Archive for August, 2013

Never Alone (Hymn)

Never Alone
Ludie D. Pickett (1897)

I’ve seen the lightning flashing, I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, which almost conquered my soul.
I’ve heard the voice of my Savior, bidding me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

Refrain
No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
He’ll claim me for His own;
No, never alone, no never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

The world’s fierce winds are blowing, temptation sharp and keen.
I have a peace in knowing my Savior stands between-
He stands to shield me from danger when my friends are all gone.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

Refrain

When in affliction’s valley I tread the road of care,
My Savior helps me carry the cross so heavy to bear;
Though all around me is darkness, earthly joys all flown;
My Savior whispers His promise, never to leave me alone!

Refrain

He died on Calvary’s mountain, for me they pierced His side.
For me He opened that fountain, the crimson cleansing tide.
For me He waiteth in glory, seated upon His throne.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

Refrain

This hymn contains one of the greatest promises that a Christian can claim: the promise of an ever-present Saviour.  We have the promise that He will “never leave us alone.”  No matter what loneliness we might be feeling here on this earth, we know that He is always with us.  No matter who might abandon us and leave us feeling alone, we know that He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Come temptations, trials, failures, successes, pain, joy, peace, heartache, victory or defeat, He will never leave us alone.  What a promise!

Fear and Boldness

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

John 12:42-43

This is an interesting passage.  “Many” of the chief rulers believed on Jesus.  But, because of the Pharisees, they did not want anybody to know that they believed on Him.  They were afraid of the Pharisees.  They didn’t want to get kicked out of the synagogue.  They had powerful and prestigious positions and didn’t want to risk giving them up.  But they did believe on Jesus.  We don’t know how many believed, but it was “many.”

I can’t help but wonder if all of these “many” chief rulers had publicly confessed Him, what would have happened.  Maybe they would have outnumbered the Pharisees.  Maybe they would have encouraged and strengthened each other.  Maybe they would have encouraged others to believe on Him.  We’ll never know the answers to those questions, but we can imagine what they would be.

“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  They loved being powerful and prestigious.  They loved the praise of man and they didn’t want anything coming in the way of that, not even their belief in Jesus.

We need to make sure that we are not letting our fear of what others might think get in the way of doing what we know is right.  We need to make sure that we are not “loving the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  We need to do our best to live an open Christian life.  We need to do our best to live boldly for Him.  It is too late for these chief rulers to influence others, but it is not to late for us!

Even Miracles Couldn’t Convice Them

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you.  Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.  While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye might be the children of light.  These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.  But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:  That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

John 12:35-38

Jesus was with these people.  He spoke to them.  He helped and healed them.  He performed miracles in their sight.  But all of that was not enough for many of them.  Verse 37 is a sad verse: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.”  What a sad statement.  They had witnessed the great miracles, but even that did not cause them to believe.

There are a lot of people today who say “if only I could see God raise somebody from the dead or something like that, then I would believe.”  That’s not true.  They very likely wouldn’t believe.  These people saw Jesus in the flesh.  They listened to Him.  They followed Him for a time.  They did see Him raise Lazarus from the dead.  But not even all of that was enough to make them believe.

It’s sad but it’s true.  People need to have faith.  They need to believe in Jesus.  They are either going to believe or they are not going to believe.  Seeing miracles is great, but that is not going to make someone believe if it is not in their heart to believe.  It has to come from the heart, and these people didn’t have that heart.

Wouldn’t It Be Great

The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing?  behold, the world is gone after him.  And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:  The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

John 12:19-21

As I read these verses, I couldn’t help but think about how wonderful it would be if what the Pharisees said was true.  “The world is gone after him.”  The Pharisees were exaggerating, of course, but they had rejected Him and were very concerned that others were following Him.  To them, it seemed that everyone was rejecting them and accepting and following Jesus.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say today “the world is gone after Him?”

In that day, it wasn’t just the Jews that were following Him, either.  There were Greeks there who wanted to follow Jesus.  They came to Philip with this classic statement: “Sir, we would see Jesus.”  They were searching for Jesus.

While we may not be able to say “the world is gone after Him” today and while we may not have people randomly coming up to us saying “Sir (or ma’am), we would see Jesus,” we can take several lessons from this passage.

There are people out there who are searching for the truth.  There are people who want to see Jesus.  We should be searching for those people and trying to help them.  The whole world might not be following Jesus, but there are some people who are following Him.  We should be helping and encouraging those people.  We should also be praying that more would come to Him and that we would see a true revival in our lifetimes.  Wouldn’t that be a great thing to see?

Killing Lazarus

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also whom he had raised from the dead.  But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. 

John 12:9-11

We have already looked at the fact that after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees decided that they should kill Jesus because He was going around healing and helping people and performing miracles.  Actually, they wanted to kill Him because they were nervous that they would lose their influence, power and positions.  But in this passage, they took it even a step further.

Here, they came to see Lazarus, and then they “consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death…”  Lazarus died.  Jesus raised him from the dead.  The “chief priests” wanted to kill him again.  Imagine that.  These chief priests were so consumed with themselves and their positions, that they were ready and willing to kill a man who had just been raised from the dead.

To me, this story illustrates just how depraved human nature can be.  These were the religious leaders of the day.  These men were supposed to be among the most godly of the people.  But they were perfectly willing to kill two completely innocent men to protect their own comfort and way of life.  We might not like to admit it, but we can become calloused to others.  We can be calloused to everyone and everything but ourselves.

We hope and pray that we will never stoop to this level, but we must watch and pray and guard ourselves against a hard heart.

Giving Jesus Our Best

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  There they made him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.  Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

John 12:1-3

In this passage, we find Mary doing something very special for Jesus.  She gave Him the best she had.

He was with Lazarus, Mary and Martha at a supper before the passover and Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a pound of “very costly” ointment.  She then went on to wipe His feet with her hair.  Both of those things show us something important about the gifts of Mary and both show us the level of giving that we need to attain.

In verse five, Judas says that ointment was worth 300 pence.  From what I can find, the pence was roughly equivalent to one days wage.  So, 300 pence would equal roughly 300 days wages.  That’s a lot of money!  In modern terms, a common labourer would probably make $30,000 or so in 300 days of working.  That was “very costly” ointment!  She gave Him the best that she had.

She also washed His feet with her hair.  Women usually take pride in their hair.  The fact that Mary stooped to wash Jesus’ feet with her hair shows that she was humble and that she truly loved Jesus and gave Him the best she had.

Mary gave us a great example of giving.  She gave Jesus her best and she gave Jesus everything she had.  We should do no less.

The Me First Pharisees

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.  Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.  Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we?  for this man doeth many miracles.  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

John 11:43-48

Jesus had just raised a man from the dead.  He did that in addition to the many other miracles He performed.  But raising the dead back to life, healing the sick, making the blind see and the deaf hear was not enough for some people: namely, the Pharisees.

After hearing of Jesus raising a man from the dead, here is what they had to say: “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him (wouldn’t that be great!): and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”  The Pharisees were worried about their “place and nation.”  They were the “leaders” of the nation of Israel.  They had a pretty good thing going and they didn’t want anybody to rock the boat.  Even if that meant people being helped and healed, they didn’t want anything that would threaten their way of life.

Let us guard our hearts against this attitude!  Let us never get so comfortable in our own little worlds that we would rather things just stay the way they are, even if that means people not getting the help they need.  Let us make sure that keep Jesus and others before our own selfish interests!

Near to the Heart of God (Hymn)

Near to the Heart of God
Cleland McAfee (1903)

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

Refrain
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

Refrain

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Refrain

I have heard and sung this hymn for years, but, until recently, I did not know the story behind it.  Sometimes knowing the background of a hymn or a hymn writer can help us to more fully understand the hymn itself.  Cleland McAfee wrote this hymn after two of his nieces died of diphtheria.  That must have been a dark time, but he found a place of quiet rest.  He found the same place of quiet rest that we can find in our darkest hours of life.  That place of quiet rest is “near to the heart of God.”

Life and Freedom

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.  Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.  Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

John 11:43-45

When we look at this story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we can draw many parallels with Jesus saving a sinner.  The first and most obvious comparison is that of life and death.  Lazarus was dead.  He had been dead several days.  In fact, when Jesus told them to roll the stone away, his sister said “he stinketh.”  He was dead.  Jesus came along and gave him life.  “…he that was dead came forth…”  He was dead, but he walked out of that tomb with a new life!

A second thing we can see is that, after he received life, he was still “bound hand and foot with graveclothes.”  People could see that he was alive and moving around, but he stilled looked like a dead man.  It is the same with Christians.  A new Christian probably isn’t going to act just like a person who has been a Christian for 40 years.  It’s going to take a little time to get them cleaned up, and that’s ok.

Another thing we can see is that, immediately after giving him life, Jesus told them to “Loose him, and let him go.”  Salvation is life and it gives us freedom.  Sadly, the devil has tricked many people into thinking that Christianity is binding and restricting.  The truth is that Jesus gives us life and freedom.  He wants to release us from the chains of our sin.

Just as Lazarus was given life and freedom, Jesus gives every one who comes to Him that same life and freedom.  What a wonderful Saviour!

Dead Man Obedience

Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.  And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.  And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.  Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

John 11:41-44

As I read this passage dealing with Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, something sticks out to me.  “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth…”  Jesus prayed to the Father, then called Lazarus to “come forth.”  What happened next?  “And he that was dead came forth…”

Lazarus was dead.  He had been dead for four days.  But when Jesus called him, he came forth.  He was dead, and yet he still was able to perfectly obey the voice of the Lord Jesus.  That is a good metaphor for our lives.

When we come to Jesus, the Bible tells us that we are “crucified with Christ.”  And it tells us that we should reckon ourselves dead to sin.  We should obey Jesus.  We should not obey ourselves, we should not obey the world, and we should not obey the Devil.  We should reckon ourselves dead to those things, and alive to Christ and alive to obedience to Him.

Just as Lazarus came forth immediately when Jesus called him, we should obey Him immediately when He calls us.  How are we doing?