John Owen: Absolute Free Pardon

The Old Guys

1616 -1683. Preeminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.

[God] requires nothing of us (which we had all the reason in the world to expect that he would) to make atonement or satisfaction for our sins, that might compensate the injuries we have done him by our apostasy and rebellion; for whereas we had multiplied sins against him, lived in an enmity and opposition to him, and had contracted insupportable and immeasurable debts upon our own souls, terms of peace being now proposed, who could think but that the first thing required of us would be, that we should make some kind of satisfaction to divine justice for all our enormous and heinous provocations? yea, who is there that indeed doth naturally think otherwise?

But quite otherwise; in the gospel there is declared and tendered unto sinners an absolute free pardon of all their sins, without any satisfaction or…

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Judges 6:1, 11-22

God chooses a brave man

The Israelites had forgotten all that God had done for them: how He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt.

Life had settled down, and the people now lived comfortably and peacefully in the land God had promised them. They no longer depended on God and they even started worshiping the gods of the heathen people living in the land! The Lord did not want them to become like the other nations. He wanted His chosen people to be separate and devoted to Him. So God allowed the people of Midian to rule over the Israelites.

One day, the angel of the Lord came to Gideon while he was secretly threshing wheat (Gideon was afraid the Midianites would find him). The angel said to him, “The Lord is with you, brave and mighty man. Go with your great strength and rescue Israel from the Midianites!”

Does God only choose special people to do important tasks?

Don’t you hate it when teams are being chosen from a whole bunch of kids, and the leaders start choosing the strongest, fastest or cleverest kids? The last few stand around and wait, hoping that they will be the next to be chosen; and the longer they wait, the more embarrassing it becomes.

Isn’t it great to know that God doesn’t choose us that way? God looks at our hearts! Even Gideon couldn’t believe that the Lord actually wanted to use him, and he asked the Lord, “How can I rescue Israel? My family is the weakest in the tribe and I am the least important in my family.”

Then the Lord replied, “You can do it because I will help you!”

God is looking for those who will be brave for Him!

Verse for today

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b

The Armor of God

A pretty fun illustration - The Armor of God!

A Lesson Taken from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

Good News!

Even before the beginning of time…

…God planned to send Jesus to save us!

Save us from what?

Well, when God made the world it was perfect in every way.

And then Adam came along and ate the fruit God told him not to eat. Bad idea! At that moment God’s perfect world wasn’t perfect anymore. Adam decided to do things his way and not God’s way, and that never works. Sin got in. And sin ruins everything.

God try to warn Adam. He told him that if he ate the fruit of that tree he would surely die.

And that’s exactly what Adam did.

Well, he didn’t drop over dead right there! He lived for a long time afterwards. But he didn’t live forever either. One day he died, just like God said he would. God wasn’t being mean or unfair. God just knew that’s what sin does.

And we all sin.

We all do what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do. So we are in trouble! Sin is like a terrible disease, and we all are going to die from it.

And that’s what Jesus came to save us from!

God loves us so much, He sent His Son to make things right again.

And the price was very high. Sin brought death into God’s perfect world. The only price to make it right again is for the guilty ones to die – and that’s us.

But Jesus died FOR us. Jesus took the punishment we deserved. What amazing, awesome love that is!

But wait!

That’s not the end of the story!

Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead!

Jesus defeated death! So now, even though we all are going to die just like Adam – we all can rise from the dead just like Jesus!

If we believe in Jesus, and we believe that he died for our sins, God will raise us from dead just like Jesus rose from the dead! That’s something we just can’t do ourselves no matter how hard we try – but God can. And that is God’s gift to everyone who believes in His Son.

And now God can adopt us as His children. One day, everything God has will be ours, and we will live with God forever!

That is the Good News!

Now, since we ARE God’s children, we should live like God’s children. Always be good and honest and loving. Let’s not be like the people who don’t care about God, who do mean and terrible things.

But we all know, it’s not always easy…

(illustration… the Armor of God. Sort of.)

The Armor of God

We are in a battle!

We have an enemy who wants to steal away everything God wants us to have. Only it’s not a battle we can see. Our enemy is Satan – and Satan lives in the invisible world of the spirit. Even though we can’t see him, Satan is very real. And he wants nothing more than to take us away from God.

And Satan is sneaky. He will use every trick to get us to turn away from God.

You don’t have to be afraid of Satan – but you have to be ready to fight him! And so, like a great warrior, you need to put on your armor. And because your enemy is a spirit, God will give you spiritual armor.

So put on the whole Armor of God!

The Belt of Truth

(illustration… the Belt of Truth. Sort of.)

Tie the Belt of Truth around waist. God is real. God loves you, and Jesus died for your sins. God is on your side – that is the Truth!

Hold on to the Truth, and like a good tight belt, the truth will hold you up and keep you strong when Satan attacks.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

(illustration… the Breastplate of Righteousness. Sort of.)

Guard your heart.

Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness. Always do what is right and good. That way, Satan won’t have anything to grab onto to worm his way into your heart. You will be able to stand straight and tall, with your head held high.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

(illustration… the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace. Sort of.)

Next, put on the Shoes of The Gospel of Peace.

Be ready to go wherever God sends you to tell the Good News of God’s amazing love for us.

The Shield of Faith

(illustration… the Shield of Faith. Sort of.)

And then, to protect yourself from Satan’s flaming arrows, take up the Shield of Faith!

The God of the Universe is on your side. God is your protector. Put your faith in Him and Satan cannot hurt you!

The Helmet of Salvation

(illustration… the Helmet of Salvation. Sort of.)

Now, put on the Helmet of Salvation.

You are saved! You are God’s child! Satan has already lost, death is already defeated, and nothing can ever take you away from God. Keep your thoughts always on that!

The Sword of the Spirit

(illustration… the Sword of the Spirit. Sort of.)

And finally, take up the Sword of the Spirit.

God has given us a weapon to fight back against Satan’s lies and accusations. Our weapon is the truth of God’s Word. It is the Bible. God’s Word can cut Satan’s lies to pieces. Use God’s Word to fight Satan just like Jesus did when Satan tempted him in the desert. The words of the Bible are your sword.

Now you are ready!

(illustration… the Armor of God. Sort of.)

You are God’s child. He will never let you go! Hold onto that Truth!

Always do what is good and right.

Be ready to tell anyone you meet about God’s amazing love.

Put all your trust in Jesus, and know that he has saved you.

And finally, fight the devil with God’s own Word.

Satan is going to try to take away all the good things God has for you – but don’t worry – God is on our side! And with God on our side, no one – not even Satan – can defeat us!

Be bold! Be strong! For the Lord your God is with you!

Be Bold! Be Strong!

Don’t Judge What You Can’t See

“The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them. If they have been healed of their defiling skin disease . . . ” — Leviticus 14:3

The Torah portion for this week is Metzora, which means “diseased,” from Leviticus 14:1–15:33, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 7:3–20.

Professor David Weiss Halivni was raised in Romania and eventually came to Israel after the Holocaust. From the time he was a young child, it was apparent that Halivni was gifted. He was known as a child prodigy who had mastered the Bible and Judaism’s oral teachings at a very young age. When World War II broke out, Halivni was sent to Auschwitz, one of the harshest Nazi work camps. Halivni describes how he was endlessly hungry and bitterly cold. His dream was to work in the kitchen where it was warm and a worker could eat the potato peels, but his dream never materialized.

More than the Jews hated the Nazis, they hated the kapos – the Jews who were in charge of the other Jews. They could be even more harsh and cruel than the Nazis they served. Halivni hated his kapo, who repeatedly dismissed his request to work for even an hour in the kitchen.

One day a different kapo was in charge, and he granted Halivni permission to work in the kitchen. But much to his dismay, not long after Halivni arrived to work in the kitchen, the old kapo showed up and took him away, and he was back to digging in the snow.

One day, Halivni heard that this cruel kapo had been killed and he cheered for joy. Upon hearing his glee, one of the inmates turned to Halivni and said, “You fool! That man saved your life! Anyone who works in the kitchen gets a meal – but it is his last meal. He is taken to be gassed shortly after. That kapo knew that you were a child prodigy. He wanted to protect you and your holy knowledge!”

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the individual who contracted the skin-defiling disease known as tzara’at. The word tzara’at is related to the Hebrew word tzar, which means “narrow.” This is because the sin of those afflicted with this disease was usually gossip – a sin that stems from a narrow view of another person, one in which we judge other people superficially. The skin disease teaches us that our understanding of another human being is often only skin deep. Since the diseased judged someone by their “skin,” that person’s skin was appropriately afflicted.

The Sages teach, “Do not judge your friend until you have stood in his place.” In other words, don’t pass judgment on anyone unless you have walked in his or her shoes – and, of course, we can never really walk in anyone else’s shoes, which means we should never judge anyone either. There is so much more to people than meets the eye, and we cannot pass judgment on what we do not know and cannot see.

Don’t Judge What You Can’t See

Can You Give Joy to God? by Mark D. Roberts

Ephesians 4:29-30

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

In several of last week’s reflections, we considered how our words might grieve the Holy Spirit. When we speak in ways that are contrary to the person we will be on the day when God redeems all things, the Spirit grieves. When our words hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ and injure the body of Christ, the Spirit grieves. The idea that we can actually grieve the Holy Spirit surely will motivate us to avoid “unwholesome talk.”

But, before we leave Ephesians 4:30, I want to ask a question that isn’t addressed directly in the verse: If our speech can grieve the Holy Spirit, is it also possible for what we say to give joy to God? If our hurtful words can sadden God’s Spirit, can our edifying words give delight to the Lord?

In order to answer this question, we need first to consider a broader question: Can we give joy to God? Or, to put it another way, can our words, deeds, thoughts, and choices give God pleasure?

I think many Christians would answer this question negatively. We know we can grieve the Lord. We’re quite convinced that our sin can make God angry. But God rejoicing in us? That seems like wishful thinking, like the kind of pop theology that shows up on corny religious posters but has nothing to do with reality. God, for many of us, is a stern, demanding, imperious King who, if we’re really good and really lucky, will not be angry with us or grieved over us. The best we can hope for is that God will feel neutral about us.

This perception of God can be fueled by our experience of our own parents. My father, for example, loved me deeply and dearly. In most ways he was a great dad. But he had difficulty expressing his positive feelings for me. He was not physically expressive. He rarely told me in words that he loved me. And, never in my life, did my dad ever say, “I’m proud of you.” When he was close to death, I gathered all of my courage and asked him if he was proud of me. Even then, he just couldn’t say it, though I could tell he wanted to say “Yes!” Thanks be to God, I heard from my mom a thousand times that she and my dad were proud of me. But, though I knew in my head that my dad delighted in me, I rarely experienced this in a way that touched my heart.

So, as you might expect, I easily project upon my Heavenly Father that which I experienced from my earthly father. I know God loves me. I believe God will always be there for me. I know God would do anything for me (and, in fact, he has). But do I give God joy? Can I give delight to my Heavenly Father? This is hard for me to acknowledge and even harder for me to feel deep in my yearning soul.

In tomorrow’s reflection, I’ll examine what Scripture says about our potential to give joy to God. (If you’re impatient, you might check out Psalm 149:4.) For now, I’d encourage you to reflect upon your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The following questions might be helpful to you.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you believe that you can give joy to God? If so, does this belief reside in your heart as well as your head? If not, why not? How has your experience with your parents affected your relationship with your Heavenly Father? If you really believed that you could give joy to God, how might this make a difference in your life?

PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, I do not want to grieve your Spirit. I do not want to sadden you or anger you. What I really want is to honor you in all that I do and say, to please you, perhaps even to give you joy. Yet, Lord, I don’t want to make up feel-good religious slogans that are not grounded in your Word. So, help me, I pray, to know what is true about you and the way you relate to me. Where my mind is off track, please correct it. Where my heart is wounded, please heal it. Help me to know you truly, deeply, and as fully as is possible for me this side of Heaven. Amen.

The Child in the Midst

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them–Mat 18:2

Jesus’ Love for Children

I want to speak on Jesus and the child to show you out of the Bible story how precious childhood was to Jesus Christ. And I want to do it just that we may feel that when the Church which is His body tends the children it is certain to have the blessing of the Master.

First, then, we may find how Jesus valued them by the loving way in which He had observed them. With a quick eye and with a loving heart He had been watching them when they never dreamed of it. You can tell how closely He had watched the world by the exquisite beauty of His parables. You can tell how closely He had watched His nation from His certainty that ruin was impending. And so by innumerable incidental references, occurring everywhere throughout His teaching, you can tell how closely He had watched the child. He had watched the mother fondling her babe, and in her joy forgetting all her agony. He had watched the children playing in the market place, and sulking, and quarrelling with each other. And He had watched the boy, when school was over, hurrying home and asking for a piece of bread, and always getting it and not a stone. For Christ the coming ruin was doubly terrible just because children were to be involved in it. For Christ there was no test of loyalty more searching than that a man should love Him more than he loved his children. And all these references to the little people, these recognitions of them in unexpected moments, show you how dear they were to Jesus Christ. That is one of the great and striking differences between the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul. You would never gather from the Pauline letters that the writer was a lover of the child. But when you follow Jesus through the Gospels, when you see how He had observed the ways of children, when you mark the niceness of His references to them, as of One who had watched them for Himself, why then you feel at once that here was One for whom there was a joy for every child. He loved the little as deeply as the lost.

The Busy Jesus Had Time for the Child

Again, the same impression is intensified when we think of the access He gave them to His presence. There was never a more crowded life than His, and yet He always had leisure for the child. The fact is, friends, that in the life of Christ that air of leisure always is amazing. With such a mighty work for God to do, might you not reasonably expect some sign of strain. And yet the one thing that took the hearts of men, and awed them as with the touch of heaven, was just the infinite restfulness that clothed Him. He had a baptism to be baptised with, yet had He leisure for the summer lilies. He had but three short years to do His work, yet He had eyes for the sparrow when it fell. He had to ransom from the power of darkness men and women who were the slaves of Satan, yet always had He leisure for the child. The fact is that Christ like all of us, always had leisure for the thing He loved. It is in the heart rather than in the clock that there lies the secret of the leisure hour. And so when in the midst of all His stress, you find that Christ gave access to the children, you may learn certainly how much He loved them. It is but seldom in the Gospel story that you read of Christ as being much displeased. The impression made upon you there is this, that it took something mighty to stir Him to the depths. Yet one of the rare occasions in the Gospel when we do read that Christ was much displeased was when the disciples sought to keep the children back. It was not done in anger but in kindness. They were distressed because Christ was overburdened. Here was something they could save Him from, as if a mortal man could save the Saviour. But Christ for once made no account of motive, found no excuse in an intended kindliness; He chided His followers because they sought to bar Him from the child. My brother, there was something divine in that; but there was also something human. They were trying to keep from Him, although they knew it not, the very company in which He most delighted. And that–that constant leisure for the child, that open access in the busiest day, is another sweet and subtle indication of the value of the children in His eyes.

Jesus Loved to Help Children When They Suffered

This impression once again is deepened by the appeal which the sufferings of children made to Him. He not only loved to watch them when they played; but He also loved to help them when they suffered. There were some appeals which Jesus disregarded, as that of the man who wanted a judgment on his property. There were some prayers that Jesus would not listen to, as when the healed demoniac prayed that he might follow Him. But the one prayer that carried Him by storm, the one appeal He never could finally resist, was when a father or a mother came and used the words “My son”–“my little daughter.” Everything else must stand aside if it be a child that cries for healing. He cares not what all the mourners think of Him when He asks them unceremoniously to leave the room. With an intensity that we shall never fathom, because our hearts at their warmest are but cold, Christ felt the sufferings of little children. The first healing miracle He wrought was wrought not on a man but on a child. The only cure He gave outside of Israel was given to a little Gentile girl. Of His three rescues from the grip of death, it was only Lazarus who was an adult. The other two who were brought back again were young. You recall the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration, and how Peter would have had Him stay there forever. But Jesus could not stay and would not stay simply because the world was calling Him. And so He descended from the Mount of Glory to take up His cross again and be obedient, and the first to meet Him was an epileptic boy. It is as if, transfigured on the hill, He had heard the calling of the child. It is as if the writhings of that lad had pierced the radiance that en-wrapped Him there. And so may we learn, brethren, if we will, from that irresistible appeal of childish suffering, how near and dear the children were to Christ.

Jesus Delighted in the Services of Children

That impression received further vividness when we recall how Christ delighted in their services. He sometimes refused the service of a man; He never refused the service of a child. There is an excellent sermon by Mr. Spurgeon on Christ refusing first offers of service. Strange though it may seem, He sometimes did that, and sometimes He is doing it today. But the one service that He welcomed eagerly, and never checked, and never thought unworthy, was the sweet service of the little people. “There is a lad here,” said Andrew to Him. I think that one word “lad” was all Christ wanted. There is a lad here with five small loaves, and he wants us to take them and make the best of them. I take it that Andrew was intensely tickled at a lad’s luncheon for five thousand people; but it was just the thing that Jesus loved. He would not add a scrap to that small store. He wanted to use the offering of the boy. He wanted to show them that in Messiah’s kingdom a little child shall lead them. And if that were so out on the hills of Galilee, how much more truly so in the last days, when the children flocked to the triumphal entry, and cried “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Men had wanted to cry that before, and on every such occasion Christ had checked them. They had wanted to hail Him as Messiah, and Jesus had refused to be so hailed. But now the children break into that service–for praise is service just as much as alms, and Christ with a glad heart accepts of it. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings He felt that God was perfecting His praise. There was hope for the future, though the Cross was coming, when He had won the hearts of little children. We all long to be loved by those we love. We are proud and happy when they praise us. And it was just because Jesus loved the children that their shouting was like music in His ear.

Christ’s Estimate of the Child Spirit

The same impression is confirmed again by the estimate which Christ made of the child spirit. It was in the child that Jesus found the type of the true citizen of the heavenly kingdom. “Suffer the little children to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Except ye become as little children, ye cannot even see the kingdom. To enter the kingdom it is by no means necessary that a child should grow into a man. But to enter the kingdom it is always necessary that a man should grow into a child. Christ did not speak of the innocence of childhood. That innocence is gone and gone forever. He came to call the sinners to repentance. His kingdom is a kingdom for the lost. He was thinking of the receptiveness of childhood, of its glorious freedom from the worldly spirit, of the love that fills it, of the hope that stirs it, of its simplicity and sublimity of faith. To you and me, my brother, that is commonplace; but remember it is Christ who made it so. As dearly as the Jew had loved his children, he had never seen that glory in his children. It was Christ who was the first to see it. It was Christ who drew it into the light of day. And now we see it, and we reverence childhood because we are looking at it with His eyes. When a man is far from home, in a strange country, he loves whatever reminds him of his home. Some glimpse of hill, some blossom like the heather, will bring a tenderness into his heart. And that, I think, was why Christ loved the children, and was always so exquisitely tender with them. He was a stranger in a distant land here, and the children reminded Him of home. Of such is the kingdom of heaven–the kingdom here, the kingdom in the glory. I say unto you that in heaven, yonder, their angels are looking on the Father’s face. Brethren, with such deep words from Jesus’ heart is it any wonder the child is precious now? Is it any wonder that the Church which is His body gives of her best and noblest to their service?

“Feed the Lambs” Comes before “Feed the Sheep.”

And then this ever-deepening impression is crowned when Christ risen from the dead. “Simon, Son of Jonas, lovest thou “Yea, Lord”; then, “Feed my lambs.” Then twice over Simon was bidden feed the sheep. That repetition has the note of urgency. But it is not the sheep that are first mentioned, mark you. First of all is “Feed my lambs. “Still in the forefront of the love of Jesus, unchanged by Calvary and by the grave, still deep within His heart, there are the children. My brother and sister, there are many voices that say to us today, “Amuse the children.” But this is the glory of the love of Christ that its command is “Feed the children.” And this is the wonder of the Christian Gospel that, with great depths in it that none can fathom, it is so simple in its central message that you can tell it to the little child. Tell it, you mothers, to your children, then. Tell it, you Sabbath teachers, to your classes. Let your class witness when you meet in heaven that you were not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. So let us prosecute our work with patience, remembering how Jesus loved the children. So let us welcome the glad song of Christmas, “Unto us a child is born.”

With His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of His flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body. Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.

“See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns His temples gor’d and gash’d
Send streams of blood from every part;
His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.
But sharper scourges tear His heart.”

We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of His bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with Him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dear.