Bethel Baptist Church

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36

The Beacon

THE GROAN OF A CONTRITE HEART

meditation on Psalm 51:17 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

          It is not often that the confession of sins is a part of our prayers.  This is certainly true of public prayers and is probably true of most private prayers.  We usually begin our prayers with a brief statement of thanksgiving for the day and perhaps for some other blessing.  And then we often launch into our considerable list of requests, ranging from someone’s serious sickness to asking for good weather because we have an outing planned.  

            But what about the element of confession of sins in our prayers?  It is a part of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 . . . "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Mt 6:12).   In Luke’s version the wording is more forceful . . . "And forgive us our sins . . ." (Lk 11:4).  Confession of sins should be as much a daily part of every Christian’s prayers as asking for a family member or church friend to be healed.  

            The New Testament speaks of God's forgiveness of our sins in two ways.  One use refers to the judicial forgiveness of God, the Judge.  The other use refers to the parental forgiveness of God, our Father.  Judicial forgiveness takes place at the time of an unbeliever’s conversion, when there is repentance for sins and trust in Christ.  It is the unique occasion when the penalty for sins is taken away and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that person.  This is justification and it only happens (and only needs to happen) once.  To the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears He said, "Your sins have been forgiven . . . your faith has saved you" (Lk 7:48,50).  This is the judicial forgiveness of justification. 

            But there is another use of the word 'forgive' in the New Testament.  It is the parental forgiveness of God, as Father, granted to His children.  The New Testament speaks of believers repenting of their sins and asking for forgiveness.  To the believers in Corinth, Paul writes, "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance" (2 Cor 7:9).  To the church in Ephesus, the Lord says, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place -- unless you repent" (Rev 2:5; cf. Rev 3:19).  It is a pattern for prayer for His disciples that Jesus taught them to pray to the Father "forgive us our sins" (Lk 11:1,4).  

            A heartfelt sensitivity toward their sins and the regular, indeed daily, confession of those sins was the experience of the great men of God from the past.  In a sermon on 1 John 1:9, the great English preacher, C. H.  Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, "The daily exercise of faith in Jesus Christ is a confession of sin. . . . I beseech you, dear hearer, try to fix your eye on Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, and live as a believer in Him, and this will make you live as a constant confessor of sin; for when the wounds of Jesus speak peace, they also preach penitence; and when the atonement gives us rest, it also makes us meek and lowly in heart under a sense of abiding faultiness.  As you see what Jesus suffered, you will see how you sinned, and as you observe the glory of His merit, you will see the horror of your own demerit.  Thus may you daily, as long as ever you live, confess sin and find cleansing from all unrighteousness."  

            This was also the experience of another English pastor, Charles Simeon (1759-1836).  "By constantly meditating on the goodness of God and on our great deliverance from the punishment which our sins have deserved, we are brought to feel our vileness and utter unworthiness . . . and while we continue in this spirit of self-degradation, everything goes on easily.  We shall find ourselves advancing in our course; we shall feel the presence of God; we shall experience His love; we shall live in the enjoyment of His favor and in the hope of His glory.  You often feel that your prayers scarcely reach the ceiling, but oh, get into this humble spirit by considering how good the Lord is and how evil you are, and then prayer will mount on wings of faith to heaven.  The sigh, the groan of a broken heart will soon go through the ceiling up to heaven into the bosom of God." 

            New England pastor, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote the following as a mature believer in Christ.  "Very often for these many years, these expressions are in my mind and in my mouth: ‘Infinite upon infinite - infinite upon infinite!’  When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. . . . It is [amazing] to think how ignorant I was, when a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy, and deceit left in my heart."  

            David Brainerd (1718-1747), missionary to the American Indians in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, wrote the following in his diary.  "In my morning devotions my soul was exceedingly melted and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness."  

            The daily confession of sins is a necessity for us to maintain a spirit of humility before God (and each other) and for us to constantly revel in the glory of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.  The great Puritan theologian, John Owen (1616-1683) wrote, "Confession is every day’s work.  I don’t see how any peace with God can be maintained without it."  The fact that the penalty for our sins has been taken away by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, should not result in a carelessness onour part over the darkness that still remains in our hearts and lives.  The paradox is worth our consideration.  The more heartfelt our brokenness over our sins, the deeper our delight in Jesus Christ.  It is only the person who cries out "O wretched man that I am!  Who will free me from this body of death?" who knows the indescribable pleasure of the ensuing declaration "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  (Rom 7:23,24).           

Desperate for God's grace,

Pastor Cosand

HOW IS GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL WISDOM

MICRO-MANAGING MY LIFE?

Some people say that God has no plan at all.  Others believe that God has a very general plan for their lives.  There is a third group of Christians who believe that God has an exact plan and that His plan extends to the smallest detail in the life of a Christian.  Am I the master of my own life or am I fitting myself into God’s great Master Plan for His eternal glory and for my eternal happiness?  What do you believe?  What does God’s Holy Word say? 

Before looking at Scripture, consider these questions:  Do you make plans?  Are they in detail?  Do parents have exact plans for the training of their children?  Does it take detailed planning to run a home, drive a car, go to school or work at your job?  Does God plan any less than we do?  Is it possible for God to plan and control all the great events in general, if He does not plan the smallest events in particular?  Does the Bible give evidence that God has an exact point by point plan for each of His children?  Did God know my name and write it in the Lamb’s book of life “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 17:8)? 

“Through His providence God controls the universe (Ps. 103:19), the physical world (Mat. 5:45), the affairs of nations (Ps. 66:7), man’s birth and destiny (Gal. 1:15), man’s successes and failures (Lk. 1:52), and the protection of His people (Ps. 4:8) . . . Man is not free to choose and act independently from God’s will and plan, he chooses and acts in accordance with them.  In His sovereignty, God controls man’s choices and actions (Gen. 45:5, Dt. 8:18, Prov. 21:1).  God’s actions, however, do not violate the reality of human choice or negate man’s responsibility as a moral being . . . God permits sinful acts to occur, but He does not cause man to sin (Gen. 45:5, Rom. 9:22).  He often overrules evil for good (Gen. 50:20, Acts 3:13).”  (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Ed. By H. Lockyer, article on Providence, p. 883, 1986).

 

MEMORY VERSES SHOWING GOD’S DETAILED PLANS FOR MY LIFE

 

“All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Ps. 37:23).  Christ, “is the perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power” (Heb. 1:3, Amplified Bible).  Christ “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17, NIV).  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  “You are Lord alone; you have made heaven . . . and all things that are therein . . . and you preserve them all” (Neh. 9:6). 

“Being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will . . . that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1:11-12). 

“Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee:  the remainder of wrath shall You restrain” (Ps. 76:10).  “And God said to him in a dream . . . I also withheld you from sinning against Me:  therefore I did not let you touch her” (Gen. 20:6).  “And Joseph said to them . . . But as for you, you intended evil against me; but God intended it for good to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:19-20).  “This Jesus, when delivered up, according to the definite and fixed purpose and settled plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified . . . by the hands of lawless and wicked men” (Acts 2:23, Amplified Bible). 

Joseph A. Teisan

 

                                                                                                                                        (1931 – 2018)

WHERE WERE YOU, JOB?

meditation on Job 38-42 

            One of the great lessons from the book of Job is that in the lives of God’s people, afflictions are not only beneficial to our spiritual growth, but necessary for our greater understanding of and communion with our God and Father.  John Newton (1725-1807), English pastor and author of "Amazing Grace," wrote about trials and the Christian life.  He said, "They [afflictions] are useful, and in a degree necessary, to keep alive in us a conviction of the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the present world, and all its enjoyments; to remind us that this is not our rest, and to call our thoughts upwards, where our true treasure is, and where our conversation [life] ought to be."

            In Job 31:35, Job made the following statement . . . "Oh that I had one to hear me!  (Here is my signature!  Let the Almighty answer me!)"  Job was looking for a legal hearing.  What he got, instead, is something more like a stern lecture … in the form of multiplied rhetorical questions from the LORD Himself.    In Job 38, God comes to Job (and to us) and He does not justify Himself.  He does not explain His ways.  What He does is to ask repeated questions and in the process He lauds His majesty and justice and power.  He emphasizes the fact that He is way beyond the scope of human comprehension.  And the only reasonable and proper response before such a God is to bow down in humble submission and trust Him completely.  This is exactly what Job did in Job 42 and it is exactly what we should do all the days of our lives. 

            God begins His questions in Job 38:4 and they run for 4 chapters.  "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding.”  The answer is obvious, and so humbling to Job … and to us.  Job wasn’t there.  He doesn’t know how the earth was created by God’s speaking a word.  He wasn’t there.  He is a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to the universe.  Then God has Job glance around the universe and the world, and asks Job if he can do the things that need to be done to sustain creation.   These are pride-shattering questions. 

Job 38:12 - "Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place?" 

Job 38:31-33 - "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites?  Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth?”

Job 38:34,35 - "Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you?  Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, 'Here we are?'"

Job 39:1 - "Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?  Do you observe the calving of the deer?"

Job 39:19,20 - "Do you give the horse his might?  Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust?  His majestic snorting is terrifying."

Job 39:26,27 - "Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, and spreads his wings toward the south?  Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up, and makes his nest on high?"

            God is causing Job (and us) to see His glory and power and wisdom and justice in ways that he had not thought of.  And Job’s initial response is, "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to you?" (Job 40:4).  Job realizes that there are ten billion events going on in the world every second that he is not even aware of and over which he has absolutely no control.  The way one commentator put it:  Job is ignorant and Job is impotent, when it comes to the governing of the world. 

            We usually don’t deeply laud the glory of God in our souls with a fire that burns for Him.  We don’t look for His hand in every event of our lives, including the painful ones.  We tend to do exactly what Job did … justify ourselves before God’s righteousness, thinking that our sense of justice is more acute than His.  One of the great effects of the book of Job on our hearts is to humbly affirm God’s sovereignty …"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).  The book of Job causes us to affirm God’s wisdom …  "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3). 

            The Almighty is not 'the man upstairs.'  He is not some impersonal 'higher power.'  He is the wonderful, infinite, glorious, omnipotent Creator.  He beyond our complete comprehension, on the one hand.  But on the other hand, we can know Him.  He has revealed Himself to us in creation, in the Bible, and most of all, in His Son.  Through Jesus we can know Him. 

            The story goes that someone once asked Albert Einstein's wife if she understood the theory of relativity.  "No," she replied, "I don’t understand the theory of relativity.  But I understand Professor Einstein.  And that is enough."   We cannot understand all of God’s mysterious ways, but we can know Him … and that is enough.

Bowing before divine mysteries,

Pastor Cosand

ARE WE PROCLAIMING THE TRUE GOSPEL OF SALVATION BY FAITH IN CHRIST, OR REJECTING IT FOR THE SOCIAL GOSPEL OF BRINGING THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO EARTH BY SOLVING

THE SOCIAL PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD?

Sadly, I was upset at hearing a missionary explaining his work among the poor in Eastern Europe.  Saying nothing about salvation, he focused on the social, medical, economic, educational, political, racial, and other problems of the people.  Instead of following the New Testament examples of Christ and Paul, in spreading the Good News of faith in Christ, the Social Gospel addresses social, national, and international issues.  They say social betterment is the way to bring the Kingdom of God to earth without talking of a future Millennial.

These views, widely accepted by liberal assemblies, are sponsored by the Federal Council of Churches.  Liberal Theology holds to the ethical teaching of a humanized Christ, and God in all men’s hearts.  The scientific method and natural laws are their guiding lights.  Then say no, and brush aside, miracles, prophecies, original sin, the atonement of Christ, and all supernatural events in the inspired God breathed Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17) (Christianity Through the Centuries by E.E. Cairns, Zondervan, 1967, pp. 462-464).

Are you thinking of Matthew 7:15-20?  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed as sheep, but inside they are hungry wolves.  You shall know them by their fruits.”

These erroneous views are taught in seminaries to ministers who proclaim them from the pulpit.  Without following the Great and Glorious Commission commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, the Social Gospel has as its only theology, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the ethical teachings of Christ.  They are following the wrong way for salvation!  Jesus is saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father, but by Me” (Jn. 14:6).

The Social Gospel is a denial of our urgent spiritual need of salvation in Christ, and forgiveness of sins.  The Lord tells us in Scripture that a sinner is amazingly transformed by faith in Christ and the new birth (Rom. 10:9-13, 4:1-8).  The only real improvement in fallen human nature is Christlikeness, “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).  But, in rebellious, hopeless, and odious contrast, the Social Gospel proclaims we are “perfected through change in society” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ed. By J.O. Douglas, Rev. 1978, Zondervan, pp. 911-912).

Joined today to destructive Biblical criticism and liberal churches, they believe “Man is essentially good, and his sins are quite curable” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Ed. by W.A. Elwell, Baker, 1984, pp. 1028-1029).

 

Joseph A. Teisan

(1931 – 2018)

THE MYSTERY OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

God's holy governing of all things 

            We love to quote Romans 8:28, especially when we are in trouble or in pain.  Some manuscripts read "For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God" and other manuscripts read "For we know that God causes all things to work together for good . . . ."  In either case, the idea is the same.  The promise is that for believers, every event in life is part of a divine plan which ultimately results in that which is good.  But it is one thing to say with our heads that this is true and quite another thing to respond deep in our hearts to rest in its truth.  

            God rules in His universe by His providence.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God's providence as "His holy, wise, powerful activity by which He preserves and governs every creature and every action."  That does not mean that human beings are like machines responding as if they are somehow programmed.  The great mystery of providence is that while still allowing the liberty of choice, God governs the outcome of 'every action' so that His holy designs are all brought to their appointed ends.  There are many statements in the Bible declaring God's sovereign rule: 

                 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens;

                 And His kingdom rules over all. Psa 103:19 

                 [God] works all things after the counsel of His will. Eph 1:11 

                 . . . the Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will. Dan 4:25 

                 . . . not one of them [sparrows] will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Mt 10:29  

                 But our God is in the heavens;

                 He does all that He pleases. Psa 115:3 

                   The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Prov 16:9 

                  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Prov 19:21 

            God's providential rule even governs the outcome of sinful acts, as in the case of the treachery of Joseph's brothers or Judas' betrayal of Jesus.  "The wishes of sin are the wishes of man.  Man is guilty; man is to be blamed.  But the all-wise God prevents those wishes from producing actions indiscriminately.  He compels those wishes to take a certain Divinely narrowed course.  The floods of iniquity are from the hearts of men, but they are not allowed to cover the land.  They are shut up to the channels of God’s sovereign appointment and men, unwittingly, are held in bounds, so that not one iota of God’s purpose shall fail.  He brings the floods of the ungodly into the channel of His providence to turn the mill of His purpose" (Percy Heward in Definitions of Doctrine, by Claude Cole, 157).  

            The question often is 'Why does He allow, and within His design, pain and sorrow?'  Though the Bible does not answer every question regarding this that we might have, there are some answers given in the Scriptures. 

            God brings painful experiences … to do a greater thing later, like in the life of Joseph (Gen 50:20); to bring salvation to someone, like through Paul's blindness (Acts 9:1-19); to bring repentance over some sin, like in Miriam's leprosy (Num 12:9-15); to produce an opportunity for the gospel to be preached, like in Paul's imprisonment (Phil 1:12,13); to bring honor to His own name, like in Peter's death (probably a crucifixion - Jn 21:18,19).

            Every event in our lives has purpose in His providence and the purpose is always good, though not always pleasant nor comfortable.  If through sorrow or pain God is disciplining us or teaching us as His children, that is a good thing.  If He is bringing honor to His name by some heartache in our lives, like in the case of Job, that is a good thing.  We are the children of a Father who governs everything, and that means that everything that comes to our lives comes to us out of His love for us … everything.  We must come to trust that in a fallen world, God knows best how to govern all things for His wise and holy purposes.  Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), the great English pastor, summed up this point well:  "Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you find yourself, divine love would have placed you there." 

Trusting God's holy hand,

Pastor Cosand