I Will Love Them Freely

Hosea 14:4

This sentence is a body of divinity in miniature. He who understands its meaning is a theologian, and he who can dive into its fulness is a true master in Israel. It is a condensation of the glorious message of salvation which was delivered to us in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The sense hinges upon the word “freely.” This is the glorious, the suitable, the divine way by which love streams from heaven to earth, a spontaneous love flowing forth to those who neither deserved it, purchased it, nor sought after it. It is, indeed, the only way in which God can love such as we are. The text is a death-blow to all sorts of fitness: “I will love them freely.” Now, if there were any fitness necessary in us, then he would not love us freely; at least, this would be a mitigation and a drawback to the freeness of it. But it stands, “I will love you freely.” We complain, “Lord, my heart is so hard.” “I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish.” “I will not love you because you feel your need; I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel that softening of spirit which I could desire.” Remember, the softening of spirit is not a condition, for there are no conditions; the covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever; so that we without any fitness may venture upon the promise of God which was made to us in Christ Jesus, when he said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” It is blessed to know that the grace of God is free to us at all times, without preparation, without fitness, without money, and without price! “I will love them freely.” These words invite backsliders to return: indeed, the text was specially written for such–“I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely.” Backslider! surely the generosity of the promise will at once break your heart, and you will return, and seek your injured Father’s face.

Charles Spurgeon


The Vindication of Christ

Matthew 24:32–35 “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (vv. 34–35).

Our study of the first part of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1–35), has endeavored to keep in mind Jesus’ warning to the leaders of Jerusalem that judgment would fall upon them for rejecting the Son of God (23:29–39). This prediction sets the stage for Christ’s words about the overthrow of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem, indicating that God’s wrath caused the ruin of the Holy City in AD 70 (24:1–31). Jesus Himself is the Almighty’s instrument of judgment, according to verse 30. God’s coming on the clouds is a metaphor for God’s judgment in the Old Testament (Isa. 19:1; Ezek. 30:1–4); therefore, Jesus is saying that He will execute the Creator’s perfect justice upon that generation of unbelieving Israelites when He promises to come on the clouds.

We argue for this approach to Matthew 24:1–35 because it makes the best sense out of the passage, not to mention that our Lord’s credibility is called into question if these verses are about things yet to come, not Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70. Jesus told His listeners that their generation would not pass away until 24:1–35 was fulfilled (v. 34), but that generation died without seeing His final return. Realizing this problem, many who believe 24:1–35 is yet to be fulfilled try to make “this generation” mean something other than the people who first heard the Olivet Discourse. However, the Greek for “this generation” is used throughout Matthew’s gospel to refer to the people who lived at the time of Jesus. This view raises no such difficulties, showing that the events of 24:1–35 did take place within the generation of those who first heard Jesus, vindicating Him as a true prophet from God.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says there is “redemptive-historical importance [to] Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70” (The Last Days According to Jesus p. 26). Though Jesus’ final return lies ahead (Acts 1:6–11), there was a coming of the Son of Man in judgment a few decades after His resurrection, a coming vital for understanding God’s salvation. The old temple was demolished shortly after Christ ascended to heaven, visibly confirming Him as its replacement and the only mediator between us and the Father (John 2:13–22; 14:6; Heb. 10:1–18).

R.C. Sproul

Did Jesus Accidentally Fulfill the Old Testament Prophecies?

Acts 3:11–26

As Peter spoke to the crowd in the temple courts following the healing of a man crippled from birth, he made it clear that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies (see Acts 3:18,24). But could Jesus have merely fulfilled these prophecies by accident? Could it be that he’s just one of many throughout history who have coincidentally fit the prophetic fingerprint?

“Not a chance,” comes the response of Louis Lapides, a Christian convert from Judaism. “The odds are so astronomical that they rule that out. Someone did the math and estimated that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion. That number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who’ve ever walked the planet!

“That same person calculated that if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet. If you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up one coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one that had been marked? The same odds that anybody in history could have fulfilled just eight of the prophecies.”

Scientist Peter Stoner estimated that the probability of fulfilling 48 prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Our minds can’t comprehend a number that big.

“The odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies,” Lapides concludes. “Yet Jesus—and only Jesus throughout all of history—managed to do it.

Lee Strobel

What to Do When the Heat’s Turned Up

Read James 1:1-12.

They came up to the ensign and poured a glass of ice water down his back and threw another in his face. The ensign, who had fallen asleep in the chow hall after five sleepless nights, opened his eyes for a second, just long enough to utter a dull “Thank you, sir.” A moment later his eyes rolled upward and then closed. His head went down again. He didn’t touch his meal.

It’s called Hell Week and is part of the navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition School where sailors are turned into SEALs—Sea-Air-Land commandos. By undergoing a grueling regimen of sleepless days and nights, sensory overload, and physical testing, these men are transformed into some of the toughest human beings in the world.

This final period of torturous physical and psychological training begins on Sunday night with exercising and lying wet on cold steel plates, installed on a nearby pier.

On Monday the six-man teams are ordered to run races with 250-pound Zodiac rubber assault boats balanced on their heads. On Tuesday, with less than an hour of sleep the night before, they have to row those Zodiac boats to Mexican waters and back. On Wednesday the men continue the races with boats bouncing on their heads.

The chance to disenroll awaits each student. All he has to do is ring a certain bell three times and say, “I quit.”

By Thursday everyone is hallucinating. By Friday afternoon the week is over, and the new SEALs are lined up to be checked by a doctor.

Only in terms of the ugliness of war can punishment like this make any sense. By pushing these men to the very brink of insanity during times of peace, the navy is giving them the best chance to be ready to face the cruelty of real war if it comes.

With his first words in this letter, James reminds his suffering brothers and sisters that they should not be surprised when they experience intense periods of testing. He knows that they face a spiritual conflict that will require a toughness learned only through proper instruction and monitored experience. James calls God’s training regimen “various [kinds of] trials” (1:2). As he prepares his friends for the inevitable test, he outlines for them and for us the following five strategies to employ when times of testing invade.

David Jeremiah

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

When God engaged to create man and woman and to ordain the union of marriage, he didn’t roll the dice or draw straws or flip a coin as to how they might be related to each other. He patterned marriage very purposefully after the relationship between his Son and the church, which he had planned from all eternity.

Therefore, marriage is a mystery — it contains and conceals a meaning far greater than what we see on the outside. God created man male and female and ordained marriage so that the eternal covenant relationship between Christ and his church would be imaged forth in the marriage union.

The inference Paul draws from this mystery is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are not arbitrarily assigned, but are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church.

Those of us who are married need to ponder again and again how mysterious and wonderful it is that God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves.

This is the foundation of the pattern of love that Paul describes for marriage. It is not enough to say that each spouse should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other. It is also important to say that husbands and wives should consciously copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the church.

I hope you will take this seriously whether you are single or married, old or young. The revelation of the covenant-keeping Christ and his covenant-keeping church hangs on it.

John Piper

Failure and Success: Our God is Too Small

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.—Psalm 34:3

I am positively sure after many years of observation and prayer that the basis of all of our trouble today, in religious circles, is that our God is too small.

When he says magnify the Lord, he doesn’t mean that you are to make God big, but you are to see Him big. When we take a telescope and look at a star, we don’t make the star bigger, we only see it big. Likewise you cannot make God bigger, but you are only to see Him bigger….

My brethren, God calls us to magnify Him, to see Him big. A meeting is not big because a lot of people are present. A meeting is big because a number of people see a big God in the meeting. And the bigger God is seen, the greater the meeting. A friend of mine has a little saying, ‘I would rather have a big, little meeting than a little, big meeting.’ There are a lot of big meetings that are little because the God in them is a small God. And there are a lot of little meetings that are big because God is big in the midst of them….

That is the first thing—magnify God. Your ministry will be little, and you will live and die little unless you have a bigger God. Success and the Christian, 36-37,40

“Lord, help me always to not only be satisfied with, but in fact to strive for, that ‘big, little meeting’ rather than a ‘little, big meeting.’ Amen.”

AW Tozer

Revive Us Again

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12, ESV).

At certain points throughout history, in various places around the globe, God has brought extraordinary seasons of awakening and revival to His people. No one can manufacture these kinds of happenings. God alone, in His sovereignty and mercy, knows exactly the right moment for these widespread, public experiences to break out.

But while we have no control over events like these, which people have traditionally called revivals, we do have control over being revived. “I am exceedingly afflicted,” one of the psalm writers said; “revive me, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:107, NASB). “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways” (Psalm 119:37). The Bible clearly teaches that God wants to revive us—wherever we are, at any moment of the day, at all times and occasions, every time we respond to His Word. He both prescribes and offers us a renewed interest in Him after we’ve been through any period of indifference or decline.

Don’t you want to experience that? Don’t you sense the hunger in your soul to pray, “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80:18)?

Among the defining marks that Paul eventually observed in the church at Corinth was a “longing,” a “zeal” for the Lord that hadn’t been there before (2 Corinthians 7:11, ESV)—a palpable sense of revival. They’d previously been involved in all kinds of sexual sin, not really caring how it impacted their relationship with God, or with each other, or how it worked against their Christian witness in the community. But then the Lord woke them up to their sin, and they repented of it with their whole hearts, both with urgency and sincerity.

Then like a river rushing down a mountainside, like a waterfall gushing from a cool stream, His mercy began to wash over their lives. They experienced the renewing of joy, the restoration of free-flowing fellowship with Him. They longed to stay close to Him again. Their hearts became tender and sensitive to Him once more. They didn’t realize their life with Him could be this good or this exciting, but that’s exactly what it became.

And yours can be the same. You can be living it, and loving it, walking confidently in “the joy of your salvation,” hardly able to wait for what He’s about to do next in your life.

Church won’t be a chore any longer. You’ll find yourself wanting to hurry out of bed in the morning so you can get into God’s Word. You’ll look forward to being with His people, actively engaged in worshiping and serving Him. Where before you felt caught up in your problems and burdens and all the uncertainty about the future, now you’re basing each moment on the certainty that you’re going to heaven someday. You’re too passionate about the things of God to worry over matters so temporary.

Not many people choose to travel this road—from repentance to restoration to revival. But you can travel it—moving forward, not looking back, “a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance never takes you to a bad place, only to a good place. And wouldn’t that be a great place to live?

James McDonald