November 29, 2009

As Christmas Day Approaches

On Sunday morning, December 24, 1871, entitled, "Joy Born at Bethlehem," Spurgeon began his sermon with these words:

"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas.

First, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English; and secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior's birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred.

It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it.

Probably the fact is that the "holy" days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December.

Nevertheless since, the current of men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction.

Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son."

November 24, 2009

Two Dangerous Extremes

In a sermon based on Genesis 5:24 (‘And Enoch walked with God’) Whitefield, in seeking to explain how the child of God receives guidance, wrote the following:

‘In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts.
‘As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14), and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent.


‘It is no doubt in this sense that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God.

Led by the Spirit and guided by the Word‘Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive.

By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm on the one hand, and…downright infidelity on the other.’

George Whitefield, Walking with God, quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.248. The whole sermon is available here

November 19, 2009

Is your Anger Ugly?

"Years ago I was one of five thousand people listening to a panel discussion at a Christian conference. An editor of a conservative political-theological magazine was expressing his frustration with many of the political left-wingers, and doing so in an unnecessarily sarcastic and condescending way. When he finished, John Piper (another speaker on the panel) turned to him, and with utmost seriousness and precision, he said, “For a long time I have appreciated your ministry. You are an astute observer of our culture. I read your magazine every month. It’s always insightful. But there’s one thing missing from your ministry.”

The editor looked at Dr. Piper and asked what it was.

“Tears,” Piper replied.

The world so often senses our anger—but do they ever sense our grief? They think we’re angry simply because we’re not getting our way, but I’m afraid they don’t feel our sorrow over sin’s negative, dehumanizing effects. We fail to communicate our anger in a way that says, “You were made for so much more than this.” They assume our anger is only because we’re not getting what we want. No wonder they tune us out."

Tullian Tchividjian

November 17, 2009

A Whore's Forehead


Choice excerpts from Thomas Brooks
"THE PRIVY KEY OF HEAVEN"
(A Discourse of Closet Prayer, published during the awful plague of London in 1665)

"You have a whore's forehead, you refuse to be ashamed!" Jeremiah 3:3

"Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all! They do not even know how to blush!" Jeremiah 6:15


They had sinned away shame, instead of being ashamed ofsin. Continuance in sin had quite banished all sense of sin and all shame for sin; so that they would not allow nature to draw her veil of blushing before their great abominations. How applicable these scriptures are to the present time, I will leave the prudent reader to judge.

But what does the prophet do, now that they were as bold in sin, and as shameless as so many harlots; now that they were grown up to that height of sin and wickedness; now that they were above all shame and blushing; now that they were grown so proud, so hardened, so obstinate, so rebellious, so bent on self-destruction—that no mercies could melt them or allure them, nor any threatenings or judgments could in any way terrify them or stop them?

The prophet goes into a corner, he retires into the most secret places, and there he weeps bitterly; there he weeps as if he were resolved to drown himself in his own tears. "I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears." Jeremiah 13:17In the times wherein we live, hell seems to be broken loose, and men turned into incarnate devils! Soul-damning wickednesses walk up and down the streets with a whore's forehead, without the least check or restraint.

Ah...what pride, luxury, lasciviousness, licentiousness, wantonness, drunkenness, cruelties, injustice, oppressions, fornications, adulteries, falsehoods, hypocrisies, atheisms, horrid blasphemies, and hellish impieties—are now to be found rampant in the midst of you!

...How are the Scriptures rejected, God derided, and wickedness tolerated! And what is the voice of all these crying abominations—but every Christian to his closet—every Christian to his closet—and there weep, with weeping Jeremiah, bitterly—for all these great abominations whereby God is dishonored openly.

Oh weep in secret for their sins—who openly glory in their sins, which should be their greatest shame. Oh blush in secret for those who are past all blushing for their sins; for who knows, but that the whole land may fare the better for the sakes of a few, whoare mourners in secret?

November 16, 2009

The Sweet Kisses


Choice excerpts from Thomas Brooks
"THE PRIVY KEY OF HEAVEN"
(A Discourse of Closet Prayer, published during the awful plague of London in 1665)

When a Christian is in a wilderness, which is a very solitary place, then God delights to speak friendly and comfortably to him: Hosea 2:14, "Behold, I willallure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak friendly or comfortably to her," or as the Hebrew has it, "I will speak to her heart." "When I have her alone," says God, "in a solitary wilderness, I will speak such things to her heart, as shall exceedingly cheer her, and comfort her, and even make her heart leap and dance within her."

Certainly the soul usually enjoys most communion with God in secret. A husband imparts his mind most freely and fully to his wife when she is alone; and so does Christ to the believing soul.

Oh . . . the secret kisses, the secret embraces, the secret visits, the secret whispers, the secret cheerings, the secret sealings, the secret discoveries,which God gives to His people when in secret prayer.

November 15, 2009

All other ground is sinking sand...

I woke up this morning to be greeted by an email update from monergism.com which contained a most excellent article on the doctrines of grace by a man named Mark Webb. The article concludes with the following paragraphs:

Face it: Most folks out there on the street REALLY don't think they are going to Hell, however much they may joke or make light of it. Ninety-nine out of a hundred (An understatement if there ever was one!) don't lie asleep at night in agony of soul fearing that they are about to drop into Hell. And they have a REASON why they are sure such a thing will not happen to them, no matter how faulty and false that reason might be. One man may have a MORAL reason: He's not a bad fellow, he's a good husband and father, he pays his taxes, or, as a rancher in Wyoming once told me, "I've never been arrested!" Another man may have a RELIGIOUS reason: He's been baptized, he goes to church, he prays, reads his Bible, and, in general, does what good religious folks do. Make no mistake about it, they ALL have a reason. Further, they TRUST in that reason—they have "faith"—they've banked the hope of their soul upon that reason. It's NOT that they've no faith, it's rather that their faith rests upon the wrong foundation.

These doctrines confront such a person with a very simple question: Is the reason that you believe you're going to miss Hell and make Heaven based upon something YOU'VE done, or something GOD'S done? Is your hope based upon something you've done FOR Him, or upon a work of grace that He's done IN you? Which is it, dear reader, in your case? Can you truly say, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' Blood and Righteousness"? All other ground is indeed "sinking sand". It will not support you in the day of judgment! If your hope is faulty, why not turn from it right now and flee to Christ?

There He sits in the Heavens, at His Father's Right Hand, with all power in Heaven and earth in His Hands—power to SAVE you, and power to DAMN you! He is the Mighty Judge, holding the destinies of all men in His Hand—but He is also the Mighty Savior, able and willing to save sinners who disavow all other hopes and flee to Him for refuge from the wrath to come. What's to prevent you from casting yourself right now upon His mercy?

Are you too sinful? No problem—He CAME to save sinners and promises to receive them! Are you too helpless? No problem—He saves by His power, not yours! Are you too filthy and vile to appear before Him? No problem—He grants to all who come naked to Him for dress the spotless robe of His own Righteousness! Do you have nothing with which to purchase this blessing? No problem—To those who come to Him with an empty, outstretched hand, trusting only in His promises and His work performed for sinners at the cross, He grants life and blessing as a free gift!

Now what's to prevent you from doing so? Election? Predestination? Hardly! You'll not receive any sympathy in the day of judgment by pleading "election" as the reason you didn't come to Christ! Friend, ALL men are invited to come to Christ! God's eternal decrees do not BAR you from approaching Christ's throne! No, if you do not come, it's not "election" that's the problem, but something else. It's your old sinful, Satanic heart of pride that just cannot bring itself to abandon yourself and your own supposed works of righteousness as your hope before God. If you cannot stand before God in Heaven singing "I did it MY way", you would just as soon not go there! But the song of saints in Heaven is NOT "Worthy am I", but "Worthy is the LAMB"! No other song is known, desired, or allowed there! Why not turn from your false hopes, humble yourself before God, admitting what you are and the game you've been playing, and turn to Christ? Give up on yourself, no matter how self-abasing that might be, and look to Christ and Christ alone.

Yes, there is a faith in Christ that SAVES the soul, praise God—but there is also a faith in ourselves that DAMNS! Which is it, dear reader, in your case?

For the complete article click HERE.

November 14, 2009

Cold, Sad, Mournful, Depressing Calvinism is not Calvinism at All!

This is an excerpt from an address given by Lloyd-Jones on the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Williams (a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist). I encourage all to read the full address. The link is posted at the end of this excerpt.

My argument is, that cold, sad, mournful, depressing Calvinism is not Calvinism at all. It is a caricature; something has gone wrong somewhere. It is mere intellectualism and philosophy. Calvinism leads to feeling, to passion, to warmth, to praise, to thanksgiving. Look at Paul, the greatest of them all. We should not talk about 'Calvinism'; it is Paul's teaching. He tells us that he wept. He preached with tears. Do you?

When did we last weep over these matters? When did we last shed tears? When have we shown the feeling and the passion that he shows? Paul could not control himself, he got carried away. Look at his mighty climaxes; look at the way in which he rises to the heavens and is 'lost in wonder, tore, and praise'. Of course, the pedantic scholars criticize him for his anacolutha. He starts a sentence and never finishes it. He starts saving a thing and then gets carried off, and forgets to come back to it. Thank God! It is the truth which he saw that led to these grand climaxes of his; and it is bound to do so.

If we understand the things we claim to believe we are bound to end in the same way. 'Who shall separate us from the love of God?' And the answer is, 'I am persuaded'- and in the language of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists it is much better and stronger- 'I am certain'. It is sure, it is certain, 'that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. Or listen to him again at the end of Romans 11, 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.'

How often have you had that 'O' in your preaching - you Calvinists ? Calvinism leads to this 'O'! - this feeling, this passion. You are moved to the depths of your being, and you are filled with joy, and wonder, and amazement. 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!' -and so on.

Or take the same thing at the end of Ephesians 3. These are men dominated by a sense of the glory of God, and who are concerned about His praise.

In other words, am arguing that the first Christians were the most typical Calvinistic Methodists of all? I am just describing them to you. Not only the great apostles - Paul and others - but the people, the ordinary people - joy and rejoicing, praising God and thanking Him always 'from house to house' as they ate their bread together. Peter can say of them: 'Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now' ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' That is 1st-century Christianity! it is also the very essence of Calvinistic Methodism. It leads to praise and thanksgiving and reioicing. It always leads to something like this:

We praise, we worship thee, 0 God.
Thy sovereign power we sound abroad:
All nations bow before Thy throne,
And Thee the Eternal Father own.
Loud alleluias to Thy Name

Angels and seraphim proclaim:
The heavens and all the powers on high
With rapture constantly do cry -
'0 holy, holy, holy, Lord!
Thou God of hosts, by all adored;
Earth and the heavens are full of Thee,
Thy light, Thy power, Thy majesty

Apostles join the glorious throng
And swell the loud immortal song;
Prophets enraptured hear the sound
And spread the alleluia round.

Victorious martyrs join their lays
And shout the omnipotence of grace,
While all thy church through all the earth
Acknowledge and extol Thy worth.

Glory to Thee, 0 God most high?
Father, we praise Thy majesty,
The Son, the Spirit, we adore,
One Godhead, blest for evermore.
* * *
Glory be to God the Father,
Glory be to God the Son,
Glory be to God the Spirit,
Great Jehovah Three in One,

Glory, glory- [that was the great shout of the Calvinistic Methodists]
While eternal ages run.

Click HERE for the entire address.

November 12, 2009

Are You a "Seeker"?

As we were reading Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections tonight, the term "seeking God" came up and I realized that so many of us understand that term in a negative sense, as in "seeker-friendly" churches. I have heard people who do not profess to be Christian describe themselves as "seekers" even while they are visiting a Christian church.

Understandably, a true believer living in our generation, would be hesitant to refer to himself as a "seeker" for the reasons expressed above. However, we are to seek after God--we are to be seekers of God. Not in the way that someone who does not know him claims to be seeking; but in this way: As one who knows Him and desires to see and find Him everywhere and in everything. Everywhere we look--in all of His creation. In everything we think, say and do and in every interaction with others. To seek and find Him present.

Here is the text from the portion of our reading tonight:

Hence there is an end to many persons' earnestness in seeking, after they have once obtained that which they call their conversion; or at least, after they have had those high affections, that make them fully confident of it. Before while they looked upon themselves as in a state of nature, they were engaged in seeking after God and Christ, and cried earnestly for grace, and strove in the use of means: but now they act as though they thought their work was done; they live upon their first work, or some high experiences that are past; and there is an end to their crying, and striving after God and grace.

Whereas the holy principles that actuate a true saint, have a far more powerful influence to stir him up to earnestness in seeking God and holiness, than servile fear. Hence seeking God is spoken of as one of the distinguishing characters of the saints, and those that seek God is one of the names by which the godly are called in Scripture: Psal. 24:6, "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob!" Psal. 69:6, "Let not those that seek thee, be confounded for my sake." Ver. 32, "The humble shall see this and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God." And 70:4, "Let all these that seek thee, rejoice, and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation, say continually, The Lord be magnified."

And the Scriptures everywhere represent the seeking, striving, and labour of a Christian, as being chiefly after his conversion, and his conversion as being but the beginning of his as work. And almost all that is said in the New Testament, of men's watching, giving earnest heed to themselves, running the race that is set before them, striving, and agonizing, wrestling not with flesh and blood, but principalities and powers, fighting, putting on the whole armour of God, and standing, having done all to stand, pressing forward, reaching forth, continuing instant in prayer, crying to God day and night; I say, almost all that is said in the New Testament of these things, is spoken of, and directed to the saints.

Where these things are applied to sinners' seeking conversion once, they are spoken of the saints' prosecution of the great business of their high calling ten times. But many in these days have got into a strange antiscriptural way, of having all their striving and wrestling over before they are converted; and so having an easy time of it afterwards, to sit down and enjoy their sloth and indolence; as those that now have a supply of their wants, and are become rich and full. But when the Lord "fills the hungry with good things, these rich are like to be sent away empty," Luke 1:53.

"Hypocrites long for discoveries more for the present comfort of the discovery, and the high manifestation of God's love in it, than for any sanctifying influence of it. But neither a longing after great discoveries, or after great tastes of the love of God, nor longing to be in heaven nor longing to die, are in any measure so distinguishing marks of true saints, as longing after a more holy heart, and living a more holy life."


But doubtless there are some hypocrites, that have only false affections, who will think they are able to stand this trial; and will readily say, that they desire not to rest satisfied with past attainments, but to be pressing forward, they do desire more, they long after God and Christ, and desire more holiness, and do seek it.

But the truth is, their desires are not properly the desires of appetite after holiness, for its own sake, or for the moral excellency and holy sweetness that is in it; but only for by-ends. They long after clearer discoveries, that they may be better satisfied about the state of their souls; or because in great discoveries self is gratified, in being made so much of by God, and so exalted above others; they long to taste the love of God (as they call it) more than to have more love to God. Or, it may be, they have a kind of forced, fancied, or made longings; because they think they must long for more grace, otherwise it will be a dark sign upon them.

But such things as these are far different from the natural, and as it were necessary appetite and thirsting of the new man, after God and holiness. There is an inward burning desire that a saint has after holiness, as natural to the new creature, as vital heat is to the body. There is a holy breathing and panting after the Spirit of God, to increase holiness, as natural to a holy nature, as breathing is to a living body. And holiness or sanctification is more directly the object of it, than any manifestation of God's love and favour. This is the meat and drink that is the object of the spiritual appetite: John 4:34, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Where we read in Scripture of the desires, longings, and thirstings of the saints, righteousness and God's laws are much more frequently mentioned as the object of them, than anything else.

The saints desire the sincere milk of the word, not so much to testify God's love to them, as that they may grow thereby in holiness. I have shown before, that holiness is that good which is the immediate object of a spiritual taste. But undoubtedly the same sweetness that is the chief object of a spiritual taste, is also the chief object of a spiritual appetite. Grace is the godly man's treasure: Isa. 32:6, "The fear of the Lord is his treasure." Godliness is the gain that he is covetous and greedy of. 1 Tim. 6:6.

Hypocrites long for discoveries more for the present comfort of the discovery, and the high manifestation of God's love in it, than for any sanctifying influence of it. But neither a longing after great discoveries, or after great tastes of the love of God, nor longing to be in heaven nor longing to die, are in any measure so distinguishing marks of true saints, as longing after a more holy heart, and living a more holy life.

Jonathan Edwards - Religious Affections

November 11, 2009

John Flavel

John Flavel (or Flavell) was born in 1628 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He was the son of Richard Flavel, a minister who died of the plague in 1665 while in prison for nonconformity. John Flavel was educated by his father in the ways of religion, then “plied his studies hard” as a commoner at University College, Oxford. In 1650, he was ordained by the presbytery at Salisbury. He settled in Diptford, where he honed his numerous gifts.

He married Joan Randall, a godly woman, who died while giving birth to their first child in 1655. The baby died as well. After a year of mourning, Flavel married Elizabeth Stapell and was again blessed with a close, God-fearing marriage, as well as children.

In 1656, Flavel accepted a call to be minister in the thriving seaport of Dartmouth. He earned a smaller income there, but his work was more profitable; many were converted. One of his parishioners wrote of Flavel, “I could say much, though not enough of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, suitable, and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of Scripture; his talking method, his genuine and natural deductions, his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his heart-searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those that were afflicted in conscience. In short, that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected” (Erasmus Middleton, Evangelical Biography, 4:50-51).

Flavel was ejected from the pulpit in 1662 for nonconformity, but he continued to meet secretly with his parishioners in conventicles. On occasion, he would preach for them in the woods, especially on days of fasting and humiliation. Once he even disguised himself as a woman on horseback in order to reach a secret meeting place where he preached and administered baptism. At another time, when pursued by authorities, he plunged his horse into the sea and managed to escape arrest by swimming through a rocky area to reach Slapton Sands.

In 1665, when the Five Mile Act went into effect, Flavel moved to Slapton, which was beyond the five-mile limit of legal disturbance. There he ministered to many people in his congregation. At times, he would preach secretly in the woods to larger numbers of people, sometimes as late as midnight. Once, soldiers rushed in and dispersed the congregation. Several of the fugitives were apprehended and fined, but the remainder brought Flavel to another wooded area where he continued his sermon.

Flavel preached from other unique pulpits, such as Salstone Rock, an island in the Salcombe Estuary that is submerged at high tide. In that refuge, the congregation would “linger in devout assembly till the rising tide drove them to their boats.”

In 1672, King Charles II issued the Declaration of Indulgence, giving Nonconformists freedom to worship. Flavel returned to Dartmouth, licensed as a Congregationalist. When the indulgence was canceled the following year, Flavel once more resorted to preaching secretly in private homes, secluded neighborhoods, or remote forests. Flavel’s second wife died during this time and he married Ann Downe, a minister’s daughter. They were happily married for eleven years, and had two sons.

In the late 1670s and early 1680s, Flavel carried on his ministry mainly by writing. He published at least nine books in this period. In the summer of 1682, he was forced to seek safety in London, where he joined the congregation of his friend, William Jenkyn, known today for his commentary on Jude. In 1684, soldiers interrupted a prayer service Flavel was conducting with Jenkyn. Flavel narrowly escaped arrest. During his stay in London, Flavel’s third wife died. He married Dorothy, a widowed daughter of George Jefferies, minister of Kingsbridge; she survived him.

In 1685, Flavel returned to Dartmouth, where his ministry was confined to his home. He preached every Sunday and on many weekday evenings to people who crowded into his home. That same year he was burned in effigy by a mob, but he pressed on, praying for his beloved Dartmouth, “O that there were not a prayerless family in this town!” In 1687, King James II issued another indulgence for Nonconformists that allowed Flavel to preach publicly once again. This freedom was later augmented with the coming of William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution in 1688.

Flavel’s congregation built a large church upon his return to the pulpit. His last four years of public preaching, which began with his sermons on Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” were greatly blessed. Yet he was aging rapidly. Speaking for himself and his colleagues, he wrote, “We have long borne the burden and heat of the day; we are veteran soldiers almost worn out.” While visiting Exeter to preach on June 6, 1691, Flavel suffered a massive stroke and died that same evening at the age of sixty-three. His final words were, “I know that it will be well with me.

Flavel was humble, godly, and learned. He spent much time in study and prayer. One of his children wrote, “He was always full and copious in prayer, seemed constantly to exceed himself, and rarely made use twice of the same expressions.”

.

Flavel’s preaching was blessed by the Spirit. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne tells about an American immigrant, Luke Short, who remembered listening to Flavel preach in England when he was fifteen years old. The text was, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” Eighty-five years after hearing Flavel preach on the horror of dying under God’s curse, the Spirit of God effectually converted him at the age of one hundred as he meditated on that sermon!

Flavel’s power as a preacher came out of his depth of spiritual experience. He spent many hours in meditation and self-examination. As Middleton writes, “He [Flavel] attained to a well-grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own heart to those of others. He preached what he felt, and what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life and they felt it also”

While meditating on heaven on one occasion, Flavel was so overcome with heavenly joy that he lost sight of this world. Stopping his horse by a spring, he viewed death as the most amiable face he had ever seen, except that of Christ’s, who made it so. When he finally arrived at an inn, the innkeeper said to him, “Sir, what is the matter with you? You look like a dead man.” “Friend,” Flavel replied, “I was never better in my life.”

Years later, Flavel said that he understood more of heaven from that experience than from all the books he had ever read and all the sermons he had ever heard on the subject.

Just so you are aware...

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican announced Tuesday (November 10, 2009) it was making it easier for Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism – a surprise move designed to entice traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The decision, reached in secret by a small cadre of Vatican officials, was sure to add to the problems of the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion as it seeks to deal with deep doctrinal divisions that threaten a permanent schism among its faithful.

The change means conservative Anglicans from around the world will be able to join the Catholic Church while retaining aspects of their Anglican liturgy and identity, including married priests. Until now, disaffected Anglicans had joined the church primarily on a case by case basis.

"The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows," said Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in announcing the decision.

The spiritual leader of the global Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was not consulted about the change and was informed only hours before the announcement. He nevertheless tried to downplay the significance and said it wasn't a Vatican commentary on Anglican problems.

"It has no negative impact on the relations of the communion as a whole to the Roman Catholic Church as a whole," he said in London.

The decision could undermine decades of talks between the Vatican and Anglican leaders over how they could possibly reunite. Although Levada insisted such discussions remain a priority, the Vatican move could be taken as a signal that the ultimate goal of ecumenical talks is to convert Anglicans to Catholicism.

Still, the decision confirmed Pope Benedict XVI's design of creating a unified, tradition-minded Catholic Church – a goal he outlined at the start of his pontificate and has been steadily implementing ever since.

Read the rest HERE.

November 7, 2009

WHAT, WHO and WHY we love.

Every man loves the mercies of God, but the saint loves the God of the mercies.

The above is a pregnant statement found within a chapter of John Flavel's work on the providence of God. Stop and think about it. Ponder it in your mind. Let it cause you to examine your heart. For those who may be reading this blog who are unfamiliar with certain terms of the Christian faith, the word "saint" simply refers to all who have been "born-again"; all whom the Spirit of God has regenerated and reconciled to God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ by grace alone through faith alone. "Saint" does not refer to someone who "acts" like a saint. We are all saints who are in Christ. It is an inward reality that only God can see, not an outward manifestation of holiness.

With that in mind, read the above statement again. If you fancy yourself a genuine Christian, one who will be found acceptable to God at the judgement, ask yourself if you love the benefits of Christianity (mercy, forgiveness, escape from eternal punishment, peace of mind, etc) or the Christ of Christianity. I fear many join the ranks for the benefits and not for the benefactor.

Flavel continues:

Whenever the promises of God and the events which are promised meet each other, they are joyfully embraced by believing people. Remembering past providences will be a continual source of praise and thanksgiving, which is the employment of the angels in heaven, and the most enjoyable part of being on earth. It is not so much the blessings that providence gives us, but the goodness and kindness of God in giving them that occupies a grateful person in praise. (Ps.63:3)

To give life, and to preserve it, are precious acts of providence; but the grace that causes God to do all this is far better than the acts themselves. The careful observation of providence will make Jesus Christ more and more precious to your souls.

Through Christ, God's mercies flow to us, and all praise returns to God from us. All things are ours,because we are His.(1st Cor.3:21-23) All the blessings we have in this life, as well as all spiritual and eternal mercies, have been bought for us by the blood of Christ. By His death, Christ restores to us everything sin has robbed us of. "With Christ" God freely gives us all things; salvation itself, and all things necessary to bring us there (Rom.8:32)

Whatever good we receive from the hand of providence, we must say, comes by the death of Christ. Because we are united with Christ, everything we receive from providence is made a blessing to us.

When we are in Christ, we have more than we lost through the fall of Adam. Whoever is the means of doing you any good, the Lord Jesus Christ gives the command for it to be done. Do not live your life in such a hurry that you have no time to sit and think of these things. Consider in your heart these wonderful discoveries of God in His Providences.

November 6, 2009

O' How highly we think of our own importance.

Just yesterday I was reading an article about a new book by Michael Horton and the article started out by stating:

"What, exactly, is “Christless Christianity”? First of all, it is not a claim that all the churches in America are Christless. It’s certainly not a claim that we have reached a point where Christ is no longer being preached. Rather, it’s motivated by a concern that there’s this creeping fog of what sociologist Christian Smith called “moralistic-therapeutic-deism.” This has turned God into a tool we can use rather than the object of our faith and worship. I’m concerned that the gospel is being taken for granted, that Christ is a sort of life coach, but not the Savior. With the general shallowing within the culture, there is a shallowing of Christian faith and practice. We don’t really know what we believe and why we believe it.

Then just last night we were reading from a book by John Flavel on the Providence of God and came to the section copied below. Ponder these things.

"...I cannot but make a pause, and desire you with me to stand in holy amazement and wonder at the dealings of God with such poor worms as we are. Surely God deals familiarly with me; His condescensions to His own clay are astonishing.

All that I shall note at present about it shall be under these three heads, in which I find the matter of my present meditations summed up by the Psalmist: ‘Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him, or the son of man that thou makest account of him!’ (144. 3).

In this Scripture you have represented the immense and transcendent greatness of God, who is infinitely above us and all our thoughts. ‘Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea’ (Job 11. 7-9). ‘The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him’ (2 Chron. 2. 6). He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders’ (Exod. 15. 11).

When the Scripture speaks of Him comparatively, see how it expresses His greatness: ‘Behold, the nations are as the drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beats thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are accounted to him less than nothing, and vanity (Isa. 40. 15-17).

When the holiest men have addressed Him, see with what humility and deep adoration they have spoken of Him and to Him! ‘Who is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Isa. 6. 5). Nay, what respects the very angels of heaven have of that glorious Majesty: ‘Each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (verses 2 and 3).

Secondly, you have the baseness, vileness and utter unworthiness of man, yea, the holiest and best of men, before God: ‘Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity’ (Ps. 39. 5).

‘Every man,’ take where you will; and every man ‘in his best state,’ or ‘standing in his freshest glory,’ is not only ‘vanity,’ but ‘altogether vanity,’ literally ‘every man is very vanity.’ For do but consider the best of men in their extraction. ‘By nature the children of wrath even as others’ (Eph. 2. 3). The blood that runs in our veins is as much tainted as theirs in hell.

Consider them in their constitution and natural disposition, and it is no better, yea, in many there is worse disposition than in reprobates. And though grace depose sin in them from the throne, yet, O what offensive and God-provoking corruptions daily break out of the best hearts.

Consider them in their outward condition, and they are inferior, for the most part, to others. ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes’ (Matt. 11. 25; cf. 1 Cor. 1. 26-28).

And now let us consider and marvel that ever this great and blessed God should be so much concerned, as you have heard He is in all His providences, about such vile, despicable worms as we are! He does not need us, but is perfectly blessed and happy in Himself without us. We can add nothing to Him: ‘Can a man be profitable unto God?’ (Job 22. 2).

No, the holiest of men add nothing to Him; yet, see how great account He makes of us. For does not His eternal electing love show the dear account He made of us (Eph. 1. 4, 5)? How ancient, how free, and how astonishing is this act of grace! This is that design which all providences are in pursuit of, and will not rest till they have executed.

Does not the gift of His only Son out of His bosom show this, that God makes great account of this vile thing, man? Never was man so magnified before. If David could say: ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man?’ (Ps. 8. 3, 4), how much more may we say, ‘When we consider Thy Son, that lay in Thy bosom, His infinite excellence and unspeakable dearness to Thee, Lord, what is man, that such a Christ should be delivered to death for him! for him, and not for fallen angels (Heb. 2. 16), for him when in a state of enmity with God (Rom. 5. 8).

Does not the assiduity of His providential care for us show His esteem of us? ‘Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day’ (Isa. 27. 3). ‘He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous’ (Job. 36. 7), no, not a moment all their days; for if He did, a thousand mischiefs in that moment would rush in upon them and ruin them.

Does not the tenderness of His providence show His esteem of us? ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you’ (Isa. 66. 13). He comforts His own by refreshing providences, as an indulgent mother her tender child. ‘As birds flying’ (Isa. 31. 5), viz., to their nests when their young are in danger, so He defends His. No parental tenderness in the creature can shadow forth the tender affection of the Creator.

Does not the variety of the fruits of His providence show it? Our mercies are ‘new every morning’ (cf. Ps. 40. 5; Lam. 3. 23). It is a fountain from which do stream forth spiritual and temporal, ordinary and extraordinary, public and personal mercies, mercies without number.

Does not the ministry of angels in the providential kingdom show it? ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ (Heb. 1. 14).


Does not the providence of which this day calls us to celebrate the memory, show the great regard God has for His people? O if not so, why were we not given up ‘as a prey to their teeth?’ ‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,’ then wicked men, compared to fire, water, wild beasts, ‘had swallowed us up quick’ (Ps. 124).

John Flavel

November 5, 2009

Do we Delight in Him as we ought?

"Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name."—Psalm 100:4

"OUR Lord would have all His people rich in high and happy thoughts concerning His blessed person. Jesus is not content that His brethren should think meanly of Him; it is His pleasure that His espoused ones should be delighted with His beauty.

We are not to regard Him as a bare necessary, like to bread and water, but as a luxurious delicacy, as a rare and ravishing delight.

To this end He has revealed Himself as the "pearl of great price" in its peerless beauty, as the "bundle of myrrh" in its refreshing fragrance, as the "rose of Sharon" in its lasting perfume, as the "lily" in its spotless purity.

As a help to high thoughts of Christ, remember the estimation that Christ is had in beyond the skies, where things are measured by the right standard. Think how God esteems the Only Begotten, His unspeakable gift to us. Consider what the angels think of Him, as they count it their highest honour to veil their faces at His feet. Consider what the blood-washed think of Him, as day without night they sing His well deserved praises.

High thoughts of Him increase our love. Love and esteem go together.

Therefore, believer, think much of your Master's excellencies. Study Him in His primeval glory, before He took upon Himself your nature! Think of the mighty love which drew Him from His throne to die upon the cross! Admire Him as He conquers all the powers of hell! See Him risen, crowned, glorified!

Bow before Him as the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, for only thus will your love to Him be what it should."

Excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon

November 3, 2009

Accountability Solved

Tim Challies ran a series trying to help men better understand how pornography effects them; their relationships; and their walk with God. He ended the series with some suggested resources for men to read. Much of what he said was true and helpful, but I still feel that it (as well as so many other attempts to "cure" this problem outlined in the hundreds of books written about it) are "man-centered" philosophies and do not get to the root of the real problem.

The truth is that no human accountability partner or group or book is able to keep a man accountable or to change his natural desire for self-indulgence. Perhaps, if a man's accountability partner was handcuffed to him, he would alter his behavior, simply because he would not be comfortable indulging his desire for degrading, perverted, dehumanizing sexual gratification with another man sitting right next to him. He would also grow to hate that man and be almost willing to chop his arm off to get free from him.

God Himself is our accountability partner. He is always right their with us. Do these men not know that? I contend that they DO NOT and therein lies the problem.

John Flavel outlines these principals well. You don't have to read a bunch of books or attend some accountability group if you understand, believe and apply these two simple to understand principals. If you are doing these two things, you will not be able to view pornography and as you spend more time with Him in His word and in prayer you will eventually hate and abhor pornography in the same way God does because you will see it as He sees it. That is what He does in a human heart and soul that has been regenerated. He makes us hate what we used to love. read these two principals and honestly ask yourself if a man who was living these would continue to indulge in his perversions.

1. Over-awe your hearts every day, and in every place, with the eye of God. This walking as before God will keep you upright, Gen. If you so speak and live as those that know God sees you, such will be your uprightness, that you will not care if all the world see you too.

2. Do no action, undertake no design, that you dare not preface with prayer; this is the rule, Phil. iv. 6. Touch not that you dare not pray for a blessing upon; if you dare not pray, dare not to engage; if you cannot spend your prayers before, be confident: shame and guilt will follow after.