Growing In Godliness Blog
By Mark McCrary
Last week in parts of the Southeast there was a cellphone outage that lasted for several hours. It wasn’t uncommon to see people staring at their phones in disbelief, fighting that growing feeling of disconnection from information and relationships. What if someone can’t reach me? What if I can’t reach someone? What’s happening in the world while I can’t access the internet? I can’t Tweet or even post about this in real time on Facebook and Instagram! A sigh of relief went out when cellphone service went back up and phones stirred with life once more.
Would to God we were so distraught when disconnected from God. Sin has in fact disconnected all of us from God—“But your sins have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). When man first fell in the Garden, the Holy God could not have fellowship with an unholy people. The same happens when you and I sin today. At some point (which varies from person to person) we are disconnected from God, cut off from information from God and how to live a meaningful life; cut off from the only One who blesses us; cut off from a relationship with the One who loves us more than we could ever imagine; and given wholly over to sin and all its destructive power. Ultimately, cut off from real life given only by Jesus (John 10:10). We desperately need that connection.
But Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came to give us information about the Father and—importantly—to reestablish that relationship disconnected by sin through His sacrifice.
Forget about the phone; have you been disconnected from God? You need that connection—and it is there! If you aren’t His child and would come to Him in faith, ready to cast aside the very thing that separates you from God, you may be baptized and have all your sins washed away (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:27)—you can be reconnected with God. If you are His child but you have wandered away, like the father of the prodigal, He still waits for you if you will only come back.
Who Can Be Against Us?
By Mark McCrary
It seems that a lot of Christians are down and out right now, discouraged by recent events in our country. Let’s find a few words of encouragement from God’s word—Romans 8:31-39…
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Christian, have hope! Trust in God in difficult days!
By Mark McCrary
Interpersonal relationships are crucial to us as human beings. One of the first statements of God regarding us was, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But, sometimes relationships, as important as they are, are challenging to maintain—even among Christians. There are times when brothers and sisters in Christ don’t get along with one another.
One of the greatest skills necessary in those moments is the very one that is often not found: the ability to actually listen to others in conflict. So often, we formulate preconceived ideas about what someone thinks, what their motivations are, what they are really getting at; then, our reactions are based not on what they are saying or doing, but on our preconceptions of what they are thinking and meaning. As a result, communication stops, and conflict arises. This happens in homes, in churches, in businesses—everywhere there are people.
What can we do about this?
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Within the context, James is likely addressing our need to listen to God and His instructions to us, but it certainly also has great application in our relationships with one another. How much we would be helped if we slowed down and just listened! Not formulate a rebuttal! Not vent all my frustrations! Not psychoanalyze my opponent at the moment! Not even view the one with whom I am in conflict as my opponent! Saber rattling really does little good in such moment other than encourage the one with whom we disagree to rattle their back at us. Here’s a crazy idea: simply listen. Take it in. Seek to understand. Not necessarily agree; just understand.
Something radical might happen if we would only do this. We might find we don’t disagree. At the least, perhaps we would find we are a lot closer to than we think. God urged Israel in Isaiah 1:18, “Come, let us reason together.” May God help us to have the same attitudes as husband and wives, parents and children, elders and congregations, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
What a wonderful resolution it would be to listen and think about what others are saying more. What a wonderful resolution it would be to stop shaking our fists so much and open our ears more. We would likely find that God’s ways are actually better than man’s wrath at bringing about peace.
Trust and Faith in Hard Times
By Mark McCrary
Hardships and problems come our way in life, and sometimes they are very severe hardships and problems—the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or health, financial problems. They are most confusing to us as Christians when we are trying to do everything we are supposed to do like serving God and others. Then we begin to ask that oft asked question, “Why?”
The Psalmist struggled with the same question in Psalm 44. In the first eight verses, he speaks of how he had been taught about God and His mighty power, how he saw God as his King and ruler, and how he trusted in Yahweh to deliver him in battle.
But, beginning in verse 9, the psalm takes a very dark turn. The psalmist startles us with these words, “But You have cast us off and put us to shame, and You do not go out with our armies. You make us turn back from the enemy, and those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves. You have given us up like sheep intended for food, and have scattered us among the nations. You sell Your people for next to nothing, and are not enriched by selling them. You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to those all around us. You make us a byword among the nation, a shaking of the head among the peoples. My dishonor is continually before me, and the shame of my face has covered me, because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, because of the enemy and the avenger” (44:9-16). “Why” is not stated, but it is certainly implied. And, he states very matter-of-factly that he and his people had been faithful to God. “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You, nor have we dealt falsely with your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back, nor have our steps departed from Your way… If we had forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a foreign got, would not God search this out?” (44:17-18, 20-21).
Have you ever felt that way in hard times? Have you ever thought, “If I wasn’t obeying God, these problems would be understandable.” What is the answer? What is remarkable about this psalm is that there is no answer given as to why God was not there… because in the end no answer would satisfy. What answer could be given to the person eaten up with cancer as to why they are suffering that would cause them to say, “Oh, I get it! Now I understand! Everything is alright now”? There is no answer that immediately removes the pain of a heart broken by the loss of a loved one or a broken or troubled marriage.
There is no answer. There is only trust and faith.
Though overcome with questions and doubts, the psalmist persevered with these words of power, “Arise for our help, and redeem us for your mercies sake” (44:26). Our comfort in hard times does not come from an “answer,” but from continued confidence in our God we have believed in and submitted to. It comes from having faith that “farther along we’ll know all about it, farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine; we’ll understand it all by and by.” Then we will know that, though we didn’t understand our problems at the moment, God got us through—and that will be enough.
The Planned Death of Jesus
By Tom Rose
One of the ways in which pseudo-scholars, critics, and skeptics attack our Lord is by denying that His sufferings were planned and purposeful. His death, they insist, resulted from a miscalculation; it was a noble attempt to bring goodness into the world, but ended in an unplanned disaster. But nothing could be further from the truth. The whole trajectory of His life was prophesied 700 years before and included every aspect of His career as the Messiah, Servant of Jehovah in the book of Isaiah. Indeed, He came into the world “not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (Jn 6:38)…and the Father’s will was for Him to die. Jesus was not a well-intentioned victim of a plan that surprised Him when it went horribly wrong. No, He knew exactly how His life would end, down to the minutest detail, and had know it since before the foundation of the world when the plan of salvation was formed.
Luke 18:31-34 is the third and most complete of Christ’s specific predictions concerning His death as recorded by Luke— the first is found in Lk 9:21-22; and the second in Lk 9:44. Jesus was on His final journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. So that there would be no misunderstanding, He takes the twelve aside to remind them, with specific details, what was about to happen to Him was God’s plan. Yet, despite Jesus’ clear teaching, the disciples failed to perceive the meaning of what He had taught them. The threefold repetition in v. 34 says, 1) they understood none of these things, 2) this saying was hidden from them; and 3) they did not know the things that were spoken.
But there was a perfectly good reason that the disciples failed to grasp the Lord’s teaching about His suffering and death; it failed to fit their messianic theology. They expected the Messiah to be a king, who would defeat Israel’s enemies and establish His kingdom. (Recall Bro. Pope’s reference to Acts 1:6 this morning.) They were looking for a coronation, not a crucifixion; for a messiah who killed His enemies, not one who was killed by His own people, and (even more unthinkable) willing to forgive His enemies as they did so. The idea of a crucified Messiah was an absurdity to them; it was so ridiculous that they could not even comprehend it. “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” wrote Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18. Thus, “Christ crucified” was “to Jews a stumbling block” (v. 23) a massive barrier that they could not get past.
After His resurrection Christ reaffirmed the veracity of the O.T. teachings and gently rebuked two of his disciples, on the road to Emmaus, for their failure to understand it (Luke 24:23-25).
Eventually, His disciples came to understand it, to believe it, and to preach it…beginning in the first century and continuing down to the present time.
Never allow anyone to discount or minimize the importance of the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, for as the hymn says, “Without Him, how lost I would be.”