Predestination

When I consider the absolute independency of God, and the necessary total dependence of all created things on Him, their first cause, I cannot help standing astonished at the pride and impotent, degenerate man, who is so prone to consider himself as a being possessed of sovereign freedom, and invested with a power of self-salvation, able, he imagines, to counteract the designs even of infinity wisdom, and to defeat the agency of Omnipotence itself.  You shall be as gods, said the tempter to Eve in Paradise; and you are as gods, says the same tempter, now, to her apostate sons.  One would be apt to think that a suggestion so demonstrably false and flattering; a suggestions the very reverse of what we feel to be our state; a suggestion alike contrary to Scripture and reason, to fact and experience, could never meet with the smallest degree of credit.  And yet, because it so exactly coincides with the natural haughtiness of the human heart, men not only admit, but even relish the deception, and fondly incline to believe that the father of lies does, in this instance at least, speak truth.

The Scripture doctrine of predestination lays the axe to the very root of this potent delusion.  It assures us that all things are of God; that all our times and all events are in His hand.  Consequently, that man’s business below is to fill up the departments and to discharge the several offices assigned him in God’s purpose from everlasting; and that, having lived his appointed time, and finished his allotted course of action and suffering, he that moment quits the stage of terrestrial life, and removes to the invisible state.

– Augustus Toplady from the preface to Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius

The Dishonored Pulpit

The pulpit has become dishonoured; it is esteemed as being of very little worth and of no esteem. Ah! we must always maintain the dignity of the pulpit. I hold that it is the Thermopylae (narrow place) of Christendom; it is here that the battle must be fought between right and wrong; not so much with the pen, valuable as that is as an assistant, as with the living voice of earnest men, “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” In some churches the pulpit is put away; there is a prominent altar, but the pulpit is omitted. Now, the most prominent thing under the gospel dispensation is not the altar, which belonged to the Jewish dispensation, but the pulpit. “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle;” that altar is Christ; but Christ has been pleased to exalt “the foolishness of preaching” to the most prominent position in his house of prayer. We must take heed that we always maintain preaching. It is this that God will bless; it is this that he has promised to crown with success. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” We must not expect to see great changes nor any great progress of the gospel, until there is greater esteem for the pulpit—more said of it and thought of it. “Well,” some may reply, “you speak of the dignity of the pulpit; I take it, you lower it yourself, sir, by speaking in such a style to your hearers.” Ah! no doubt you think so. Some pulpits die of dignity. I take it, the greatest dignity in the world is the dignity of converts—that the glory of the pulpit is, if I may use such a metaphor, to have captives at its chariot-wheels, to see converts following it, and where there are such, and those from the very worst of men; there is a dignity in the pulpit beyond any dignity which a fine mouthing of words and a grand selection of fantastic language could ever give to it. . .

“Preaching for the Poor,” in Spurgeon’s Sermons, 2nd ed. (New York: Sheldon & Company, 1861), 157-158. Preached January 25, 1857.

Treason Against the Soul

Remember that flesh-pleasing is a great contempt and treachery against the soul. It is a great contempt of an immortal soul, to prefer its corruptible flesh before it, and to make its servant to become its master, and to ride on horseback, while it goes, as it were, on foot. Is the flesh worthy of so much time, and cost, and care, and so much ado as is made for it in the world, and is not a never-dying soul worth more? Nay, it is a betraying of the soul: you set up its enemy before it; and put its safety into an enemy’s hands; and you cast away all its joys and hopes for the gratifying of the flesh. Might it not complain of your cruelty, and say, Must my endless happiness be sold to purchase so short a pleasure for your flesh? Must I be undone for ever, and lie in hell, that it may be satisfied for a little time? But why do I speak of the soul’s complaint? Alas! it is of itself that it must complain! For it is its own doing! It hath its choice: the flesh can but tempt it, and not constrain it: God hath put the chief power and government into its hands, if it has determined to sell its own eternal hopes to pamper worm’s meat, it will act accordingly. You would not think very honourably of that man’s intelligence or honesty, who would sell the patrimony of all his children, and all his friends that trusted him therewith, and later sell their persons into slavery, and all this to purchase for himself a delicious feast, with sports and entertainment for a day! And is he wiser or better that selleth (in effect) the inheritance of his soul, and betrayeth it to hell and devils for ever, and all just to purchase the fleshly pleasure of so short a life? – Richard Baxter

Spurgeon Thursday

SALVATION BY WORKS, A CRIMINAL DOCTRINE

NO. 1534

DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 18, 1880,

BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21.

Youthful Charles Spurgeon THE idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly insinuating. It matters not how often it is refuted, it asserts itself again and again and when it gains the least foothold it soon makes great advances. Hence Paul, who was determined to show it no quarter, opposed everything which bore its likeness. He was determined not to permit the thin end of the wedge to be introduced into the Church, for well he knew that willing hands would soon be driving it home! Therefore when Peter sided with the Judaizing party and seemed to favor those who demanded that the Gentiles should be circumcised, our brave Apostle withstood him to his face. He always fought for salvation by Grace through faith and contended strenuously against all thought of righteousness by obedience to the precepts of the ceremonial or the moral Law.

No one could be more explicit than he upon the doctrine that we are not justified or saved by works in any degree, but solely by the Grace of God. His trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound, but gave forth the clear note—“By Grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Grace meant Grace with Paul and he could not endure any tampering with the matter, or any frittering away of its meaning. So fascinating is the doctrine of legal righteousness that the only way to deal with it is Paul’s way—stamp it out! Cry war to the knife against it! Never yield to it! And remember the Apostle’s firmness and how stoutly he held his ground—“To whom,” he says, “we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour.”

The error of salvation by works is exceedingly plausible. You will constantly hear it stated as a self-evident truth and vindicated on account of its supposed practical usefulness, while the Gospel doctrine of Salvation by Faith is railed at and accused of evil consequences. It is affirmed that if we preach salvation by good works we shall encourage virtue—and so it might seem in theory—but history proves, by many instances, that as a matter of fact where such doctrine has been preached virtue has become singularly uncommon and that in proportion as the merit of works has been cried up, morality has gone down!

On the other hand, where Justification by Faith has been preached, conversions have followed and purity of life has been produced even in the worst of men. Those who lead godly and gracious lives are ready to confess that the cause of their zeal for holiness lies in their faith in Christ Jesus. Where will you meet with a devout and upright man who glories in his own works? Self-righteousness is natural to our fallen humanity and, therefore, it is the essence of all false religions. Be they what they may, they all agree in seeking salvation by our own deeds. He who worships his idols will torture his body, will fast, will perform long pilgrimages and do or endure anything in order to merit salvation! The Roman Catholic church holds up continually before the eyes of its votaries the prize to be earned by self-denial, by penance, by prayers, by sacraments or by some other performances of man. Go where you may, the natural religion of fallen man is salvation by his own merits.

An old Divine has well said every man is born a heretic upon this point and he naturally gravitates towards this heresy in one form or another. Self-salvation, either by his personal worthiness, by his repentance or by his resolves is a hope ingrained in human nature and very hard to remove. This foolishness is bound up in the heart of every child Continue reading

The Duty of Seeking the Things Which Are Jesus Christ’s

by David Black

(David Black, 1762-1806, was pastor in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 1794 until his death. With regard to his sermon delivery, it was said that “His manner was solemn and affectionate, earnest and persuasive. When expostulating with sinners, or unfolding to Christians the consolations of the gospel, there was often an animation in his address — a sacred fervor — a divine unction, which powerfully impressed the auditory. He evidently felt the truths he was delivering, and spoke as one standing in the presence of God, animated with a pure zeal for the glory of the Redeemer, and the salvation of immortal souls.”)

“All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 2:21

We cannot suppose that the apostle intended, by these words, to characterize all his fellow Christians, the whole multitude of believers — many of whom were conspicuous for a spirit and temper the very reverse of that which the apostle here condemns. He speaks, in the context, of Timothy as one who, as a son with a father, served with him in the gospel (Phil. 2:22), and a little after, of Epaphroditus, his brother and companion in labor, who, for the work of Christ, was near unto death, not regarding his life to supply their lack of service towards him (Phil. 2:25, 30). And in the foregoing chapter he tells us that “most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly.” (Phil. 1:14).

But from this, as well as many other parts of Paul’s epistolary writings, it appears that even at this early period of the church, a selfish and worldly spirit had begun to manifest itself among those who bore the Christian name. And, in particular, we have reason to think that the apostle had occasion to witness the prevalence of this spirit among many real or pretended friends of Christianity, at the time when he wrote this epistle. And if such were the case in this purest age of the church, when the temptations to a false and hypocritical profession of religion were so much fewer than they are at present, is it any wonder that, in these corrupt and degenerate times in which we live, we should have still greater cause to complain, that all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ’s?

Selfishness, or inordinate self-love, is the common character of mankind. While men are strangers to the regenerating power of divine grace, they are almost wholly guided by selfishness. Even their boasted benevolence, uninfluenced by the principles and motives which the gospel inspires, is little better than refined selfishness. The world they pursue as their chief good — its honors, its riches, or its pleasures, are, in their estimation, of the highest importance; so that, regardless of the glory of their Maker and of the ultimate end of their being, they only consult the means of present selfish gratification.

Nor is this temper, alas! wholly confined to those who are living without God, and without hope in the world. It is too often found, in a certain degree, in men who are, upon the whole, actuated by nobler principles. The cursed leaven of selfishness has spread itself through the church of Christ and infected the minds even of its genuine members. I do not mean to affirm, that a prevailing worldly or selfish spirit is compatible with real religion. No; let God be true, though every man should prove a liar. The tree is known by its fruits; and if any man has not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. But as Christians are only sanctified in part, there may remain a considerable mixture of selfishness, even in those in whose hearts the love of God is supreme. Hence have arisen the envies, jealousy, and party spirit which have tarnished the character and marred the usefulness of many wise and good men.

To trace the nature and point out the causes of this criminal temper would open up a very wide, and perhaps, not unprofitable subject of discourse; and such a train of reflection is naturally suggested by the words of the text. But this is not my purpose at present. My design, in the choice of this text, is not so much to expose the sinfulness and mischievous consequences of a selfish and worldly spirit in the professors of Christianity, as to recommend a temper opposite to it — to show the dignity, excellence, and unspeakable advantages of loving spirit, and unselfish Christian zeal — that I may, if possible, rouse a generous emulation in the bosoms of those, who, possessing the means and opportunities of doing good, have not been so active as they might have been, in improving the talents committed to them. With this end in view, and looking up to God for his blessing, I shall endeavor–

I. To state and explain the principles by which true Christians are led to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s, in preference to their own.

II. Recommend the cultivation and exercise of this divine temper, by some motives and arguments.

I. The principles by which true Christians are led to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s, in preference to their own. The things which are Jesus Christ’s are the things pertaining to the kingdom and glory of Jesus Christ, with the means of promoting them. These are opposed to our own things–that is, to our own ease, reputation, or worldly interest, which duty to God, and a regard to the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, will often require us to sacrifice. They who are possessed of the genuine spirit of Christianity will discover, in their general temper and conduct, a superiority to those selfish views which actuate the rest of mankind. Let us attend, then, to the principles upon which such a character is formed, contrasting the selfishness of a worldling or mere formalist in religion–with the enlarged and unselfish benevolence of a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The grand principle upon which the Christian character is formed, and that which gives birth to every other gracious disposition, is FAITH. Faith, as the apostle tells us, is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). It gives a kind of present subsistence to things future and invisible; representing them to the mind, not as bare probabilities, but as absolute certainties, to which we may attach the firmest credit, and on which we may rely with the most unsuspicious confidence. Faith has respect to the testimony of God, as the ground upon which it rests. It embraces the whole system of revealed truth, and yields an implicit and unqualified assent to everything which bears the undoubted mark of divine authority. The Christian does not consider himself at liberty to choose or to refuse certain parts of the divine testimony, according as they may appear to him to be more or less conformable to his corrupt prejudices or sinful inclinations. He considers himself equally bound by every word which God has spoken, and cordially acquiesces in all his revealed will, as holy, and just, and good.

But it is too evident that all men have not this faith (II Thess. 3:2). Many openly oppose and deride it, while others, who esteem themselves, and would be esteemed by others, Christians, are satisfied with a cold formal assent to the truth of divine revelation in general, without understanding its nature, examining its contents, or feeling any particular interest in the doctrines which it reveals. The consequence is that with all their pretended veneration for the sacred scriptures, they receive no serious lasting impression from them, nor do they at all experience their practical influence. Naming the name of Christ, they depart not from iniquity–but walk after the course of this world, and mind only earthly things. Hence it is that so many professors of Christianity, especially in the age in which we live, when a mere outward profession of religion is attended with little danger to a man’s worldly interest, seek their own things in preference to the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

It is far otherwise with the man who is possessed of genuine faith in the gospel. Inspired with this divine principle, the true Christian is taught to form a proper estimate of the unspeakable value of spiritual blessings, and the comparative insignificance of all earthly pursuits, while he looks not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at those things which are unseen and eternal (II Cor. 4:8). Risen with Christ, he seeks and sets his affections on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2). According to the measure of his faith is his superiority to low earthly schemes and selfish considerations. These, it is true, may mingle with his religious duties, and debase his purest services, which cannot fail to humble him deeply in the sight of God; but they do not form his predominant character: they arise from the weakness of his faith, and are neither allowed nor indulged, but powerfully resisted and mourned over before the Lord. With all his acknowledged imperfection, an habitual regard to the things which are Jesus Christ’s, in preference to his own things, is abundantly manifest in the prevailing temper of his mind as well as in the general tenor of his conduct.

In nothing, perhaps, is true spiritual religion (the religion, I mean, which flows from a living faith in the gospel) more distinguished from a ‘mere form of godliness’ than in this respect. The stream can rise no higher than the fountain from which it flows. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; but that which is born of the spirit is spirit (John 3:6). A worldly man’s religion is regulated by worldly principles; his fear of God is taught by the precepts of men (Isa. 29:13). A stranger to the faith which overcomes the world, not realizing the things of an unseen and everlasting state, he is always afraid of venturing too far, of being righteous overmuch, of hurting his worldly interest, and incurring the censure and reproach of those whose good opinion he wishes to preserve. But the simple-hearted genuine disciple of Christ has learned to deny himself, to take up his cross, and follow his blessed Lord. He has counted the cost, and is made willing to sell all that he has, that he may buy the treasure hid in the gospel field — the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46), which faith has taught him to prize above everything which this world can bestow.

2. Connected with this principle, and naturally flowing from it, is another gracious disposition which has a powerful influence in forming the Christian character — a supreme LOVE to the Lord Jesus Christ.

No temper or disposition of mind is more frequently spoken of in scripture, as characteristic of a real Christian, than love to Christ. It is of the very nature and essence of true religion. If any man, says the apostle, loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed (1 Cor. 16:22); but, on the other hand, Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (Eph. 6:24). Love to Christ, proceeding from faith in him, is something more than a transient glow of affection. It is something more than saying unto Christ, ‘Lord, Lord,’ which many do, who in works deny him. Genuine love to Christ is a powerful, operative, abiding principle. It is the spring of all acceptable obedience, the grand incentive to the practice of everything that is true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8); for the love of Christ constrains us: it impels us forward, and bears us on in its own course, like a mighty current which carries all before it.

But how is this gracious principle brought into action, or in what way is its existence in the soul manifested in the outward conduct? Our Lord Jesus Christ is not now personally present upon earth, to receive from his friends any visible tokens of regard. The heavens have received him until the time of the restitution of all things. But he has a cause, a kingdom, an interest in the world, and what is done for the advancement of his kingdom and interest among men, out of love to his name, he considers as done to himself.

Here, then, brethren, is the test of the sincerity of our love to Christ — a test which he himself requires as indispensably necessary to the character of his disciples (Matt. 10:37). He who loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And again, in still stronger terms (Luke 14:26), If any man comes to me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also–he cannot be my disciple. The meaning of both these passages is the same. They evidently refer to the ‘supreme affection of the soul’, and to that decided preference which the things of Jesus Christ ought to have in our minds above our own things. Our Lord, in the words just now recited, cannot be supposed to require us absolutely to hate our brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh (for this would be as contrary to the plainest principles of piety, as to the common dictates of humanity), but, in a comparative view, we are commanded to act as if we hated them, so as to be willing to renounce our dearest friends, when duty to Christ demands such a sacrifice — that is, when we must either forsake them, or forsake our blessed Lord.

This doctrine, which appears to many an hard saying, is strikingly illustrated by an apposite example which occurs in the history of our Savior’s personal ministry (Luke 18:18-23). We read of a certain ruler who came to Christ, professing great respect for his character and an earnest desire to be instructed by him. ‘Good Master,’ said he, ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Our Lord, who knew what was in man, perceived that, with all his professions of regard, the love of the world was predominant in his heart, and therefore he put his boasted virtue to the trial by telling him,’ Yet lack you one thing: sell all that you have and distribute unto the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.’ The event was such as might have been expected, in the case of one whose heart was not right with God. He went away very sorrowful, for he was very rich. For the same reason, one of Paul’s fellow laborers deserted him in the hour of trial. ‘Demas has forsaken me,’ says he, ‘having loved this present world’ (2 Tim. 4:10). And many, alas! in every age, who are called by the name of Christ, and with their mouths show much love, plainly discover by their conduct that the world has the chief place in their heart, preferring their own ease, credit, and interest, to the honor of Christ and the advancement of his kingdom, whenever they happen to come in competition with each other.

The genuine disciples of Christ, who are possessed of a supreme love to him, are men of another spirit. To them, the honor of Christ and the advancement of his kingdom are matters of the most serious concern. They rejoice in Zion’s prosperity, and are filled with the deepest regret when the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom appears to be in a low and declining state. Nor are they satisfied with indolent wishes and unmeaning compliments, when they have it in their power to give more substantial proofs of regard to the Savior; but constrained by his love, present their bodies and spirits as living sacrifices, and cheerfully consecrate their time, and talents, and substance, and influence to his service and glory.

3. Another principle, arising from the two former, which has a powerful influence in forming the Christian character, is love to the souls of men, or true Christian benevolence.

The origin of this divine temper is to be traced to the love of God, displayed in the redemption of the world by his Son Jesus Christ. For, as the apostle John informs us, ‘Love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 4:7 and 3:16). The character of man as a fallen apostate creature is the very reverse of this — ‘Hateful, and hating one another’ (Titus 3:3) exhibits a no less just than melancholy picture of his history in all past ages, with but few exceptions. Nor is this difficult to be accounted for. While everyone pursues his own apparent interest, without regard to the welfare or happiness of others, various will be the occasions of mutual strife and contention. Pride and covetousness, those two evil demons which haunt the smaller, as well as the larger societies of men, have produced innumerable mischiefs in the world. Hence have arisen wars and fightings, discord and jealousy, peevishness and discontent, which, in ten thousand instances, have broken the peace of nations, of churches, and families.

There is, I acknowledge, a sort of benevolence, which, greatly for the benefit of society, is to be found among those who are strangers to the saving power of the gospel. But however useful this sort of benevolence may be in its own place, it falls short of that love to mankind which is the fruit of a living faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The common benevolence which springs from mere natural principles, refers chiefly to men’s bodily needs, and temporal distresses. Whereas true Christian love, while it does not overlook these, aims at higher objects, and, deeply sensible how infinitely superior the concerns of the soul are to those things which relate only to a present life, directs its principal efforts to the spiritual interests and eternal salvation of mankind. While the Christian philanthropist, then, mourns over the countless calamities of suffering humanity, he is still more deeply affected with the spiritual distresses of his fellow creatures. By holding up to our view the great pattern of divine benevolence, exhibited in the gift of God’s own Son, the gospel has a tendency to beget and nourish, in particular, an ardent love to the souls of men.

These, then, are the principles which contribute to form in the Christian that pure and unselfish zeal for the glory of the Redeemer, and the advancement of his kingdom, which constitutes the brightest ornament of his character.

Allow me now, By a few plain motives and arguments, to

II. Recommend to you the cultivation and exercise of this divine temper.

1. The superior importance of the things of Jesus Christ to our own things, should determine our preference. How poor and trifling, in comparison, are all those objects which so much engross the time and attention of the great bulk of mankind! What a bauble is wealth, compared with the unsearchable riches of Christ! How insignificant is the honor that comes from man, compared with the honor that comes from God! And how contemptible the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season — those short-lived enjoyments for which men barter their souls and eternal salvation, when set in comparison with the high dignity and happiness of being workers together with God, in promoting the holy, wise, and beneficent purposes of his government! The things which are Jesus Christ’s, remember, are the things which pertain to the divine glory. ‘For the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand’ (John 3:35).

And can we conceive, Christians, a higher motive to exertion than the glory of Him who made us? Has the Father committed to the Son the dearest interests of his own glory, and shall we not seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s in preference to everything else? Our own things! How do they dwindle into insignificance when contrasted with these! Shall we prefer a little ease, a little worldly interest or indulgence, a little praise or commendation from poor fellow mortals like ourselves–to the glory of God, and the honor of the Redeemer? For these are the only things which can come into competition with the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

Take the things which are supposed to be of the greatest importance to mankind — the rise and fall of empires — the revolutions of states and kingdoms — the civil and political interests of the great bodies which divide the inhabitants of the globe. These, it will readily be granted, are justly entitled to regard, since they involve the temporal comfort and prosperity of thousands and millions of our fellow creatures. But bring them into competition with the things which are Jesus Christ’s, and what is their amount? Except in so far as they are connected with the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, of the increase and peace of which there shall be no end (Isa. 9:7)–they will be found, comparatively speaking, light as a feather, and insignificant as the small dust upon the balance. The salvation of a single soul is an event of greater importance than the conquest of a kingdom!

The humble self-denied followers of the Lamb, who are willing to hazard their lives for the sake of Christ and immortal souls, are far more worthy of being enrolled in the annals of fame — I will not say, than the Caesars and Alexanders, who have deluged the world with blood, whose memory is fitted to excite abhorrence, rather than applause — but than the most renowned patriots, or illustrious benefactors of the human race, who have promoted, in the highest degree, the temporal interests of their fellow creatures. Little as the preaching of the gospel and the effects produced by it are regarded by many, it is followed with consequences infinitely more momentous than those which arise from the deliberations of senates, or the decrees of princes.

And are Christians, then, the only men who are justified in the indulgence of sloth? Are all others active and diligent in promoting, in different ways, what they conceive to be their interest, while those who call themselves disciples of Christ are careless and indifferent about the honor of their Master and the success of his glorious gospel! How true the saying of our blessed Lord, ‘The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light!’ (Luke 16:8) Let us blush for shame that we, who profess to have such superior objects in view, should be so far outstripped in activity and zeal by the votaries of Mammon, who aim at nothing higher than the attainment of blessings which perish with the using.

2. Gratitude to the Redeemer for the inestimable benefits he has procured for us, should excite us to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s in preference to our own. Even Christ, we are told, ‘pleased not himself’ (Rom. 15:3). He sought not his own things, but the glory of his heavenly Father, and the happiness of his people. He ‘became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich’ (II Cor. 8:9): he emptied himself of his glory, though possessed of all the fullness of the Godhead, took upon him the degraded form of a servant, submitted to shame and sufferings, and death itself, that he might deliver us from endless inconceivable misery, and raise us to the possession of immortal glory and blessedness. In this view, how astonishing is the history of Christ’s personal ministry! Well might it be said of him, that the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up (John 2:17); for it was his food and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father, and to finish his work (John 4:34).

Often did he deny himself the ordinary refreshments of nature, that he might be serviceable to the souls of men. Upon one occasion, when faint and weary, he sat on Jacob’s well, and asked of the woman of Samaria a little water to quench his thirst; denied, as he was at first, this trifling blessing, he seems, from the conversation that follows, to have forgotten his thirst in his ardent concern for the salvation of this poor woman’s soul (John 4:9-26). And once and again we read of his retiring to a mountain to pray, and spending whole nights in prayer, after having employed the day in public instruction and acts of beneficence (Mark 6:40, Luke 6:12).

What a pattern to his followers! And how powerful a motive likewise to deny ourselves for him, who, for our sakes, labored, and watched, and wept, and prayed, and at last shed his precious blood! How poor the returns which we can possibly make for his marvelous love to us! But surely, if one spark of gratitude remain in our breasts, we cannot fail to judge with the apostle, that “Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

We must be irresistibly led by this endearing consideration to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s, accounting the honor of his name, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, of infinitely greater consequence, and far more desirable than any little separate interest of our own. Said the captive Jews in Babylon, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!” (Psalm 137:4-6). In like manner will the pious Christian say, “If ever I forget your dying love, O bleeding Immanuel! if ever I lose the sense of my infinite obligations to your matchless grace, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth! Sooner let me die than not live to you; sooner let me lose the powers of my rational nature, than fail to employ them in your service. Henceforth your glory shall be my constant aim; your will my only rule; and the advancement of your kingdom, in the particular station in which they providence has placed me, the great business of my life.”

Nourish, my Christian friends, such sentiments as these. Muse upon the great things which God has done for your souls, until the fire of divine love burn within you, and you feel yourselves constrained to say, “Lord, what will you have us to do — to be — or to suffer? We are ready, through your all-powerful grace assisting us, not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13). We are ready to renounce kindred, country, friends, comforts — everything, in short, which the world holds dear, at the command of him whose we are, and to whom we owe our everlasting all. Only let the grace of Christ be sufficient, and his strength made perfect in our weakness, and love will make pain easy, and labor delightful.”

3. To animate us to the exercise of pure and unselfish zeal, let us recall to our minds the example of the best and holiest men who have lived in past ages.

“All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” And too much cause has there been for the same complaint in every period of the church. But, blessed be God, there have been and still are many noble examples of the contrary spirit. The Lord has not lacked faithful witnesses to his truth, from the earliest ages of the world through all succeeding generations to the present times. But in none was this blessed temper ever more conspicuous, than in Paul himself, the apostle whose words we are now considering. How ardent and unselfish was the zeal of this great apostle, for the honor of his Master! From the time that his Lord met him on his way to Damascus, to the close of his life, a period of more than thirty years, his whole soul was engaged in devising and carrying into execution schemes for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. Sometimes the apostle met with ungrateful returns from those whose best interests he labored to promote; but even ingratitude itself could not damp the generous ardor of his love. Speaking to the Corinthians, he says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Corinthians 12:15)

In the prosecution of this arduous work, the apostle was sometimes exposed to incredible dangers and hardships. But none of these things moved him, neither did he count his life dear to himself, that he might finish his course with joy. Yes, says he (Phil. 2:17), and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.

4. In the fourth and last place, Let a regard to our own best and eternal interests determine us to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s in preference to our own. This, at first view, may appear paradoxical, that we should be exhorted to consult our own interest by seeming to overlook and neglect it. But this difficulty vanishes at once if we recollect that the highest interest of man is the salvation of his immortal soul, which forms a part of the things which are Jesus Christ’s, and that even with regard to our temporal interest, if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all other things, which are truly good and necessary for us, will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). This seems to be the import of our Lord’s gracious promise,”I assure you: There is no one who has left a house, wife or brothers, parents or children because of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more at this time, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Luke 18:29-30)

If we simply follow the Lord in the path of duty, devoting our time and talents to his service and glory, and minding the interest of his kingdom above every other concern, the power and promise of God are engaged for our temporal support. We may be brought into difficult and trying circumstances — former friends may frown, or forsake us — adverse dispensations of providence may add to our perplexity and distress — the cruse of oil, and barrel of meal may be nearly exhausted, and the means of future supply may seem to be cut off; but those who fear the Lord shall not lack anything that is good. Sooner will the Lord open windows in heaven than allow any of his children to be utterly forsaken. And though, for the sake of Christ and a good conscience, they may be sometimes called to abandon the dearest earthly comforts — to take, not only the confiscation of their goods, but what is much harder to bear, the loss of their good name; — though they may be hated, reviled, and persecuted for Christ’s sake — yet the Lord, who has the hearts of all in his hands, can, in ten thousand ways, restrain the wrath of their enemies. Or, if he allows it in any measure to break forth, he can, by his wonder-working wisdom, render it subservient to their greater good. In every case, and at all events, it shall be well with the righteous (Isa. 3:10). They shall receive manifold more in the present time — a well-grounded sense of the divine favor — peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ — fellowship with him in the ordinances of his grace — the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — the testimony of an approving conscience — and a joyful reviving hope of heaven. These are sufficient to compensate the loss of all earthly comforts, and to preserve the soul steady and serene amidst the raging billows of adversity. Our compassionate Savior will be near to comfort us. His presence can cheer the gloom of solitude, remove the apprehension of danger, strengthen under the severest suffering, and overcome the dread of dying.

And no sooner shall our connection with things seen and temporal be dissolved, than we shall find in the world to come, life everlasting. Those who honor Christ, he will honor. Our seeming losses for his sake will then be found to be unutterable gain. “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3). Even a cup of cold water given to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall never lose its reward (Matt. 25:21). Our gracious Redeemer will not forget our work of faith and labor of love. His own infinite merit, it is true, will appear in that day to be the only ground of his people’s title to the heavenly inheritance; but the works which have been performed under the influence of his blessed Spirit, he will acknowledge and reward, not, indeed, as the cause of his love to them, but as the evidence of their love to him. The basest and most despised of his humble followers he will welcome into his blissful presence with those transporting words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!’ (Matt. 25:21).

Animated by these glorious hopes, beloved, seek not great things for yourselves, but seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s. Be diligent that you be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless at his coming. Occupy your talents until your Lord come. Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord–for you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (Jer. 45:5, II Pet. 3:14, Luke 19:13, I Cor. 15:58.)

The Meaning of “Kosmos” in John 3:16

Arthur W. Pink writes:

Many people suppose they already know the simple meaning of John 3:16, and therefore they conclude that no diligent study is required of them to discover the precise teaching of this verse. Needless to say, such an attitude shuts out any further light which they otherwise might obtain on the passage. Yet, if anyone will take a Concordance and read carefully the various passages in which the term “world” (as a translation of “kosmos”) occurs, he will quickly perceive that to ascertain the precise meaning of, the word “world” in any given passage is not nearly so easy as is popularly supposed. The word “kosmos,” and its English equivalent “world,” is not used with a uniform significance in the New Testament. Very far from it. It is used in quite a number of different ways. Below we will refer to a few passages where this term occurs, suggesting a tentative definition in each case:

“Kosmos” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17:24 – “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.

“Kosmos” is used of the earth: John 13:1; Ephesians 1:4, etc., etc.- “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” “Depart out of this world” signifies, leave this earth. “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This expression signifies, before the earth was founded, compare Job 38:4 etc.

“Kosmos” is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out” compare Matthew 4:8 and 1 John 5:19, R. V.

“Kosmos” is used of the whole human race: Romans 3:19, etc. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

“Kosmos” is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Romans 3:6 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not “hate” Christ, so that “the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where “the world” cannot mean “you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be “judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

“Kosmos” is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Romans 11:12 etc. “Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fulness.” Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, “the world” cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

“Kosmos” is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of “the world” in each place.

Thus it will be seen that “kosmos” has at least seven clearly defined different meanings in the New Testament. It may be asked, Has then God used a word thus to confuse and confound those who read the Scriptures? We answer, No! nor has He written His Word for lazy people who are too dilatory, or too busy with the things of this world, or, like Martha, so much occupied with “serving,” they have no time and no heart to “search” and “study” Holy Writ! Should it be asked further, But how is a searcher of the Scriptures to know which of the above meanings the term “world” has in any given passage? The answer is: This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of “the world” in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied. The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to “give” His only begotten Son, and that was His great “love;” the second clause informs us for whom God “gave” His Son, and that is for, “whosoever (or, better, every one) believeth;” while the last clause makes known why God “gave” His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth “should not perish but have everlasting life.” That “the world” in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from “the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God’s “love.” “God commendeth His love toward US” the saints, Romans 5:8. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” every son, Hebrews 12:6. “We love Him, because He first loved US” believers, 1 John 4:19. The wicked God “pities” (see Matt. 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is “kind” (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures “with much long-suffering” (see Rom. 9:22). But “His own” God “loves“!

Repent or Perish

Here is a short read from Arthur. W. Pink (1886-1952):

These were the words of the incarnate Son of God. They have never been cancelled; nor will they be as long as this world lasts. Repentance is absolute and necessary if the sinner is to make peace with God (Isa. 27:5), for repentance is the throwing down the weapons of rebellion against Him. Repentance does not save, yet no sinner ever was or ever will be saved without it. None but Christ saves, but an impenitent heart cannot receive Him.

A sinner cannot truly believe until he repents. This is clear from the words of Christ concerning His forerunner, “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:32). It is also evident from His clarion call in Mark 1:15, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” This is why the apostle Paul testified “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Make no mistake on this point dear reader, God “now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

In requiring repentance from us, God is pressing His righteous claims upon us. He is infinitely worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience. This we have wickedly denied Him. Both an acknowledgement and amendment of this is required from us. Our disaffection for Him and our rebellion against Him are to be owned and made an end of. Thus repentance is a heartfelt realization of how dreadfully I have failed, all through my life, to give God His rightful place in my heart and daily walk.

The righteousness of God’s demand for my repentance is evident if we consider the heinous nature of sin. Sin is a renouncing of Him who made me. It is refusing Him His right to govern me. It is the determination to please myself; thus, it is rebellion against the Almighty. Sin is spiritual lawlessness, and utter disregard for God’s authority. It is saying in my heart: I care not what God requires, I am going to have my own way; I care not what be God’s claim upon me, I am going to be lord over myself. Reader, do you realize that this is how you have lived?

Now true repentance issues from a realization in the heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of Him who made me, of defying His authority. It is therefore a holy hatred and horror of sin, a deep sorrow for it, and acknowledgement of it before God, and a complete heart-forsaking of it. Not until this is done will God pardon us. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

In true repentance the heart turns to God and acknowledges My heart has been set upon a vain world, which could not meet the needs of my soul; I forsook Thee, the fountain of living waters, and turned unto broken cisterns which held none: I now own and bewail my folly. But more, it says: I have been a disloyal and rebellious creature, but I will be so no longer. I now desire and determine with all my might to serve and obey Thee as my only Lord. I betake myself to Thee as my present and everlasting Portion.

Reader, be you a professing Christian or no, it is repent or perish. For every one of us, church members or otherwise, it is either turn Or burn; turn from your course of self-will and self-pleasing; turn in brokenness of heart to God, seeking His mercy in Christ; turn with full purpose of heart to please and serve him: or be tormented day and night, for ever and ever, in the Lake of Fire. Which shall it be? Oh, get down on your knees right now and beg God to give you the spirit of true repentance.

“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor 7:10).

They Still Speak

Jonathan EdwardsHave you tasted and seen that the Lord is good?

Have you, when you have thus been emptied of yourself and weaned from this vain world, found a better good?

Have you had those discoveries of Christ, or that sense of his excellency or sufficiency and wonderful grace, that has refreshed and rejoiced your heart, and revived it as it were out of the dust, and caused hope and your comfort to spring forth like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain?

Has there been light let into your soul, as the light of the sun pleasantly breaking forth out of the cloud after a dreadful storm, or as the sweet dawning of the light of the morning after long wandering in a dark night, or the bright and beautiful day star arising with refreshing beams?

Have you had that divine comfort that has seemed to heal your soul and put life and strength into you and given you peace after trouble and rest after labor and pain?

Have you tasted that spiritual food, that bread from heaven, that is so sweet and so satisfying, so much better than the richest earthly dainties?

Have you felt something of the divine comfort and peace, which can’t be expressed and which passes all understanding?

Have you tasted that in Christ that has turned the stream of your affections that way and filled you with longings after more of him?

–Jonathan Edwards, “Like Rain Upon Mown Grass,” in Works, Yale ed., 22:315