August 31, 2009

In Name Only...

It's one thing to live after the flesh; it is an all together different thing to do so while wearing the precious name of Christ! How can a man drag Jesus' name along with him as he wallows in the mud and filth of this world? Live as you will--but, if you choose to indulge your flesh - please leave Christ and His name out of it. If you flatter yourself a "Christian" and yet "fornicate" with the world and find pleasure in doing so - please keep your delusion (that you are one of His) to yourself.

"Paul wept on account of the GUILT of those persons who, having a name to live, were dead, and while uniting themselves with a Christian church, were not walking as they should do among men and before God. Notice the sin with which he charges them. He says, "Their God was their belly;" by this I understand that they were sensual persons. There were those in the early church who, after they sat at God's table, would go away and sit at the feasts of the heathen, and there indulge in gluttony and drunkenness; others indulged in lusts of the flesh, enjoying those pleasures (so miscalled) which, afterwards, bring unutterable pain even to the body itself, and are disgraceful to men, much more to professors of religion. Their God was their belly. They care more about the dress of their body than the dress of their soul; they regard more the food of the outward carcass than the life of the inner man.

Ah! my hearers; are there not many everywhere in our churches who still bow before their belly-god, and make themselves their own idols? Is it not notorious, in almost every society, that professing men can pamper themselves as much as others?—I mean not all, but some.

Ay, I have heard of drunken professors; not men who positively reel through the street, who are drunken in mid-day or intoxicated before their fellow-men, but men who go to the very verge of drunkenness in their social parties; men who take so much, that while it would be an insult to their respectability to call them intoxicated, it would be equally an insult to the truth to call them sober.

Have we not some men in our churches (it is idle to deny it) who are as fond of the excesses of the table and surfeit in the good things of this life as any other class of men? Have we not persons who spend a very fortune upon the dress of their bodies, adorning themselves far more than they adorn the doctrine of their Saviour; men whose perpetual business it is to take good care of their bodies, against whom flesh and blood never had any cause to complain, for they not only serve the flesh, but make a god of it?

Ah! sirs, the church is not pure; the church is not perfect; we have scabbed sheep in the flock. In our own little communion, now and then, we find them out, and then comes the dread sentence of excommunication, by which they are cut off from our fellowship; but there are many of whom we are not aware, who creep like snakes along the grass, and are not discovered till they inflict a grievous wound upon religion, and do damage to our great and glorious cause. Brethren, there are some in the church (both established and dissenting)—let us say it with the deepest sorrow—"whose god is their belly."

C.H. Spurgeon

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."—Philippians 3:18-19.

August 29, 2009

Q & A with Watson

A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word, but not the reproofs: "They hate the one who rebukes in the gate." (Amos 5:1O). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched them to the quick, they were mad and could not endure it.

Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?

Answer 1: When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.

Answer 2: When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this sin."

Answer 3: When we are thankful for a reproof: "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked." (Psa. 141:5). David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful? A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear." (Prov. 25:12).

To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring.

[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson, a Puritan Paperback edition published by the Banner of Truth.]

August 28, 2009

O' Lord I beseech You: Let us see...

Whole congregations bowed at the same moment beneath the mighty power of Divine truth, looking as with a single eye upon the realities of eternity, and feeling, as with a common emotion, the powers of the world to come; so that a thoughtless stranger, coming into the assembly, is made to feel as if, by stepping over the threshold of the house, he had passed the boundary-line between things seen and temporal and things unseen and eternal, and entered a region where though surrounded by thronging multitudes, he was left alone with God and his conscience—of scenes where hundreds of heart-stricken, anxious inquirers after salvation, just awakened from the long deep slumber of an unregenerate state, and musing on thoughts too deep for utterance, were asking by their looks, rather than their words, what they should do to be save.

Whole churches blending their common and fervent supplications at the footstool of the divine throne, with such oneness of intense desire as caused them to feel that there was scarcely a single object in the universe to be coveted, or thought of, at that moment, but the salvation of souls—of colleges of learning, where the pursuits of literature were almost suspended for a season, by a still deeper solicitude to become wise unto salvation—of towns so filled with the power of divine truth, that all the adult population have yielded to its influence, and turned unto the Lord—of Christian churches increased in a single year to an exceptional magnitude, by the accession of hundreds to their communion.

The prayer of my heart:

O that I had at command, "thoughts that glow, and words that burn!" I would turn them in a stream of impassioned eloquence upon your spirits, and endeavor to bear you away from that guilty selfishness, which has engrossed the people of God, and impel you to a combined, and vigorous, and anxious effort for the revival and awakening of lukewarm professors, and the conversion of impenitent sinners!

Everything yet devised by the wisdom of the church for the benefit of the world, languishes for lack of a genuine love for your Glory.

And now, dear brethren, may that Divine Spirit, in answer to united prayer, descend on the church, baptizing it with celestial fire and qualifying it for its high and holy vocation to evangelize the nations, by illuminating it with heavenly light, and adorning it with the beauties of holiness, as well as endowing it with love and power—come down into our minds and hearts in all the plenitude of His gifts and graces, reviving that which is dull, cleansing that which is impure, strengthening that which is weak, uniting that which is severed—in order that in this way you may be prepared for a more abundant participation of all the fullness of God, and closer fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ—in everything that relates to the salvation of this lost world!

John Angell James, 1832

August 25, 2009

Thank you, Thomas Watson!

I cannot tell you how often I have sat in bible study groups or Sunday School classes where sin was discussed and the conclusion was (basically) that "All sins are equal in the eyes of God". There is such confusion over "sin". I believe that this confusion is a result of not understanding the difference between: 1) the sin (even the most minuscule) that separates us from God and places us in an hopeless eternal condition in need of a Savior in order to be reconciled to God; and, 2) sin in general--whether committed by regenerate or unregenerate persons. Let us listen to Thomas Watson as he helps clarify this topic. (More to come. The following is just a taste):

Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

‘He that delivered me unto thee, has the greater sin.’ John 19:11. The Stoic philosophers held that all sins were equal; but this Scripture clearly holds forth that there is a gradual difference in sin; some are greater than others; some are ‘mighty sins,’ and crying sins.’ Amos 5:12; Gen 18:21. Every sin has a voice to speak, but some sins cry. As some diseases are worse than others, and some poisons more venomous, so some sins are more heinous. ‘Ye have done worse than your fathers, your sins have exceeded theirs.’ Jer 16:12; Ezek 16:47. Some sins have a blacker aspect than others; to clip the king’s coin is treason; but to strike his person is a higher degree of treason.

A vain thought is a sin, but a blasphemous word is a greater sin. That some sins are greater than others appears, (1) Because there was difference in the offerings under the law; the sin offering was greater than the trespass offering. (2) Because some sins are not capable of pardon as others are, therefore they must needs be more heinous, as the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Matt 12:31. (3) Because some sins have a greater degree of punishment than others. ‘Ye shall receive the greater damnation.’ Matt 23:14. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ God would not punish one more than another if his sin was not greater.

It is true, ‘all sins are equally heinous in respect of the object,’ or the infinite God, against whom sin is committed, but, in another sense, all sins are not alike heinous; some sins have more bloody circumstances in them, which are like the dye to the wool, to give it a deeper colour.

Those sins are more heinous than others which are committed with delectation. A child of God may sin through a surprisal, or against his will. ‘The evil which I would not, that I do.’ Rom 7: 19. He is like one that is carried down the stream involuntarily. But to sin with delight heightens and greatens the sin. It is a sign the heart is in the sin. ‘They set their heart on their iniquity,’ as a man follows his gain with delight. Hos 4:8. ‘Without are dogs, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.’ Rev 22:15. To tell a lie is a sin; but to love to tell a lie is a greater sin.

Those sins are more heinous than others which are committed under a pretence of religion. To cheat and defraud is a sin, but to do it with a Bible in one’s hand, is a double sin. To be unchaste is a sin; but to put on a mask of religion to play the whore makes the sin greater. ‘I have peace offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows; come let us take our fill of love.’ Prov 7:14, 15. She speaks as if she had been at church, and had been saying her prayers: who would ever have suspected her of dishonesty? But, behold her hypocrisy; she makes her devotion a preface to adultery. ‘Which devour widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers.’ Luke 20:47. The sin was not in making long prayers; for Christ was a whole night in prayer; but to make long prayers that they might do unrighteous actions, made their sin more horrid.

To be continued...

A Fresh Heart Towards Humble Service

"He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him." John 13:4-5

When the Lord Himself would stoop to the humblest and lowest act of service, and teach His disciples to do the same--the washing of feet was the one He chose. During His earthly walk--Jesus saw all humble deeds in both their present and future dignity. He knew how and why it was, that he who would be greatest--must be the servant of all. He connected service and reward together. In His mind--all humble deeds of service were invested with great dignity.

Jesus never did a humble deed, or took up a menial position, or uttered a lowly speech, without a consciousness of the true nobility attached to them. Therefore, with great joy did He perform all His humble service!It is just here that we fail.

We have little power of association. We isolate our humble services and deeds--from their eternal principles and thoughts, and then our services become burdensome, and our duties become toilsome--and failure is too often the result. Let us realize the nobility of our humble services. Let us remember that our now all-glorious Redeemer once said, "I am among you as the One who serves." Luke 22:27

Life, and common every-day service and duties, will wear a new aspect to us--when we see them tending to such a glorious consummation! We shall have fresh heart and energy--when we realize that the future will compensate abundantly for them.

"So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet--you ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you." John 13:14-15

Philip Bennett Power

August 22, 2009

He who overcomes will inherit all things!

He shall have peace and plenty, profit and pleasure, everything desirable--full satisfaction of his most enlarged desires! Let the expectants of heaven, then, lift up their heads with joy. Let them gird up their loins, and so run that they may obtain; trampling on everything that may hinder them in their way to the kingdom. Let them never account any duty too hard, nor any cross too heavy, nor any pains too great--so that they may attain the unfading crown of glory.

Christians should behave suitably to their character and dignity--as heirs of the eternal glorious kingdom. Let your heart be in heaven. Let your souls delight in communion with God while you are on earth, since you look for your happiness in communion with Him in heaven. Let your speech and actions savor of heaven; and in your manner of life, look towards the heavenly country to which you are going.

Maintain a holy contempt of the world, and of the things of the world. Although others, whose earthly things are their best things, set their hearts upon them; yet it befits you to set your feet on them, since your best things are above. This world is but the alien country through which you must pass through, on your journey to Immanuel's land. Therefore, pass through it as pilgrims and strangers; and do not immerse yourself in its encumbrances, so as to retard you in your journey. It is unworthy of one born to a palace--to set his heart to dwell in a poor hovel. It is unworthy of one running for a prize of gold--to depart from his path to gather pebbles and sticks. How much more is it unworthy of an heir of the kingdom of heaven--to be groveling among the baubles of this world, when he should be traveling on to receive his eternal inheritance!

(Thomas Boston, "Human Nature in its Fourfold State"

"He who overcomes will inherit all things!" Revelation 21:7

August 21, 2009

"How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds"

John Newton wrote the following hymn in 1779 based on the passage in Song of Solomon: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.

I am so pleased that Newton and so many of the other men of God did not hold this opinion (see the following quote) about the Song of Solomon or the Church would have never been blessed by God honoring, Christ exalting, soul enriching sermons, hymns, and poems that were inspired by men who could see Christ everywhere in this beautiful book of the Bible.

"I emphatically agree with those who say the Song of Solomon is not mere allegory. It is best understood when we take it at face value, like any other text of Scripture. Many interpreters whom I otherwise hold in high esteem (including Spurgeon and most of the Puritans) have unfortunately done more to confuse than clarify the Song's message by treating it in a purely allegorical fashion that eliminates its primary meaning.

Solomon's Song is, as I've said from the outset, a love poem between Solomon and his bride, celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of the marriage bed. To interpret this—or any other portion of Scripture—in a purely allegorical fashion is to treat the interpreter's own imagination as more authoritative than the plain meaning of the text." John MacArthur (Pulpit Magazine - April 16, 2009)

And here is the song that John Newton wrote as a result of his understanding of the text. Be careful, however, according to John MacArthur, reading this may do more to confuse you than anything else:

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul
And to the weary, rest.

Dear name! The Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding-place;
My never-failing Treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain
Although with sin defiled.
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus, my Shepherd, Guardian, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. Song of Solomon 1:2-3

August 20, 2009

Rejoice in that which He creates

"Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people."—Isaiah 65:17-19.

I must confess that I think it a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God. I do not think that any man is altogether beyond hope who can take delight in the nightly heavens as he watches the stars, and feel joy as he treads the meadows all bedecked with kingcups and daisies.

He is not lost to better things who, on the waves, rejoices in the creeping things innumerable drawn up from the vasty deep, or who, in the woods, is charmed with the sweet carols of the feathered minstrels.

The man who is altogether bad seldom delights in nature, but gets away into the artificial and the sensual. He cares little enough for the fields except he can hunt over them, little enough for lands unless he can raise rent from them, little enough for living things except for slaughter or for sale. He welcomes night only for the indulgence of his sins, but the stars are not one half so bright to him as the lights that men have kindled: for him indeed the constellations shine in vain.

One of the purest and most innocent of joys, apart from spiritual things, in which a man can indulge, is a joy in the works of God. I confess I have no sympathy with the good man, who, when he went down the Rhine, dived into the cabin that he might not see the river and the mountains lest he should be absorbed in them, and forget his Savior.

I like to see my Savior on the hills, and by the shores of the sea. I hear my Father's voice in the thunder, and listen to the whispers of his love in the cadence of the sunlit waves. These are my Father's works, and therefore I admire them, and I seem all the nearer to him when I am among them.

If I were a great artist, I should think it a very small compliment if my son came into my house, and said he would not notice the pictures I had painted, because he only wanted to think of me. He therein would condemn my paintings, for if they were good for anything, he would be rejoiced to see my hand in them.

Oh, but surely, everything that comes from the hand of such a Master-artist as God has something in it of himself! The Lord doth rejoice in his works, and shall not his people do so? He said of what he had made, "It is very good;" and he cannot be very good himself who thinks that which God makes is not very good. In this he contradicts his God. It is a beautiful world we live in...

C H Spurgeon

August 18, 2009

Supreme Selfishness

I found this very thought provoking.

Men may believe they possess the true spirit of Godliness and yet not possess it. They may suppose that Godliness consists in something which falls far short of true Godliness, and even if they suppose it to consist in that which the Scriptures represent it to consist, they may not possess it.

There is a love, a repentance, a faith, a hope, a joy, a self-denial, which are of mere human origin and spurious. The religious affections of many men are founded in supreme selfishness. They are willing to love and serve God just so far as they believe He is willing to love and serve them, and no farther, and this is “making him to serve with their sins” (Isa. 43:24).

The religion of such men consists in being very anxious about their own welfare, but very little concerned for the honor and glory of God. It is easy to say, “Pardon is mine; grace is mine; Christ and all His blessings are mine; God has freely loved me; Christ has graciously died for me; and the Holy Spirit will assuredly sanctify me in the belief of these precious truths.” It is no Herculean task for an ardent mind and an unsanctified, enthusiastic heart, to make these discoveries. This is a kind of confidence which the subtle deceiver is interested to cherish.

And the joys and sorrows, the zeal and devotion, which spring from this delusion, constitute a sort of religion which the blindness and deceit, the self-flattery and pride of the carnal heart very easily substitute for true Godliness.

And what if a man firmly believes he will be saved? What if he imagines he has the assistance of the Spirit of God in “working out this faith in himself ”? The faith of the Gospel does not consist in "believing that one shall be saved"..

There is a difference between true saving faith in Jesus Christ and believing that we shall be saved.

Author Unknown - Puritan Gems

August 17, 2009

Wearing the Mask of Religion

And now the last question: When? When does God see us? The answer is, he sees us everywhere and in every place. O foolish man, who thinks to hide himself from the Most High! It is night! no human eye sees thee; the curtain is drawn, and thou art hidden. There are his eyes lowering at thee through the gloom. It is a far-off country; no one knows thee; parents and friends have been left behind, restraints are cast off. There is a Father near thee, who looks upon thee even now. It is a lone spot, and if the deed be done, no tongue shall tell it. There is a tongue in heaven that shall tell it; yea, the beam out of the wall, and the stones in the field, shall raise up themselves as witnesses against thee.

Canst thou hide thyself anywhere where God shall not detect thee? Is not this whole world like a glass hive, wherein we put our bees? and does not God stand and see all our motions when we think we are hidden? Ah, it is but a glass hiding-place. He looketh from heaven, and through stone walls and rocks; yea, to the very centre itself, does his eye pierce, and in the thickest darkness he beholds our deeds.

Come, then, let me make a personal application of the matter, and I have done. If this be true, hypocrite, what a fool thou art! If God can read the heart, O man, what a sorry, sorry thing thy fair pretense must be! Ah! ah! ah! what a change will come over some of you!

This world is a masquerade, and ye, many of you, wear the mask of religion. Ye dance your giddy hours, and men think you to be the saints of God. How changed will you be, when, at the door of eternity, you must drop the visor, and must announce the theatricals in which you live! How you will blush when the paint is washed from off your cheek—when you stand before God naked to your own shame, a hypocrite, unclean, diseased, covered up before with the gew-gaws and the trickery of pretended formality in religion, but now standing there, base, vile, and hideous!

There is many a man that bears about him a cancer that would make one sick to see. Oh, how shall hypocrites look when their cancerous hearts are laid bare!

Deacon! how you will tremble when your old heart is torn open, and your
vile pretences rent away!

Minister! how black you will look when your surplice is off, and when your
grand pretensions are cast to the dogs! How will you tremble! There will be no
sermonizing others then. You yourself will be preached to, and the sermon shall
be from that text, "Depart ye cursed." O brethren, above all things shun

If ye mean to be damned, make up your minds to it, and be damned like honest men; but do not, I beseech you, pretend to go to heaven while all the time you are going to hell. If ye mean to make your abodes in torment forever, then serve the devil, and do not be ashamed of it; stand it right out, and let the world know what you are. But oh! never put on the cloak of religion. I beseech you, do not add to your eternal misery being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Show the cloven foot; do not hide it. If you mean to go to hell, say so. "If God be God, serve him. If Baal be God, serve him."

Do not serve Baal and then pretend to be serving God.

One other practical conclusion. If God sees and knows everything, how this ought to make you tremble—you that have lived in sin for many years! I have known a man who was once stopped from an act of sin by the fact of there being a cat in the room. He could not bear even the eyes of that poor creature to see him. Oh, I would ye could carry about with you the recollection of those eyes that are always on you.

Swearer! could you swear if you could see God's eye looking at you? Thief! drunkard! harlot! could ye indulge in your sins, if ye saw his eyes on you? Oh, methinks they would startle you and bid you pause, before ye did in God's own sight rebel against his law.

There is a story told of the American War, that one of the prisoners taken by the Americans was subjected to a torture of the most refined character. He says, "I was put into a narrow dungeon; I was comfortably provided for with all I needed; but there was a round slit in the wall, and through that, both night and day, a soldier always looked at me." He says, "I could not rest, I could not eat nor drink, nor do anything in comfort, because there was always that eye—an eye that seemed never to be turned away, and never shut—always following me round that little apartment. Nothing ever hidden from it."

Now take home that figure. Recollect that is your position; you are shut in by the narrow walls of time, when ye eat, and when ye drink, when ye rise, and when ye lie upon your beds; when ye walk the streets, or when ye sit at home, that eye is always fixed upon you. Go home now and sin against God, if ye dare; go home now and break his laws to his face, and despise him, and set him at nought! Rush on your own destruction; dash yourselves against the buckler of Jehovah, and destroy your selves upon his own sword! Nay, rather, "turn ye, turn ye." Turn ye, ye that have followed the ways of sin, turn ye to Christ, and live; and then the same Omniscience which is now your horror, shall be your pleasure. Sinner! if thou now dost pray, he seeth thee; if thou now dost weep he seeth thee.

"When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." It shall be even so with thee, if now thou turnest to God and dost believe in his Son Jesus Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon

August 14, 2009

Prevalent Problem: Fear of an Outward Display of Affections

God created us with emotions. If we are not moved by Him, we will be moved by something far less worthy and ultimately meaningless. I have seen so many churches turn into a mere lifeless formality because of the Pastors/Leaders fear of "false affections". I often feel alone in my observations and I am always encouraged to read that I am not alone and that the same problems have gone on throughout many stages of the history of the Church.

I often wonder how a Pastor, who looks out upon a sea of predominately dead faces each and every week, as he is expounding the beauty and wonder of the very Word of God, must feel. Many of the same people sitting in the pews lifeless; seem to have little problem expressing a great deal of joy and excitement while watching a football game or attending a baby shower. Perhaps they have been told (or have ascertained from things said by their very own pastor from the pulpit) that such outward expressions (such as a joyful smile, a hardy "Amen" or a sorrowful tear) would not be appropriate or perhaps even considered disruptive.

Let us read what Jonathan Edwards had to say as he penned what he had observed happening in the churches after the Great Awakening:

"But now, when the ill consequences of these false affections appear, and it is become very apparent, that some of those emotions which made a glaring show, and were by many greatly admired, were in reality nothing; the devil sees it to be for his interest to go another way to work, and to endeavor to his utmost to propagate and establish a persuasion, that all affections and sensible emotions of the mind, in things of religion, are nothing at all to be regarded, but are rather to be avoided, and carefully guarded against, as things of a pernicious tendency.

This he knows is the way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually shut out the power of godliness, and everything which is spiritual, and to have all true Christianity turned out of doors. For although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists so much in the affections, that there can be no true religion without them.

He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things.

If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.

The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things."

Jonathan Edwards

August 12, 2009

Echo of My Heart (Part Three)

May God help us to see that we are ourselves were dead and others were dead also. What that will do for us is make us extremely humble as far as the work of ministry is concerned, because each time we go to minister, God says to us, “Can these bones live?” In our hearts, we will say, “Lord, you know?” For with us it is impossible, and the only reason why I speak is because you have called me to prophesy. It is like a fire burning in my bones. I must speak out of the glories of my God and King and the triumphs of His grace.

It will also keep us humble. When God does a work of grace, we will not be going around strutting like peacocks. Even when men and women have showered us with praises, in our heart of hearts those praises are going through us to the One who rightly deserves them, God Himself.Because we were all dead. Every one of us.

Is that the faith you presently have? Are your eyes seeing the sophisticated, educated, computer-wise, wealthy American as dead? Are we still believing our Bibles? If we are, then why are our prayer meetings so empty in our churches? Why? Is it because we honestly believe that it is in the pastor’s eloquence, the buildings, the music or the education that we will have success? Do we really believe that we are in the graveyard of this world the only way the dead will rise is when we call upon His name to do so? Is it possible that the reason why our prayer meetings are empty is because our people see the self-confidence in us as preachers? It is the self-confidence they see in the local engineer in the shop to fix whatever needs to be fixed. The must see us as the end of ourselves, clearly at the mercy of God, pleading for them prayerfully like Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

God is calling me to raise the dead. Who will come alongside us? God help us see praying churches. Amen.

The last three posts have been excerpts from a sermon delivered by Pastor Conrad Mbewe.
I am filled with joy and with great anticipation, as the Lord as seen fit to bring this man of God (Conrad Mbewe) to North Carolina during the week that I will be visiting my beloved Michael. What great things the Lord is doing in His church and among His people.

August 11, 2009

Echo of My Heart (Part Two)

Let us learn from this this basic fact. If you are Christian today, you are a product of God. It is not because of your cleverness. It is not because of your Christian upbringing. It is not because of the eloquence of the one who preached when you became a Christian or the ambiance present when you became a Christian. It is because of God and Him alone that you are a Christian! We must become convinced of this because if not, we will put a wrong emphasis in the wrong place. Unless you are born from above, you are spiritually ignorant. The words slipping from Nicodemus’ mouth speaks to his ignorance. This is the point. Flesh gives birth to flesh. It is the Spirit alone who gives birth to Spirit. Every preacher must recognize this- there is nothing that I can do in my own strength to bring one single soul across the gates of heaven and into the presence of God. All my eloquence and education and everything else to my name means nothing. It is absolutely impossible.

At a funeral, sure you can have just the right kind of music coming through the organ, all the eloquence you can muster, all the education, but see if you can walk outside a cemetery with a living corpse. Doesn’t he know it is impossible?

The sooner we realize this as preachers, the better it is for us. We see that we are absolutely impotent for the salvation of souls. Any individuals that we are going to produce without the power of God will land in hell in the end, however religious they may end up being. If they come out in terms of their true colors before they die it is better because without the power of God the Holy Spirit, there is nothing we can do.


August 10, 2009

Echo of My Heart (Part One)

When speaking about the miracle of conversion, we are not speaking so much of the final act of repentance and faith, but the entire process of conversion. This begins with regeneration and ends with our response at conversion (turning from our sin and clinging to the cross). It is conversion in totality preachers of the gospel are looking for as we have many individuals coming before us hearing the gospel. Surely you are looking for something and praying daily that God would bring them to Himself. What it is, indeed, is a miracle.

It is turning men and women from blindness to sight, bondage to freedom, sin to holiness and from enmity against God to a true love for God. That is what our calling is even today in the 21st century as preachers of the gospel. We are not to entertain or inform human beings, but to see this profound miracle take place in their lives. Surely by now you should know that it is an impossible calling, to be taken by human strength.

In Ephesians 2:5, the apostle Paul speaks of the contrast that God made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. No wonder Paul immediately posits that by grace you have been saved by faith! It is the sovereign work of God. It is God’s power to save.

Ours is the most important subject. It is important because we are in the field day in and day out looking for the growth of the seed that is being planted. You and I know that a lot of so-called converts today cannot be described in the words that we have just seen in Acts 26. We cannot speak of a lot of people who fill the pews in our church who have moved from blindness to sight, bondage to freedom, sin to holiness and from enmity against God to a true love for God. When you put any kind of test before them, the wind blows them away like chaff. Surely something is seriously wrong. The Church of the Lord Jesus, instead of helping people toward heaven, is pushing them to hell in heavenly wing chairs. This must stop!

August 6, 2009

Let there be Light!

The limits of our understanding

We must now explain what the power of human reason is, in regard to the kingdom of God, and spiritual discernments which consists chiefly of three things - the knowledge of God, the knowledge of his paternal favour towards us, which constitutes our salvation, and the method of regulating of our conduct in accordance with the Divine Law. With regard to the former two, but more properly the second, men otherwise the most ingenious are blinder than moles. I deny not, indeed, that in the writings of philosophers we meet occasionally with shrewd and apposite remarks on the nature of God, though they invariably savour somewhat of giddy imagination. As observed above, the Lord has bestowed on them some slight perception of his Godhead that they might not plead ignorance as an excuse for their impiety, and has, at times, instigated them to deliver some truths, the confession of which should be their own condemnation. Still, though seeing, they saw not.

Their discernment was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller, who sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their writings as if by chance.

In short, not one of them even made the least approach to that assurance of the divine favour, without which the mind of man must ever remain a mere chaos of confusion. To the great truths, What God is in himself, and what he is in relation to us, human reason makes not the least approach. (See Book 3 c. 2 sec. 14, 15, 16.)

Man's spiritual blindness shown from John 1:4-5

But since we are intoxicated with a false opinion of our own discernment, and can scarcely be persuaded that in divine things it is altogether stupid and blind, I believe the best course will be to establish the fact, not by argument, but by Scripture. Most admirable to this effect is the passage which I lately quoted from John, when he says, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not," (John 1: 4, 5.) He intimates that the human soul is indeed irradiated with a beam of divine light, so that it is never left utterly devoid of some small flame, or rather spark, though not such as to enable it to comprehend God.

And why so? Because its acuteness is, in reference to the knowledge of God, mere blindness. When the Spirit describes men under the term "darkness" he declares them void of all power of spiritual intelligence. For this reason, it is said that believers, in embracing Christ, are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1: 13;) in other words, that the flesh has no capacity for such sublime wisdom as to apprehend God, and the things of God, unless illumined by His Spirit. In like manner our Saviour, when he was acknowledged by Peter, declared that it was by special revelation from the Father, (Matth. 16: 17.)

Man's knowledge of God is God's own work

If we were persuaded of a truth which ought to be beyond dispute, viz., that human nature possesses none of the gifts which the elect receive from their heavenly Father through the Spirit of regeneration, there would be no room here for hesitation. For thus speaks the congregation of the faithful, by the mouth of the prophet: "With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light," (Ps. 36: 9.) To the same effect is the testimony of the Apostle Paul, when he declares, that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," (1 Cor. 12: 3.) And John Baptist, on seeing the dullness of his disciples, exclaims, "A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven," (John 3: 27.)

That the gift to which he here refers must be understood not of ordinary natural gifts, but of special illumination, appears from this - that he was complaining how little his disciples had profited by all that he had said to them in commendation of Christ. "I see," says he, "that my words are of no effect in imbuing the minds of men with divine things, unless the Lord enlighten their understandings by His Spirit." Nay, Moses also, while upbraiding the people for their forgetfulness, at the same time observes, that they could not become wise in the mysteries of God without his assistance. "Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and these great miracles: yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this, day," (Deut. 29: 2, 3, 4.)

Would the expression have been stronger had he called us mere blocks in regard to the contemplation of divine things? Hence the Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet, promises to the Israelites as a singular favour, "I will give them an heart to know me," (Jer. 24: 7;) intimating, that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only in so far as he enlightens it.

This was also clearly confirmed by our Saviour when he said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him," (John 6: 44.) Nay, is not he himself the living image of his Father, in which the full brightness of his glory is manifested to us? Therefore, how far our faculty of knowing God extends could not be better shown than when it is declared, that though his image is so plainly exhibited, we have not eyes to perceive it. What? Did not Christ descend into the world that he might make the will of his Father manifest to men, and did he not faithfully perform the office?

True! He did; but nothing is accomplished by his preaching unless the inner teacher, the Spirit, open the way into our minds. Only those, therefore, come to him who have heard and learned of the Father. And in what is the method of this hearing and learning? It is when the Spirit, with a wondrous and special energy, forms the ear to hear and the mind to understand. Lest this should seem new, our Saviour refers to the prophecy of Isaiah, which contains a promise of the renovation of the Church. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee," (Is. 54: 7.) If the Lord here predicts some special blessing to his elect, it is plain that the teaching to which he refers is not that which is common to them with the ungodly and profane.

It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. On this subject the clearest exposition is given by Paul, who, when expressly handling it, after condemning the whole wisdom of the world as foolishness and vanity, and thereby declaring man's utter destitution, thus concludes, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned," (1 Cor. 2: 14.) Whom does he mean by the "natural man"? The man who trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail; they are "spiritually discerned." And what does this mean? That altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. The Apostle had previously declared, that "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him;" nay, that the wisdom of the world is a kind of veil by which the mind is prevented from beholding God, (1 Cor. 2: 9.)

What would we more? The Apostle declares that God has "made foolish the wisdom of this world," (1 Cor. 1: 20;) and shall we attribute to it an acuteness capable of penetrating to God, and the hidden mysteries of his kingdom? Far from us be such presumption!

Without the light of the Spirit, all is darkness

What the Apostle here denies to man, he, in another place, ascribes to God alone, when he prays, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation," (Eph. 1: 17.) You now hear that all wisdom and revelation is the gift of God. What follows? "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened." Surely, if they require a new enlightening, they must in themselves be blind. The next words are, "that ye may know what is the hope of his calling," (Eph. 1: 18.) In other words, the minds of men have not capacity enough to know their calling.

Let no prating Pelagian here allege that God obviates this rudeness or stupidity, when, by the doctrine of his word, he directs us to a path which we could not have found without a guide. David had the law, comprehending in it all the wisdom that could be desired, and yet not contented with this, he prays, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," (Ps. 119: 18.) By this expression, he certainly intimates, that it is like sunrise to the earth when the word of God shines forth; but that men do not derive much benefit from it until he himself, who is for this reason called the Father of lights (James 1: 17,) either gives eyes or opens them; because, whatever is not illuminated by his Spirit is wholly darkness. The Apostles had been duly and amply instructed by the best of teachers. Still, as they wanted the Spirit of truth to complete their education in the very doctrine which they had previously heard, they were ordered to wait for him, (John 14: 26.) If we confess that what we ask of God is lacking to us, and He by the very thing promised intimates our want, no man can hesitate to acknowledge that he is able to understand the mysteries of God, only in so far as illuminated by his grace. He who ascribes to himself more understanding than this, is the blinder for not acknowledging his blindness.

John Calvin

August 2, 2009

At the age of 17...

My dear father,

I am very comfortable here, and I may say, happy. Were it not for my vile heart--I might rejoice. I am the least of God's people--and I am sure I am the worst. But yet I am one--I believe in Jesus and trust in Him.

Conviction of sin, I take it, is the evidence of true spiritual life. I can fall into His arms, though I cannot rest on my own merits, for I have none. Jesus, and Jesus alone--is my sure defense. I must bless the Lord for making me His son--it is of His own sovereign mercy. Not one good thing has failed. I have felt corruptions rise, and the old man is strong--but His grace always comes in just at the critical time--and saves me from myself! The Lord alone keeps me! I have no hope of persevering--but by His power. I know that His almighty arm is all-sufficient.

I want to feel "less than nothing," but this is a very great attainment.

Sometimes, I pour my heart out sweetly and freely; at another time, I can hardly bring up a petition. What a contrast, mixture, paradox I am! My greatest concern is to grow in grace, and to go onward in the heavenly race! I hope you and dear mother are well. Love to all.

Your affectionate son,

(A letter of Charles Spurgeon, at the age of 17)