Sunday, October 30, 2016

Christ's Greatest Trophy
by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Edited and Prefaced by Dr. Riktor Von Zhades

What you are about to read and to study this Sunday, is based on the Gospel of Luke 23:39-43. This editor here, has always maintained the idea that the thief, was one of Christ’s first redeemed of sinners. This is to say that He recognized his sin, confessed it, sought and asked for forgiveness, which our Savior immediately granted, even though He Himself was suffering on the cross.

The blood that covers our sins, and is the atonement of the aforementioned, is powerful. One is here reminded of the old hymn; “
there is power, power, wondrous working power, in the blood of the lamb.”

And also a Gospel song;
“And I know, yes I know, Jesus blood can make the vilest sinner clean”1

So herein below is a sermon which indeed expounds, so much better than this editor could ever hope to do, about the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.

39 And one of the evildoers, which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be that Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answered, and rebuked him, saying, Fearest thou not God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 We are indeed righteously here: for we receive things worthy of that we have done: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 Then Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

There are few passages in the New Testament which are more familiar to men’s ears than the verses which head this message. They contain the well known story of ‘the penitent thief.’

And it is right and good that these verses should be well known. They have comforted many troubled minds; they have brought peace to many uneasy consciences; they have been a healing balm to many wounded hearts; they have been a medicine to many sin–sick souls; they have smoothed down not a few dying pillows. Wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, they will always be honored, loved and had in remembrance.

I wish to say something about these verses. I will try to unfold the Leading lesson which they are meant to teach. I cannot see the peculiar mental state of anyone into whose hands this message may fall. But I can see truths in this passage which no man can ever know too well. Here is the greatest trophy which Christ ever won; [That Christ had the power and willingness to save sinners]

This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches us that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it: it teaches us that Jesus Christ is ‘mighty to save’ (Read Isaiah 63:1).

I ask anyone to say whether a case could look more hopeless and desperate than that of this penitent thief once did.

He was a wicked man, a malefactor, a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked, for at first, when he was crucified, he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered; the grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death.

If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first; he began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom’. He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change!

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved; but it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy; but it proved not too late at all. The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer, spoke kindly to him, assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise, pardoned him completely, cleansed him thoroughly from his sins, received him graciously, justified him freely, raised him from the gates of hell, gave him a title to glory. Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list, from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to him as these ‘Today shall you be with Me in paradise.’

I believe the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that He was a strong deliverer. In the hour when His body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now, have I not a right to say, ‘Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him?’ (Read Hebrews 7:25) Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say, ‘Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none?’ Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, ‘By grace you may be saved through faith, not of works fear not, only believe?’, [Read Romans 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:5, 8].Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized; he belonged to no visible church; he never received the Lord’s Supper; he never did any work for Christ; he never gave money to Christ’s cause! But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, ‘The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true,? Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old; but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a Physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago, [Read Hebrews 13:8]. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good and loved evil all the days of your life? These things are sad indeed, but there is hope, even for you. Christ can heal you, Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief come to Christ and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy, [Read Luke 1:77-79]. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool, [See footnote below].Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ and live.

Are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence., [ Read Proverbs 3:5]. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas, the best of us know but little of that merciful and mighty Savior. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fullness there is in Him.

Do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant’ tell the sick, tell the dying—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love; tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings; tell them what He has done for the chief of sinners; tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time; tell it them over and over again. Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ, as the penitent thief did; come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.’, [Read Romans 10:13]

1 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins were as crimson, they shall be made white as snow: though they were red like scarlet, they shall be as wool” -Isaiah 1:18

Sunday, October 23, 2016

God is Worth of Confidence
by Albert Barnes 1798-1870
Prefaced & Edited by Dr. Riktor Von Zhades


Recently, a very good friend of mine had confided and placed in my trust an episode of a crisis of faith. Both he and his spouse had been, these past few months on an emotional roller coaster ride. I will not expound upon the reasons and circumstances as to the what and why, but suffice to say, they were drained, and their faith and trust in Him were basically extinguished. He confessed that his flame, if it even existed at all, was in his words, the size of the pilot light on a stove.

He questioned God for the reasons, and felt, that he had heard no answers, other than silence. Stating such, he reasoned to himself that the answer was no. (One might digress herein that sometimes the answers to prayers, are indeed no). By this past midweek, he had pretty much given up, and had decided to forgo his daily readings and studies until such time as he could feel restore his belief, if ever he could restore it. It was made known to him that such was not a good idea, and in fact quite the opposite should be done, and that is to run towards our God, and not away. Yet he was rather inconsolable. What, he asked had he done, that had made God turn from him, and allowed him to suffer.

However there is good news! That same day (during that midweek day, later on of course), he received very good news, a blessing of huge proportions from those who had somehow found out about his plight. Needless to say, as he had immediately contacted me, he was stunned by this news. For surely said he, “that he could not fathom HOW anyone would have known, and more incredibly, WHY anyone would be willing to help.” This man is slowly back on his way towards restoration. He has confessed his doubts, has sought forgiveness for them, and thanked Him for such mercy in resolving the situation.

So today, with this in mind we read as sermon, based on the The Book of Job Chapter 22:21

Therefore acquaint thyself, I pray thee, with him, and make peace: thereby thou shalt have prosperity.
GNV Translation Ed. 1599

Please! You be careful! And with Him be at peace for in them, shall good come to you
Hebrew Interlinear Translation (Scripture 4 All Website)

The case to which the text refers was this: Eliphaz—who addresses these words to Job— supposed that he was wholly a stranger to the true God; that he had altogether erroneous views of his government; that he regarded him as harsh and severe in his administration, and as unworthy of confidence. In his sufferings, Job had at some times indulged in remarks of considerable severity on the divine dealings. This was by no means the prevailing character of the man; but it was so interpreted by his friends, and Eliphaz now designs to assure him that he could never find peace until he should become more acquainted with the divine character, and should feel that God was worthy of confidence. He proceeds, therefore, in a.most beautiful manner to exhort him to be reconciled to God, and portrays the benefits which would result from such reconciliation. The meaning is, 'Become truly acquainted with the character and government of God. You have now no just views of him. You regard him as harsh, severe, tyrannical. You murmur, and complain, and are wretched.- Estranged from him, you must be miserable. But it is not too late to repent and return to him; and in so doing you will find peace.' Eliphaz—however improperly he applied this to Job—has here stated a doctrine which has been confirmed by all the subsequent revelations in the Bible, and by all experience, that happiness follows reconciliation with God, and that true peace is found only there. This doctrine must have been understood as early as religion was known after the fall. Man became alienated from God by the apostasy, and consequently miserable; and peace was to be found again only by reconciliation with him.

There are two great difficulties in the minds of men. The one is, they have no just views of the character and government of God; and the second is, if his true character is made known to them, they have no pleasure in it—no confidence in it. Both these difficulties must be removed before man can he reconciled to his Maker. No small part of the difficulty will be removed if we can show him that the character of God is such as to deserve his confidence.

I believe that the great difficulty with men is, that they have no confidence in God. This is the source of all our woe. Man" does not believe that the God of the Bible is worthy to be the Sovereign of the universe; that his government is equal; and that the terms of his favors are the best that could be. He confides in his own understanding rather than in God; forms his own plan of religion rather than embrace the one which God has revealed; and relies on his own merits for salvation rather than on the merits of him whom God has sent. .He goes not to him in perplexity; asks not his support in sickness; relies not on him in-the hour of death. The great evil in this world is a want of confidence in God; —a want of confidence producing the same disasters there which it does in a commercial community, and in the relations of domestic life. The great thing needful to make this a happy world is to restore confidence in the Creator—confidence, the great restorer of happiness every where. [Read Hebrews 10:22-23]

Now, men can never be reconciled to God unless this confidence shall be restored. You and your neighbor are at variance. The dispute has been bitter and long. There has been a misunderstanding, and dissatisfaction, and a lawsuit, and a long strife resulting in a confirmed alienation. Now, suppose, in this difficulty, you are wholly right, and your neighbor wholly wrong. You have really done him no injury. You have not been unwilling to be on terms of friendship with him. But a long train of circumstances, which you could not have well controlled, has operated to make him misunderstand your character, or suspect your motives. Evil minded men have for their own ends misrepresented you. They have reported to him things which you have not said, and they have magnified trifles until they seem to be mountains. Affairs have come to such a state, that he has no confidence in you, and believes your character to be wholly unworthy of respect. Now what is to be done in the case to bring about reconciliation? Not that you are to change your character. Not that you are to make acknowledgments where no wrong has been done. It is to restore to his mind just confidence in yourself— to explain matters; to show him what you are; to undo the evils which busy-bodies have done in giving him a wrong impression of you ;—and if, back of all this, he has had hard thoughts of you without the show of reason, and simply because he does not like a character of honesty and truth, he is to lay all that aside. Then peace would be restored. This is what is to be done in religion. It-is to convince men that God is worthy of confidence ;—and that all that has been said by infidels, and skeptics, and scoffers against him, is unjust and wrong; and then, if back of all these false representations of the character of God, you have been cherishing, any feelings hostile to his real character, to entreat you to lay them aside. This would be reconciliation. Why should a man wish to cherish any hard thoughts of God without the shadow of reason of hating Him?

[An additional] source of liability to error in judging of the character of God is, that we always regard ourselves as the aggrieved and injured party. We do not allow ourselves to suppose it possible that God should be right and we wrong;. but whatever injury is done, we allow ourselves to suppose has been done by him. If God treats us as if we were great sinners, we do not allow ourselves for a moment to suppose that we are such, but instantly revert to our ideas of our own morality and integrity; if he threatens to punish us forever in hell, we do not allow ourselves for a moment to suppose that we deserve such a treatment; but regard it at once as proof that he is arbitrary and stern; and while this is the case, how is it possible for a man to put confidence in God, or to feel that he ought to be reconciled to him? His opposition he regards as in no small degree meritorious; and he feels that he would be wanting in self-respect to cherish any other views of his Maker than he actually does.

It is not merely that we-do not understand his true character, but it is that we are not pleased with that character when it is understood. We have by nature no pleasure in God. He is too holy, too just, too pure, too true, to satisfy creatures such as we are; and there is no fact better established, in the history of man, account for it as you may, and draw what inferences from it you choose, than that man by nature has a strong opposition to the character of God, even when that character is understood. He does not like to retain him in his knowledge. He loves sin too much, and hates restraint, and desires his own gratification, and has no sympathy with the divine perfections and attributes. Now, with this state of mind, he looks on God and all that he does, through a distorted medium^ and is constantly seeking some ground of accusation; something that shall to him answer the purpose of self-defense.

[However], faith rests mainly on God's own word; on the testimony of himself in regard to his real character and plans; on the assurances which [is found] there, that, notwithstanding all the difficulties in the case, he is holy, true, just, good, and worthy of universal love and confidence. It is the assurance of him who knows his own character, and who declares most solemnly that all that he does is consistent with the rules of eternal equity and right. He has given what [one should] believe to be a revelation of his character, and has made such declarations respecting it as to claim the confidence of mankind. Here my mind rests. Conscious of my liability to err; knowing how short-sighted I am; feeling that man must be incompetent to sit in judgment on the government and plans of God; and knowing that there may be developments yet that shall make all that is now dark, clear; all that is obscure, light, [therefore] I put my trust in his assurances, and the mind finds repose. But [it is to be found] also in his government, as it is actually administered, not a little to confirm this confidence, and to calm the distresses of the soul.

The government of God is one of law; always presumptive proof that a government is worthy of confidence. It is not a government of mere will, or caprice; not a government of passion, and therefore not one of arbitrary tyranny. Where there is law which is known, and which is rigidly adhered to, there may be confidence. It shows that the sovereign has confidence himself in his own principles; that he is willing that they should be known; that he does not mean to be governed by caprice. He publishes his principles of administration, and submits them to the -world; and in such a fact there, is proof that there is stability. A mob is, governed by no law; a tyrant is controlled by no principle but his will; or if laws are proclaimed, they are proclaimed only to be set aside by caprice. But it is not so with God. His is a government of law, and has been from the beginning. We know what he requires; we know what he will do in given circumstances. Those laws are not set aside by will; they are not disregarded by caprice or passion. In such a government there is presumptive ground, at least, for confidence.

That government is stable and firm. What it is in one place it is in another. What he requires of one he requires of all; what he forbids in one place he does every where. What he prohibits in heaven, he does on earth and in hell; what he approves in heaven, he approves in all worlds. What in one generation he approves or forbids, he approves or forbids in all; what in one complexion or climate, he does every where. Virtue that he rewards in one age, he rewards in all; and vice that he punishes in one clime, he punishes every where. The deed that excites his displeasure beneath rags, excites his displeasure beneath the purple; and the victim that he smiles upon on the throne, pleases him not less in the cottage. The light which comes to our eye from the Sun, is governed by the same laws as the light which is borne from the remotest star; and the same laws apply to water on the rose-bud and in the dew-drop which control it in the deep ocean. We know, therefore, what to expect. We see a government that is settled and firm; and such a government has at least some of the elements to produce confidence. [Read Hebrews 13:8 James 1:17]

All the operations of his government, and all his laws, tend to promote the welfare of his subjects. None are originally designed to produce misery; none do produce misery except when violated. There are, for example, certain laws pertaining to health. They require temperance, purity, industry, absence from exciting and violent passions. All these laws tend to the welfare of the individual, and if obeyed, injure no one. There are certain laws pertaining to the acquisition of property. These laws, if obeyed, injure no one, but would promote the welfare of all. These are laws requiring truth, honesty, temperance, chastity, love, kindness, charity. None are injured by their observance. None ever have been. None ever will be. It is a matter of the clearest demonstration,, that if all those laws had been observed in the exact sense of their requirements from the creation of the universe, no one would have been injured by them; and you cannot find one of the laws of his kingdom whose observance would not have been attended with benefit, or where its violation has not been, an injury sooner or later. This is so clear that it needs no argument; and is not such a government worthy of confidence? Has it not a claim on the love and obedience of those who are its subjects? To see the full force of this, you have only to remember that it was in the power of God to have made laws directly the reverse, and to have so ordained them that the observance of each one would have been followed with a sigh or a groan. When I suffer, therefore, and when, under the influence of suffering, I am disposed to complain of God, let me remember that that suffering is somehow connected with the violation of law, and that the Creator has ordained no law, in the exact observance of which such misery would have followed. la such a God, and in such a government, can we see no reasons for confidence?

[There is] one other remark only to make now—for the time will not admit of more. It is, that they who know most of the character and government of God, and who are best qualified to judge, repose most entire confidence in him. Angels in heaven doubt not his goodness, and mercy, and truth, and in their bosoms there dwells no distrust. Multitudes on earth who were once alienated and even miserable because they were alienated; who murmured against God, and who, in murmuring, found no relief; and who rebelled in the day of adversity, and thus plunged themselves into deeper sorrows, have returned, and now see that he is worthy of their highest trust. Since their return; since they have become 'acquainted' with him, they have been at peace. They have not doubted that he was qualified to rule ; and they have committed to him the interest dearest to mortals—the interest of the immortal soul—and felt that all was safe. Prophets and apostles did this; confessors and martyrs did it; and there are tens of thousands now on earth, and millions in heaven who have done it. God they have found true to his promises. The afflicted have found him a support; the dying have leaned on his arm; and the living now find him all that the heart desires to find in their God. I make use of this as an argument. It is the argument of history; of experience. You will not doubt that it is a legitimate argument, for they have had all the feelings of distrust, and complaining, and murmuring, which any can have now, and they have passed through all the circumstances which we can conceive of to test our confidence in God. It has been enough. They have been upheld, and have found it true that he would 'never leave nor forsake them.'

[Henceforth let us make it our] duty to be reconciled to God; a duty to him, for his government is just and right, and opposition to him is wrong. [For] it is unwise to maintain the state of mind in which many indulge; chafed and fretted against God, and yet using no means to ascertain his true character, and to be at peace. The world is doing its Creator great injustice. It charges him with cruelty and wrong; holds him to be unworthy of confidence and love; is filled with hard thoughts and fretted feelings; and is venting complaints and murmuring. Thousands murmur in their hearts; thousands complain openly; thousands curse him on his throne. What a [sad] world [indeed], for it is foolish as well as wicked to resist him. What can resistance avail against almighty power?! Justice and wisdom, truth and love constrain us, therefore, say to each one of you, 'Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace!'

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Duty of Searching the Scriptures
by George Whitefield (1714-1770)
Prefaced & Edited by Dr. Riktor Von Zhades

39 Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think to have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. 40 But ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
The Gospel of John 5:39-40


It is part of our required service to Him that hast saved us. To read the Word, in order that we might become more knowledgeable of Him, and more complete in Him. That we might daily see new parts to the reborn servant added to our already increasing armor in order that we might forsake the things of the flesh and more tightly embrace the things of the spirit. In it we must learn to place our trust, no matter the outward appearances of circumstance. Admittedly, it is a hard row to hoe, but we must, daily, endeavor to persevere in the searching of His powerful word.
Dr, Riktor Von Zhades - Humble disciple in the service of The King

How few copy after the example of Christ. How many are there who do not regard the word of God at all, but throw the sacred oracles aside, as an antiquated book, fit only for illiterate men. Such do greatly err, not knowing what the scriptures are, I shall, therefore, first, Show, that it is every one's duty to search them. And secondly, Lay down some directions for you to search them with advantage.

It is every person's duty to search the Scriptures

By the Scriptures, it is understood the law and the prophets, and those books which have in all ages been accounted canonical, and which make up that volume commonly called the Bible. These are emphatically stiled the Scriptures, and, in one place, the "Scriptures of Truth," as though no other books deserved the name of true writings or scripture in comparison of them. They are not of any private interpretation, authority, or invention, but holy men of old wrote them, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. [Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17] The fountain of God's revealing himself thus to man-kind, was our fall in Adam, and the necessity of our new birth in Christ Jesus. And if we search the scriptures as we ought, we shall find the sum and substance, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of them, is to lead us to a knowledge of these two great truths. [Read Romans 5:12-15]

All the threats, promises and precepts, all the exhortations and doctrines contained therein, all the rites, ceremonies and sacrifices appointed under the Jewish law; nay, almost all the historical parts of holy scripture, suppose our being fallen in Adam, and either point out to us a Mediator to come, or speak of him as already come in the flesh. Had man continued in a state of innocence, he would not have needed an outward revelation, because the law of God was so deeply written in the tables of his heart. But having eaten the forbidden fruit, he incurred the displeasure of God, and lost the divine image, and, therefore, without an external revelation, could never tell how God would be reconciled unto him, or how he should be saved from the misery and darkness of his fallen nature. [Read Hebrews 4:15, 8:6, 12:24]

For unless we are fallen creatures, whence those abominable corruptions which daily arise in our hearts? We could not come thus corrupt out of the hands of our Maker, because he being goodness itself could make nothing but what is like himself, holy, just, and good.* And that we want to be delivered from these disorders of our nature, is evident, because we find an unwillingness within ourselves to own we are thus depraved, and are always striving to appear to others of a quite different frame and temper of mind than what we are.

I appeal to the experience of the most learned disputer against divine revelation, whether he does not find in himself, that he is naturally proud, angry, revengeful, and full of other passions contrary to the purity, holiness, and long suffering of God. And is not this a demonstration that some way or other he is fallen from God? And I appeal also, whether at the same time that he finds these hurtful lusts in his heart, he does not strive to seem amiable, courteous, kind and affable [friendly, good-natured, easy-going]; and is not this a manifest proof, that he is sensible he is miserable, and wants, he knows not how, to be redeemed or delivered from it?

Here then, God by his word steps in, and opens to his view such a scene of divine love, and infinite goodness in the holy scriptures, that none but men, of such corrupt and reprobate minds as our modern deists, would shut their eyes against it. What does God in his written word do more or less, than show thee, O man, how thou art fallen into that blindness, darkness, and misery, of which thou feelest and complainest? [Read Romans 2:1-3] And, at the same time, he points out the way to what thou desirest, even how thou mayest be redeemed out of it by believing in, and copying after the Son of his love. As I told you before, so I tell you again, upon these two truths rest all divine revelation. It being given us for no other end, but to show our misery, and our happiness; our fall and recovery; or, in one word, after what manner we died in Adam, and how in Christ we may again be made alive.[Read John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23] Hence, then arises the necessity of searching the scriptures: for since they are nothing else but the grand charter of our salvation, the revelation of a covenant made by God with men in Christ, and a light to guide us into the way of peace; it follows, that all are obliged to read and search them, because all are equally fallen from God, all equally stand in need of being informed how they must be restored to, and again united with him.

How foolishly then do the disputing people of this generation act, who are continually either calling for signs from heaven, or seeking for outward evidence to prove the truth of divine revelation? Whereas, what they so earnestly seek for is nigh unto, nay, within them. For let them but consult their own hearts, they cannot but feel what they want. Let them but consult the lively oracles of God, and they cannot but see a remedy revealed for all their wants, and that the written word does as exactly answer the wants and desires of their hearts, as face answers to face in the water. Where then is the scribe, where is the wise, where is the solidity of the reasoning of the disputers of this world? Has not God revealed himself unto them, as plain as their own hearts could wish? And yet they require a sign: but there shall no other sign be given them. For if they believe not a revelation which is every way so suited to their wants, neither will they be persuaded though on should rise from the dead. [Read Proverbs 4;3; Matthew 12:34; Luke 16:19-31]

But this discourse is not designed so much for them that believe not, as for them, who both know and believe that the scriptures contain a revelation which came from God, and that it is their duty, as being chief parties concerned, not only to read but search them also.

How you may search the scriptures with advantage
Have always in view, the end for which the scriptures were written, even to show us the way of salvation, by Jesus Christ. "Search the scriptures," says our blessed Lord, "for they are they that testify of me." Look, therefore, always for Christ in the scripture. He is the treasure hid in the field, both of the Old and New Testament. In the Old, you will find him under prophesies, types, sacrifices, and shadows; in the New, manifested in the flesh, to become a propitiation for our sins as a Priest, and as a Prophet to reveal the whole will of his heavenly Father. Have Christ, then, always in view when you are reading the word of God, and this, like the star in the east, will guide you to the Messiah, will serve as a key to every thing that is obscure, and unlock to you the wisdom and riches of all the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Search the scriptures with an humble child-like disposition. For whosoever does not read them with this temper, shall in no wise enter into the knowledge of the things contained in them. For God hides the sense of them, from those that are wise and prudent in their own eyes, and reveals them only to babes in Christ: who think they know nothing yet as they ought to know; who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and humbly desire to be fed with the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. Fancy yourselves, therefore, when you are searching the scriptures, especially when you are reading the New Testament, to be with Mary sitting at the feet of the holy Jesus; and be as willing to learn what God shall teach you, as Samuel was, when he said, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."

Oh that the unbelievers would pull down every high thought and imagination that exalts itself against the revealed will of God! O that they would, like new-born babes, desire to be fed with the pure milk of the word! Then we should have them no longer scoffing at Divine revelation, nor would they read the Bible any more with the same intend the Philistines brought our Samson, to make sport at it; but they would see the divine image and superscription written upon every line They would hear God speaking unto their souls by it, and, consequently, be built up in the knowledge and fear of him, who is the Author thereof.

Search the scriptures, with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read. A desire to do the will of God is the only way to know it; if any man will do my will, says Jesus Christ, "He shall know of my doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." [Read Jeremiah42:5-6; John 8:28-29] As he also speaks in another place to his disciples, "To you, (who are willing to practice your duty) it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to those that are without (who only want to raise cavils against my doctrine) all these things are spoken in parables, that seeing they may see and not understand, and hearing they may hear and not perceive." For it is but just in God to send those strong delusions, that they may believe a lie, and to conceal the knowledge of himself from all such as do not seek him with a single intention. [2 Thessalonians 2:11]

Jesus Christ is the same now, as formerly, to those who desire to know from his word, who he is that they may believe on, and live by; and to him he will reveal himself as clearly as he did to the woman of Samaria, when he said, "I that speak to thee am he," or as he did to the man that was born blind, whom the Jews had cast out for his name's sake, "He that talketh with thee, is he." But to those who consult his word with a desire neither to know him, nor keep his commandments, but either merely for their entertainment, or to scoff at the simplicity of the manner in which he is revealed, to those, I say, he never will reveal himself, though they should search the scriptures to all eternity. As he never would tell those whether he was the Messiah or not, who put that question to him either out of curiosity, or that they might have whereof to accuse him. [Read Luke 22:70-71]

In order to search the scriptures still more effectually, make an application of every thing you read to your own hearts.** For whatever was written in the book of God, was written for our learning. And what Christ said unto those aforetime, we must look upon as spoken to us also: for since the holy scriptures are nothing but a revelation from God, how fallen man is to be restored by Jesus Christ: all the precepts, threats, and promises, belong to us and to our children, as well as to those, to whom they were immediately made known.

Thus the Apostle, when he tells us that he lived by the faith of the Son of God, adds, "who died and gave himself for me." It is this application of Jesus Christ to our hearts, that makes his redemption effectual to each of us. And it is this application of all the doctrinal and historical parts of scripture, when we are reading them over, that must render them profitable to us, as they were designed for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to make every child of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.

I dare appeal to the experience of every spiritual reader of holy writ, whether or not, if he consulted the word of God in this manner, he was not at all times and at all seasons, as plainly directed how to act, as though he had consulted the Urim and Thummim, which was upon the high- priest's breast. For this is the way God now reveals himself to man: not by making new revelations, but by applying general things that are revealed already to every sincere reader's heart.

And this, by the way, answers an objection made by those who say, "The word of God is not a perfect rule of action, because it cannot direct us how to act or how to determine in particular cases, or what place to go to, when we are in doubt, and therefore, the Spirit, and not the word, is to be our rule of action." But this I deny, and affirm on the contrary, that God at all times, circumstances, and places, though never so minute, never so particular, will, if we diligently seek the assistance of his Holy Spirit, apply general things to our hearts, and thereby, to use the words of the holy Jesus, will lead us into all truth, and give us the particular assistance we want [or need]

*Editor’s notation - We were created in all aspects of His image; those being righteousness, justice, mercy, love, truth and all others of both a physical and spiritual nature. Therefore as such, the sinful nature of our beings cannot come from Him.
** Editor’s notation - Meditation upon His word during the waking hours and when we take our rest and refreshment at night.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Why the Old Testament is Relevant Today 
by Doktor Riktor Von Zhades
Many Christians tend to overlook the Old Testament, or worse tend to dismiss it as a book that is no longer relevant to their lives. Some see it as one pastor had written that it was full of thou shall and shall not, and others as a book of laws, impossible to live under, but it didn’t matter because all who are saved are under the blood of Jesus.
Certainly there is a smidgen of truth about trying to live perfectly under the law,as no one has, and ever will with the exception of course of our Savior. However, those that endeavor to do so will find themselves practicing legalism instead of the mercy, forgiveness and grace, as required by God. Such were the pharisees, who Christ pointed out as men living as rotting tombs, clean on the outside, decayed and corrupt on the inside. But friends, the Old Testament is still most important, for it is part of the unifying factor of our beliefs.
Consider then today, how we as a nation that have our laws based on Judeo-Christian thought, have fallen away from God’s word. We have forgotten the warnings of Moses, of Joshua, the prophets and many other contributers about doing such. Seemingly God no longer has first place in our hearts, as we are distracted by so many other things. Politics, as one example has torn away our once strong beliefs and has fractured us into a continuance of ever smaller pieces until even our own identities are suspect to ourselves.
J. Phillip Yancy1 has noted in his writings that all of this has happened in our prosperity as a nation. In particular he cites the Book of Ecclesiastes on how the author states that all is vanity, that it is all meaningless unless we first and foremost revere and seek God.2 Moses, (Read Deuteronomy Chapter 28) near the end of his life had given the children of Israel a dire warning that basically came down to this: Follow God and live, deny Him and be cursed. Likewise Joshua (Read Joshua 24:15) had written that he and his house would choose God.
Dear reader, it is therefore urged by this editor, that you return to your first love, put Him as your prime reason for doing all things. (Read Revelation 2:1-5) Do not cease to pray for our nation, and it's leaders, and for all people in and about it.

1 J. Phillip Yancy “The Bible that Jesus Read”
2 I would add here that we no long follow the major requirement of God by not loving others and not loving God. Without these two we cannot succeed. - Dr. RVZ

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Not My Own Righteousness
by Phil Johnson - Pastor Grace Community Church
Preface & Edited by Dr. Riktor Von Zhades


This editor has often times stressed the fact, and it is indeed fact, that you simply cannot ever work your way into heaven. Our works are naught but filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God that is reckoned unto us by the sacrifice of our Savior and Redeemer Christ Jesus.

Yes it is indeed nice to do good, and we are encouraged by God’s word to do good works, and at all times and likewise not repaying evil for evil, but blessing those that curse you. (Read Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:17) But these good works even the non-believers do as well, for even the most hardened criminal will love his own family and friends.

Thus it behooves us to continually remember that it is our faith our belief in Him who raised Christ from the dead that grants us His righteousness. Nothing else that we can do can achieve that goal. Therefore make note of the sermon below and read the scripture upon which it is based Dr. Riktor Von Zhades - Humble disciple in the service of our King: Christ Jesus.

“9 And be found in him, not having my own Tzedek
1, but the Tzedek 2 through emunah3 in Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, the Tzidkat Hashem based upon emunah” Orthodox Jewish Translation - Online Edition 2002

We’re going to look at Philippians chapter 3 and I want to introduce that by sort of reminding you of an incident at the end of Moses’ life. Moses gathered the Israelites and gave them a series of long speeches. They had reached the end of those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They were about to enter the Promised Land and conquer the Canaanites who lived there. They were going to take their possession of the land that God had promised to Abraham. And among the things Moses said to them was this, from Deuteronomy chapter 9. I’m going to read three verses and I want you to listen, you don’t need to even turn there, but you listen to this and listen if you catch the phrase that’s repeated in every one of these three verses. Deuteronomy 9, verses 4 through 6.

Do not say in your heart after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land.’ Whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you, not because of your righteousness, or the uprightness of your heart, or you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you and that He may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know therefore that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness. For you are a stubborn people.”

Now the principle that is summed up in those repeated words, three times Moses repeats it, “Not because of your righteousness,”4 that’s the same principle that lies at the heart of the Apostle Paul’s teaching on justification by faith. And you will see that clearly, I think, in the passage we are going to walk through in this day. And I just want to walk through it with you. Some of you very kindly have told me you listen to my sermons on line and all of that. If you’ve ever listened to me preach very much, you’ll know that one of the things I always do is stress the outline. I usually give you an outline and say, “Be sure you write this point down.” I’m not going to do that today because I took count and I realized you’re listening to about twelve messages in three or four days and you’re going to be fatigued with all of that. So what I want to do is walk through this chapter and I’m only going to give you one point that I want you to take away and write down. And when I get there, we’ll stress it.

But we’re going to look at the first nine verses of Philippians 3 and what I want you to do is try to follow the flow of Paul’s logic in this really difficult passage, building to verse 9. Verse 9 is the key verse in this section. Here’s a quick summary of the section we’re going to cover, nine verses. Paul is giving his testimony as a way of refuting his chief theological adversaries. These were some heretics and false teachers who insisted that salvation is not possible for anyone who did not adhere strictly to the Old Testament ceremonial laws, starting with and especially the law of circumcision.

Now Paul, of course, was the Apostle to the Gentiles. And as he planted churches throughout the Roman Empire, most of the people who responded to Paul’s preaching were Gentiles. And these false teachers insisted that in order for these Gentiles to become true Christians, they first needed to become Jewish proselytes. They needed to submit to the ritual of circumcision. They needed to observe all the Old Testament feasts and dietary laws. And essentially they said you need to live under the restrictions of the Mosaic Covenant. And because that was the nature of their teaching, these false teachers are generally known as the Judaizers because they believed membership in the church should be limited to Jews, or at best proselytes to Judaism. In short, they said the Mosaic Covenants is the doorway to salvation rather than Christ alone. And Paul is answering them in this section. He does that by giving his testimony, by recounting how fastidiously he kept the Mosaic Law from birth and then he formerly and emphatically renounces everything he had gained through his own legal obedience. And in verse 9 he gives us one of the most powerful single-verse statements of faith recorded anywhere in Scripture.

I love verse 9 because it summarizes the very heart of the gospel message. Here is the gospel according to Paul. Here is the gospel according to Paul in a single verse. He wanted to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own, but the righteousness from God that depends on faith. And the point of verse 9 is simple. “The righteousness by which I obtain a right standing before God is not a righteousness of my own.” Same thing Moses was telling the Israelites. It’s not because you’re so righteous that God has blessed you. It’s not even because of a righteousness of your own. And that is the main point of the doctrine of justification by faith.

In what sense could Paul have thought that he had attained the standard of blamelessness? Remember, he [had in preceeding verses5 described] an era in his life, his old life, when he thought of the Law as primarily a standard for governing external behavior. [That is] the Law as Paul understood it in those days, in his pre-Christian life, the Law was a handbook to govern behavior. And the most important aspect of being a righteous person was the issue of what we look like to others. That’s the way the Pharisees thought. And so Paul, like any typical Pharisee, took extra care to obey all the external and ceremonial aspects of the Law, right down to the very minutia. And it was in that respect that he was blameless. There was nothing visible in his life that anyone could ever point to in order to accuse him.

And that was the heart of the Pharisee’s error. Their main obsession with the Law had to do with external and ceremonial matters. They focused on what others could see, not on what God could see. And they confused their high standards of external behavior with real righteousness. They believed that God would accept them because they kept up a righteous fa├žade. That was what drove Saul of Tarsus. He believed that by obeying the Law as strictly as he could, he was earning a righteousness that would give him favor with God.

[Herein then] is the point of this entire passage. Here’s what you need to take away. Paul is contrasting two kinds of righteousness. One that is fatal and one that saves. And, in fact, the distinction between these two ideas of righteousness is so fundamental, so important, that if you can grasp this point, you will have understood the whole gospel. There are two kinds of righteousness. They are as different as night and day. One is a righteousness that belongs to man, and Paul calls it the righteousness of the Law. The other comes from God and it is by faith, he says. One is flawed righteousness that is the product of our works. The other is a perfect righteousness that is the product of what Christ has done. One is a righteousness we make for ourselves, that’s why we call it self-righteousness. The other is a righteousness that is imputed to us. One is the righteousness of human merit. The other is the righteousness of divine grace. One is our own righteousness. The other is God’s righteousness.
And what happened on the Road to Damascus was that Christ literally stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks and showed him that all his righteousness as impressive as it might have seemed by human standards, all of that fell short of divine standard and was totally unacceptable to God.

Paul says he took all those earthly advantages, any hope he might ever have had about earning favor with God for himself, and he jettisoned all of that in favor of knowing Christ. And this is very strong language Paul uses here. In the King James Version, he says, “I count all these things as dung.” And that is a fitting way of translating the expression, the Greek word is skubalon6 and it refers to the worst kind of filth, muck, excrement, sewage. I can’t think of any other English equivalence that are polite enough to say from this pulpit. And I’m reading the English Standard version which tones it down considerably by saying rubbish, tones down the force of the expression, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as manure.”

This is shocking language from the Apostle Paul7. And it is clear that he means to give his readers a jolt. He wants to state this as plainly and as powerfully as possible. He’s just listed all the finest spiritual advantages available to any person. Remember that Judaism is a biblical religion. Paul is not describing some pagan notion of righteousness here. He has just outlined the highest level of person piety and privilege any human being can attain to. And then he says it’s all nothing but skubalon, dung. Here’s a whole difference between Paul the Apostle and Saul of Tarsus. In essence, Paul abandoned everything he had spent his whole life trying to attain. And he didn’t just abandon it, he came to regard it as revolting, disgusting, skubalon.

Here’s how John Calvin says, ‘Paul declares that he not only abandoned everything that he formerly reckoned precious but that it stank like excrement to him.’ And this was all the more remarkable when you consider who Paul was. He represented a strain of Pharisaism that had elevated religion to an almost unattainable super human level. And let’s be honest, you and I, we would never be able to adhere to the Law with the same rigor as Saul of Tarsus. I don’t know that anybody could in the Internet age. In human terms, the Pharisees had elevated personal righteousness to a level unattainable by most of us, they were super-spiritual, super-legalistic, absolutely fastidious holy men by all external standards. That’s what they were and Paul who had reached the pinnacle of that system said it’s all for naught. It was of no more value than if you took a shovel full of cow manure and decorated it like a wedding cake and tried to offer that to God.

Now [again] remember what Paul’s main point is here. This is the one thought he wants us to retain. There are two kinds of righteousness. One is skubalon, revolting, abhorrent, it’s an offense to God no matter how wonderful it may be made to appear to human eyes. What is the other kind of righteousness? Paul mentions it in verse 9, he says that, “Now it is his great hope to gain Christ and be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Now there’s a wealth of great theology in that one sentence and I don’t want you to miss it. The whole gist of the gospel message is summed up in that verse. What Paul is teaching us here is a very important doctrine. I don’t hesitate to say it is THE most important doctrine in all of theology. It is the doctrine of justification by faith8. Notice what this verse suggests. First, the only sufficient ground on which we can stand before God is a righteousness that exists outside of us.

Here’s the truth that Saul of Tarsus finally came to grips with and we must come to grips with if we hope to gain eternal life. The righteousness that saves us is not our own righteousness. That idea is absolutely contrary to the whole belief system of the Pharisees. It flatly contradicts everything Paul had ever been taught and that’s not all. This doctrine sets Christianity apart from every other religion known to man. Every religion you can name teaches that people must become righteous in order to be acceptable to God. Christianity alone teaches that God supplies on our behalf all the merit we need to please Him. The lowest sinner, a thief hanging on the cross can be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God all on the basis of a righteousness that is provided for him9.

[In conclusion] which righteousness would you rather entrust your eternity to? You see why Paul gathered up all his own righteousness and threw it on the rubbish heap? He opted instead for another righteousness. Theologians sometimes refer to it as the alien10 righteousness. Alien because it’s a righteousness that in no way comes from within us. This theme of alien righteousness was never far from the Apostle Paul’s thoughts. The whole first half of the book of Romans is Paul’s systematic presentation of the doctrine of justification by faith. And his focus is to show how an alien righteousness is imputed to those who believe. If Saul of Tarsus couldn’t do it, you and I for sure can’t. And that is exactly what Scripture tells us over and over again. We must seek a righteousness that is not our own, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

1 Self achieved righteousness, by definition a self-righteousness based on chumra that is to say legalism of which legalism itself a "merit" misinterpretation of the Torah - Dr. RVZ
2 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely, and he that shall call her, is the Lord our righteousness - Jeremiah 3:16
3 Literally firmness; figuratively security; morally fidelity - Strong’s Concordance
4 Editor’s notation - One might assume that their own good deeds have accounted one to have earned righteousness, when such is not the case. We are instead justified by faith, and our righteousness is imputed through the sacrifice of Christ. “And it was not for his sake alone that this was written in scriptures, that his faith would be reckoned onto righteousness, 24. Except, also for our sake, that for us also it was destined to be reckoned as those who believe in the One who raised our Maran Eashoa Msheekha from the dead” Romans 4:23-24 Aramaic Translation (note literal translation “house of the dead”) - Vic Alexander
5 Editor’s notation - And likewise in various other epistles - See also Romans Chapter 7
6 What is thrown to the dogs, i.e. refuse (ordure):--dung. - Strong’s Concordance
7 Editor’s thought - The Apostle was certainly not one to mince words
8 Editor’s notation - This justification by and of faith grants us the only way in which we can stand before God. That is to say, that through it and it alone is righteousness recognized in us. Without righteousness one cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life, for God simply will not allow sin to enter His Kingdom. It is to be pure and undefiled.
9 This editor is reminded herein of the Gaither’s song “ Yes I know”:
“ Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean “
10 Editor’s thought - Alien in so far is it an anathema to the carnal wisdom of man. The thought just cannot be reconciled within man’s own wisdom, in so far as, due to our sinful nature, it cannot be conceived as anything within us. Hence it simply must be from something beyond our own minds.