1. Consider the Cost

    February 8, 2024 by Darrell Harrison

    Consider the Cost

    But an opportunity came . . .” (Mark 6:21a)

    An ‘Economy’ of Words

    The term opportunity cost is an expression used in the field of economics that refers to the potential benefits a business, investor, or individual consumer misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.[1] And though the concept of opportunity cost may have its origins in the secular field of economics, it is not exclusive in principle to that particular arena. There is a sense in which the concept of opportunity cost has theological significance as well.

    A Fork in the Road

    In Alice in Wonderland, written by the 19th century mathematician and author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898), under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, we find the following exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat, whom she encounters as she endeavors to find her way through Wonderland’s many forked roads:

    Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

    Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

    Alice: “I don’t much care where.”

    Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go, does it?”

    Like the fictional Alice in Carroll’s beloved story, you and I can often find ourselves facing similar decision points, only in real life. As we progress in our daily pilgrimage through this sinful world, we are constantly confronted with spiritual “forks in the road” that present us with opportunities to consider the cost of either obeying God or disobeying him (Luke 6:46). And far too often we choose the latter over the former (Gen 3:1–7).

    A Sobering Reminder

    The word opportunity appears 16 times in Scripture across 15 verses – all in the New Testament (Matt 26:16; Luke 21:13, 22:6; Acts 25:16; Rom 7:8, 7:11; 1 Cor 3:5, 16:12; 2 Cor 11:12 (twice); Gal 5:13, 6:10; Eph 4:27; Phil 4:10; Col 4:5 and Heb 11:15). It is a word that denotes not merely an occasion by which an individual is faced with a relatively innocuous decision to do or not do something, such as accepting or rejecting a wedding invitation, but one that is ideally fitting for acting at any given moment on a specific desire or intent of the heart for either good or evil.

    Such was the case with King Herod and his illegitimate wife Herodias concerning John the Baptist (Mark 6:14–29). In that passage, Mark informs us that Herod “feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man” (v. 20). Herodias, however, had a distinctly different mindset toward John. As Mark writes, she “had a grudge against” John and “wanted to put him to death” (v. 19).

    In hindsight, it would be easy for us to look at Herodias and assume that she wanted John the Baptist killed because she feared he might convert Herod to faith in Christ (v. 20b), a transformation which, from her perspective, at least, would likely cause great concern as Herod, as a consequence of his repentance, would likely have returned her to her rightful, and lawful, husband, Philip, who was Herod’s brother (v. 16).

    But I want to suggest to you that Herod’s potential conversion to Christ was not the primary reason Herodias wanted John the Baptist murdered. Ultimately, Herodias wanted John murdered because of what Jesus says in John 3:19, that “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

    Herodias wanted John murdered because, in considering the opportunity cost of what she might miss out on by allowing John the Baptist to remain in the good graces of King Herod, she chose darkness over light. Another way of saying it is that Herodias preferred to live in unrepentant sin rather than heed the cry of John the Baptist to repent. But such was once the state of your heart and mine, was it not, prior to being mercifully regenerated by the power of the gospel, made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 7; 1 Cor 6:8–11; Eph 2:8)?

    A Solemn Warning

    It was the French reformer, John Calvin (1509–1564), who lamented, “The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.”[2] Conversely, the 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), declared, “Surely, the heart is a chameleon.”[3]

    It was the hardness of her heart that afforded Herodias with an “opportune time” (Luke 4:13) to have John the Baptist murdered. In fact, so intent was she to have John eliminated that she went so far as to use her own daughter to ensure that her devious scheme was brought to fruition (Matt 14:1–8).

    Herodias’s story should serve as a solemn warning to each of us to keep a constant, Spirit-guided watch over our heart (Prov 4:23), knowing what it is capable of when left to its own devices (Eccl 7:29), or, as the Puritan, John Owen (1616–1683), said in his book Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times, knowing what the heart is capable of when “Christ is laid aside as if quite forgotten, as if he was of no use and of no consideration.”[4]


    [2] John Calvin, A Calvin Treasury: Selections from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by William F. Keesecker (Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York: 1961), 53. https://archive.org/details/calvintreasuryse0000calv/page/52/mode/2up?q=crannies

    [3] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 78:37, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/treasury/ps078.htm

    [4] John Owen, Searching Our Hearts in Difficult Times (The Banner of Truth Trust: 2019), 16.

  2. To Those Who Are Perishing

    January 25, 2024 by Darrell Harrison

    To Those Who Are Perishing

    Among the most sobering passages in the New Testament, in my opinion, is 2 Corinthians 4:3–4, which reads, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

    A Heartfelt Concern

    Needless to say, there is infinitely more to unpack in that doctrinally weighty passage than I am able to address in this brief blog post. Nevertheless, my intent with this article is not so much to exposit the aforementioned text, as to highlight why, in my opinion, it warrants our thoughtful and serious contemplation.

    As those who, by God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9), have been saved from his wrath by the blood of Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 1:7), it can be uncomfortable for us to confront unbelievers with the biblical truth, regarding the eternal consequences of their remaining in a state of unbelief (2 Thess 1:8–9; Rev 20:15).

    Yet, only the most ungrateful of professing believers would have no concern or regard for the salvation of unbelievers (2 Pet 3:9). As the 19th century evangelist, John Newton (1725–1807), once said, “…when we look at transgressors, we are not to hate, but to pity them, mourn over them, and pray for them; nor have we any right to boast over them, for by nature, and of ourselves we are no better than they.”[1]

    Newton’s exhortation is relevant to our consideration of 2 Cor 4:3–4, in that Paul describes unbelievers as “those who are perishing.” The word perishing denotes a state of spiritual destitution (condition) and alienation from God (position). Ponder that reality for a moment. Have you ever considered unbelievers in the way Paul describes, as “those who are perishing”?

    Perishing is precisely the spiritual state that you and I were in at one time.

    A Heavy Reality

    Prior to God mercifully removing the veil of unbelief from our hearts, by faith in Christ (2 Cor 3:16), you and I were in a state of hopeless alienation from him (Eph 2:12). The 17th century Puritan minister, Richard Baxter (1615–1691), explains the significance of such spiritual estrangement, saying,

    Now, the Scripture tells us that the state of an unconverted man is this: he sees no great felicity in the love and communion of God in the life to come, which may draw his heart thither from this present world, but he lives to his carnal self, or to the flesh; and the main bent of his life is, that it may go well with him on earth; and that religion which he has is but a little by the by, lest he should be damned when he can keep the world no longer; so that the world and the flesh are highest in his esteem, and nearest to his heart, and God and glory stand below them, and all their service of God is but a giving him that which the world and flesh can spare. This is the case of every unconverted man; and all who are in this case are in a state of misery.[2]

    That unbelievers are perishing should weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of every follower of Jesus Christ. Why? Because, as Paul makes clear in 2 Cor 4:4b, the god of this world has blinded them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory Christ. Such darkness is the malady of all human conditions for, unlike bodily disorders, it is a spiritual affliction that only God himself can remedy (Ezek 36:26; John 3:16, 4:10, 6:44a).

    A Humble Posture

    Reflect, if you will, on the spiritual darkness in which you walked prior to God bringing you to faith in Christ (1 Cor 1:30). In what ways were you prevented by the god of this world from seeing the light of the gospel? In 1 Pet 4:3, the apostle Peter provides us with a rather stark reminder of what our old life was like, prior to God mercifully unveiling the gospel of the glory of Christ within our hearts, saying, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”

    Now, lest you be tempted to read Peter’s words and feel a sense of pride rising up within you because you no longer “carry out” such fleshly desires, as are mentioned in that text, my counsel to you is to guard your heart against such an attitude (Prov 4:23). Knowing that it is only by the unmerited grace of a merciful heavenly Father, that you and I are no longer perishing, should humble us, not make us proud (Ps 75:4–5; Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:23).

    Consider that sobering truth against this exhortation from the 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), who said, “Always fight for the lowest place. If you aspire to be last and least, you will not have many competitors; there will be no need to demand a poll, for the lowest seat is undisputed.”[3]

    A Heavenly Charge

    Though, as followers of Jesus Christ, you and I no longer live to carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19–21; 1 Pet 4:2; 1 John 3:9), we nevertheless struggle with the remaining sin that indwells us (1 John 1:8), and will continue to struggle with it for as long as we are in this sinful world. Humility, not pride, should be what motivates us to share the gospel with unbelievers (Ps 25:9; Matt 28:19–20; Eph 4:2). For in sharing the gospel with those who are perishing, we are reminded that we were once perishing ourselves (1 Cor 6:9–11).

    [1] John Newton, Forty-one Letters on Religious Subjects (United Kingdom: Religious Tract Society, 1831), 286.

    [2] Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (United Kingdom: Religious Tract Society, 1862), 342.

    [3] Charles Spurgeon, “Conversion and Character,” Answers in Genesis, November 17, 2021, sermon originally published on September 18, 1913, https://answersingenesis.org/education/spurgeon-sermons/3372-conversion-and-character/.

  3. The Difficult Discipline of Waiting on God

    December 21, 2023 by Darrell Harrison

    The Difficult Discipline of Waiting on God

    . . .but the Lord had closed her womb (1 Sam 1:5).

    God’s Sovereignty in Our Waiting

    These words refer to Hannah, the childless wife of Elkanah.

    The name Hannah means grace, whereas the name Elkanah means God has created. It is interesting, if not ironic, how the meaning of those two will play out in Hannah and Elkanah’s story.

    Elkanah loved Hannah (v. 5a). In fact, he loved her so much that to help assuage her despondency over her barren condition, whenever Elkanah and his family would offer sacrifices to God, he would give Hannah a double portion of whatever he gave to his other wife, Peninnah, whose name means jewel, and to her sons and daughters (v. 4).

    Hannah desperately wanted children (v. 11). God knew this, of course, and though He heard Hannah’s prayers, He had not yet granted her petition. I mention that because in Genesis 4:1, Eve, whose name means life or living, after giving birth to Cain, offered sacrifices of praise to God, saying, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.” By giving glory to God for her son, Eve was acknowledging God’s sovereignty in childbirth.

    Let me remind you that Eve did not attend seminary. She did not come to understand the doctrine of the sovereignty of God by reading a systematic theology.

    Eve’s doxological response to God was born from an innate awareness that He alone is sovereign over everything that occurs in her life—everything (Ps 103: 19; Eccl 7:14). It is that same awareness that should provide comfort to you and me as believers in Christ. As the 19th century Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge (1797–1878), said, “This sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all his people. They rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigns; that neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, nor the malice of Satan controls the sequence of events and all their issues. Infinite wisdom, love, and power, belong to Him, our great God and Savior, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed.”[1]

    God’s Goodness in Our Waiting

    Eve understood that she and her husband Adam (Gen 2:24–25) were merely secondary agents in the birth of their son, and that the primary agent was God, realizing that children are a gift from Him. Consequently, when Eve gave birth to Cain, she rightly gave glory to the only One who was truly deserving of it—God—who gives life to all things (John 1:3; 1 Tim 6:13). The Puritan, William Romaine (1714–1795), put it this way, saying, “Whatever God gives, the humble give it back again to Him. They have the blessing; He has the praise: which is the just tribute due to Him for His gifts. And He gives more grace where He can get more glory.”[2]

    You may be asking at this point, what does Hannan’s situation have to do with me? Well, remember, Hannah’s name means grace. And is there any more crucial instance in our lives when you and I need the grace of God than when God doesn’t respond to our prayers as we’d hoped?

    In Psalm 65:2, King David says, “O You who hear prayer, to You all men come.” The Hebrew phrase “all men” literally means “all flesh” or “all human beings.” Perhaps the words of Psalm 65:2 were the impetus for Hannah, though greatly distressed and weeping bitterly (v. 10), to nevertheless go to God repeatedly with her petition. Hannah’s situation is similar, in precept, to that of the widow in the parable of the unrighteous judge (Luke 18:1–8). And though God was merciful in answering Hannah’s petition for a son, He is no less merciful when He does not answer our prayers as we would like (Ps 145:9; Lam 3:22–23; Mic 7:18; Eph 2:4).

    God’s Wisdom in Our Waiting

    Waiting on God can be a difficult discipline to learn. Nevertheless, we must guard ourselves against pride, and learn to genuinely—from the heart—accept when God, in His sovereign wisdom and omniscience, says no to our requests. Refusing to accept when God says no has led many believers to make unwise decisions and choices that they’ve come to regret. I say this from personal experience.

    Sometimes God says no to our prayers (2 Cor 12:7–10). It is the Lord God alone who either opens wombs or closes them.

    Only God is God; we are not (Deut 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5a).

    What prayer are you waiting on God to answer? Perhaps you’ve been praying a long time that God would bless you with a child, or a new job, or to restore your broken marriage, or bring your unbelieving spouse to faith in Him. Perhaps you’re struggling with a habitual sin, or with being single, and you’re wondering if God will ever answer your prayer for a godly spouse.

    Whatever the desires of your heart may be (Ps 37:4), my humble counsel to you is this: go to God with your petitions (Phil 4:6; 1 John 3:21–22), whatever they may be, and pray that He would give you the grace to not only wait on Him, but to resist the fleshly urge to circumvent His will if He says no to your requests, for that would be disobedience (Luke 6:46; Jas 1:14–15).

    Remember Hannah.

    Wait on God, trusting Him as you wait, assured that He knows what you need before you ask Him (Matt 6:32b; 1 Pet 5:6–7).

    [1] https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/theologyproper.html#n15 (§ 15, paragraph 4).

    [2] https://www.eternallifeministries.org/wr_humility.htm (paragraph 6, sentence 4).

  4. The Nearness of Eternity

    December 12, 2023 by Darrell Harrison

    The Nearness of Eternity

    How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? – Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss) Geisel

    Measuring Eternity

    Have you, like Dr. Seuss, ever wondered, though perhaps not in his exact words, how it got to be so late so soon?

    If so, there’s a reason. It’s because God, in whose image you and I are created (Gen 1:27, 5:1), possess an innate awareness of time and eternity. We know this from such texts as Ecclesiastes 3:11a, which declares that God has “put eternity in man’s heart.” The word eternity appears more than 400 times in Scripture—all in the Old Testament. Ironically, although the word eternity is a chronological term, it denotes a chronology that is not measured with regard to time as we know it.

    Eternity cannot be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years. It cannot be touched, seen, or otherwise captured with our senses, and yet we know inherently that eternity exists. Eternity is infinite. It is without limits or boundaries. Perhaps that is why many people today view eternity as something that is “out there somewhere,” or “in a land far, far away.” But Scripture teaches us that nothing could be further from the truth.

    Considering Eternity

    The Puritan theologian Thomas Watson (1620–1686) is often credited with saying , “A man’s greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore, eternity should be his scope.” Watson’s words should serve as a reminder to us that eternity is not merely a distant, remote, abstract construct of time, but a very tangible and perceptible reality; one that every person, believer and unbeliever alike, will experience, either with God or apart from him (1 Thess 4:17b, 1:9–10).

    There are those today who view eternity only as something to be concerned about when they are about to die. But as the apostle Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 4:2, you and I are to “live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.” It was the beloved Welsh preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981), who, in light of Peter’s words, said that believers should view time, not in terms of past, present, and future, but of past, present, and “the rest of the time.”[1]

    The “rest of the time” is now—today. And yet, how often or, perhaps more accurately, how seldom, do thoughts of eternity cross our mind as we go about the busyness of our daily lives? Is it not the case that most of us, if we were honest, awake each morning under the assumption that all will go well with us, and that God will grant us time to accomplish the tasks and goals we’ve set for the day? Would we not have to admit that, more often than not, we live our lives in a kind of fog about the fact that our lives are but a vapor (Jas 4:13–14)?

    Anticipating Eternity

    My father died of a heart attack at age 64. The circumstances of his departure from this world are not the stuff of which books are written or movies made. He simply went into the bathroom at home one day and didn’t come out. My mother came home from work to find the lifeless body of the man, to whom she’d been married for 44 years, slumped over the bathtub. For my father, eternity was as near to him as walking into the bathroom—something you and I do routinely each day.

    There are many reasons why eternity should matter to you and me, not the least of which is the consequent effects of sin on our physical bodies (Gen 3:1–15; Rom 5:12). As the Puritan minister Richard Steele (1629–1692) writes in his treatise, A Discourse Concerning Old-Age, “If you inquire . . . into the ruins of human nature, the answer will be that sin is the moth which, being bred therein, has fretted the garment, withers the man, and lays his honor in the dust! Every decay therefore of our strength should remind us of our apostasy from God by the fall and should renew our grief for the same.”[2]

    Please do not miss the point Steele is making. Sin is the point, not age. Because of sin, eternity is not a concern merely for those who are old but also for the young. Sin makes eternity a universally relevant proposition for every human being regardless of their age (Job 14:1–2; Ps 90:3–5, 103:15–16).

    Dr. Seuss was right. It is getting late soon. In fact, eternity is nearer to you now than when you began reading this blog post.

    May God, by his grace, enable us to, as Thomas Watson said, keep eternity in our scope; to be ever-mindful that life is fleeting (Ps 39:4, 89:47; Eccl 11:9–10, 12:6–7). And though it is getting late soon, for believers in Christ, eternity is not something to be anxious about. To the contrary, it is to be eagerly anticipated. For as Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”[3]

    [1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Two Views of Life”, https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons/other-sermons/two-views-of-life/.

    [2] Richard Steele, A Discourse Concerning Old-Age, Monergism Books (mobile app download), Chapter 2: The Causes of Old-Age, and Preservatives, Section 1. The Original Cause: Man’s Sin, paragraph 7.

    [3] Charles Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Center, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/10-spurgeon-quotes-on-dying-well/