Melchizedek – A Sermon By Todd Bordow

Have you ever been in a situation where someone or something wears you down to the point of giving in; a situation where someone pushes you and pushes you and pushes you; you know you shouldn’t give in, but you begin feeling the weight of the constant pressure; you feel like giving in just to relieve that pressure?

If you have ever felt that way, then you know how the Christians in Rome were feeling at the time the Book of Hebrews was written. The Book of Hebrews was written to believers who were beginning to cave in from the unceasing pressure of being Christians. Surprisingly, the most relentless pressure was not coming from the Roman authorities, but from the Jewish community.

The Romans had always considered the Christian church a sect within Judaism, so they cared little about the church’s differences with the Jews when it began. But the Jews were greatly offended at these Christians and what they were claiming.

The newly formed Christian church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, had the audacity to claim that they were the true descendants of Abraham; they were the true Israel! Even more, they had the audacity to claim that they were the ones who understood the Old Testament, while the unbelieving Jews were blind to its meaning. Imagine a bunch of white Americans in Iran claiming that they were the true Muslims; that they were the ones who truly understood the Koran. Do you think they would be in trouble?

The Jews attacked the Christians on two fronts; politically and intellectually. Politically the Jews were appealing to the Roman authorities; accusing the Christians of not being a sect of Judaism, but a dangerous cult that must be persecuted. The Romans, not wanting to upset the Jews, began putting Christians in jail and taking away their property. Even so, the young Christians did not give in; they joyfully accepted their plight, considering it a badge of honor to suffer for the Lord.

But the pressure kept coming. Compounding the political pressure was the relentless intellectual attacks. The Jews were constantly challenging the Christians about their claim to be Abraham’s children, as well as other challenges. How can you Christians claim God is with you in your little upper room worship services, when we Jews worship at the glorious temple in Jerusalem, as the Bible commands? How can you Christians claim to be Abraham’s children, when most of you men have not even received circumcision, as was required of all Abraham’s male descendants?

After a while the pressure got to these new believers. They were tired and weak; some of the Jewish arguments began to sound convincing. The Book of Hebrews was written to these beleaguered Christians ready to throw in the towel. Some of those believers had stopped attending worship because of the pressure; others were beginning to say, “Maybe the Jews are right; maybe we should just join the synagogue and be done with it.”

One of the Jewish challenges that seemed to have struck a cord among the Christians was the challenge to their claim that Jesus Christ was a priest. Not only was he a priest, said the Christians, he was the true and final high priest who eternally represents us before God, which means the entire Old Testament priestly system had been abolished.

The Jews had what seemed to be a powerful argument.  You Christians say you believe the Old Testament; and you say that Jesus was the final priest. But according to the Old Testament, only the sons of Levi were allowed to be priests. Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi; he was from the tribe of Judah. Therefore Jesus cannot be a priest according to the Old Testament, which you claim to believe.  The Book of Hebrews arrived just at the right time. The inspired author was well aware of this Jewish challenge to the faith, so in chapter 7 he addresses this specific challenge from the Jews.

It is true, Christ was not from the tribe of Levi, and it is true, the Mosaic Law required priests to be from Levi. But Christ was a priest according to a higher order than Levi, the order of Melchizedek. This argument the Jews would not have expected; after all, Melchizedeck appears so briefly on the pages of Scripture.

But the Christians were not to overlook the significance of this brief appearance in Genesis 14 of Melchizedeck. While the Levitical priests of Israel typified, or pictured, the eternal priesthood of Jesus, there was one man in Scripture who even more pictured the priesthood of Jesus, and that man was Melchizedek. The inspired author then lists the different ways Melchizedeck was a greater priest than the Levitical priests.

For example, when Melchizedek met Abraham as Abraham was returning from his military victory, Abraham honored Melchizedeck as one greater than himself. Moses never honored Aaron the priest as greater than himself. But Abraham gave a tenth of all his spoils to Melchizedek.

And consider his name; Melchizedeck, king of Salem. The word, “Melchizedek” means, “king of righteousness,” and Salem means “peace.”  What Levitical priest was ever called a king of righteousness and peace? More than all the Jewish priests, this Gentile priest pictured Jesus who also was a king; a king who conferred righteousness and peace to his people.

And consider Melchizedek’s pedigree; v. 3. What family did Melchizedeck come from that legitimatized his ordination as a priest? The Bible does not give his pedigree. He just appears out of nowhere. If you were going to be a priest in Israel you needed to prove you were from the Tribe of Levi. But Genesis says nothing about Melchizedek’s father, or mother, or family lineage. In this sense he resembles the Son of God, who came down from heaven without any earthly pedigree as priest, but was anointed a priest by God himself.

It is not that Melchizedeck himself was a heavenly being, as some in the early church suggested, but Scripture purposely leaves out his earthly qualifications to be a priest to present him as a Christ figure with a higher authority than the Levitical priests.

In vv. 4-9, the author of Hebrews dares suggest that when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, all Israel was represented in Abraham, thus all Israelites, including all the Jewish priests to come, were honoring Melchizedek as greater than they. The Jews certainly wouldn’t have been thrilled with that suggestion.

Even more, there is that one verse in Psalm 110. In Psalm 110 the Lord promised to raise up an eternal priest for his people, and that priest would not be from the family of Levi, but one like Melchizedeck. If the one like Melchizedeck has indeed come, then there is no more need for the priestly system of Moses.

In a few brief verses from Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, the inspired author completely destroys the Jews’ argument that Jesus, because he was not descended from Levi, cannot be a true priest that can represent us before God. At the same time, the Christians are encouraged at how the Lord Jesus fulfills all the Old Testament Scriptures.

Let me close with two points about this text. The theologians of the first four centuries are often criticized for their allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. Some of them were not sure what to do with Melchizedek, so they suggested he himself was Jesus Christ appearing briefly as a man. This is not a good interpretation, for Melchizedek could not be a type of Christ if he himself was Christ. But modern Christians too quickly dismiss these theologians of the early church, almost laughing them off.

While you may not agree with all their conclusions, you must understand the convictions driving them. If you do, you will have far more appreciation for their contributions. You see, the theologians of the first few centuries were convinced that the entire Bible, not just the New Testament, was about Jesus Christ and his gospel. If the inspired writer of Hebrews can get so much theology about Christ from a few obscure verses in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, then Christ must be everywhere.

Now, in their zeal to find Christ in the OT, they sometimes went too far; they tended to see types and allegories where they were none. But I would take their conviction of the Christ-centeredness of the Bible over all the moralistic sermons and teachings in our day from the Old Testament. The early church was so enraptured by the person of Christ that in their minds he must be the subject of every Scripture, to which we should give a hearty “amen.”

Which brings us to our final point. In the Book of Hebrews, you have the antidote to the pressure and temptation to cease walking with God. Wherever your pressure comes from, whether from another person, a difficult situation, or the inner turmoil of your soul, the Book of Hebrews presents one consistent answer to such temptation, and that answer is to consider the glory of Jesus Christ, your Savior. Consider Jesus.

Hebrews chapter 1; consider Jesus, who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature. Consider Jesus, adored and worshiped by the angels, he who had no beginning or end, who always was.

Chapter 2; consider Jesus, whose gospel is the final word from God, a word that secures judgment on all those who refuse its offer. Consider Jesus, who for our salvation was made lower than the angels, who was crowned with glory and honor when he rose from the dead; who partook of our flesh and blood that with divine sympathy he as our priest can intercede for us to a holy God.

Chapter 3; consider Jesus, who was greater than Moses; who through his work of redemption has secured for you the heavenly Sabbath rest promised from the beginning of creation.

Chapter 4; consider Jesus, whom all men will stand before on Judgment Day, whose piercing eyes will penetrate the consciences of all who do not trust in him, so that they will cry out in agony as the blinding light of Christ’s gaze pierces their souls and condemns their hearts.

Chapter 5; consider Jesus, who because of his perfect righteousness fulfilled the covenant of works for us; who is the source of eternal salvation to all who believe in him.

Chapter 6, consider Jesus; who will extract the most fierce vengeance upon those fake Christians who profess Christ but secretly live in unbelief, thinking they are safe.

Chapter 7; consider Jesus, who because he lives forever is the only one qualified to serve as our mediator between God and man; who through his own tears of suffering, obeyed every last command of God that he may grant you his perfect righteousness so you could be fit for glory.

Chapter 8: consider Jesus, who has abolished the old covenant and brought about a new covenant on more secure promises, a new covenant that unlike the old is unbreakable, so much so that if you are in Christ that even your sin cannot turn God away from his commitment to save you eternally.

Chapters 9&10: consider Jesus, whose blood did what all the blood of the sacrifices could never do; cleanse your conscience from dead works and make you alive to God; whose death once for all paid for every sin you ever committed or will commit; who abolished the Jewish temple because through faith in him you are received into God’s heavenly temple, in which the temple in Jerusalem was only a copy.

Chapter 12, consider Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who endured such hostility and pressure from sinners, more than you could experience in a million lifetimes, all for your salvation. And through faith in Jesus, wherever you gather to worship, you come to the heavenly Mt. Zion where the angels, and saints who have died, gather and worship. Remember that Jesus who you worship is a consuming fire, worthy of all reverence and awe.

And chapter 13; consider Jesus, our great shepherd, who by the blood of the eternal covenant equips you with everything good so that you can do his will; that which is pleasing in his sight, to whom be glory forever.

Congregation, when the pressure is on and you feel like compromising or giving in, consider Jesus.

 

Original can be found here.

Round Up

Using Discernment with Entertainment – Though we are in this world, we are not of this world (John 17:14-16). That means we can’t watch every movie, laugh at every joke on television, download every new music album, click on every online video, or visit every Internet page. Taking a stand for righteousness in your own life and family is not being legalistic. It’s being Christian.

Don’t Stain Glass the Bible – Lots of Christians have a habit of “stained glassing” Bible characters.  Sometimes it seems like pretty much anyone other than Jezebel and Judas Iscariot will get a free pass and find their actions vindicated by believers. The Bible is full of real people with real issues and real messy mixed up faith responses.

Divine Mathematics – If a person wants to maximize their life by living for the glory of God, then that person needs to be passionate about evangelism. If the Lord has saved you, he has saved you for a purpose: to live for the glory of God.

Weekly Highlights at Monergism – A list of links to some really good reformed articles.

Quote:

“In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn cup; long before the echoes awoke the solitudes; before the mountains were brought forth; and long before the light flashed through the sky, God loved His chosen creatures. Before there was any created being — when the ether was not fanned by an angel’s wing, when space itself had not an existence, where there was nothing save God alone — even then, in that loneliness of Deity, and in that deep quiet and profundity, His heart moved with love for His chosen. Their names were written on His heart, and then were they dear to His soul. Jesus loved His people before the foundation of the world — even from eternity! and when He called me by His grace, He said to me, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’” – Charles H. Spurgeon

What is Worldliness?

An edited extract from Mr Murray’s new book Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth).  The original post can be found here.

Iain_MurrayWorldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centred way of thinking; it proposes objectives which demand no radical breach with man’s fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a ‘fool for Christ’s sake’.

Worldliness is the mind-set of the unregenerate. It adopts idols and is at war with God. Because ‘the flesh’ still dwells in the Christian he is far from immune from being influenced by this dynamic.

It is of believers that it is said, ‘the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to another’ (Galatians 5:17). It is professing Christians who are asked, ‘Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?’ (James 4:4) and are commanded, ‘Do not love the world’, and ‘keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 2:15, 5:21).

Apostasy generally arises in the church just because this danger ceases to be observed. The consequence is that spiritual warfare gives way to spiritual pacifism, and, in the same spirit, the church devises ways to present the gospel which will neutralise any offence.

The antithesis between regenerate and unregenerate is passed over and it is supposed that the interests and ambitions of the unconverted can somehow be harnessed to win their approval for Christ. Then when this approach achieves ‘results’ – as it will – no more justification is thought to be needed. The rule of Scripture has given place to pragmatism.

Converted to the World

The apostolic statement, ‘For if I still pleased men, I would not be the servant of Christ’ (Galatians 1:10), has lost its meaning. No Christian deliberately gives way to the spirit of the world but we all may do so unwittingly and unconsciously.

That this has happened on a large scale in the later-twentieth century is to be seen in the way in which the interests and priorities of contemporary culture have come to be mirrored in the churches.

The antipathy to authority and to discipline; the cry for entertainment by the visual image rather than by the words of Scripture; the appeal of the spectacular; the rise of feminism; the readiness to identify power with numbers; the unwillingness to make ‘beliefs’ a matter 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.)

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Mike2The following is a sermon I listened to this morning on my way to work.  If you have ever wondered about sanctification, this sermon should give you much insight into God’s part in our sanctification and our part in it.  This sermon was preached by Mike Riccardi of Grace-Life Pulpit on the 19th of May, 2013.

Introduction

We love the doctrine of justification. Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther and the Reformation, we hail the doctrine of justification as that great doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. It is precious to us. We hold it dear to our hearts, because it captures the very essence of the Gospel of God’s grace to us sinners who know that we can do nothing to earn our acceptance with a holy God. We know that our only hope is to be reckoned righteous on the ground of the perfect, alien righteousness of Christ credited to our account by faith alone, apart from works. We love this doctrine because our goodness and our efforts and our achievements are debased, and Christ is exalted as all in all. 

And we also love the doctrine of glorification. We look forward with great joy, eagerness, and anticipation to that day when our struggle with sin will have reached its completion, when we will find the rest and the reward upon which we have steadfastly fixed our hope for all these years. It brings great encouragement and sweetness to our souls to contemplate the day when we will finally see our dear Lord Jesus face to face, when we will finally discover what it means to have unhindered fellowship and communion with the Savior whom we love more than anything or anyone—that day when we will enter in to the fullness of joy and the eternal pleasures that accompany being in His presence (cf. Ps 16:11). 

But sometimes the doctrine of sanctification doesn’t fill us with the same sense of wonder and appreciation. That may be because we are quickly reminded of how slowly we are progressing in the process of sanctification. To think of the doctrine of sanctification simply reminds us of what we ought to be but what we’re not. 

It also might be because there is a great deal of confusion about the doctrine of sanctification. Christians have long debated what the role of the believer is in progressive sanctification—whether we are to be actively engaged in and pursuing holiness, or whether we are to be passive, waiting faithfully for God to work holiness in us. You have folks, on the one hand, who say things like, “You just do everything you can and leave the rest to God,” as if you’re pretty alright on your own, you just need God to give you a little boost. These are the people with the bumper stickers that say, “God is my co-pilot.” If God is your co-pilot, you are in the wrong seat, my friend. Or sometimes you’ll hear, “Pray like a Calvinist, but work like an Arminian. Pray as if it all depended on God, but work as if it all depended on you.” I think I get what that means, but it’s never a good idea to pretend that something that’s false is true just to achieve a certain result. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a better recipe for disaster in your pursuit of holiness than to adopt errant theology as the basis for your philosophy of the Christian life. 

But on the other hand, you have the quietists who say things like, “Your problem is that you’re trying to live the Christian life. What you really need to do is let Christ live through you. You just need to let go and let God. Stop striving, and just relax.” And so confusion abounds, and in dozens of other ways. 

But if there’s one doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s because it’s where we all live. All of us who are Christians live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification, in the present pursuit of the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

Listen to the entire sermon by clicking the link below.

Spurgeon Thursday

 THE SOWER

NO. 2842

A SERMON

INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD’S-DAY, AUGUST 2, 1903.

DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON,

ON THURSDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 6, 1888.

Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” Matthew 13:3.

spurgeon5THIS was a very important  event. I do not say that it was important  if you took the individual case, alone—but  if you took the multitudes  of cases in which it was also true, it was overwhelmingly important in the aggregate—“A sower went forth to sow.” Yes, Christ thinks it worthwhile to mention that a single sower went forth to sow, that a Christian man went out to address a meeting on a village green, or to conduct a Bible class, or to speak anywhere for the Lord! But when you think of the hundreds of preachers of the Gospel who go out to sow every Lord’s-Day and the myriads of teachers who go to instruct the children in our Sunday schools, it is, surely, in the aggregate, the most important event under Heaven! You may omit, O recording angel, the fact that a warrior went forth to fight—it  is far more important that you should record that “a sower went forth to sow.” You may even forget that  a man of science went into his laboratory and made a discovery, for no discovery can equal in importance the usual processes of farming. Do you hear the song of the harvest home? Do you see the loaded wagons follow one another  in a long line to the farmer’s barn? If so, remember that there would be no harvest home if the sower went not forth to sow! As the flail is falling upon the wheat, or the threshing machine is making the grain to leap from among the chaff and the miller’s wheels are grinding merrily, and the women are kneading the dough, and the bread is set upon the table and parents and children are fed to the full, do not forget that all this could never happen unless “a sower went forth to sow.” On this action hinges the very life of man! Bread, which is the staff of his life, would be broken and taken from him—and his life could not continue did not a sower still go forth to sow! This seems to me to prove that the event recorded in our text is of prime importance  and deserves to be chronicled there.

And, dear Friends, the spiritual sowing stands in the same relation to the spiritual world that the natural sowing occupies in the natural  world! It is a most important thing that we should continually go forth to preach the Gospel. It may seem to some people a small matter that I should occupy this pulpit and I shall not lay any undue importance upon that fact—yet eternity may not exhaust all that shall result from the preaching of the Gospel here—there may be souls, plucked like brands from the burning, saved with an everlasting salvation, lamps lit by the Holy Spirit that shall shine like stars in the firmament of God forever and ever! Who knows, O Teacher, when you labor even among the infants, what the result of your teaching may be? Good corn may grow in very small fields. God may bless your simple words to the babes that listen to them. How know you, Continue reading

Spurgeon Thursday

 WHY SOME SEEKERS ARE NOT SAVED

NO. 2411

INTENDED  FOR READING ON LORD’S DAY, MAY 5, 1895.

DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON,

ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, MAY 8, 1887.

 “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”

Isaiah. 59:1, 2.

 THERE are some people who are not saved though  we would have expected that they would have been converted long ago. Our text explains the reason, so, without  any preface, let us come to it at once.

Young SpurgeonI. First, let us consider THE FACT CONFESSED! The people of whom I am especially thinking, just now, have been hearers of the Gospel, and diligent  hearers,  too. Their seat is seldom vacant and they are not among those who go to sleep during the sermon. They do not enjoy the Sunday after the fashion of the countryman, who said that he liked that day best because he could go to church, put up his feet, fall asleep and think of nothing at all. The people to whom I am referring really listen to what the preacher has to say. They are attentive  and they seek to retain in their memories the Truths of God he preaches. They even talk when they are at home of the striking passages, if such there are, in what they have heard. You would suppose that such persons would get a blessing from the Gospel, yet they do not.

They have now been listening for years to an earnest minister—they would not like to hear one who was not earnest. They have grown to be somewhat discriminating in their taste—they know what is the Gospel and they would not care to be present at a service in which the Gospel was not clearly set forth.  Yet, for all this, they are not saved! They stand out in the shower, yet they are not wet! They are like Gideon’s fleece, perfectly dry when all the ground  was saturated  with the dew. This is a strange circumstance, but, alas, by no means an uncommon one! We would not have thought  that there could be such people, but we are compelled to believe that there are, for we frequently stumble across them—people  who are often sitting under the sound of the Gospel, yet who never hear it with the ears of their heart! The light shines upon their  eyes, yet they do not see it, for thick scales seem to be there to hide from them the beams of the sun.

You will be, perhaps, still more surprised when I add that there are some people who go beyond hearing and yet are not saved. They have become men of prayer, after a fashion—are they not described in the chapter I read to you? [Exposition of Isaiah 58 at end of sermon—ED.]“Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinances of their God: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching God.” These people are in such a state of mind that if they went to their business without the repetition  of a form of prayer, they would be uneasy through the whole day! What is more, it is not merely a form of prayer—in  some cases there is a measure of life, desire and earnestness in their devotions. Only this morning, one of them sighed when the sermon was over and he said, “Oh, that I could be a friend of God!”

And a few Sunday nights ago, the one of whom I am speaking, when he reached his home, fell on his knees in his own private room and asked God to bless the Word to his soul. This same thing happened to him ten or even 20 years ago— he has often been stirred up and driven to his knees in prayer—yet  he has gone no further, but still remains, to his own consciousness, an undecided, hesitating  person, on the borders of the Kingdom of God, yet not in the Kingdom—almost persuaded, yet not fully persuaded to be a Christian! You know, dear Hearers, and I hardly need tell you, that a man who is almost honest is a rogue, and the man who is almost a Christian is not a Christian! There was a man who was almost saved in a fire, but he was Continue reading