“Jesus is a complete Saviour” by John Newton

“One thing is needful; an humble, dependent spirit, to renounce our own wills, and give up ourselves to His disposal without reserve. This is the path of peace.

And it is the path of safety, for He has said, ‘The meek he will teach his way, and those who yield up themselves to him he will guide with his eye.’ (Psalm 25:9)

I hope you will fight and pray against every rising of a murmuring spirit, and be thankful for the great things which he has already done for you.

It is good to be humbled for sin, but not to be discouraged.

For though we are poor creatures, Jesus is a complete Saviour, and we bring more honour to God by believing in His name, and trusting His word of promise, than we could do by a thousand outward works.

I pray the Lord to shine upon your soul, and to fill you with all joy and peace in believing.

Remember to pray for us, that we may be brought home to you in peace.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 144-145.

“His name is Love” by John Newton

“I hope, in the midst of all your engagements, you find a little time to read His good Word, and to wait at His mercy-seat. It is good for us to draw nigh to Him.

It is an honour that He permits us to pray; and we shall surely find He is a God hearing prayer. Endeavour to be diligent in the means; yet watch and strive against a legal spirit, which is always aiming to represent him as a hard master, watching, as it were, to take advantage of us.

But it is far otherwise. His name is Love: He looks upon us with compassion; He knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust.

And when our infirmities prevail, He does not bid us despond, but reminds us that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost.

Think of the names and relations he bears. Does He not call Himself a Saviour, a Shepherd, a Friend, and a Husband?

Has he not made known unto us His love, His blood, His righteousness, His promises, His power, and His grace, and all for our encouragement?

Away then with all doubting, unbelieving thoughts; they will not only distress your heart, but weaken your hands.

Take it for granted upon the warrant of His word, that you are His, and He is yours; that He has loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore in loving-kindness has drawn you to Himself; that He will surely accomplish that which He has begun, and that nothing which can be named or thought of shall ever be able to separate you from Him.

This persuasion will give you strength for the battle; this is the shield which will quench the fiery darts of Satan; this is the helmet which the enemy cannot pierce.

Whereas if we go forth doubting and fearing, and are afraid to trust any farther than we can feel, we are weak as water, and easily overcome.

Be strong, therefore, not in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Pray for me.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 143-144.

“We look for the city that is to come” by Andrew Wilson

“The fundamental urban contrast in Scripture is not between one earthly city and another but between all earthly cities, whether past, present, or future, and the heavenly city that is to come.

One of the most astonishing things that Jesus ever said, from the perspective of a first-century Jew, was that Jerusalem was going to face the same fate as that of other imperial cities: it would be invaded and destroyed and judged for its evil deeds (Matt. 23:37–24:28).

Forty years after he said that, this is exactly what happened. The Romans razed the temple and set it on fire, and Jerusalem went the way of Babylon, Nineveh, and Tyre.

No city built with human hands, not even the city of David, could put the glory of God on full display.

All cities center on something. In the ancient world the center was usually a temple of the local god. In the modern world the gods are still there, but the temples have changed their appearance; they now look like skyscrapers, government buildings, billboards, or public squares. In some cities the local deity is instantly identifiable, as in Mecca, Moscow, or Manhattan.

In others it is more ambiguous: my city centers on Ares, god of war (from Westminster to Trafalgar Square), Eros, god of sex (from Piccadilly Circus through Soho), and Mammon, god of possessions (from Bank to Bishopsgate).

Wherever you go, the urban god(s) reflect the highest good of the city, which in turn reflects the highest good of the civilization. But there is no city on earth—not Jerusalem, Constantinople, or Rome—that is unequivocally devoted to worshiping the true God, and him alone.

Yet. There will be, though. The apostles were clear about that.

There is a city that Abraham looked for, whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).

There is a Jerusalem above, who is free, and she is our mother (Gal. 4:26).

There is a heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, filled with worshiping angels and the assembly of the firstborn (Heb. 12:22–23).

There is a new Jerusalem, a city coming down out of heaven from God, like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Rev. 21:2).

Her gates are made of pearls, her walls of precious stones, her streets are made of pure gold, like glass, and she has a crystal river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.

Nothing unclean ever enters her, and her gates are open the whole time. She is an enormous cube, twelve thousand stadia each way, half the size of the United States and reaching to 280 times the height of Mount Everest.

And she is so thoroughly indwelt by the living God that she does not have a temple; she is a temple (Rev. 21:9–22:5). In new Jerusalem all of the evil features of your city and mine are removed.

All of their good features—Sultanahmet, Table Mountain, the Piazza San Pietro, Chinatown, the Louvre, Central Park—are amplified. She is full of art without idolatry, abundance without greed, and peace without injustice.

There is music, wine, laughter, and street food. Old people sit in their porches at dusk, and boys and girls play in the streets (Zech. 8:4–5).

And best of all, she is centered not on an urban park or monument or skyscraper, nor even on a cathedral or temple, but on a throne.

God is in the midst of her, and she shall never be moved.

We look for the city that is to come.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 184-186.

“The love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of our God” by Herman Witsius

“What we have proved concerning the love of God, the summary of the first table of the law; namely, that it is good in nature; might be also proved from the summary of the second table, the love of our neighbour.

For he who loves God cannot but love His image too, in which he clearly views express characters of the Deity, and not a small degree of the brightness of His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will, by virtue of that love, seriously wish, desire, study, and as much as in him lies be careful, that his neighbour, as well as himself, be under God, in God, and for God, and all he has be for His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will make it his business that God may appear every way admirable and glorious; and as He appears such most eminently in the sanctification and happiness of men, (2 Thess. 1:10), he will exert himself to the utmost that his neighbour make advances to holiness and happiness.

Finally, whoever sincerely loves God will never think he loves and glorifies Him enough; such excellencies he discovers in Him, sees His name so illustrious, and so exalted above all praise, as to long that all mankind, nay all creatures, should join him in loving and celebrating the infinite perfections of God.

But this is the most faithful and pure love of our neighbour, to seek that God may be glorified in him, and he himself be for the glory of God.

Hence it appears, that the love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of God.

If, therefore, it flows from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of Himself, as was just proved; it must likewise flow from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of our neighbour.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 43–44.

“The special end of the covenant of grace” by Herman Witsius

“The special end of the covenant of grace is, ‘the praise of the glory of His grace,’ (Eph. 1:6), and the revelation of His unsearchable and manifold wisdom: which divine perfections shine forth with lustre in the gift of a Mediator, by whom the sinner is admitted to complete salvation, without any dishonour to the holiness, justice, and truth of God.

There is also a demonstration of the all-sufficiency of God, by which not only man, but even a sinner, which is more surprising, may be restored to union and communion with God.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 27.

“He is, after all, the God of the exodus” by L. Michael Morales

“Among the last words he would ever pen, the apostle Paul wrote: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).

The resurrection: this is the hope, the living hope, set forth in all the Scriptures and embraced by all of God’s people throughout the history of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Peter exclaims, “who by his abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!” (1 Peter 1:3).

The sureness of this hope is grounded not only in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus but ultimately in the very being and character of God, who is the endless wellspring of life.

Jesus, rebuking severely the religious elite who were denying the resurrection from the dead, confessed that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). His own glorious resurrection was itself, then, a profession of the nature and goodness of God.

One blessed day God’s people will find themselves at last blinking in the dawn’s light of a new creation, together on the other side of history, on the other side of their own graves, experiencing the inexpressible joy of the redeemed, the nearly incomprehensible reality that, yes, the fear and the battle and death are done forever, and there will be no more tears or afflictions or tragedies or sadness—no more Satan, wickedness, sin, or decay.

All evil, within and without, along with its bedfellows of gloom and sorrow, will be forever banished. God’s people will be raised up in glory and brought into that life of cheer and peace in the land, for our Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, says, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5), and he is well able.

“I am the Living One,” he says, “I was dead, and, look! now I am alive for ever and ever and I hold the keys of Hades and Death!” (Revelation 1:18). He has in himself already brought our humanity to its destined beatific end before the face of God.

Every soul who turns to Jesus Christ in sincerity will partake of the same glory, even the culmination of the Messiah’s exodus: “Behold, the Dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples—and God himself will be with them and be their God!” (Revelation 21:3).

Until that day breaks, Paul’s question remains: Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? He is, after all, the God of the exodus.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 195-196.

“God is a gardener” by Andrew Wilson

“God is a gardener.

We know this from the second chapter of Scripture. “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8), and this garden is complete with trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers, rivers, minerals, onyx, gold, birds, animals, human beings, marriage, sex, life, and the presence of God himself (Gen. 2:9–25).

It is not just lush and idyllic—the Greek word for garden here, paradeisos, gives us our word paradise— but enormous as well, and probably mountainous, given that it serves as the source for four rivers.

It is more like a primeval Yosemite than a vegetable patch or a manicured lawn. By planting a garden, placing humanity in it, and walking alongside them in the cool of the day, God is showing us the connection between his creativity, his love, his abundance (every tree that was pleasant to the eye and good for food, every beast of the field, every living creature, and so on), and above all his presence.

Eden is a place of life, love, and harmony because God lives there. The first garden is a temple, and from now on all temples will be gardens.

That might sound like a stretch, until we study the designs of the tabernacle and the temple in detail (which, since they are lengthy and a bit repetitive, most of us don’t). They are full of garden imagery, pointing us to the verdant, lush, life-giving bounty of the gardener God who lives there.

Consider: the temple is made out of cedar trees, “carved in the form of gourds and open flowers,” and the floor is boarded with cypress (1 Kings 6:15–18).

Like Eden, it is guarded by cherubim, built on a mountain, entered from the east, and adorned with gold and onyx (1 Chron. 29:2). The doors of the sanctuary are made of olivewood, carved with palm trees and flowers in bloom (1 Kings 6:31–32).

The bronze pillars are festooned with hundreds of pomegranates, and “on the tops of the pillars was lily-work” (1 Kings 7:20–22).

The panels are set with livestock (oxen) and wild beasts (lions), and as you walk across the court, you find yourself surrounded by fresh water (1 Kings 7:23–29). There is a tree-shaped lampstand outside the Holy of Holies, and a further ten made of pure gold (1 Kings 7:49).

It would have felt like an orchard, a well-watered garden, a paradeisos. It spoke to Israel: the God of the garden lives here. Welcome.

So gardens are places of abundance and divine presence. But they are also places of romance and love. The first marriage and the first love song took place in a garden (Gen. 2:18–25), and this profound mystery is a picture of the love between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

Numerous biblical couples get together in garden-like places, under trees or at wells or both.

The Song of Solomon is full of plants, trees, flowers, orchards, fruits, fountains, and gardens, reinforcing the connection between our intimacy with God and our intimacy with one another.

This connection, interestingly, is still reflected today, every time a couple gets married surrounded by carnations, arbors, garlands, lilies, trellises, and petals of confetti.

We design our wedding venues like a garden of love, not least because we first knew love in a garden. Yet the garden is also a place of tragedy.

We do not just remember paradise; we remember paradise lost. Eden was not just the garden of love but the garden of love spurned.

Life was rejected in favor of the knowledge of good and evil, marriage was spoiled, and verdant abundance became thorns and thistles and pain in childbirth.

As human beings, we were meant to take the garden with us, filling the earth with the life and harmony we found there, but instead we were exiled from it, frog-marched out by the eastern exit, with cherubim on guard to prevent us from coming back.

From that day on, we lost our unrestricted access to the presence of God, both in the temple-like garden and in the garden-like temple. We have been pining for it ever since.

The human story has been a long and often disastrous series of attempts to get back to the garden.

It is fitting, then—as well as glorious beyond words—that our access back into the garden, with all the abundance and presence and love that goes with it, was secured in two gardens.

The first, which we know as the garden of Gethsemane, reversed the decision of Eden, replacing Adam’s “not your will but mine” with Christ’s “not my will but yours.”

The second, as Jesus stepped out of the tomb just a couple of days later, reversed the consequences of Eden.

Where Adam brought death to everyone in a garden and then went to hide, Christ brought life to everyone in a garden and then made himself as visible as possible.

This connection may be what John is hinting at when he says that Mary thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:15). In more ways than one, he was.

The result, as Jesus had said while being crucified, is that those who trust him can be brought back to God. “Today you will be with me in [paradeisos]” (Luke 23:43).

We are welcomed into the abundance and vitality of a new and better Eden.

The cherubim blocking your way have been stood down.

The serpent has been crushed.

The garden of love is open, and the Gardener has been preparing a place for you.

When we finally see it, in the final two chapters of Scripture, we get the most delightful sense of déjà vu—there is a river and a tree and leaves and fruit and gold and onyx and a wedding.

And in the midst of it all is God himself, so bright that there is no need for the sun, and so present that there is no need for a temple (Rev. 21:22–23).

Welcome home.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 81-84.