Saturday, September 25, 2010


"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah chapter fifty-five verses 8 and 9 are frequently cited in response to difficult theological questions (i.e. the nature of the trinity, etc). This is appropriate inasmuch as God’s thoughts and ways transcend man’s in every respect. A proper interpretation of the text, however, demands that we relate these two verses to their immediate context. The preceding verses speak to God’s ability to abundantly pardon repentant sinners. In their context verses 8 and 9 relate the higher thoughts and ways of God in relationship to this specific matter. God’s ability to abundantly forgive repentant sinners transcends our limited understanding of God’s thoughts and ways.

Adam and Eve were the first to experience the reality of this truth. Having sinned against God, they suffered immeasurable loss. They went into hiding and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. That was the best that their sin-stricken minds could come up with in dealing with their sin problem. They WOULD’VE NEVER THOUGHT that God Himself would intervene in a far better way. After detailing the full measure of sin’s consequence in the curse, God clothed Adam and Eve: "And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). God Himself took the initiative, prepared garments, and clothed them.

The prodigal Son squandered his estate with loose living (Luke 15:13). Having lost everything "he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating" (Luke 15:16). He finally came to his senses and decided to return to his father, thinking that at best, his father might forgive him and allow him to serve as one of his hired hands. HE WOULD’VE NEVER THOUGHT that his father would do what he ultimately did. While he was still a long ways off his father saw him and ran to him. Then he warmly embraced him, clothed him with a robe, a ring, and sandals, and prepared an elaborate feast to celebrate his return. The father’s abundant pardon was far beyond anything he would have expected.

Saul was a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent aggressor (1 Tim. 1:13). He persecuted "the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it" (Gal. 1:13). He was "in hearty agreement" with the stoning to death of Stephen (Acts 8:1). WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT that God could pardon such a man? Indeed, following Saul’s conversion, God had to convince the reluctant Ananias through a vision that he should receive Saul (Acts 9:15). God’s ability to abundantly pardon Saul was beyond what anyone would have thought. Paul’s own testimony is that he was saved, in part, to serve as an example to us of God’s ability to forgive even the worst of sinners: "And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:16). In other words, if God could save Saul, God can save anybody!

WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT that God would send His only begotten Son into the world to die for our sins? What earthly intellect could have ever come up with such a plan? What earthly love would have ever brought it to pass? The plan of redemption was devised in the infinite mind of God! Nail pierced hands testify to its wisdom and power (1 Cor. 1:24)! The message of the gospel is akin to the message declared in Isaiah 55:8-9—God’s ability to abundantly pardon transcends our ability to perceive.

WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT that God would abundantly pardon sinners such as you and I? We were once alienated from God—just like Adam and Eve; engaged in evil deeds—just like the prodigal Son; hostile in mind—just like Saul (Col. 1:21). "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7)."

The gravitational pull of sin-darkened thoughts tether our minds in countless Goddiminishing ways. The natural man does not understand the things of God, the born again believer understands them only by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:12). The Spirit works to untether our earth-bound thinking that our thoughts might ascend to a higher and God-honoring plane (Eph. 3:16-19). Teach us thy ways, O Lord, help us to think your thoughts and walk in your ways!

Pastor Jerry

Sunday, September 19, 2010


From Chapter 17 of J. C. Ryle's book, "Holiness":

Do you know anything of spiritual thirst? Have you ever felt anything of genuine deep concern about your soul? I fear that many know nothing about it. I have learned, by the painful experience of the third of a century, that people may go on for years attending God’s house, and yet never feel their sins, or desire to be saved. The cares of this world, the love of pleasure, the ‘lust of other things’ choke the good seed every Sunday, and make it unfruitful. They come to church with hearts as cold as the stone pavement on which they walk. They go away as thoughtless and unmoved as the old marble busts which look down on them from the monuments on the walls. Well, it may be so; but I do not yet despair of anyone, so long as he is alive. That grand old bell in Paul’s Cathedral, London, which has struck the hours for so many years, is seldom heard by many during the business hours of the day. The roar and din of traffic in the streets have a strange power to deaden its sound, and prevent men hearing it. But when the daily work is over, and desks are locked, and doors are closed, and books are put away, and quiet reigns in the great city, the case is altered. As the old bell at night strikes eleven and twelve and one and two and three, thousands hear it who never heard it during the day. And so I hope it will be with many a one in the matter of his soul. Now, in the plenitude of health and strength, in the hurry and whirl of business, I fear the voice of your conscience is often stifled, and you cannot hear it. But the day may come when the great bell of conscience will make itself heard, whether you like it or not. The time may come when, laid aside in quietness, and obliged by illness to sit still, you may be forced to look within, and consider your soul’s concerns. And then, when the great bell of awakened conscience is sounding in your ears, I trust that many a man who reads this message may hear the voice of God and repent, may learn to thirst, and learn to come to Christ for relief. Yes, I pray God you may yet be taught to fed before it be too late!