January 31, 2009

Do you preach in "word only"?

They referred to him as "Logic on Fire". Learned Pastors; do you know this fire? Do you pray for this fire? -- or-- are you so afraid of "charismatic chaos" that instead you quench the Spirit of God?

To preach in “word only” and remain satisfied was impossible for Lloyd-Jones. This should be the case for any preacher. The one thing needed above all else is the accompanying power of the Spirit. This is what Charles Spurgeon dubbed “the sacred annointing.” It is the afflatus of the Spirit resting on the speaker. It is power from on high. It is the preacher gliding on eagles’ wings, soaring high, swooping low, carrying and being carried along by a dynamic other than his own. His consciousness of what is happening is not obliterated. He is not in a trance. He is being worked on but is aware that he is still working. He is being spoken through but he knows he is still speaking. The words are his but the facility with which they come compels him to realise that the source is beyond himself. The man is overwhelmed. He is on fire.

Oh how my heart burns for this sacred annointing, this unction! I hope and pray that preachers all over the world would spend much of their sermon preparation time begging God for this power on high. For, it is preachers who are borne along by the Holy Spirit that are used to effect a deep and sobering awareness of God and his truth that transforms.

In his newest book
Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace , Iain Murray writes:

Preaching under the annointing of the Holy Spirit is preaching which brings with it a consciousness of God. It produces an impression upon the hearer that is altogether stronger than anything belonging to the circumstances of the occasion. Visible things fall into the background; the surroundings, the fellow worshippers, even the speaker himself, all become secondary to an awareness of God himself. Instead of witnessing a public gathering, the hearer receives the conviction that he is being addressed personally, and with an authority greater than that of a human messenger.

Given the fact that the ultimate factor in the church’s engagement with society is the church’s engagement with God, my earnest prayer is that, for the sake of the world, more preachers would come to know and understand what Andrew Bonar meant when he wrote: “It is one thing to bring truth from the Bible, and another to bring it from God himself through the Bible.”

Tullian Tchividjian

January 30, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

When Mr. MacKenzie ascended the pulpit, a giggle went through the congregation when they beheld a man wearing a rough homespun suit, with long shaggy hair (so unlike the usual clergy of that time). But the moment he gave out his opening Psalm, a solemn stillness seemed to pervade the audience, and his opening prayer solemnized the people. The "reading" was the third chapter of Revelation, and he chose as his text the 20th verse, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me."

Standing erect in the pulpit, Mr. MacKenzie commenced his sermon thus:

ONCE UPON A TIME, there lived in our Highlands, a great Duke. He had a large estate, was very rich, and had everything in this world to make a man happy, if that were possible, so far as worldly matters was concerned. He was a widower, had an only child, a beautiful girl, who had a very sweet disposition, was very kind to the poor, and was beloved by all around.

When she was 20 years of age, her father said to her, "My daughter, next year you will become of age, and I intend to invite to our castle, for a week's festivities—all the young nobles of the land. I expect that many of them will be asking your hand in marriage, and I beg of you to see that you make a good choice, for your happiness in your after-life will depend on the choice you make. I might also say that, in case anything should happen to me, I have made my will, and everything I possess in this world at my death—will belong to you."

The time soon came for the celebration of her 21st birthday, and while her Ladyship was dressing in her room with her maid, in preparation for the reception of the guests—a loud knocking was heard at the back door of the court. One of the servants, on going out to see who was making such a noise, found a beggar on crutches. The servant ordered him to go away. "Don't trouble her Ladyship today," he said, "she is very busy, and a great many guests are coming shortly to the castle."

But the beggar answered that he would not go away—until he saw her Ladyship.
Thereupon, the door was slammed in the beggar's face; but he took up one of his crutches and banged on the door, making such a noise that it brought back the servant, who threatened to put the dogs on to him, if he did not go away. To this the beggar only replied that the dogs would not frighten him, and he would not go away until he had seen her Ladyship.

To try and frighten him—the servant went to the kennels, and at once the dogs began such a terrible howling, that the noise reached her Ladyship's ears; and she sent her maid to find out the meaning of it all. The maid returned with the information that it was a poor, lame beggar man, who wanted to see her Ladyship—and he would not go away until he saw her. "Very well," replied her Ladyship, "I will be down in a short while. Tell him to wait until I come."

Shortly afterwards, her Ladyship went down (followed by a retinue of servants, in case any harm might come to her). Seeing the beggar, she asked him kindly, "Well, my good man—what do you want?" He bowed, and then said, "I have come to ask your hand in marriage today." Her Ladyship looked at him steadfastly for a moment, then stepping forward, said "Very well. Here it is."

The beggar approached, bowed low, and taking her hand in his, kissed it, adding "And on what day will you marry me?" To which her Ladyship replied, "On this day—one year hence."

On hearing her reply, the beggar gathered up his crutches and hobbled away, greatly to the relief and delight of the servants standing around, who thought that she had got rid of the beggar very quickly and easily.

During the week of the festivities, many of the young nobles asked her hand in marriage, but all of them got the same reply from her, "I am betrothed already."

Many began asking who the 'lucky fellow' was, but no one could tell. The servants, overhearing the conversations among the guests, began to wonder among themselves, if it were really true—that she had given away her hand in marriage to the beggar.

At last it came to her father's ears—that she had been asked by many, and all had been given the same refusal, and that she had already given her hand in marriage to a beggar, with a promise that it should take place in a year's time. The Duke was heart-broken.

"Is it true, my daughter, that you have given your hand in marriage to a poor beggar man?"

"Yes, father, it is quite true, and it will be alright."

The week of festivities ended rather abruptly, everyone being greatly disappointed at the news of her betrothal to the beggar.

During the year, her father time after time called her to his side, saying "Oh, my daughter! Oh my daughter! Comfort me. Tell me it is all a mistake!" But her answer was always the same, "It is quite true, and it will be alright."

At length the year passed by. No preparation was made for the marriage, and on the day appointed, her father sent for her, and said "You see, my daughter—there is no one coming."

"Oh, but he will come!" she replied.

One o'clock chimed—yet no appearance of anyone coming. About two o'clock in the afternoon, however, a great noise was heard coming over the hill towards the castle. Everyone in the house rushed to the windows, and what they beheld was a wonderful procession of pipers, drummers and horsemen, in large numbers. Up to the front door of the castle came a guard of prancing horsemen, who lined both sides of the avenue. Wheeling around, they drew up, each horse facing the other and forming a guard of honor.

Then, last of all, came a beautiful prancing steed, with a noble rider on its back. On reaching the steps leading to the doorway of the castle, this rider threw himself from the saddle, ran up the steps, and embraced his beloved.

Who was he? The King's son!

That morning, a year before—he had disguised himself as a poor beggar, and came in that way lest he should be too late. Recognizing his eyes, she knew who he was, and kept his secret. So all were glad at the end.

~ ~ ~ ~
Mr. MacKenzie then repeated his text, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice, and opens the door—I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me."

Who is standing at your heart's door tonight, my people? Who is standing at your heart's door and knocking tonight, my people? A beggar! One of Whom it was said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests—but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head." A Man whose face was more marred than that of any man. A beggar knocking at your heart's door tonight, seeking admission. If you will give Him your hand in marriage, He will make you a Queen, for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

At the close of the sermon the congregation were so moved—that it was said that there were six hundred seeking souls in the church that night!

January 29, 2009

The Purpose Driven Life

I have nothing to say tonight--except "Click This" and read.

On Looking Forward...

... the things that are unseen ...
-- 2 Corinthians 4:18

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith.

Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer's enlightened eye can see death's river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which stands the celestial city. He sees himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne.

The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth. Hush, hush, my doubts! Death is but a narrow stream, and you shall soon have forded it. Time, how short--eternity, how long! Death, how brief--immortality, how endless! The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there.

When the world my heart is rending
With its heaviest storm of care,
My glad thoughts to heaven ascending,
Find a refuge from despair.

Faith's bright vision shall sustain me
Till life's pilgrimage is past;
Fears may vex and troubles pain me,
I shall reach my home at last.

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, Sing unto the Lord

January 28, 2009

Mental Illness: Biological and/or Spiritual? Are you equipped to discern the differences?

This is a highly controversial issue and one that cannot be adequately addressed in a blog post. However, it is a great error; and, if I do say so, both dangerous and ignorant, to dogmatically attribute all "mental and emotional dysfunctions" to be a result (solely and exclusively) of spiritual problems.

lArchibald Alexander was pre-eminently marked by deep spiritual wisdom. His work abounds in the kind of spiritual insight that is possessed only by those who have excelled in the theological trivium of Scriptural understanding, a thorough grasp of the whole body of divinity, and knowledge of the human heart. Having been introduced to this, readers may well want to obtain a copy of Alexander's book Thoughts on Religious Experience (Banner of Truth)

This man was a man of the Word and a man of prayer. He is held in the highest regard by the most learned reformed biblical scholars of the past and present. He wrote this in 1844, to ministers. It is advice on how to understand and deal with (what we might call today) different forms or types of mental illness. There are very dangerous attitudes in the modern Christian communities today, which are being blindly followed because of the reputation of those propagating them: For example, a very respected Pastor said, “We simply approach the issues spiritually. We don’t refer them to psychologists or psychiatrists or whatever. We don’t attempt to deal with them in those terms. The only real transforming, life changing guidance is that which God provides through his word to his people. Anything else is going to be the wisdom of man, not the wisdom of God.” That was a quote from an interview shortly after a congregant at this pastors church committed suicide. The truth is not only do they not refer their congregants to doctors, they actually discourage them from seeking medical assistance.

Let us hear the advice of a very learned biblical scholar, pastor and teacher:

"Look upon your distressed friends as under one of the worst distempers to which this miserable life is exposed. Melancholy incapacitates them for thought or action: it confounds and disturbs all their thoughts and fills them with vexation and anguish. I verily believe, that when this malignant state of mind is deeply fixed and has spread its deleterious influence over every part, it is as vain to attempt to resist it by reasoning and rational motives—as it is to oppose a fever or the gout or pleurisy.

One of the very worst attendants of this disease is the lack of sleep, by which in other distresses men are relieved and refreshed; but in this disease, either sleep flies far away, or is so disturbed that the poor sufferer, instead of being refreshed, is like one on the rack. The faculties of the soul are weakened, and all their operations disturbed and clouded; and the poor body languishes and pines away at the same time.

And that which renders this disease more formidable is its long continuance. It is a long time often before it comes to its height; and it is usually as tedious in its declension. It is, in every respect, sad and overwhelming; a state of darkness that has no discernible beams of light. It generally begins in the body and then conveys its venom to the mind. I pretend not to tell you what medicines will cure it, for I know of none.

I leave you to advise with such as are skilled in medicine, and especially to such doctors as have experienced something of it themselves; for it is impossible to understand the nature of it in any other way than by experience. There is danger, as Richard Greenham says, 'that the bodily physician will look no further than the body; while the spiritual physician will totally disregard the body, and look only at the mind'.

There is no subject on which it is more vain and dangerous to theorize than our religious experience. It is therefore of unspeakable importance that ministers of the gospel, who have to deal with diseased consciences, should have had some experience themselves in these matters.

This, no doubt, is one reason why some, intended to be "sons of consolation" (Acts 4:36) to others, have been brought through deep waters, and have been buffeted by many storms, before they obtained a settled peace of mind. It is a proper object of inquiry, why, in our day, so little is heard about the spiritual troubles of which we read so much in the treatises of writers of a former age. It can scarcely be supposed that the faith of modern Christians is so much stronger than that of believers who lived in other days, that they are enabled easily to triumph over their melancholy fears and despondency.

Neither can we suppose that Satan is less busy in casting his fiery darts, and in attempts to drive the children of God to despair. There is reason to fear, that among Christians of the present time, there is less deep, spiritual exercise than in former days; and as little is said on this subject in public discourses, there may be greater concealment of the troubles of this kind than if these subjects were more frequently discussed. It is observable that all those who have experienced this sore affliction and have been mercifully delivered from it, are very solicitous to administer relief and comfort to others who are still exposed to the peltings of the pitiless storm; and these are the people who feel the tenderest sympathy with afflicted consciences, and know how to bear with the infirmities and waywardness which accompany a state of religious melancholy.

It is also remarkable that very generally, those who have been recovered from such diseases, attribute no small part of their troubles to a morbid temperament of body, and accordingly, in their counsels to the melancholy—they lay particular stress on the regular, healthy state of the body.

Learn from this man of God and so many other great theologians of the past, who had a much greater understanding of the differences between emotional problems caused by "spiritual" issues vs. legitimate biological disorders of the brain.

January 27, 2009

We are all probably somewhat guilty of this...

"There is a sense in which it is true to say that you can prove anything you like from the Bible. That is how heresies have arisen. The heretics were never dishonest men; they were mistaken men. They should not be thought as men who were deliberately setting out to go wrong and to teach something that is wrong; they have been some of the most sincere men that the Church has ever known. What was the matter with them?

Their trouble was this; they evolved a theory and they were rather pleased with it; then they went back with this theory to the Bible and they seemed to find it everywhere".

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones - "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" - Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (1987) - (p11)

January 26, 2009

Pondering the Cross of Christ

Up past my bedtime, but this was heavy on my heart tonight:

One of my greatest burdens is that the Cross of Christ is rarely understood or explained. It is not enough to say, "He died"--for all men die. It is not enough to say that "He died a noble death"--for martyrs do the same. We must understand that we have not fully proclaimed the death of Christ with saving power until we have cleared away the confusion that surrounds it and expounded its true meaning to our hearers (even those who profess Him as Savior).

The scriptures are clear that He died bearing the transgression of His people and suffering the divine penalty for their sins: He was forsaken of God and crushed under the wrath of God in their place.

It is a great travesty that the true meaning of the Christ's cry from the cross has often been lost in a romantic cliche. It is not uncommon to hear a preacher declare that the Father turned away from His Son because He could no longer bear to witness the suffering inflicted upon Him by the hands of wicked men. Such interpretations are a complete distortion of the text and of what actually transpired on the Cross. The Father did not turn away from the Son because He lacked the fortitude to witness His sufferings, but because, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him". He laid our sins upon Him and turned away, for His eyes are too pure to approve evil and cannot look upon wickedness with favor.

To obtain the salvation of His people, Christ not only suffered the terrifying abandonment of God, but He drank down the bitter cup of God's wrath and died a bloody death in the place of His people. Only then could divine justice be satisfied; the wrath of God be appeased; and, reconciliation be made.

Again, it is an injustice to Calvary and to Christ that the true pain of the Cross is often overlooked by a more romantic, but less powerful theme. It is often thought and even preached that the Father looked down from heaven and witnessed the suffering that was heaped upon His son by the hands of men, and that He counted such affliction as payment for our sins. This is heresy of the worst kind!

Christ satisfied divine justice not merely by enduring the afflictions of men, but by enduring and dying under the wrath of God. It takes more than crosses, nails, crowns of thrones, and lances to pay for sin. The believer is saved, not merely because of what men did to Christ on the Cross, but because of what God did to Him--He crushed Him under the full force of His wrath against us.

Rarely (especially in this day and age) is this truth made clear enough in the abundance of all our Gospel preaching and/or even understood by those who wear His name.

Paraphrased excerpts from an unknown author

Encouragement for Pastors; Encouragement for all!

Every so often I need to be reminded that the Bible did not fall gently like manna from heaven. Its many narratives, prophecies, and letters were forged in the grit of real life struggles and the multitude of human relational dynamics not unlike what we encounter today.

Nowhere is this better seen than in 2 Corinthians. In fact, the lengthy paragraph before us (2 Cor. 7:5-16) is unintelligible apart from an understanding of the movements of Paul and Titus and the personal interactions between them and the Corinthian church. So let me briefly set the context for this incredibly instructive and encouraging passage.

As best we can tell, Paul made an urgent and confrontational visit to Corinth in the spring of 55 a.d., which he described as "painful" in 2 Corinthians 2:1. He immediately returned to Ephesus and changed the plans he had earlier made to visit Corinth twice more: once on his way to Macedonia and then on his return trip (cf. 2 Cor. 1:15-16). Fearful that his enemies would destroy the work of the gospel in Corinth, he wrote what some have called the "severe" or "tearful" letter (2 Cor. 2:4, 9), entrusting its delivery to Titus.

In late 55 a.d. he left Ephesus and went to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with news of how the Corinthians had responded to this forceful appeal. Much to his chagrin, Titus was nowhere to be found (cf. 2 Cor. 2:13). Evidently he and Titus had planned to meet in Macedonia (probably Philippi) should the meeting in Troas not occur. Hence, Paul made his way to Macedonia, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Titus from Corinth. While there he suffered greatly, both in terms of external opposition and internal anxiety and distress, unsure of how his spiritual children would respond to what he had written. Finally, Titus arrived from Corinth with the good news for which Paul had prayed. The apostle's response is described in the passage before us (2 Cor. 7:5ff.).

Evidently, the Corinthians initially felt sorrow on hearing Paul's letter (vv. 8-9), but soon repented of their sinful behavior and expressed their love and longing for him (vv. 7, 9, 11-12). Titus is greatly comforted and refreshed by their response and upon his reunion with Paul in Macedonia reports to the apostle this glorious turn of events. His regret over sending the severe letter is short-lived when he learns of the godly and sincere fruit it bore in their experience (v. 8). Now he is relieved and filled with joy both at how Titus was encouraged and refreshed by them as well as their genuine and godly repentance (vv. 6-7, 9-12, 13).

Our concern in this meditation is with his opening comments in vv. 5-7. It's a remarkably honest and vulnerable confession by Paul of his state of mind and body:

"For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn - fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more" (2 Cor. 7:5-7).

Several things are worthy of note.

First, in 2 Corinthians 2:13 it was his "spirit" that couldn't find rest when Titus failed to appear. Now it is his "body" (v. 5). Whereas "body" (Gk., sarx) may be inclusive of his spiritual and psychological state of being, the emphasis is on the frailty and vulnerability of his physical frame. Paul was not above or insulated against experiencing great physical agitation and weakness. This was caused by a multitude of afflictions (v. 5), what he calls "fighting without and fear within" (however, both "fighting" and "fear" are plural in the Greek text, pointing to multiple occasions when he confronted each).

The "fightings" were not physical battles, as if to suggest that Paul was a regular participant in some ancient version of pugilistic combat! He has in mind ecclesiastical controversies and theological disputes that he apparently faced on a regular basis (cf. the use of this word in 2 Tim. 2:23; Titus 3:9; James 4:1).

What is of special interest is his reference to "fears within", which no doubt included his anxiety about how Titus would be received (not to mention the physical safety of his beloved emissary), his concern about how the Corinthians would respond to his letter (would they reject him or repent of their sin?), and his lingering worries concerning the influence of the false teachers in Corinth.

Take heart: Paul was just like you and me! It is right to point out that Paul "openly admits to being in emotional turmoil and having persistent fears. So far from being imperturbable or being a model of inner tranquility, he was deeply affected by his circumstances, especially his pastoral circumstances (cf. 11:28-29), although he was certainly not emotionally fragile" (527).

He obviously cared deeply both for Titus and the believers in Corinth. Their spiritual and physical welfare weighed heavily on his heart, and he is unashamed to confess the burden and anxiety and overall toll it took on him, body and soul.

Second, thank God for the "But God's" of the Bible! "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus" (v. 6; cf. Isa. 49:13). Yes, Paul was "downcast", dejected, perhaps even in some sense depressed because of the "fears" (v. 5) that wracked his heart as he waited, dare I say, impatiently in Macedonia.

Don't overlook an incredibly instructive dual emphasis in this verse. On the one hand, Paul is encouraged by the arrival of Titus. His anxiety diminishes upon seeing his trusted friend and brother in Christ. Don't ever let anyone tell you Paul wasn't a people person, as if all that mattered were theological concepts over which he pondered in a remote ivory tower. The welfare of his beloved brother, Titus, mattered profoundly to him! As Paul says in v.7, it wasn't simply the arrival of Titus that cheered him but the fact that Titus was himself cheered by the reception he received from the Corinthians!

But second, take special note that, typical of Paul, he sees God's providential hand in it all. God was the ultimate source of this comfort. He rejoiced to see Titus and to know he was safe and to hear the good news of what had transpired in Corinth. But all this was from God! He is, after all, "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3), and his ways of dispensing it to us are many and varied. It's truly breathtaking to see yet again the intimate oversight of God in the most mundane of human affairs and how he orchestrates seemingly routine events and even uncomfortable confrontations for our spiritual growth and edification.

The third important observation concerns Paul's joy on hearing how the Corinthians responded to his severe letter (v. 7). When Titus brought his report to Paul he focused on three things. He "told us of your longing," writes Paul. But their "longing" or "ardent desire" for what? Perhaps for Paul himself. Perhaps their desire to be reconciled to the apostle. In any case, Paul is ecstatic upon hearing of their change of heart.

Titus also reported on their "mourning" or "grieving", whether over their inexcusable treatment of Paul or their failure to heed his earlier letters and appeals to repent. Their "zeal" may be a reference to their fresh enthusiasm to comply with Paul's directives, but given the prepositional phrase "for me", it is more likely a reference to their eagerness to unite fully, in heart and mind and spirit, with their beloved spiritual father.

The result? "I rejoiced still more," exclaimed Paul (v. 7b)! There was great joy upon seeing Titus, but even greater joy, now more than ever, upon hearing how he had been received and how passionate these believers had become for Paul and holiness of life. Paul's fellow apostle, John, put it best in saying, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4). Paul couldn't have agreed more.

What a rich treasure has been entrusted to us: the sacred Scriptures, the inspired word of God, as I said earlier, forged in the context of real life struggles and the multitude of human relational dynamics. Here, in the messy and often frustrating arena of human failure and weakness and repentance and reconciliation, we find encouragement and instruction and hope. And this too, from God.

Author Unkown

January 25, 2009

"The Christian Lover"

In his new book The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, Michael Haykin says that "reading expressions of love from the past can be a helpful way of responding to the frangibility (brokenness, fragile quality) of Christian marriage in our day." In this book, the author offers a collection, a small anthology, of letters from husbands to wives and wives to husbands--letters that share the beauty of the gift that is marriage. The following are just a few sweet excerpts:

A brief portion of quite a lengthy letter from John Broadus to his wife Lottie:

Lottie, won't you love me too--don't you? Won't you pour all the wealth of your woman's love, undoubting, without any reserve, into my bosom, and let it flood my soul with sweetness? Won't you unlock every recess of your heart, and let all its affections rush forth in one rich, full tide of love? Won't you forgive [me] if I have sometimes been exacting, apparently neglectful--won't you forget that you have ever yielded to one moment's skepticism about my love--won't you just surrender your whole heart to trustful and joyful affection for your lover and your husband?

Another wonderfully surprising excerpt which shows such a sweet side of Martyn Lloyd-Jones as he wrote to his wife Bethan:

My Dear Bethan,

Thank you for your letter of this morning, though I am very angry that you should have been up till 11.30 p.m. writing it! I see that you are quite incorrigible! The idea that I shall become used to being without you is really funny. I could speak for a long time on the subject. As I have told you many, many times, the passing of the years does nothing but deepen and intensify my love for you. When I think of those days in London in 1925 and '26, when I thought that no greater love was possible, I could laugh.

But honestly, during this last year I had come to believe that it was not possible for a man to love his wife more than I loved you. And yet I see that there is no end to love, and that it is still true that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I am quite certain that there is no lover, anywhere, writing to his girl who is quite as mad about her as I am. Well, I had better put a curb on things or I shall spend the night writing to you without a word of news.

The letters of Helmuth von Moltke to his wife Freya give an interesting glimpse of a man's reflections upon life and marriage as he prepares for death--how he may stir his wife's heart with the blessed good news of the gospel. It shows, as well, a man who perceived his wife as a great gift from God:

"And now my dear, I come to you. I have not included you in my list because you, my dear, stand in a totally different position from all the others. You are not one of God's agents to make me what I am, rather you are myself. You are my thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Without this chapter no human being is truly human. Without you I would have accepted love. . . . But without you, my dear, I would not have "had" love. I should not think of saying that I love you; that would be quite false. Rather you are the one part of me, which would be lacking if I was alone. . . . It is only in our union--you and I--that we form a complete human being. . . . And that is why, my dear, I am quite certain that you will never lose me on this earth--no, not for a moment. And this fact it was given us to symbolize finally through our common participation in the Holy Communion, that celebration which was my last."

January 24, 2009

A Question...

A question was posed today on one of my favorite blogs. The question was: "Is it possible to have life in Christ without love for Christ?"

Ultimately, I would have to say "NO, it is not possible". But, I would want to articulate that fully as to not be misunderstood and that cannot be accomplished in one post..

My brief comment to that post was as follows:

"What is “love? Now that would be an interesting question to ask your readers. First: I think one must clarify what is meant by the word “love”, in this context, before the question can even be understood; let alone answered. We all have different understandings of what “love” means and what love is. Second: It is also interesting that the question is rather “man-centered”, i.e. focused on our standing in Christ as opposed to whether or not our lives can bring Him glory if we do not love Him. A different slant on the question:

“Is it possible for our lives to bring glory to God if we do not have love for Christ?”

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Great thought provoking question–and as you know, one that men have pondered down through the centuries. “What is Love?” Perhaps we need to begin there.

I would love to hear what you think.

Jonathan Edwards wrote:

"The sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all.

It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature.

A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone."

January 23, 2009

The Power of Persuasion

I was going to subtitle this, "From where is your understanding derived?"

I have found that most peoples' understanding of God and the things of God are formed primarily from the pulpit of the particular denomination they happen to be raised in; or by the teaching of a particular seminary that they happen to attend. And, of course, many choose a seminary that adheres to the teachings of the denomination that they were raised in.

Some sources state that there are over 34,000 Christian denominations. I recall hearing a sermon by John MacArthur where he indicated that there may be as many as 89,000 different denominations.

And then there are the millions of lay people--those who have been attending church services for most of there lives; or, who are saved later in life and then discipled under a particular denominations teachings, who are not even aware that other Christians hold differing views on a myriad of things like "eschatology" for example. Their understanding of things are based primarily on what they hear during bible studies and what they hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning. I fear that very few actually spend much time in the Word of God.

My mother just recently learned of the term "cessationist" (as that is the position the church we attend holds on the miraculous gifts). She asked me to explain to her what that term meant, because she desired to know if she was one--since holding that position is also a requirement of membership. I gave her a very brief overview and then felt it was better to simply let her read the differing views held by four different biblical scholars, all who used the scriptures to support their positions. I gave her a copy of, "Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views"--Grand Rapids--Zondervan, and encouraged her to read it. What was the outcome?

She said, "After reading the first "view"--I thought--now that makes sense. I agree with that position." Then I read the next "view" and said, "Now that makes sense, I agree with that position.." and so it went. She finally got frustrated and realized that she didn't really know what she believed.

Oh, the power of persuasion!

If our understanding is derived from the teaching of men, we can all be easily persuaded by a learned and convincing argument. In addition, if we are "indoctrinated" by a particular denominations teaching and feel loyal to that denomination, we can limit our understanding and exclude the position of others out of a sense of loyalty and pride.

However, if our understanding is first derived from scripture, we will find that the teaching of men will either affirm our understanding or be contrary to it.

I would love to lock 10 new "born-again" believers in a room (who had only heard the Gospel and who had never attended a church service, never heard the opinions of men regarding doctrine) for 5 years with only the Word of God and no other outside influences, and at the end of those 5 years see if they held such differing views as are currently held throughout the Christian community. Of course that is a ridiculous and impossible experiment. Nonetheless, that would be "sola scriptura".

So, what is my point? Simply this: Ask yourself from where your understanding is derived. It should be derived from the Word of God. Do not go to the scriptures, with a preconceived understanding, reading your understanding into it. Go to the scriptures with a humble heart and the desire for God to give you understanding--or to correct your understanding.

"SOLA SCRIPTURA"--the cry of the Reformation and the power of God! Do you actually believe it or is it just a mantra that you give lip service to?

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

For while one saith, I am of MacArthur; and another, I am of Piper; are ye not carnal?

January 21, 2009

This is so sweet, that I can hardly contain myself!

"Desire the sincere milk of the Word--that you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2

The Bible consists of a series of letters from the Heavenly Father, to His dear children. Then let us cherish them as such, and act accordingly. A few verses that are thoughtfully and prayerfully pondered, will advantage us far more than two or three whole chapters, merely skimmed through.

That against which we are protesting--is the God-dishonoring idea that His Word is merely a piece of literature, which may be "mastered" by a course of "study." We would warn against an undue occupation with the technical aspects of the Bible. God's blessed Word is not for dissection by the knife of cold intellectuality. It is not given for us to display our cleverness and "brilliance" upon--but to be bowed before in true humility. It is not designed for mental entertainment--but for the regulation of our daily lives!

Our motive when approaching the Word, should be to seek that which will subdue pride and bring us as supplicants to the footstool of Mercy--not to acquire that which will puff us up in our own conceit. Of what value is a knowledge of the original Hebrew and Greek--or a thorough acquaintance with the history, geography, and chronology of the Bible--if the heart is left cold and hard toward its Author!

I seriously doubt if God has called or requires us, merely to 'study' His Word. What we need to do, is FEED thereon.

How much nourishment would your body derive from a study of the chemical properties of foods--or from seeking to ascertain the various sorts of soil in which they are grown--or the meaning of their Latin names? None whatever!

And I am persuaded that much of the modern 'study of the Bible' is equally profitless spiritually!

By all means, "search the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11); slowly ponder each word in every verse. Pray constantly for the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, that He may open to you its Divine mysteries. Above all, beg God to write His Word more legibly and fully upon the tablets of your heart--that you may put the precepts into practice."Nourished up in the Words of Faith" (1 Timothy 4:6).

God's Word is the only nutritive food for the soul! This is why the Holy Scriptures are given to us--that we may grow in love and reverence for them, and be more and more regulated by them. It is only by feeding on this Heavenly Manna, that strength is obtained for our pilgrim walk, for our warfare with sin and Satan, and for our service unto God and our fellows.

A.W. Pink

January 20, 2009

The Cross

Two days ago, I asked that you turn off the TV and ponder with me....

The following is a result of my pondering. How I pray that the Lord will use this is bless your souls:

Did you see "The Passion of the Christ" by Mel Gibson? Have you watched other films that focus (primarily) on the physical suffering that our Lord endured? Have those movies moved you? Is that your understanding of what Christ suffered on your behalf? Oh, how Satan can blind us. What Christ suffered on our behalf goes so far beyond His physical suffering. As Stephen Charnock puts it: There must be something more dreadful than to bare outward pain or bodily punishment; Christ was not wanting in courage to support that, as well as the most valiant martyr; He bore the beginnings of it till he saw a black cloud between his Father and himself. This made him cry out, my God, my God..... The agonies of Christ were more than the sufferings of all the martyrs, and all men in the world, since God laid upon him the sins of the whole world.

Listen to what God has revealed to us:

Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.

And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass

Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.

But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him

Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah

But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation

Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:


That wrath, that you just read about , was poured out on Jesus Christ on the Cross for everyone who would ever believe, as if He had led our sinful life. Do you understand this? The Cross is not about His physical suffering (although He endured that as well). This is about Christ suffering the wrath of God on our behalf. He bore in is body the penalty for our sins!

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is the most powerful statement in the Bible!

“For he hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Do you understand this?

To Comfort a Friend...

"Today as I sit in my lonely room, this passage of God's Word flies in like a white dove through the window, "And now men see not the sun which is in the clouds; but the wind passes and clears them." Job 37:21. To my weak vision, dimmed with tears, the cloud is exceeding dark, but through it stream some rays from the infinite love which fills the Throne with an exceeding and eternal brightness of glory. By-and-by we may get above and behind that cloud—into the overwhelming light. We shall not need comfort then; but we do need it now. And for our present consolation, God lets through the clouds some clear, strong, distinct rays of love and gladness.

One truth which beams in through the vapors is this—God not only reigns, but He governs His world by a most beautiful law of compensations. He sets one thing over against another. Faith loves to study the illustrations of this law, notes them in her diary, and rears her pillars of praise for every fresh discovery. I have noticed that the deaf often have an unusual quickness of eyesight; the blind are often gifted with an increased capacity for hearing; and sometimes when the eye is darkened and the ear is closed, the sense of touch becomes so exquisite that we are able to converse with the sufferer through that sense alone.

This law explains why God put so many of His people under a sharp regimen of hardship and burden-bearing in order that they may be sinewed into strength; why a Joseph must be shut into a prison in order that he may be trained for a palace and for the premiership of the kingdom.

God's ways are not my ways—but they are infinitely better. The cloud is not so dense but love-rays shine through. In time the revealing "winds shall clear" away the dark and dreadful mystery. Kind words of sympathy steal into the shadowed room of suffering. If Christ does not come in visible form to our Bethanys, He sends His faithful servants and handmaidens with words of warm, tender condolence.

The fourteenth chapter of John never gleams with such a celestial brightness, as when we read it when under the cloud. No cloud can be big enough to shut out heaven—if we keep the eye towards the Throne. And when we reach heaven and see the cloud from God's side—it will be blazing and beaming with the illumination of His love. The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall be our Shepherd, and shall guide us to fountains of waters of life, and God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes!"

Theodore Culyer

January 19, 2009

Turn off the TV and ponder with me....

Let us start thinking upon the Cross and what actually transpired there. Oh, reader--It was so much more than physical suffering that Christ endured. I will be posting my thoughts in the near future; but was hoping to encourage you to start pondering this:

"Do you know what really happened on the Cross?"

Are you afraid of the Spirit of God?

In a previous post, I mentioned that (based on my experience worshipping at churches who hold a "cessationist position" and are reformed and Calvinistic in doctrine) it has been my observation that they are actually afraid of the supernatural power and reality of the Spirit of God and many are guilty of squelching His Spirit. I remember thinking that it seems as though, in many of these churches "Grace has replaced the Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity". Oh, let us guard against "hyper-cessationism" as that is as dangerous to the church as "charismatic chaos".

Listen to the warnings of J.C. Ryle:

The work of the Holy Spirit, though mysterious, will always be known by the fruits He produces in the character and conduct of those in whom He dwells.

The presence of the Spirit is like . . . light which can be seen, fire which can be felt, and wind which causes noticeable results. Where there are no fruits of the Spirit--there is no presence of the Spirit. Those fruits, I need not tell you, are always the same: conviction of sin, true repentance, lively faith in Christ, and holiness of heart and life.

I am afraid there are myriads of professing Christians throughout the land, who really know nothing about the Holy Spirit. They seem to think that as baptized members of a great ecclesiastical corporation--that they possess the Spirit. But of the work of the Spirit on their own individual hearts--of conversion, repentance, and faith--they know nothing at all.

They are spiritually asleep and dead--and unless they awake, are in great danger!

'Those fruits" J.C. Ryle

Is this the song of your heart? Is this music to your soul? It is to mine. The believer is like a musical instrument, tuned and played by the Spirit.

Sibbes wrote, "Let us lay ourselves open to the Spirit's touch. When the Spirit has ruling sway in our lives he fine-tunes our souls much like a musical instrument, and then he plays our lives as a piano concerto before God."

Sibbes went on to describe this process of tuning and the touch of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit must rule; he will have the keys delivered to him. We must submit to his government, and when he is in the heart he will subdue by little and little all high thoughts, rebellious risings, and despairing fears.

"Our soul is the battlefield upon which the Spirit marches and He will have the final victory, Sibbes said. For wherever the Spirit dwells, He also rules, for He will not be an underling to lusts. He repairs the breaches of the soul; in this battle we must submit to the Spirit in all things, however, for only then will we experience the victorious life that is the inheritance of believers in Jesus Christ.

Dearly Beloved--Do not fear the Spirit of God.

January 18, 2009

Engaging in Controversy

As with everything we do, we must be sure of the motivation in our hearts when we take a stand to defend the truths of God's Word and engage in controversy. Most importantly, we must constantly ask the Lord to reveal the truth of our motives to us. Many of us can convince ourselves that our motivation is pure and good and than easily find ourselves caring more about "winning" than we do about God's Glory and/or another persons soul.

In today's Christian culture controversy abounds and with the ease of technology much harm can be done without enough time for proper heart preparation and prayer. I found a letter John Newton had written to a friend regarding this very issue. Here are a few excerpts. We can learn much from these men of old.

"Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit."

From The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX "On Controversy."

We are Christ's ambassadors and let us never forget that when we engage in controversial discussions in a public arena with others who profess Christ, we are being watched by unregenerate men and women who will judge Christ by our actions and say, "See, there is no truth in Christianity--even His followers cannot agree. Look at how they treat each other! They are no different then we are"

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35

To read the complete letter click here

January 16, 2009

"I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart."

"Sometimes, my thoughts would recall those glorious drives up the mountains, which we had so lately enjoyed together; when every turn in the road revealed some new beauty of prospect, and a perfect climax of delight was reached when, after long, steady climbing, the horses drew the carriage triumphantly into the "place" of the quaint mountain village or town where we were bound.

Here, some eight or nine hundred feet above the level of the sea, the houses were crowded together among the rocks like swallows' nests, and the view before us was enchanting beyond description; and my beloved would, with childlike eagerness, turn to me, and say, "There, wifey, isn't that worth coming all the way to see?"

Yes, truly; and if there had been nothing else to see than his exultant happiness at my long-desired presence with him, this would have well repaid any effort of love on my part.

But, good and precious as all that was—and, oh! how sweet is the memory now!—my heart understands that it was only a poor earthly joy—fading and shadowy; and again I have to say, "He is with Christ, which is far better!"

"...when with one hand the Lord had smitten me well-near to death, while with the other hand He had poured into my wounded heart the oil and wine of His choicest consolation. It was a wonderful time to my soul, and He helped me to sing aloud of His faithfulness, and to bless His Name—though He had taken from me my husband—the joy and crown of my earthly life.

Because of this, because He had glorified Himself in my sorrow, and out of the inmost recesses of my heart had drawn forth this canticle of grief, the words went straight to other lonely hearts, and rested there like "the dew of Hermon." For a long time, I received constant testimony to the fact that, in a very remarkable way, God was using the experience He had given me, as a balm and cordial to heal and soothe others of His bereaved children; and none but myself can tell how precious was this knowledge to my aching heart.

It seemed indeed worthwhile suffering and sorrowing, if God's love and pity turned it all into a sweet symphony of praise to Him, and enabled stricken ones to honor Him by a response of sweet submission and perfect truth.

So, to the glory of my dear Lord, whose grace was sufficient for me in my darkest and most distressful days, I have had my "Song of Sighs" reproduced; and my one earnest desire is that, as the Lord then gave it the approval of His blessing, so now he will not withhold the grace which alone can make it His voice of comfort to those who mourn."

Excerpts from Susannah Spurgeon's (how she dealt with the death of her beloved husband, C. H. Spurgeon.)

Click here to read the entire article.

January 15, 2009

High Expectations?

I was pondering the misery and disappointments that many of my loved ones have experienced during their lifetime. I was pondering their reactions to these miseries and disappointments. For whatever reason (while I was pondering these things) I recalled the lyrics of a country western song that I had heard as a young child. These few lines had a huge impact on me back then and I believe that God used that silly secular country western song to speak truth into my heart in preparation for my own walk with Him later in life which began at the age of 35. Take a listen:

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There's gotta be a little rain sometime
When you take you gotta give
So live and let live and let go oh oh oh oh

I could promise you things
Like big diamond rings
But you don't find roses growin' on stalks of clover
So you better think it over

Well, if sweet talking you could make it come true
I would give you the world right now on a silver platter
But what would it matter?

"Ah, my reader, if you are one of God's elect--do not expect a smooth and easy path through this earthly wilderness--but be prepared for varying circumstances and drastic changes. The Christian's resting place is not in this world, for "here have we no continuing city" (Hebrews 13:14).

The Christian is a "pilgrim," on a journey; he is a "soldier," called on to fight the good fight of faith. The more this is realized, the less keen will be the disappointment, when our ease is disturbed, and our outward peace harshly broken in upon. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous," and if 'troubles' do not come to us in one form--they most certainly will in another!

If we really appropriate this promise--then we shall not be so staggered when afflictions come upon us. It is written that, "it is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and therefore we should make up our minds to expect the same, and to "not to think it strange" (1 Peter 4:12) when we are called upon to pass through "the fiery trial." Affliction, tribulation, and fiery trial--are a times, our portion here on earth."

A.W. Pink

When I am faced with disappointments or place my expectations in others, I often feel that God is saying to me, "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever. I have made My light shine in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Stop placing your expectations in this worlds gardens. I have given you the "Rose of Sharon" and it is in His Garden where all your expectations will be met.

January 13, 2009

If this is Christianity; I may not be a Christian!

The full quote is, "If this is Christianity, then I have never really known what Christianity is. In fact; If this is Christianity, I may not be a Christian". This was a quote from a pastor of a church, after he was introduced to the "Christianity" expressed and experienced by men who lived over 400 years ago. He was filled with sorrow and with joy (all at the same time) for the very first time in His walk with the Lord.

I have found this to be my same experience and I have found that many genuinely "born-again" believers are moved in the very same way when they discover the depth of the hearts of these men for Christ. This is truly one of God's precious gifts to His people.

Why is this important? It is important because we are living in "shallow", "superficial", "man-centered times" and yet true believers hunger and thirst for Joy--for REALITY; for purpose.

Read this excerpt from Thomas Watson's treatise on "Men's Chief End" and tell me if this is your experience. Tell me if you hunger for this. Tell me if you experience this beauty and depth with the Lord while you attend His ordinances. This is "Christianity" and this is what our souls long for and can experience.

The enjoyment of God in this life. It is a great matter to enjoy God's ordinances, but to enjoy God's presence in the ordinances is that which a gracious heart aspires after. Psalm 63:2, "To see thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." This sweet enjoyment of God is when we feel his Spirit co-operating with the ordinance, and distilling grace upon our hearts.

When in the Word the Spirit quickens and raises the affections. Luke 24:32, "Did not our hearts burn within us?"

When the Spirit transforms the heart leaving an impress of holiness upon it. 2 Cor. 3:8, "We are changed into the same image, from glory to glory."

When the Spirit revives the heart with comfort, it comes not only with its anointing, but with its seal; it sheds God's love abroad in the heart. Rom. 5:5, "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:3.

In the Word we hear God's voice; in the sacrament we have his kiss. (Have you felt the kiss of Christ in the sacraments?) The heart being warmed and inflamed in a duty is God's answering by fire. The sweet communications of God's Spirit are the first fruits of glory. Now Christ has pulled off his veil, and showed his smiling face; now he has led a believer into the banqueting-house, and given him of the spiced wine of his love to drink; he has put in his finger at the hole of the door; he has touched the heart, and made it leap for joy.

Oh how sweet is it thus to enjoy God! The godly have, in ordinances, had such divine raptures of joy, and soul transfigurations, that they have been carried above the world, and have despised all things here below. (Is this your experience?)

Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet?

How wicked are they who prefer the enjoyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of God! 2 Pet. 3:3, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life," is the Trinity they worship. Lust is an inordinate desire or impulse, provoking the soul to that which is evil. There is the revengeful lust, and the wanton lust. Lust, like a feverish heat, puts the soul into a flame. Aristotle calls sensual lusts brutish, because, when any lust is violent, reason or conscience cannot be heard. These lusts besot and brutalise the man. Hos. 4:11,"Whoredom and wine take away the heart;" the heart for anything that is good. How many make it their chief end, not to enjoy God, but to enjoy their lusts; as that cardinal who said, "Let him but keep his cardinalship of Paris and he was content to lose his part in Paradise." Lust first bewitches with pleasure, and then comes the fatal dart. Prov. 7:23, "Till a dart strike through his liver." This should be as a flaming sword to stop men in the way of their carnal delights. Who for a drop of pleasure would drink a sea of wrath?

Let it be our great care to enjoy God's sweet presence in his ordinances. Enjoying spiritual communion with God is a riddle and mystery to most people. Every one that hangs about the court does not speak with the king.

We may approach God in ordinances, and hang about the court of heaven, yet not enjoy communion with God.

We may have the letter without the Spirit, the visible sign without the invisible grace. It is the enjoyment of God in a duty that we should chiefly look at. Psalm 13:2, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." Alas! what are all our worldly enjoyments without the enjoyment of God?

What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God? Job 30:28, "I went mourning without the sun." So mayest thou say in the enjoyment of all creatures without God, "I went mourning without the sun." I have the starlight of outward enjoyments, but I lack the Sun of Righteousness. "I went mourning without the sun." It should be our great design, not only to have the ordinances of God, but the God of the ordinances.

The enjoyment of God's sweet presence here is the most contented life: he is a hive of sweetness, a magazine of riches, a fountain of delight, Psalm 36:8,9. The higher the lark flies the sweeter it sings; and the higher we fly by the wings of faith, the more we enjoy of God. How is the heart inflamed in prayer and meditation! What joy and peace is there in believing! Is it not comfortable being in heaven? He that enjoys much of God in this life carries heaven about him. Oh let this be the thing we are chiefly ambitious of, the enjoyment of God in his ordinances! The enjoyment of God's sweet presence here is an earnest of our enjoying him in heaven.

Ah, yes! This is Christ and this is Christianity.

January 12, 2009

Is it really this simple?

There is a difference between sinful thoughts and sinful actions. The most important difference is that your sinful thoughts (if never verbalized or acted out) only hurt you and your relationship with Christ. Sinful actions do that as well; but, they also hurt others, and even more importantly, they bring dishonor and shame to Christ's name.

If you love Christ then realizing this should keep you from outwardly sinning. If it does not, then, although you think you love Christ, you do not.

Our motivation behind not outwardly sinning should not be about proving to ourselves that we are in Christ. It should be about Honoring Christ! This is about Christ!--caring about his Honor and His Name as we go about living in this fallen world.

I read this Spurgeon quote this morning and thought "if every genuine born-again believer applied this simple truth to their heart and mind and actually brought it to mind in every situation that might tempt us to sin outwardly in action and behavior; we would never need to read an entire book devoted to teaching us "how to resist temptation".

Of course, dealing with the inward sins of the mind and heart is an entirely different matter. But, almost all outwardly manifested sins are "premeditated"; done with knowledge and can be prevented.

Is it really this simple? I believe that it is. It is for those who care more about Christ's name and honor then they do about acting out their own self-centered sinful desires. Read what Spurgeon says, and tell me if you disagree.

You are Christ's.
-- 1 Corinthians 3:23

"You are Christ's." You are His by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; His by His purchase of blood, for He paid the price for your redemption; His by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to Him; His by relation, for you are named by His name and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs. Labor practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus.

When tempted to sin, reply, "I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ's."

When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ's, and touch it not.

Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ's.

Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, "No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's. If I were not purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ's and cannot loiter."

When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, "Your music cannot charm me; I am Christ's."

When the cause of God invites you, give your goods and yourself away, for you are Christ's. Never contradict your profession. Be ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like Jesus, whose conduct and conversation are so reminiscent of heaven that all who see you may know that you are the Savior's, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness.

"I am a Roman!" was of old a reason for integrity; far more, then, let your argument for holiness be, "I am Christ's!"
On the Law and the Gospel
(A letter by J. C. Philpot)

My Dear Sir,

In one of your letters you express the wish that I should give my views upon this point– "Why, in my judgment, the law is not the believer's rule of life." In doing so I shall take the occasion to offer my thoughts on these three distinct points–

1. Why the law is not the believer's rule of life.
2. What is the rule.
3. Disprove the objection cast upon us that our views lead to doctrinal or practical antinomianism.

By a believer, I understand one who by faith in Christ is delivered from the curse and bondage of the law, and who knows something experimentally of the life, light, liberty and love of the glorious gospel of the grace of God. By the law I understand chiefly, though not exclusively, the law of Moses. And by the rule of life I understand an outward and inward guide, by following which a believer directs his walk and conversion before God, the Church and the world.
It is very necessary to bear strictly in mind that we are speaking wholly and solely a believer. What has the law to do with a believer in Christ Jesus? Is he required by the revealed will of God to take the law as a guiding rule in his life? I answer, No; and for several reasons.

1. Why the law is not the believer's rule of life.
God does not leave us at liberty to take at will one part of the law and leave the other. It must be taken as a whole or left as a whole, for God has so revealed it. I cannot find in any part of God's Word any mitigation of its terms, or any halving of it, so that, according to the views of many divines who have written on the subject, we may be dead to it as a covenant, yet alive to it as a rule.

The essential and distinguishing characteristic of the law is that it is a covenant of works, requiring full and perfect obedience, attaching a tremendous curse to the least infringement of its commands.

If then I, as a believer, take the law as my rule of life, I take it with its curse; I put myself under its yoke, for in receiving it as my guide, (and if I don't do this it is not my rule,) I take it with all its conditions and subject to all its penalties....The indispensable connection between a covenant and its rules is clearly shown in Ga 5:1-6 where the apostle testifies to "every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to the whole law".

It is idle to talk of taking the law for a rule of life, and not for a covenant; for the two things are essentially inseparable; and as he who keeps the whole law and yet offends in one point, is guilty of all Jas 2:10 so he who takes but one precept of the law for his rule, (as the Galatians took that of circumcision,) by taking that one, virtually adopts the whole, and by adopting the whole puts himself under the curse which attaches to their infringement.

People speak very fluently about the law being a rule of life who think little of the resulting consequences; for among them is this, that its written precepts and not its mere spirit, must be the rule. Now, these precepts belong to it only as a covenant, for they were never disjoined by the Authority who gave them, and what God has joined together let no man put asunder. To show this connection between the precepts and the covenant is the chief drift of the Epistle to the Galatians, who were looking to the law and not the gospel, and having begun in the Spirit, were attempting to be made perfect by the flesh.

Read with enlightened eyes, this blessed Epistle would at once decide in favor of "the gospel" as our guiding rule of Christian conduct and conversation. Observe how Paul chides those who would so act--he calls them "foolish Galatians", and asks who has bewitched those who they should not obey the truth (that is, the gospel), "before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among them." He appeals to their own experience and asks them--"have you received the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" He draws a line of distinction here between those works which are done in obedience to the law as a guiding rule, and that power of God felt in the heart which attends a preached gospel when heard in faith, and asks them under which of the two they had received the teaching and testimony of the blessed Spirit.

But observe, further, how he bids them "walk in the Spirit" Ga 5:16 Now to "walk" is to live and act, and the rule which he here gives for this living and acting is not the law but the Spirit, and he tells them of the blessedness of this divine leading and guiding--"If you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law"--that is, neither as a covenant nor as a rule--that they were free from its curse as a condemning covenant, and from its commands as a galling yoke which neither they nor their fathers could bear Ac 15:10 But to show them that deliverance from the law did not set them free from a higher and more perfect rule of obedience, he bids them "fulfill the law of Christ", which is love, a fruit of the Spirit and not produced by the law which works wrath and genders to bondage Ro 4:15 Ga 4:24

If we are willing to abide by the inspired Word of Truth we need to go no further than this very Epistle to decide the whole question. For in it we have laid down the rule according to which believers should walk, which is a "new creature" (or a new creation)--"For in Christ neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them, and on the Israel of God" Ga 6:15-16 Is the law or the Spirit's work upon the heart held out here as the rule of a believers walk?

The law is strictly a covenant of works; it knows nothing of mercy, reveals nothing of grace, and does not communicate the blessed Spirit. Why, then, if I am a believer in Christ and have received his grace and truth into my heart, am I to adopt for the rule of life that which does not testify of Jesus either in the Word or in my conscience? If I am to walk as a believer, it must be by a life of faith in the Son of God Ga 2:20 Is the law my rule here? If it is, where are those rules to be found? "The law is not of faith". How, then, can it lay down rules for the life of faith? If I wish to walk as becomes a believer with the Church, what help will the law give me there? To walk as such must be by the law of love as revealed in Christ and made known in my heart by the power of God. If I am to walk in the ordinances of God's house, are these to be found revealed in the law?

We give the law its due honor. It had a glory, as the Apostle argues 2Co 3 as the ministration of death and condemnation, but this glory is done away, and why are we to look to it now as our guiding rule? The ministration of the Spirit, of life, and of righteousness "does much more exceed in glory", and why are we to be condemned if we prefer the Spirit to the letter, life to death, and righteousness to condemnation?

A rule must influence as well as guide, or else it be a dead rule. If you chose to be guided by the killing letter which can only minister condemnation and death, and we chose for our rule that which ministers the Spirit, righteousness, and life, which has the better rule? It is much to be feared that those who thus walk and talk have still the veil over their heart, and know nothing of what the Apostle means when he says--"Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But we all with open face beholding, as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as the Spirit of the Lord" 2Co 3:17-18
But not only have we these deductions to influence the mind in rejecting the law as a rule for a believers walk, but we have the express testimony of God as a warrant for so doing.

We read, for instance, that "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" Ro 7:4 As a believer in Christ, the law is dead to me, and I am to it. The Apostle has clearly and beautifully opened up this subject. He assumes that a believer in Christ is like a woman is remarried after the death of her first husband; and he declares that "she is bound by the law of her husband as long as he lives, but if the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband" Ro 7:2 Of course the first husband is the law, and the second husband is Christ. Now adopting the figure of Paul's, may we not justly ask--Which is to be the rule of the wife's conduct when remarried, the regulations of the first or the second husband?

2. What, then, is the believer's rule of life?
Is he without rule? Is he a lawless wretch because he abandons the law of Moses for his rule has no guide to direct his steps? God forbid! for I subscribe heart and soul to the words of the Apostle--"Being not without law to God, but under law to Christ" 1Co 9:21 (footnote-not under THE law, as our version; there being no article expressed or implied in the original). The believer then has a guiding rule which we may briefly call--"the gospel".

This rule we may divide into 2 branches. The gospel as written by the divine finger upon the heart, and the gospel as written by the blessed Spirit in the Word of truth. These do not form two distinct rules, but the one is the counterpart of the other; and they are mutually helpful to and corroborative of each other. One of the promises of the New Covenant Jer 31:21-34 Heb 8:8-12 (compared), was--"I will write My law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts." This writing of the law of God in their heart, I need not tell you, is that which distinguishes it from the law of Moses which was written on tables of stone--and becomes an internal rule whereas the law of Moses was but an external rule.

This internal rule seems to be pointed out in Ro 8:2 where we find these words--"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." By "the law of the Spirit of life", I understand that guiding rule (for a rule in Scripture is frequently called a law; the word law in Hebrew signifying literally "instruction") which the Spirit of God, as communicating life, is in a believers heart. It is, therefore, the liberating, sanctifying, guiding influence of the Spirit of God, in his soul which, as a law or a rule, delivers him from "the law of sin and death"; by which I understand not so much the law of Moses, as the power and prevalency of his corrupt nature. If this then be a correct exposition of the text, we have a guiding internal rule distinct from the law of Moses, and a living rule in the heart--which the law of Moses never was nor could be; for it did not communicate the Spirit Ga 3:2-5

But this internal rule as being "the law of the Spirit of life", has power to lead all the children of God; for in the same chapter Ro 8:14 the Apostle declares that "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." This leading which is peculiar to the children of God and is an evidence of their sonship, delivers them from the law; for if we are led by Spirit we are not under the law Ga 5:8 either as a covenant or as a rule, for we have a better covenant and a better rule Heb 8:6 What is the main use of a rule but to lead? But who can lead like a living Guide? How can a dead law lead a living soul? The very proof that we are the children of God is that we are led by the Spirit; and this inward leading becomes our guiding rule.

And is it not a disparaging of the guidance of the blessed Spirit to set up in opposition to His guiding rule, the dead law of Moses, and to call those Antinomians who prefer a living guide to a dead letter? This living guide is that holy, and blessed Spirit who "guides into all truth" John 16:13

Here is the main blessedness of the work and grace upon the heart--that the leading and guiding of the blessed Spirit form a living rule every step of the way; for He not only quickens the soul into spiritual life, but maintains the life which He gave, and performs (or finishes--margin) it until the day of Jesus Christ Php 1:6. This life is eternal, as the blessed Lord at the well of Samaria declared, that the water that he should give the believer should be in a well of water springing up into everlasting life John 4:14. It is then this springing well in a believer's soul which is the guiding rule, for, as producing and maintaining the fear of God, it is "a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death" Pr 14:27.

But lest this 'guiding internal rule' be abused, which it might be by 'enthusiasm', and that they might not be left to substitute delusive fancies for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the God of all grace has given to His people an 'external rule' in precepts of the gospel as declared by the mouth of the Lord and His apostles, but more particularly as gathered up in the epistles as a standing code of instruction for the living family of God. Nor do these at all clash with the rule of which I have just spoken, but on the contrary harmonize entirely and thoroughly with it; for, in fact, it is one and the same rule; the only difference between them being that the blessed Spirit had revealed the one in the WRITTEN Word, and by the application of that Word to the soul makes the other to be a LIVING rule of heart.

Now there is not a single part of particle of our walk and conduct before God or man which is not revealed and inculcated in the precepts of the gospel; for, though we have not minute directions, we have what far excels all such unnecessary minutiae--most blessed PRINCIPLES enforced by every gracious and holy motive, and forming, when rightly seen and believed, a most perfect code of inward and outward conformity to the revealed will of God, and of all holy walk and conduct in our families in the church and in the world.

I would say that a believer has a rule to walk by which is sufficient to guide him in every step of the way; for if he has the eternal quickenings, teachings and leadings of the Spirit to make his conscience tender in the fear of God, and has a law of love written upon the heart by the finger of God; and besides this has the precepts of the gospel as a full and complete code of Christian obedience, what more can he want to make him perfect in every good word and work? Heb 13:21 Can the law do any of these things for him? Can it give him life, in the first instance, when it is a killing letter? Can it maintain life, if it is not in its power to bestow it?

3. Disprove the objection cast upon us that our views lead to doctrinal or practical antinomianism.

But it may be asked--Do you then set aside the two great commandments of the law--"You shall love the Lord your God" etc.. and "your neighbor as yourself?" No, on the contrary, the gospel as an external and internal rule fulfills them both, for "love is the fulfilling of the law." Ro 13:10 So this blessed rule of the gospel not only does not set aside the law as regards its fulfillment, but so to speak absorbs into itself and glorifies and harmonizes its two great commandments, by yielding to them in obedience of heart, (which the law could not give); for the believers serves in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter Ro 7:6 as Christ's freeman John 8:32 and not as Moses's bondslave. This is willing obedience not a legal task.

This will explain the meaning of the Apostle--"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man"--for the new man of grace, under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, delights in the law of God, not only for its holiness, but as inculcating that to do which fills the renewed heart and the inward delight--love to God and His people.....