Monday, June 29, 2009

MacArthur on the Greatest Benefit of Christianity, and a Comment

This selection is by John MacArthur, from the sermon Jesus' Authority to Forgive Sin, originally preached on May 10, 2009. In the downloadable audio file, this clip is from 0:44 to 04:31. I offer a short comment afterwards.
What is the most distinctive benefit that Christianity has to offer the world? I suppose there would be a lot of suggested answers. There are some people who think the great legacy of Christianity is a kind of morality, a kind of ethical approach to life. There are others who think that the great legacy of Christianity is that it provides a certain kind of love and sacrificial affection for people, social responsibility. Others think that it provides a kind of tranquility in life that they call "peace." There are some who think that what Christianity really offers people is fulfillment in life or a sense of satisfaction or purpose. Summing it all up, there are folks who think that Christianity's greatest benefit is to provide people a measure of religious happiness.

Well, I would agree with you that there is contained in the pages of Scripture a moral standard, an ethical standard. I agree with you that Christians are marked by love, peace, and happiness. I agree that Christians express social responsibility based upon a higher motivation than any other people. And there is amazing purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction in Christianity.

But none of those is the great benefit of Christianity. Those are simply by-products of the great benefit. There is one great benefit that the Christian gospel offers that transcends all other benefits, and leads to all other benefits. It is a benefit, frankly, that corresponds directly to man's greatest need. And that is where Christianity marks itself out from all other religions on the planet: it alone addresses man's greatest need. There are religions that offer ethics and morality and social responsibility, family values, a measure of love and peace, somewhat a measure of fulfillment, satisfaction, maybe even a certain level of happiness.

But what is man's greatest need? The greatest need of man, simply put, is to escape the wrath of God poured out on sinners eternally in hell. Only Christianity, only the Christian gospel offers the benefit that meets that need. Only through the Christian gospel can anyone escape the wrath of God poured on on sinners eternally in hell.


The greatest need of every soul is divine forgiveness of all sin. And the greatest benefit of Christianity, then, is the provision of that complete forgiveness.

As you could imagine, it struck me that MacArthur started commenting on the greatest benefit that Christianity has to offer the world in view of the name of this blog. So my ears perked up and I listened with great interest as he talked about what he understood this greatest benefit to be.

And I agree with him, with a word of qualification.

MacArthur is looking at this issue from the negative standpoint. I don't mean negative like, "Oh quit being so negative!" I mean negative as in he states the greatest need of the world to be the escape of something. "The greatest need of every soul is not-X."

But I prefer to frame the question positively, because I think that it is in that light that the fullness of the glory of God's saving purpose is seen. So, why is the greatest need of every soul to escape hell? Because, ultimately speaking, the greatest need of every soul is to know God.

The provision of forgiveness then is indeed the great benefit of Christianity. But let us not forget that forgiveness is the means and not the end. Forgiveness of sin is the means by which I, sinner that I am, am to stand in the presence of my God and not be incinerated by His holiness. But He is the end of that forgiveness.

So indeed, forgiveness of sins is the greatest benefit that Christianity has to offer the world. And that is because it is by the forgiveness of sin that I am ushered into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy, the God in whose right hand are pleasures forever.

I have set the LORD continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
- Psalm 16:8-11 -

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pray for Mercy on the Basis of God's Love for His Own Name

I'll be away for the weekend, so I thought I'd leave this for you to meditate on in the meantime. First, though, if you haven't watched the sermon in the previous post, I'd strongly recommend you do that.

But this selection is by John Piper, from the sermon The Pleasure of God In His Name, originally preached on February 15, 1987. In the downloadable audio file, this clip is from about 25:00 to about 28:00. I don't offer any comments except to say: (1) Amen, and (2) I desire that all Christians pray this way, because it is the God-honoring way to think, pray, and read the Bible.
1But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel. ... 5The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water. 6Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.

Joshua said, "Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?" - Joshua 7:1, 5-9

Do you see the Gospel logic he's pressing on God? "What are you going to do for Your name if they wipe us out God?!"

Now let me ask you: do you pray for mercy on the basis of God's love for His own name? Do you ask for help as a sinner on the basis of God's unwavering, eternal commitment always to act for the glory of His name? Do you? Or have you bought in to the American way? What is the basis of hope and joy in America? You are! Self is the basis of the gospel. You are the ground of your joy. You are the ground of your hope. You are the ground of your dignity.

You! You! You! Me! Me! Me! Self! Self! Self!

God saves sinners for His own name's sake! And when you get desperate, plead to God on the basis of God!

Not on the basis of yourself. It is sand, brothers and sisters. It is sand. But there is a Rock. There is a Rock: the impossibility that God will ever, ever act in any way but in conformity to an infinite delight in His own name.

For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.
- Isaiah 48:11 -

O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action!
For Your own sake,
O my God, do not delay,
because Your city and Your people
are called by Your name.
- Daniel 9:19 -

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Albert N. Martin was the pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, NJ for over 40 years. He recently moved to Michigan with his new wife to be closer to her family. On June 7th, he returned to Trinity and preached during the Sunday morning service.

I don't go to Trinity, but I've visited on multiple occasions to sit under Pastor Martin's preaching. The man is truly a gift of the Lord Jesus to His Church. We ought all to pray for more men like this man.

So I went back to Trinity with a good friend of mine who is a member there a few weeks back. And I was excited. I was looking forward to hear what Pastor Martin had to say. What wonderful message, exhortation, rebuke, did he have for the congregation he loved and shepherded for nearly half a century?

He began his message by talking about the Bible, how it's quite a large book, and really is more like a library, being a collection of books. And then he started talking about the overarching message of the Bible that's recognizable in certain "capsule statements" that are given throughout revelation.

From 04:03 to 04:39: God has given us these wonderful little capsule statements that give us the heart of the whole message of the Bible. And those statements become like a door into this marvelous, panoramic, overarching message of Bible. And if you can grasp those particular portions, you have a handle on what the Bible is all about.

And so then, as I was wondering what was coming, he announced his text: Isaiah 53:6.

And I, like an idiot, was disappointed. "Isaiah 53?" I thought. "This is no great message that he flew back to deliver. This is just the Gospel."

I've asked for repentance for that thought. God be gracious to me for such a thought. And yet, it's what I thought. Pastor Martin was going to preach on the Gospel. He announced two major headings:

1. The bad news of our desperate condition in sin.
2. The Good News of God's amazing provision for sin.

As he preached message, he progressively won me over. "There are so many people that need to hear this!" I thought. I must have thought of 10 people, specifically, who I would give this message to. He was responding to all sorts of arguments I've heard from these actual people. Awesome!

And then about 2/3 into the message, God's grace came to me in abundance. He made me so terrifyingly aware of my own sin before Him. He presented His holiness to me, and suddenly I realized that I was a sinner, and I desperately needed this message. It wasn't just the Gospel. It wasn't for others I could give it to. It was for me!

And oh how sweet my fellowship with the Savior was that morning! My gratefulness and thanksgiving overflowed like a new believer. This great news is my life. How wonderful it was to hear it unfolded, expounded, and unleashed into my heart.

Dear friends, I commend the Good News of Jesus Christ to you. Benefit yourselves by sitting down for an hour, perhaps with a friend or spouse or a family member, and sitting under the preaching of the Word of God, the very power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

The video and audio are available for download on Some thoughts are highlighted below. I welcome your comments and interaction in the thread.

22:36 to 23:34 - Here is a description of our fundamental orientation in life. And what is it? It is self-terminating! We live unto ourselves. That's what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5, verse 15: "That He, Christ, died for all that they who live should no longer live unto themselves." That's the statement of what has happened to us. Self-will, self-gratification, self-pleasing becomes the fundamental orientation of life, rather than God's will, God's purpose, God's design, God's desire. No, it's my will, my purpose, my ambitions.

This is a great indictment. We have turned each one of us to our own way. We live for ourselves. That's wasting our lives. We were created to live for the glory of God. And in the pursuit of God's glory, "self-will, self-gratification, and self-pleasing" are actualized and fully perfected, such that when I seek to find my will, gratification, and pleasure in Christ, I am not sinning in rebellion, but delightfully obeying my God. Because God's will, purpose, design, and desire is that we want what He wants, that we are gratified by Him, and that our pleasure be in Him.

23:37 to 25:31 - He has a great response to the objection, "But I never hurt anybody. I'm not a blight on society. I follow the rules. I help people. I love my neighbor. How can God be angry with that?"

But what's the common denominator between the hooker that's out on the street tonight plying her trade, the junkie looking for his next fix, and the polite, cultured, educated, upright person sitting here this morning who is a stranger to God's grace? What's the common denominator? Just this: they're both living to please themselves. ... You're living to yourself! God never gave you that mind to make a god of it, and bow down and worship it!

26:47 - "But," interjects the objector, "I'm only human. Human beings are flawed. That's what it is to be human. I can't be perfect. Nobody's perfect."

31:16 - The objector continues, "But God is a loving God. Sure He takes sin seriously, but He takes love more seriously. How can a loving God who understands my weakness and imperfection send me to hell?"

33:56 - A litmus test for any saving truth and saving religion. In what direction is the arrow?

40:22 - The dessert of sin. The cup of wrath that Jesus drank. The glory of substitution.

45:10 - The wonderful hymn that he reads is O Christ, What Burdens Bowed Thy Head. Below are the lyrics.

O Christ! What burdens bowed Thy head!

Our load was laid on Thee;

Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,

Didst bear all ill for me.

A Victim led, Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
’Tis empty now for me!
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me!

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me!

49:55 - "The glory of the Gospel is this. Hear me now. That in Gospel faith, the sinner in all the nakedness of his need, and the Savior in all the plenitude of His saving grace and power come together in the embrace of faith. No wafer, no water, no priest, no minister, no nothing between! Sinner, in all the nakedness of your need, the Savior, in the plenitude of His power, comes riding to you in the chariot of His Gospel! Lay hold of Christ and you'll have all the saving benefits that He purchased with His own precious blood! They're all in Him: peace with God, forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the hope of eternal life, a resurrection body, His promised presence! You've just got oodles of blessing! But they're all stored up in the Savior. And He is yours if you'll have Him by faith this morning!"

He is yours if you'll have Him by faith right now. Don't waste your life by living for yourself. Turn from your sin and self-worship, and trust Christ to be your perfect, sin-bearing substitute. Repent and believe the Gospel!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Love of Christ Compels Us To Benefit

One thing that is important to recognize about this idea of benefit is that it's not an optional way of loving your neighbor. It is loving your neighbor. Being a benefit to people is as optional as the Second Greatest Commandment. And the Second Greatest Commandment is as optional as the Foremost. So I'm not picking an emphasis or a means among many as my motivation for my blogging. If to love is to benefit -- and it is -- it's the only option we've got.

But this shouldn't just be my motivation for blogging. It must be my motivation for everything I do. As a servant of Christ, and as a minister of His Gospel, everything I say, everything I do, everything I am, is to be about benefiting people by presenting Christ to them.

I think that's what Paul had in mind when he wrote 2 Corinthians 5:13ff. Here's a piece:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Having concluded that the Gospel is true -- that the Father benefited us by giving us His Son as a substitute and propitiatory sacrifice for our sin -- Paul says, based on that (we see that in the word For in v. 14; i.e., it is a grounding clause), the love of Christ controls us or compels us to be "beside ourselves...for God," or "of sound mind...for you." The love of God demonstrated in the Gospel drives our love for God. And our love for God drives us to love you, to be a benefit to you. In this case, that's demonstrated by being "of sound mind."

So let us take an inventory of our lives. Let us examine ourselves. Let us go before the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus and cry for Him to search us and know our hearts, to see if there be a hurtful (the opposite of beneficial) way in us. Let's ask Him to reveal to us the ways of our lives in which we are not benefiting people. And let us ask Him that He would transform us into the image of His Son (2Cor 3:18), who benefited all those in His path in everything He said, did, and felt, who loved the Lord God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength, who loved His neighbor as Himself.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How Does Paul Make Christ Look Great?

This is a phenomenal portion of the preaching of the Word of God. You'll be benefited by watching/listening.

Though it seems like nothing could add to that, I want to demonstrate how that has wonderful implications for what I've been writing about. After listening through it a first time, listen again while reading my comments.

0:17-0:29 - "Everything else in his life is as nothing by comparison."

Everything else in your life, like:
  • The pleasure in our own laziness that would cause us to overlook the suffering of another (Lk 10:30-33), or even the suffering of another's animal (Deut 22:1-4; Ex 23:4-5).
  • The selfishness that causes us to speak or serve for our own glory and so that people are impressed with us (contrast Prov 18:2 with 1Pet 4:10-11).
  • The idolatry that causes us to turn down service opportunities so we can sit at home and watch TV.
  • The greed that causes us to refuse to lend money to a friend (Deut 15:7-8 ) or an enemy (Lk 6:30, 35).
  • The pride that makes us uncomfortable to associate with the lowly (Rom 12:16; Mk 2:17).
  • The gratification that we get by reviling in return or avenging ourselves (Rom 12:14) when wronged.
  • The gratification we get when we know people like us, the kind that cripples our proclamation of the Greatest News to a world who desperately needs it (Mt 5:13-16).
Everything else in our lives that causes us to not be a benefit to our world, to not love our neighbor as ourselves.

1:12 - "How do you make Christ look great in your life, and thus not waste it?"

I would add... "How do you make Christ look great in your life, and thus love people and not waste it?"

1:42 to 1:56 - "Friends, family are given to you so that you might live with them in such a way that it will be plain to the world: they are not your treasure, Christ is!"

You see? How do we really love people? Not by seeking to make much of them! Rather, we love them when we seek to make much of, to magnify, to make to look great and big, Christ! We show them the most satisfying and joy-inspiring Thing there is to see!

And remember, I cannot accurately present a supremely beautiful, consummately enjoyable, all-glorious, all-satisfying God to you without myself rejoicing in Him, marveling in His glory, and being satisfied in Him.

Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is precisely how we love our neighbor as ourselves. And so I think that the title of this post is interchangeable with the following: How Does Paul Love His Neighbor as Himself? Making Christ look great is loving your neighbor.

2:26 to 2:43 - "The way we display the supreme worth of Jesus is by treasuring Him above all things and then making choices which make the joy we have in His supreme worth manifest."

That, dear friends, is benefiting the world. It is expressly how the Church is to love those in her midst. Make those choices. Decide to be a servant of all (Mk 10:44-45) in everything that you do. Decide that the reason you're here on this planet is to make much of Jesus Christ and thereby present Him to the world. Pray with me that God Himself would fill you, me, and all the Church of God with His Spirit so as to make us a true benefit to all those we come in contact with, in the name of Jesus.


Monday, June 15, 2009

This is the Law and the Prophets

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
- Romans 13:10 -

On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 22:40 -

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 7:12 -

As a third part to my previous two posts (Part 1, Part 2), I wanted to focus on how Jesus' statement that loving our neighbor is the Law and the Prophets. In the language of the three above verses, treating people the same way we want to be treated is loving our neighbor, and that is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. I want us to understand the weight of the implications of this.

The holy, righteous, and good Law (Rom 7:12), the commandment that approaches the limit to all perfection (Ps 119:96), the Word that God has magnified above all His name (Ps 138:2), this generous disclosure of the very heart and mind of the eternal God of the universe (1Cor 2:16), over a millennium of revelation spanning 4,000 years of history aims at and is fulfilled by love.

John Piper, in his book What Jesus Demands from the World, says it better than I can:
When you see people love like that (fulfill the Golden Rule), what you are seeing is the visible expression of the aim of the Law and the Prophets. This behavior among people manifests openly and publicly and practically what the Old Testament is about. It fulfills the Law and the Prophets by making the aim visible. Loving God, however, is invisible. It is an internal passion of the soul. But it comes to expression when you love others. So loving others is the outward manifestation, the visible expression, the practical demonstration and therefore the fulfillment of loving God and therefore of what the Old Testament is about. ... Love is the origin (Matt. 22:40) and the goal (Matt. 7:12) of the Law and the Prophets. It is the beginning and the end of why God inspired the Bible. ...

Jesus is saying…if we truly understood [the Old Testament, that] would enable us to see that all the law was pointing beyond the ceremonial and the external to the heartfelt love commanded by Jesus. (pp. 253, 255)

I want to take a look at how all the Law and the Prophets -- all of the Old Testament revelation -- really is all about benefiting all those we come in contact with. There are a lot of passages, and that's on purpose. If you don't have time now, I would strongly recommend that when you do have some free time you reflect and meditate on these passages, and how comprehensive this aim is for God as revealed in His Word.

Examples from the Law
  • Deuteronomy 15:1-2, 7-11 – Not withstanding the year of remission, Israel was commanded to lend freely to the poor among them.
  • Deuteronomy 15:12-15-18 – They were to release their slaves in the seventh year, but not just release them. They were not to go away empty-handed. Israel was commanded to send their slaves away with livestock and crops and wine.
  • Deuteronomy 19:1-10 – Israel is commanded to set aside a city of refuge for a manslayer so that innocent blood won’t be shed.
  • Deuteronomy 19:14 – God commands them not to move boundary markers so as to steal their neighbor’s property.
  • Deuteronomy 21:10-14 – They are not to mistreat the captive women that they might marry.
  • Deuteronomy 22:1-4, cf. Exodus 23:4-5 – They are not to be indifferent or unaffected by suffering, but to take care of their neighbors’ lost animals (and any other property).
  • Deuteronomy 22:8 – They are to build guard rails along their roofs so that no one might fall off.
  • Deuteronomy 23:15-16 – They are not to return an escaped slave to his master, and neither are they to mistreat him.
  • Deuteronomy 23:19 – They are not to charge interest to their neighbor.
  • Deuteronomy 23:24-25, cf. Deuteronomy 24:19-22, Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 19:9-10 – The people are allowed to gather what they need for their hunger from their neighbor's vineyard, but they may not put anything in their basket to store it. God makes provision for the hungry to be fed, but He also ensures that no one be taken advantage of by hoarding.
  • Deuteronomy 24:10-13, cf. Exodus 22:25-27 – Rejoice as you peer in to the large, compassionate, and gracious heart of God! God cares for the coldness of the poor man with no covering. "What else shall he sleep in?" Amazing.
  • Deuteronomy 24:14-15 – They are to pay a poor man his wages each day, not withholding anything that is due him, because it’s all he has to live on.
  • Deuteronomy 26:1-12 – Tithing is a means of caring for the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows.
  • Exodus 20:12-17 – The last six commandments relate to our loving others. Don’t do these things. Instead, love!
  • Exodus 21:2 – God commands that slaves be released every seven years.
  • Exodus 21:18-19 – If they hurt a man, they were to compensate him for his inability to work and take care of him until he recovered.
  • Exodus 23:12 – God ordained the Sabbath to give rest to their animals and refreshment to their slaves.
  • Leviticus 25:25 – If their neighbor lost his property, they were to buy it back themselves for him until he was able to repay them. And if he wasn’t able to repay, they were to give it back to him in the year of Jubilee.
  • Leviticus 25:35-43 – They were to take in the poor among them to live with them in their household, and were not to treat them as slaves.

Examples from the Prophets

  • Isaiah 58:4-7, 10; cf. Isaiah 1:10-17 – God condemns religious ritualism, and an "adherence" to His Law that doesn't include the heart, that doesn't include love. The obedience that He desires is "to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke, ... to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him."
  • Jeremiah 22:3 – 'Thus says the LORD, "Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place."
  • Ezekiel 18:7-9 – ...if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully-- he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD.
  • Zechariah 7:9-10 – "Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'"

Examples from the New Testament

  • Luke 10:30-37 – See this post, under the section "Scripture Commands that Believers Love by Benefiting."
  • Luke 3:10-14 – John the Baptist explains that the fruit in keeping with repentance is to love your neighbor as yourself in your context of life, whether a tax collector, a soldier, or just another person in the crowd.
  • Matthew 9:9-13; Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:6-11 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for missing the intent of the Law. They are so concerned with the ritualism and their own self-righteousness that they couldn’t see that the intent of the Law was always to love; that is, to do good, to benefit people.

As you can see, the Old Testament (and the New!) is replete with God’s prescription of love for one’s neighbors and enemies such that they are a practical benefit to them. And when God is not prescribing love for one’s neighbor, He is prescribing love for Himself! It is just everywhere!

Effectively and literally, the Law and the Prophets can indeed be summed up by (1) God benefiting His people by commanding that they love Him, and (2) God commanding His people to thereby benefit others.

Indeed, “this is Law and the Prophets.”

The Failure of Humanity and the Victory of Jesus

One thing we can’t miss here, though, is the Gospel! Loving God and loving our neighbor is what all of God’s revelation is about! And yet in ourselves we are miserable failures to do it! Saved or unsaved, we fall so far short of doing both of these things on a daily basis! The glorious aim of love presented so practically and so unmistakably in Scripture goes unfulfilled in fallen humanity. Because of our sinful flesh, this good, holy, and gracious Law could not conform us to the image of God in Christ.

But God sent His Son to do what the Law could not do. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this Law! And He was born and lived and died and rose again so that the requirement of this Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for those of us who believe this Good News in His name!

Conclusion: Worship!

The right conclusion to all these things – that is, that:

  1. God Himself is so worthy and lovely and glorious that He regards Himself as the greatest benefit anyone can have,
  2. That He gives Himself freely to His people,
  3. That we love people simply by loving Him and presenting Him to them,
  4. And that the very essence of His character as its revealed both in Scripture and in Jesus is to shed abroad His goodness in love...

... all of that is to cause us to love Him and worship Him!

It’s not enough that we read and write and study and talk about these things and go back to our lives knowing that it is our primary duty to love God. No! Having joyfully gazed into these glorious truths of the unsearchable wisdom of God, we must be affected by Him! His loveliness must overtake us! Seeing Him so high and exalted and glorious must compel us to fall to our knees and lift up our hands in worship and overflowing praise! This, friends, this is what it means to say God is Love.

So having studied the Word of our God, having understood our God, having seen our God, and having known our God, let us pour out our hearts in adoration of Him for all that He is!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Our Benefit?

In my last post, I started writing about why I named the blog the way I did. I discussed this concept of benefit in the context of Jesus' command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The conclusion that I reached was that, Biblically speaking, to love is to benefit. The love that receives the title of the Greatest and Second Greatest Commandment, the love that sums up the entire Old Testament revelation, the love upon which all the Law and the Prophets hang, the love that is the aim and fulfillment of all God said in His holy, righteous, and good Law, can be defined most foundationally as benefiting the one you mean to love. And that, I wrote, "is what is driving me to write for my own blog. My deep affection for God Himself, inspired by God Himself, causes in me an overwhelming desire to be a benefit to you."

"...a benefit to you." And yet, the name of the blog is For
Our Benefit. Why did I include myself there? Why did I create the blog under the name, "For Your Benefit," and then change all the headings throughout the page from Your to Our?

Well, to be honest, my first "gut-reaction" reason was a bad one. I thought, "Saying, for
your benefit makes it sound like I've got all this godly wisdom that you need, and so I'll be pontificating to all you little spiritual light-weights." That's not what I was trying to convey, but I thought that that would be how it might be received. And the reality is, I don't have anything that I haven't been given (1Cor 4:7), and that I myself don't need repeated over and over again (Phil 3:1; 2Pet 2:12-15). So I didn't want to sound overly pious and arrogant by suggesting that that wasn't the case.

But the reason for the change goes deeper than that. There is something additional and intentional that I was intending to communicate by including myself in the category of the ones benefited. And that's what I want to take time to consider in this post. And I'll consider it still in the context of the Greatest and Second Greatest Commandments.

So, to love someone is to be a benefit to them. We saw that the Scripture commands believers to love by benefiting, that in His earthly ministry Jesus Himself loved by benefiting, and that, ultimately, the Father loves by benefiting. So we are to love our neighbor. We are to benefit our neighbor. But what does it mean to benefit someone?
How do I benefit my neighbor?

God’s Love for Himself is the Source of His Love for People

To answer that question we must look again to how God Himself benefits the objects of His love. And we remember that Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrates His love toward us in that
Christ died for us sinners. God demonstrates His own love by benefiting us with His beloved Son. Or, to say it another way, God demonstrates His own love by benefiting us with Himself. So in our helpless and cursed situation (i.e., spiritual death), God considers what would be the greatest benefit to His people. "How do I love them? How do I most benefit them? What would be their greatest benefit?" And the answer He comes up with, marvelously glorious in its simplicity, is: "Me.

"I'll give them
Me! I'll cause them to know Me (Jer 31:34)! I'll cause them to love Me (Ezek 36:26-27)!"

He understands Himself to be our greatest benefit! Now, if we want to know how to love anybody, we must learn from God what love is and how to do it.
And God says, “To love is to benefit, and I am everyone’s greatest benefit. The way I benefit people is by giving them Myself." Based on that, then, I submit that God’s love for Himself is the source of His love for people. That is to say that, ultimately, what moves God to any of His acts of love for people is a deep affection for, a supreme estimation of, and a chief regard to Himself, and nothing else.

Some Scriptures that are
so sweet to me, that give me much peace and much gladness, are the following. They teach that the source of God's love for people (i.e., redemption) is His love for Himself.
  • Ezekiel 36:22-23 - Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name..."
  • Isaiah 48:11 - For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.
  • Isaiah 43:25 - I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.
  • Titus 2:14 - ...who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
In these magnificently sweet passages, God declares that He is the end in His act of redeeming His people. It's not for our sake, it's for His own name's sake; it's to procure for Himself a purified people. What motivates Him to love us -- to benefit us by wiping out our transgressions -- is His own chief regard for Himself.

But wait! Is that loving? Is that even OK? Did I somehow just blaspheme the love of God? Did I just call God selfish? Or ego-maniacal? And doesn't the Bible say that love "does not seek its own" (1Cor 13:5)? Is God's love sinful, or morally corrupt, if He considers Himself before us?

My response is: it would be
sinful and unloving for Him to do anything else.

Why? Follow me here...

God is the One who is most infinitely worthy of regard, worship, and adoration. To regard, worship, or adore anything other than what is most worthy of those things, is idolatry. Therefore, if God does His loving out of anything but a chief regard to Himself, He becomes an idolater. At that point, He fails morally. He ceases to be holy, and therefore ceases to be God. And that would be
bad news for us. We would have no hope if that was the case (cf. 1Cor 15:19).

But that He
is absolutely committed to worshiping that which is most worthy of being worshiped means that He is holy, that He is God. And that is Good News for us. There is solace, there is comfort, there is rest to be had in the knowledge that God is motivated by Himself to love us, and not motivated by you and me to love us. The latter necessitates a system in which we must earn God's love. The former is the foundation for the Gospel of Grace.

The fact that God does
everything to magnify Himself is loving to us, because He is what gives most satisfaction to absolutely everybody everywhere. Think about it. If someone were to say, "I'm going to commit my life to doing something that will put on display the greatest and most enjoyable thing that could ever be witnessed," we wouldn't accuse that person of being ego-maniacal. We would say that person is laboring for our benefit.

And so the love of God declares: "I'm going to work all things so that you see what is the most joyfully thrilling, soul-satisfying thing for you to see: Me."

:::Deep breath:::

So what does that have to do with how we benefit people? Well, consider this:

If God’s love for people is God-centered, our love for people must be God-centered.

If God’s love for people consists ultimately in a chief regard for God, then our love for people must consist ultimately in a chief regard for God.

If God’s love for Himself is the source of His love for people, then...

Our Love for God is the Source of Our Love for People

I believe that this can be seen simply by recognizing that the first commandment is the first and the second commandment is the second.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
"The second is like it." The second is like the first because the second flows out of the first.

So how is our love for God the source of our love for people? Well, remembering that God defines love as benefiting, and He proclaims Himself as everyone's greatest benefit, the way we can most benefit people is to give them God.

But what in the world does
that mean? How do I do that? How do I give people God?

My answer is:
Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
Catch this. How do we know we love God's people? How do we know we love our neighbor? We love our neighbor when we love God!

We're taught elsewhere in Scripture to seek this (i.e., loving God) as our chief end. We're told that as we do this "all these things will be added to us."
  • Matthew 6:33 - Considering the greatest commandments as commandments needing to be obeyed, Jesus says just to seek first the kingdom and His righteousness. Be consumed with loving God with all that you are. And all other things – which are summed up in “Love your neighbor as yourself” – will be added unto as you just seek Him first.
  • Leviticus 19:14, 32; 25:43 - As a grounding for commands to benefit their neighbor, God continually says to Israel, “You shall revere your God.” Reverence for God is the basis for loving one’s neighbor.
  • Luke 10:38-42 - Martha is worried about many things. Only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part.
  • Colossians 3:1-4 - This command to be so consumed with heavenly things because that is where Christ is, is the ground for all of the practical directives on how to love each other from 3:12 all the way to the end of the body of the letter in 4:6.
  • Psalm 27:4 - Aren’t you benefited by David’s singularity of focus there? I see his all-consuming desire to just behold the beauty of God, and I am thereby helped to see God more clearly, treasure Him more fully, and enjoy Him more fully. And that is my greatest benefit! To know God! So it can properly be said that David loves me by displaying to me his love for God. That is how we are to love our neighbor!
This is why the first commandment is first, and the second is second! This is how love for people flows out of a love for God. When we are so consumed with the glory of Jesus Christ, when He becomes our All in all, and when our hearts are captured to just seek Him first, in our satisfaction we proclaim Him, and our lives tell the truth about His sweetness. We manifest the glory of God, because our lives are a product of seeing Him. And we prefer Him more than we prefer the deceptive satisfaction-substitute that comes from sin. That is loving the world. That is benefiting the world.

Because the greatest good that can be done to the world is to see Jesus Christ. And when we esteem Him rightly and prefer Him, we present Him to everyone around us as He is: as supremely desirable, supremely beautiful, supremely attractive, supremely compelling, supremely preferable. To be satisfied in Christ, then, is to love the world; because we present to them what gives them most joy and what is most satisfying. When we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, in that we love our neighbor as ourselves.


So how does this overlap with why I called the blog "For
Our Benefit" instead of "For Your Benefit"?

My answer is: when I set out to seek your benefit -- the benefit of my neighbor -- I cannot do that unless I am seeking to benefit you with God Himself. And I cannot benefit you with God if I am not presenting Him to you accurately. And I cannot accurately present a supremely beautiful, consummately enjoyable, all-glorious, all-satisfying God to you
without myself rejoicing in Him, marveling in His glory, and being satisfied in Him. And those things are my greatest benefit. I cannot benefit you without seeking first my own benefit in Christ Himself. And so, this "
overwhelming desire to be a benefit to you" which overflows into this blog becomes my benefit as well.

And so there you have it. After two long too-long posts, I hope I've communicated the reason for the blog's name. It is my desire to benefit you all as I am benefited by Christ. I also hope to benefit from your interaction in the comment threads. I hope you'll leave a comment or two to that end.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
- Psalm 27:4 -

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- Psalm 73:25-26 -

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why Benefit?

bĕn' - ǝ - fĭt

1. Something that promotes or enhances well-being; an advantage.
2. A kindly deed.

Middle English origin, from Old French bienfait, good deed, from Latin benefactum, from benefacere, to do a service.

So I mentioned at the end of my first post that in a foundational way, my purpose in creating this blog is "our benefit." I want to take some time to share with you why I think this idea of benefit is an important, even foundational, concept.

This is the Law and the Prophets

In preparation for some recent teaching opportunities the Lord has given me, I've considered the Two Greatest Commandments of the Law. These are recorded in Matthew 22:37-39. An expert in the Mosaic Law asks Jesus what the great commandment of the Law is.

And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

One of the amazing things about Jesus' response is that He doesn't just answer the lawyer's inquiry about the greatest commandment. He also gives Him the second greatest, and adds an astounding commentary: that the entire corpus of everything God has revealed about Himself from Genesis to John the Baptist depends on these two commandments. Over a millennium of revelation spanning 4,000 years of history hangs on these two imperatives.

I can't quickly get over that. Jesus is intending to stun us with the magnitude and greatness of these two commandments. He is saying that they are the pillars that hold up all of Old Testament revelation. The holy, righteous, and good Law (Rom 7:12), the commandment that approaches the limit to all perfection (Ps 119:96), the Word that God has magnified above all His name (Ps 138:2), this generous disclosure of the very heart and mind of the eternal God of the universe (1Cor 2:16) hangs on two words!

And they're "like" each other. They both have to do with love. One flows out of the other. And they sum up what my life is to look like before God. And so with all my attention arrested on these two commandments, and on the absolutely ultimate statement the Lord Jesus Himself is making about them, I'm compelled to consider the nature of this love.

Even though it might seem totally backwards, I want to start with the second greatest commandment. What does it mean to love people? What does love for my neighbor look like? I submit that, ultimately, the Bible defines love for our neighbor as benefiting them. To love someone is to benefit them.

Scripture Commands that Believers Love by Benefiting

In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus gives an exposition of His command to love. In verses 27 through 31 He tells us that love for even our enemies consists in doing good to those who hate us, in asking for God's blessing on those who curse us, in praying for those who mistreat us, in not retaliating to physical violence, in not resisting the seizure of our property, in lending liberally without expecting any payback, in giving to everyone that asks of us. And then as a summary of all of it in verse 31 He says, literally, "Do to others as you want them to do to you."

Now, in consideration of all of those commands -- which I believe to be a practical fleshing out of the command to love our enemy -- the concept of doing good, or being a benefit to others, is at the bottom of what it means to love. Love is not merely a feeling of fondness or infatuation. It does indeed involve deep affection, but that affection, if properly inspired by its object, will overflow in action.

If it doesn't, James asks, "What's the point in calling it love?"
What use is it (Gk. ophelos, literally, What is the profit? What is the benefit?), my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use (ophelos, benefit) is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Catch what he's saying. He's saying that if you're going to say you have faith -- if you're going to say you love God, and even if you're actually going to say you love your brother or sister and really desire their good, but you don't do anything to help the, to actually be a practical benefit to them, you don't love them. Your faith -- your love for God, your love for your neighbor -- is dead. It doesn't really exist.

The Apostle John says the same thing:
But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Same thing. We can talk about loving people quite a bit. And we can even feel very emotionally touched by or taken with them. But unless we are some practical benefit to them, it's not really love. Let us love in deed and in truth.

One example of this love for our neighbor that Jesus Himself gives is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. A Pharisee asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain eternal life. Jesus asks him how the Law reads to him, and he responds with these two greatest commandments. Jesus says, "Do this and you will live." But then, wishing to justify himself, the Pharisee asks who his neighbor is. If I have to love my neighbor, well then, who's my neighbor? Surely not that sinner over there, or that tax collector over there.

And Jesus tells him this wonderful parable in which we find out, not who is my neighbor, but whose neighbor am I. The Samaritan is an example of one who loves his neighbor as himself, as he showed (Lit. did) mercy to the man who fell among the robbers (Lk 10:37). Let's examine this doing of mercy.
  • v. 33 - "He felt compassion." His love included the emotions. Can't miss this. But it doesn't stay at the merely emotional level.
  • v. 34 - He bandanged up his wounds and poured oil on them.
  • v. 34 - He put him on his own beast. He didn't pass the buck or leave it to someone else.
  • v. 34 - He brought him to a place of rest, but didn't leave him there. He stayed with him all night.
  • v. 35 - The next morning he paid for the man's financial needs and promised the innkeeper that he himself would reimburse him if he spent anything else. His concern was that the man got the care he needed.
And so again, the way in which we are a neighbor to those around us -- the way the love for our neighbor finds expression and fulfillment -- is to be a practical benefit to our neighbor in his need.

Jesus Loves by Benefiting

Not only are the people of God commanded to love in such a way that we benefit people, but the Lord Jesus Himself benefited people in His earthly ministry. We'll take a more abbreviated look at this.
  • Matthew 9:18-35 - This is a section of Scripture that in a rapid-fire sort of way presents Jesus as one who is just healing everyone in His path. The sick and afflicted and the needy come to Him and are healed -- are benefited -- one after the other after the other.
  • Mark 6:30-34 - Though Jesus and the disciples needed to rest and spend some time away from the crowds, Jesus' compassion moves Him to continue to benefit the crowds by teaching them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd.
  • Luke 22:49-51 - Benefiting even His enemies, Jesus becomes a true, practical, physical benefit to Malchus -- a man coming to arrest Him and lead Him to His death -- by healing his ear that was just chopped off by Peter.
Jesus loved His neighbor as Himself. Those who were around Jesus during His earthly ministry can certainly report of the benefit they'd received simply by being in His way. Jesus loves by benefiting.

The Father Loves by Benefiting

This is perhaps what I should have started with, because this is really the fountainhead of all love. The ground for why love is defined as benefit in human relationships is because God Himself defines His own love this way.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ... while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His son.
Let the glory of the Gospel cause your heart to worship as we consider these things. While we were His enemies, God loved us in Christ. This is how the Father demonstrates love.

He benefits even His enemies by giving us the greatest thing He could possibly give: His Son. And His Son pays the penalty for our sin by dying in our place. The Father credits His Son's righteousness to us so that we -- who were enemies of God and hopeless to do anything about it (Rom 5:6-11), having only a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of the fire which will consume His adversaries (Heb 10:27) -- might be reconciled to Him as friends!

Think about this. Dead in our sin, cut off from the Father, with no hope of fellowship with Him for whom we were created. At that point, what is our greatest benefit? Our greatest benefit is an entirely righteous, propitiating, sin-and-wrath-bearing substitute. And that is exactly what we are given. God demonstrates His own love by benefiting us with His beloved Son.


And so to love, whether speaking of God's love for His people or God's people's love for each other, is to benefit. The love that we are commanded to have, the love that is the aim and fulfillment of all revelation, is what is driving me to write for my own blog. My deep affection for God Himself, inspired by God Himself, causes in me an overwhelming desire to be a benefit to you. I pray that He would be pleased to make it so, to His everlasting glory and our everlasting joy.

And so because I understand Biblical love this way, I named the blog with the word "Benefit" headlining. In fact, I was even considering naming it Ti to ophelos, which is a Greek transliteration of James 2:14, "What use is it?" But then I thought about whether that would benefit those who don't know Greek, and I realized it wouldn't. So Ti to ophelos is one name that didn't make the cut.

The other one is "For Your Benefit." I actually started out with everything set up under this name. And then I decided to change "Your" to "Our." There's an intentional reason for that. It's also linked to how we can benefit people, and it's a point I don't want to miss making. I'll make it in my next post.

But now, brethren, ... what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? -- 1 Corinthians 14:6

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Start Now?

So I've been lurking around in the blogosphere since 2007. It started with Pulpit Magazine soon after I attended my first Shepherds' Conference. Then I started reading PyroManiacs. Between Two Worlds followed. I certainly enjoyed the material. It's been great to occupy my mind with the things of Christ in my leisure time.

When I got comfortable enough I started commenting regularly on the above blogs along with some of the others on my blogroll. I've really enjoyed the interaction that comes from the discussions in the comment threads. It's led to the formation of some relationships that have been enriching for me, even if I've never seen any of my blogger friends face-to-face.

So... reading, commenting, sharpening, good relationships. But no blog of my own. For the most part that was because there was no convincing me that I had the time. But now I'm writing the first official post for my blog. Why now?

Well, if my reason for not blogging up till now was because of my lack of time, you'd think that the reason I'd start blogging would be because I came into some extra free time. That's not entirely true. It's not entirely false, though, either. You see, at this point in my life I'm a middle school teacher, and my school year is coming close to ending. So I suppose I will have more time than I've had. But that's not my only reason. Why else?

I've often wanted to journal through some of my life's experiences, but never really had the self-discipline (or maybe just the interest) to do it. Besides, if I barely have the time to write it, who's going to have the time to read it? Besides me, that is. And if me only, well, knowing myself that'd be just a snare for self-indulgence.

But in these next couple of months my life is going to change dramatically, and I thought it'd be cool to keep a record of some of those experiences of change.

Going to seminary. I guess the first big (huge!) change is that I'm going to be starting an M. Div. program at The Master's Seminary this fall. I'm really looking forward to what God has for me there. I expect it to be a time of learning, growth, stretching, and joy. And as I think about it, it seems to be a good idea to keep a record of some major events that come my way and lessons I learn throughout that experience. It'd be one way not to forget stuff I'll be learning at a very critical time in my life and ministry.

Moving. Going to seminary won't just be a life change for Janna (my lovely wife of almost a year) and me. It will also mean a geographical change. We live in New Jersey. TMS is in California. So we're swapping coasts this summer, and in the process leaving everything both of us have ever known in the way of home, family, and friends. Our feelings about that are the standard: sad to leave the great things God's blessed us with here, but excited to see what He has for us there. But I also thought now would be a cool time to start jotting down some thoughts here and there as we make this other big change.

Skeletons. (That heading get your attention?) I've thought blogging would also just be a great way not to forget various thoughts on the Bible and the Christian life that have proven to be beneficial to me and others -- thoughts for which I have no other outlet and don't want to lose. And in that vein, I think it would be a great way to document some reference material for future ministry opportunities. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his fabulous book Preaching and Preachers, calls such a process "making sermon skeletons." He advises preachers to always write down the thoughts they have about a particular passage of Scripture or a particular theme in the Bible, and give those skeletons "flesh" at a later time when a teaching opportunity presents itself. I've had a lot of "random" thoughts while reading, listening to a sermon or conference message, or talking to brothers and sisters. And I think, "I should write that down!" or "I should flesh that out more!" But I never do. Now I'll hope to have a place to do that.

Ministry. In this past year, I've begun to regularly teach the adult Sunday School class at my church. My pastor also asked me to give a Thanksgiving Eve mini-sermon. And I've also been given the opportunity (for the first time) to guest preach at a friend's church on two separate Sunday mornings. So the Lord has recently increased my opportunities to teach His people. And as I've labored in His Word, walked with Him, enjoyed Him, and grown by His Spirit, I've really learned the joy of ministering to the people of God by teaching, preaching, and exhortation. I've seen the fruit of such efforts, and it is remarkably humbling. And I've often thought that it might be beneficial to others (even those not in our Sunday School class) to hear/read about some of the things God has been teaching me.

And that last reason is largely the reason I named the blog "For Our Benefit." Summed up, that's really the goal in recording and sharing my thoughts on these matters: our benefit. In an upcoming post or two, I"ll look into that idea of benefit a bit more, and share with you in depth about why I named the blog the way I did. (I'll even share a few names that didn't make the cut!)

So, that's why I'm blogging now. Maybe I'll see you in the comment thread some time soon.

Let all things be done for edification. -- 1 Corinthians 14:26

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. -- 1 Peter 4:10-11