Watchman Nee

[3] And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. [4] There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? [5] For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. [6] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. [8] She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. [9] And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

– Mark 14:3-9

The Lord has ordained that the story of Mary anointing Him with the costly ointment should always accompany the preaching of the gospel…

Now we must look at the question from two angles, that of Judas, and that of the other disciple. They all thought it to be a waste. To Judas, who had never called our Lord the Lord, everything that was poured upon Him was waste. Even water would have been waste. To the world, the service of the Lord, and our giving of ourselves to Him is pure waste. “Such and such a man would have made good in the world if he were not a Christian,” is a sentiment that is frequently expressed. For anyone with natural talents to be a Christian, to serve the Lord, is deemed to be pure waste…

Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him…

That my usefulness should be brought to the full is not what the Lord is after, but His concern is rather with my position at His feet and my anointing of His head. What I have as an alabaster box, the most precious thing, my whole life. I give it all up to the Lord. It seems as if it is a waste, but that is what He is after…

Further, the Lord said, “Wherever the gospel shall be preached, this story shall be told.” Why? Because the gospel is meant to produce this. The gospel is not primarily for the satisfaction of sinners. The gospel is preached that everything may be to the satisfaction of the Son of God…

O friends, what are we after? Are we after mere usefulness, as those disciples were? They wanted to make every penny of that three hundred pence go to its full length. They wanted to be used themselves. If only we can please Him, surely that should be enough.

Knowing God

[3] And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

– John 17:3

My children love it when their grandparents visit. Grandma and Grandpa give them gifts, take them places, and play with them. When they leave, my kids are sad. They still have the toys, but they miss their grandparents.

For children of God, faith is about more than the toys. Being a child of God is more than knowing the right things or even doing the right things. It’s about knowing the one true and living God, to love to be with the Father, and to love to worship Jesus Christ His Son.

Beauty for Ashes

[1] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
[2] to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
[3] to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
[4] They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

– Isaiah 61:1-4

Son of David, King of Glory

[1] The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…

[6] and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah

– Matthew 1:1, 6

King David was the greatest King in Israel’s history. He was a warrior who destroyed their enemies and brought peace and prosperity to the nation. Matthew shows David honor in calling Jesus the son of David. Yet at the same time, Matthew draws attention to David’s failures.

In verse 6, Matthew points out that Solomon is the son of David and the wife of Uriah. This is an odd introduction, something along the lines of “this is Tom who beats his wife” or “this is Rachel who cheats on her taxes.” Matthew could have named Solomon’s mother as Bathsheba but he makes certain that we understand that David unlawfully took another man’s wife. Even the greatest king of Israel was a sinner and a failure.

In verses 7-11, Matthew lists the kings of Israel after David, from Solomon to Jechoniah and the kings get worse and worse. There are a couple good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah but many more terrible kings. Ahaz burned his son as an offering to false gods. Manasseh filled the temple with altars to Baal and other demons. Things have gotten so bad by the time of Jechoniah that God sends the nation into exile. As a whole, the kings are one sorry disappointment after another.

We too spend most of our lives serving disappointing kings. Perhaps our “king” is pleasure, money, or prestige. These kings promise us the world but turn out to be ugly disappointments. These kings cannot save us or give us life.

In contrast to the ugliness of earthly kings, Matthew presents to us King Jesus. He is the eternal Son of God who washes the dirty feet of wicked people. He is the voice who spoke the world into being yet He knows our names. Jesus is the God who comes to save us, whose justice, holiness, mercy and steadfast love is more radiant than a million suns. He is the king we have been waiting for.

For the Sake of God

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Men are religious in order to conjure the spirits hovering behind the veil of Nature, to free themselves from the oppressive sway of the cosmos. It matters not whether the Lama priest confines the evil spirits in his jugs, whether the nature-gods of the Orient are invoked to afford shelter against the forces of nature, whether the loftier gods of Greece are worshipped in their ascendency above nature, or whether, finally, idealistic philosophy presents the spirit of man himself as the real object of adoration;—in all these different forms it is and remains a religion fostered for man’s sake, aiming at his safety, his liberty, his elevation, and partly also at his triumph over death. And even when a religion of this kind has developed itself into monotheism, the god whom it worships remains invariably a god who exists in order to help man, in order to secure good order and tranquility for the State, to furnish assistance and deliverance in time of need, or to strengthen the nobler and higher impulse of the human heart in its ceaseless struggle with the degrading influences of sin. The consequence of this is that all such religion thrives in time of famine and pestilence, it flourishes among the poor and oppressed, and it expands among the humble and the feeble; but it pines away in the days of prosperity, it fails to attract the well-to-do, it is abandoned by those who are more highly cultured.

As soon as the more civilized classes enjoy tranquility and comfort, and by the progress of science feel more and more delivered from the pressure of the cosmos, they throw away the crutches of religion, and with a sneer at everything holy go stumbling forward on their own poor legs. This is the fatal end of egoistic religion;—it becomes superfluous and disappears as soon as the egoistic interests are satisfied. This was the course of religion among all non-Christian nations, in earlier times, and the same phenomenon is repeating itself in our own century, among nominal Christians of the higher, more prosperous and more cultured classes of society. Now the position of Calvinism is diametrically opposed to all this. It does not deny that religion has also its human and subjective side; it does not dispute the fact that religion is promoted, encouraged and strengthened by our disposition to seek help in time of need and spiritual elevation in the face of sensual passions; but it maintains that it reverses the proper order of things to seek, in these accidental motives, the essence and the very purpose of religion. The Calvinist values all of these as fruits which are produced by religion, or as props which gave it support, but he refuses to honor them as the reason for its existence. Of course, religion, as such, produces also a blessing for man, but it does not exist for the sake of man. It is not God who exists for the sake of His creation;—the creation exists for the sake of God. For, as the Scripture says, He has created all things for Himself.

A Desire for Him

Under the Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

[3] So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. [4] And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [5] When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” [6] And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

– Exodus 32:3-6

Self is sovereign.  The catechetical instruction we grow up with has most of the questions couched in the first person: “How can I make it?  How can I maximize my potential?  How can I develop my gifts?  How can I overcome my handicaps?  How can I cut my losses?  How can I increase my longevity and live happily ever after, preferably all the way into eternity?”  Most of the answers to these questions include the suggestion that a little religion along the way wouldn’t be a bad idea.

There are a thousand ways of being religious without submitting to Christ’s lordship, and people are practiced in most of them.  We live in golden calf country.  Religious feeling runs high but in ways far removed from what was said on Sinai and done on Calvary.  While everyone has a hunger for God, deep and insatiable, none of us has any great desire for him.  What we really want is to be our own gods and to have whatever other gods that are around to help us in this work.