s word pushes him away from us. It makes our worship unacceptable to him. We cannot buy him with promises of reform or tears or other sacrifices. “Lord, let me do this like I want; I’ll give you something else you will like better.” Always the creature prefers to make deals than to seek God’s pleasure. But our life goal should be to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:12). Then, when our hearts are meek before him, our worship will also be pleasing to him, for we shall not bring to him our “arbitrary worship” (Col. 2:23) from a disobedient life (Mark 7:7).

            The connection is vital between obeying God’s voice and his delight in our worship. Worship itself must be guided by his word, or he will not accept it (Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:7). But the emphasis here is upon the obedient heart without which he will accept no amount of worship or heightened spiritual emotions. Many of us go astray at this point. If we could simply get back to good feelings about God, all would be well. God says, “Obey my voice; then I will delight in you and accept your worship.”

            Thus, if we want our worship to be more exuberant and fulfilling, if we would enjoy more of God’s presence and power in our corporate services, we should look first to the simple issue of obedience to his word. Are we pleasing him by obedience? Since much impurity remains in us, we must come daily to the cleansing fountain that is Jesus Christ and his blood. Confess your sins; believe God’s promise of mercy; dedicate yourself to joyful obedience. Then, bask in God’s delight!

            Nothing pleases him more than when we obey his voice. Then, our worship will please him. And in a rather amazing circle of grace and love, when we take his delight seriously, he gives us the desires of our heart – most often by sanctifying our desires and showing us that his desires are best. Obedience to him makes us truly happy! Are we obeying his voice (Matt. 15:9)? This is his great delight. May it become ours!

 

Purified Souls

Tuesday, August 28

 

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart ~ 1 Peter 1:22

 

            This is an encouraging line to hearts plagued with uncertainty. It does not say what you might think on the surface – go purify your hearts by obedience. We read many things in the Bible as saying, “Go, do,” when in fact the Lord is saying to us, “Rejoice! See what I have done!” There is a vital connection between obedience and purity when it comes to communion and growth in Christ, but the verb tense in this line indicates a purity we already possess, a perfect purity that is given to us when we believe upon the name of Jesus Christ.

            It was important for Peter to remind the believers of their already purified souls. It is likely that they faced a “fiery trial” (1 Pet. 4:12). Some of them had forgotten that they had been purified from their sins (2 Pet. 1:9) and were going back to them. Forgetting what Christ has done for us is a trap door to presumption, more sin, and resulting guilt and despair. If the sufficiency and efficacy of his sacrifice lose their hold upon our hearts, we may be tempted to pick up our old sins and even to renounce Christ.

            Thus, Peter reminded them that they had been purified. There is no better news for sinners than to hear that because of Jesus Christ’s person and work, we are without stain before God! Breathe this precious gospel air, child of God. Christ has purified you. The Holy Spirit has applied the blood of Christ to the doorposts of your heart. Our guilt before God is removed because his justice is satisfied upon his Son. We are under no condemnation. We are positively pure, righteous, through Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. This is God’s free gift, his precious gospel treasure to us. Sing and rejoice!

            Peter describes this purity as the fruit of obeying the truth. This is the gospel imperative. By raising his Son from the dead, God has given public witness that a day of judgment is coming and that Jesus Christ is that righteous Judge. Therefore, he “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Believing in Jesus is far more than a personal decision or spiritual commitment a person makes. It is the first act of gospel obedience. It is empowered by the Spirit, but it is no less obedience to God’s eternal truth. It is accomplished by the power of the word. As Jesus told his disciples, “Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

            The most important truth we are to remember in difficult times is that God has purified our souls. We are delivered from the guilt and curse of sin. Its power had been broken in our lives through the death of Jesus to the power of sin and his resurrection to newness of life. Gospel conviction of perfect purity in Jesus, before God, by the Spirit’s working, is the greatest preservative against despair and fear and carelessness. God’s great work makes us incredibly thankful and joyful, willing to obey him whatever the cost. Celebrate this purity, child of God. Your Redeemer has made you pure! Now, love him and love one another. He has purified you to love one another fervently, as he has loved us.  

 

His Name Is Jesus

Wednesday, August 29

 

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins ~ Matthew 1:21

 

            It is a strange gospel we are hearing from some quarters. Imagine a professing believer saying something like, “Yes, I believe in Jesus, but in my heart I am a thief and cannot be out in public without wanting to steal.” Or, “I am a believer, but I lust after every woman I see.” This is the kind of profession we are hearing from some. “I am a Christian and married, but in my heart I have a same-sex attraction. I do not practice these desires, but this is really who I am.”

            As Christians, we have given up any thought of self-definition. Our carnal desires do not define us. We are not “believers in Jesus” but “closet addicts” to this or that sin. Of course, the aim on the part of some is to normalize sexual deviancy of every kind, and thus these kinds of confessions are really guilt manipulation. I am suffering because the church will not let be who I really am.

            Go be who you are. No one is stopping you. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Rev. 22:11). But do not, however, insist upon having your cake and eating it too. Do not bring down the Redeemer’s gospel into your filth. Do not insult him by carrying his good name and your sins with you. His name is Jesus. He saves his people from their sins. He gives a new heart, with new and pure desires to holiness (1 Pet. 1:22).

            After cataloguing a variety of sinners – fornicators, adulterers, sodomites (passive and active forms), thieves, covetous, drunks, violent, and robbers – the Spirit says, “And such were some of you; but you are washed, you are sanctified, and you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Clearly, in Christ, there is a before and an after. Before knowing him, we are plagued, eaten up with filth; after knowing him, we are washed and cleansed from filthy desires.

            This renovation is the glory of the Christian gospel. Jesus Christ performs a heart operation upon sinners that no other religion even pretends to claim. He changes men from the inside. He breaks the hold of sin and delivers us from Satan’s slavery. This is not to say that believers are free from having to battle against the old desires, for the flesh fights back. As we fight, however, we are not permitted to say, “But I am really still a thief.” Or, “I am really a fornicator in my heart, but I have learned to live with my lusts without practicing them.” The glory of Jesus is that he breaks the hold of our sins upon our affections or desires. We fight to be who we are in Christ. We do not fight to live with our sin identity while professing him at the same time. We fight from a purified position through his imputed righteousness and with pure desires given to us by his Spirit.

            It is therefore a false gospel for professing believers to identify themselves by the destructive labels of the world still enslaved to its lusts. We must allow the gospel to be redefined by those who relabel sin as virtue. We must confess that “his name is Jesus and that he saves us from our sins.” If we are not yet delivered, the gospel call comes: “You must be born again.” If we would hold on to Christ and to our sins, then we should go the whole way and confess to a different savior with a different name. He is not Jesus Christ. The real Jesus has purified us before God, and he purifies us in life by the sanctifying power of his Spirit. This is the glorious gospel that we and our neighbors so desperately need in this age of excuse making and despair. Let us proclaim the Redeemer.

 

Christ’s Blood upon Our Children

Thursday, August 30

 

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly

 ~ Job 1:5

 

            Parents have many important duties to fulfill toward their children. We must teach them God’s mighty works and his holy word. We must “command them to keep the ways of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19). We pledge at their baptism to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” and “to set before them a godly example, to pray with and for them, and to teach them the doctrines of our holy religion.” Each of these is vital, but there is a more fundamental duty. It is the energizing foundation of the rest.

            Job continually offered to God burnt offerings for each of his adult children. He was concerned about their sins and brought before God an acceptable sacrifice for them. In those patriarchal days before an established priesthood, Job was the priest in his home. It is not that he could obtain personal cleansing for his children, but he sought to apply the blood of Christ to them through his prayers and his sacrifices.

            I say “blood of Christ,” for Job’s sacrifices were not pagan. The light of nature did not teach him about substitutionary atonement. He knew of God’s promise of a Redeemer (Job 19:25). Whether God taught him directly or he had heard through association with the believing line of men, he was persuaded that the only atonement for sin was through the sacrificial blood.

            Most pertinent for us is his practice of offering a sacrifice for each of his children. We must do the same. Daily we must plead the merits of Jesus Christ for our children. The heart of a parent’s faith in God’s covenant is that only the Redeemer’s blood can purify our children from their sins. Our rules cannot. Our discipline can correct and warn, but it cannot cleanse.

            Each day, we should bring forward the names of our children before the throne of grace. We should ask the Lord to cleanse them, to bring them to the place where they feel their need of cleansing, and claim his covenant promise to cleanse them. “I will be a God to you, and to your children after you.” “The promise is to you, and to your children.” God’s promise is not that our children will be perfect, cause us little inconvenience, or never embarrass us. We waste far too much energy worrying about the selfish side of parenting – what of me, my honor, the family credit, my weariness. Job tirelessly offered blood for his children, and so must we – by believing God’s promise, committing each one of them to the safekeeping of our Savior, and asking him to cleanse them by his blood.

            Covering them with Christ’s blood in this way sustains our hope and joy in the difficult duties of parenting. It will improve our attitudes toward them. Can we be impatient, angry, or neglectful of those whose names we have brought before the throne of grace for the Lamb’s cleansing? And then, when there seems to be long delay in God fulfilling his promise, or even if we die not seeing them run to Christ, we can rest with our fathers knowing that we have taken God at his word and wrestled for their souls before him. Nothing is as precious as the blood of Christ. Covering our children with his blood by faith places them squarely before God’s mercy. There is no safer place for them to be and no more quiet place for our hearts to rest than in this cleansing fountain.

 

The Father’s Promise

Friday, August 31

 

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me;  "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” ~ Acts 1:4-5

 

            If we could step back for a moment to survey the entire scope of God’s creation of the world, our fall into sin, and our Savior’s redemption, a surprising blessing would begin to take shape. A whisper of it is found in Eden – God walked and talked with us in the cool of the day. Fellowship with God! He made us for this: to have life with him each day, for his words to stir our soul and give purpose and direction to our lives. And we gave it all up because we listened to the devil.

            God did not give us up. He has been working from the beginning, slowly and quietly most often, but sometimes with great energy, to restore us to this fellowship of God indwelling, God with us, God walking and talking with us. This is the Father’s promise for which our resurrected Savior told his church to wait and pray – the Holy Spirit.

            Words fail to express how much his coming and presence and work were on our Savior’s heart during those last days before his passion. He wanted to finish his work and depart so that we would have this promise, this seal of redemption accomplished, cleansing obtained, and communion restored. He even said that his departure to heaven was more necessary than his physical presence so that we would have this promised gift.

            And we now have the Holy Spirit, God himself indwelling. He has definitively come and dwells with us, making us God’s temple. He applies personally and powerfully the merits and cleansing of Jesus Christ’s finished sacrifice to our hearts and lives. He strengthens and comforts us. He teaches and rebukes us. He personally sanctifies us. He intercedes for us, for we do not know for what to pray, but he knows the mind and will of God. He is God. He is the blessing of Eden restored – God’s walking and talking with us throughout the day.

            Can we dare to say that the fall, covenants of promise unfolding throughout the older covenant, the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and even his cross, have this highest purpose and goal: for us to have God’s abiding presence? Yes, we must say it, or reject our Savior’s great hope in the Upper Room and the reason he gave his life for us. It was to give us abundant life – the life of God in our soul by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating, illuminating, and sanctifying presence. So great is this promise that the Spirit will one day raise our mortal bodies to be whole and wholly fit to enjoy God forever.

            Therefore, let us not walk around with drooping spirits. We have God the Spirit indwelling. Let us not grieve him by sin. Let us walk with him in his word, asking him to teach us. Let us pray in the hope that he is also interceding for us, making our prayers what they ought to be. Since we have this promise, let us sing and rejoice. To have the Spirit of Christ is to have Christ himself, with all his cleansing grace, his strength unto holiness, and his joy in obedience. We are not alone. God is walking with us, helping us at every step, and filling us with his love and peace. The Father kept his promise.  

 

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