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

Assurance

PrayerMy brother in Christ, and new friend, Slimjim, over at The Domain For Truth has finished up his series on assurance.  It is a 10 part series and well worth looking at since most who call themselves “Christian” know so very little about this topic.  What is amazing to me is the fact that assurance is so obvious.  Just open your Bible to John 3:16 and it literally begs to be noticed.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Please understand that I am not going to make an entire theological statement on this verse.  I am convinced that many people take it way out of context, but I do want to look at one part of it.  Take a look at the last 3 words and follow along.  “Have” is something you possess.  It is something you received in the past.  “Eternal Life” is, well, eternal.  If’n you can’t figure out what the meaning of “eternal” is, please consult a dictionary.  So, when you put that together, you “HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.”  But, one other thing I want to bring out is the fact that you have eternal life whether you are a Christian or not.  We are born into “eternity,” I like to say.  One form of that eternal life is in Christ, which leads to heaven, the other form of eternal life is outside of Christ and that leads to hell.  Either way, it is eternal, never ending, always ongoing.

My hope and prayer is that you will read through the links I have posted below and first, come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of your heart.  Or, if you are already a Christian, that your faith will be strengthened and the assurance that is given to us will be more evident to you.

Here are the links to the 10 part series:

Assurance of Salvation Part 1: Why study on the topic of Christian assurance?

Assurance of Salvation Part 2: Foundation for Perseverance of the Saints

Assurance of Salvation Part 3: Perseverance means a Believer Endure

Assurance of Salvation Part 4: Objections to Perseverance of the Saints

Assurance of Salvation Part 5: Christians can Know that they are saved

Assurance of Salvation Part 6: Do you understand the Gospel?

Assurance of Salvation Part 7: Questions to examine ourselves Part 1

Assurance of Salvation Part 8: Questions to examine ourselves Part 2

Assurance of Salvation Part 9: Four kinds of people and the result of our testing in the faith

Assurance of Salvation Appendix: Test your faith Survey Questions List

Do You Know What Your Missionaries Actually Teach?

I read this earlier today and could not agree any more.  My wife is Peruvian by birth and her parents were missionaries in Huancayo, Peru for many years, so I have a personal connection to the country and can relate to the following article, which can be found here.

Stop sending prosperity-preaching missionaries to the jungles of Peru. They’re killing the villages here. Your missionaries are spending tens of thousands of dollars, traveling across land and sea, invading and settling into new cultures, and it’s all for nothing. They’re doing more harm than good.

Your short-term and long-term missionaries are bringing death to Peru in the form of the prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings. Men and women are coming down here and telling these people that they’re poor because of sin and doubt. They’re telling the people to speak positive and claim success and health. These missionaries are telling people that they can be rich and live like the patriarchs of the Bible, blessed by the hand of God because of their faith and unshakable holiness.

Do you know how these people are living? They’re drinking river water that is forty percent mud and one hundred percent laden with parasites. They’re living on bananas and roots. It’s a two-day boat ride to the nearest doctor, and the great majority of these people can’t afford boat tickets. Nor can they afford the doctor visit if they could manage to get there. These people have Bibles that they don’t understand because many of them can’t read, and they are isolated from anything that even remotely resembles theological training.

And here you are, Deacon of Missions, and you’ve just agreed to sponsor missionary “X.” Have you talked with him about where he stands doctrinally? Does he believe the prosperity gospel? Is he sympathetic to it? Is he able to rightly divide the word of truth? Is he one approved by a local church that really believes in 2 Timothy 2:15? This person is about to travel the world to make a disciple. Do you know if that’s going to be a good thing, or something to be mourned (Matt 23:15)?

This guy has a great slideshow presentation, a firm handshake, and he can hold the room like a professional. You decide to help him get to the jungles of Peru. As soon as his boots hit the ground he’s doing a whole bunch of stuff that will look great in his newsletters. Toys for the kids. A new short-term missions team is coming down every month. Buildings are being built, Bibles are being given away, and the slide show reel is growing every day.

Oh, by the way, he’s preaching a false gospel. He’s hurting people eternally. He’s doing all kinds of cool, fun, and really Christian stuff for the few hundred people living in this village. But he’s hurting them. In eternal perspective, he is guiding them along the path to nothing but pain and sadness. And he’s able to do it because you send him a big fat check every month. You’re responsible.

Of course, it’s not all your fault, but you are responsible for what you do with your money. Stewardship is the word typically used here. You are accountable for the way you spend that money. You pool those resources, and you are using it to send a false prophet to the jungles of Peru. Or to the caves of Pakistan. Or to the desserts of western Africa.

America is exporting a false gospel that is putting people on the A Train to an eternity of suffering, and you are part of the problem. Stop it. Stop sending wolves in sheep’s clothing. Stop supporting them. Exercise discernment. You’ve supported over two hundred missionaries in the last fourteen years? Great! But what if fifty of them have been ravaging the people you sent them to?

Of course, many churches are careful and discerning about which missionaries they support. I’m grateful for them and I pray God would raise up many more. If that’s your church, pray that God would keep you vigilant. And pray that your sister churches would have the courage and conviction to send prosperity-preaching missionaries to the bench instead of the field.

This isn’t hypothetical. I’ve seen it. In my short time here in the jungles of Peru, I have seen case after case of “Who told this guy he could be a missionary?” I’ve seen the people hurt. I’ve seen the churches hurt. I’ve seen the smiles turn to frowns and the tears of joy turn into tears of pain. I’ve had to rebuke and fight to crowd out the false gospel with the true and beautiful one. I never imagined that our team’s greatest struggle would be fighting to undo all the damage done by other missionaries.

To be honest, “Jesus never promised to make us rich, he promised us he would save us from our sin, and that’s enough!” doesn’t really have the same ring to it. It’s hard to get people to rally around that after they’ve been sold a stadium worth of fool’s gold.

Maybe you’re sitting there with your arms crossed, feeling assured that I’m not talking to you. Your church is reformed. It’s gotta be “those guys” who are responsible for this, right?

Wrong. It’s not just mainline or Pentecostal or word-of-faith or evangellyfish churches that are responsible for this. It’s reformed churches, too. To borrow something from one of my teammates: “That church is reformed, but many of their members feel just as comfortable listening to Joel Osteen as to John MacArthur.” It’s not just “them.” Reformed churches are allowing these teachings to exist within their own four walls, and they are also supporting missionaries who believe and teach such things.

Missions exists because we want to see people eternally happy in the presence of God forever. Let that be your guiding light. Are the people you support working for that? Are they going to help people be eternally happy in Christ? If not, let me encourage you to gently and humbly refuse to support them. Remember, your faithfulness to the Great Commission will not be measured by dollars spent, Bibles given, or hands raised at an altar call. The measure of faithfulness will be an eternal one.

The gospel is beautiful, brothers. It’s the only hope any of us have. Please treat it that way. Love it, protect it, and guard it. And for the love of all things good and holy, please stop sending missionaries to my backyard if they don’t.

Bethlehem Wasn’t the Beginning

By David Burnette:

nativity-scene1As you reflect on the significance of Christ’s coming this Christmas, allow me to make one suggestion that may actually add to your holiday cheer: Don’t begin in Bethlehem. That may sound scrooge-like, but hear me out.

Bethlehem looms large in our minds during Christmas, and rightfully so. The prophet Micah had predicted centuries earlier that a ruler would hail from this obscure town (Mic 5:2). As King David’s birthplace, Bethlehem would also be the scene of the Messiah’s birth. In that sense, it’s difficult not to think of Bethlehem this time of year.  That’s fine, but don’t forget that the Christmas story was set in motion long before the nativity scene.

Bethlehem wasn’t the beginning.

Jesus spoke of the glory he had with the Father “before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). As the Second Person of the Trinity, He was in communion with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity. We’re even told that the world was created through Him (Jn 1:1; Col 1:16). To be sure, He took on flesh at a point in time, but His role in God’s plan of redemption did not begin in a manger in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago. Christ was not thrust on the scene unexpectedly. Out of His own free grace He set His sights on rebellious sinners like you and me before the foundation of the world. The eternal Word became flesh for us and for our salvation (Jn 1:14). This is the infinite grace of the Incarnation. And the nativity scene was our first glimpse.

As you reflect on Christ’s birth this Christmas and as you talk about it with others, be sure to include the little town of Bethlehem. But don’t start there: go back, much further back, and marvel at the One who planned the nativity scene from the beginning in order to rescue us from the judgment we deserve. Marvel at the grace of the Son of God who, as Paul says, “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Give thanks that in those dark streets of Bethlehem shone the Everlasting Light.

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.)

What is Man?

Paul WasherI recently had the opportunity to listen to two sermons by Paul Washer on the book of Ephesians.  As usual, they have challenged me to rethink how I think about God and who He is.  I’ve included a partial transcript I made of the second sermon.  I’ve included the audio files of both sermons and you can listen to them by clicking on the links provided at the bottom of this page.

From Ephesians 1, Part 2:

When does God get scandalous for man?  When does God become scandalous for man?  When we talk about His love? No.  When we talk about His mercy? No.  When do people get angry when we talk about God?  When we talk about His righteousness.  Now think about that.  When you say that God is righteous, men get angry.  Now why would men get angry at the idea of a righteous God?  Because man is not righteous.

What is the great scandal about the Law of God?  When I’m speaking, especially at universities, I hear people say all the time – “I don’t want to hear about the Law of God!”  “Why, I ask?”  “Because it suppresses me, it oppresses me and holds me down.”  I had a student actually stand up and say that one time.  I asked him, in front of the entire audience, please explain to me which law is oppressive?  Which one do you hate?  Is it ‘love your neighbor as yourself?’  Is it ‘you shall not lie or bare false witness?’  Is it ‘you shall not commit adultery and steal another mans wife or that you should not reduce another human being to an object to be used for your sexual pleasure?’  Exactly which law is it that oppresses you  and if God’s law does oppress you, then what does that say about you?

You see, the reason why men are hostile towards God is this, God is good, and men are not.  When we talk about this mass of humanity we are talking about a mass of people given over to corruption, hostile towards God and hostile towards His law.  But also we are talking about a humanity that loves evil and refuses reconciliation.  Now think about that, a humanity that not just loves evil, but a humanity that refuses reconciliation. 

Humanity cannot come to God.  Men cannot come to God on their own.  When I say that people respond, “Well, if men cannot come to God on their own, then God is wrong in judging them in the same way we would be wrong for judging a man who was blind for not being able to read a sign on the road.  What do you mean, man cannot come to God?”  I mean that because Jesus said that. But what is the explanation and why is such a man held guilty?  Man cannot come to God because man will not come to God and he will not come to God because he hates Him.  He hates Him because He is good.

Have you ever seen an old lady whose face is etched with bitterness and you say to her, “Ma’am, you must forgive your husband.”  She responds, “I cannot forgive him.”  Now, she speaks the same language as her husband and they live in the same house.  She is not saying she cannot, she is saying she will not and why will she not?  Because of her hostility towards her husband.

What about a political prisoner who is in chains?  The king comes down to the dungeon and says, “I will throw open the door, all you have to do is bow your knee to me and acknowledge my sovereignty.”  The prisoner leaps up, grabs the door, slams it closed and says “I would rather rot in prison than bow my knee to you.”

That is man.

Jesus said this in John 3:19-20:

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

Light came into the world.  I’m always hearing people say that if the believers would just live like Jesus then people would be converted.  No, you would have a lot of believers crucified.  Jesus came into the world and what did the world do?  They crucified him!  Why?  He gives us the reason: 

…that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Jesus said in John 6:44:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

In John 6:65:

And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

I want to read a paragraph that I have written here in my notes to make myself as clear as possible.

When the scriptures speak about election, it is not in the context of a mass of humanity victimized by the devil, that wants to be saved, but lacks the faculties to do so.  That is the way, a lot of times, men are presented; victims.  No that is not the context.  The context is this.  It is in the context of a mass of humanity that is morally corrupt, hostile towards God, that rejects every offer of redemption and that would rather spend an eternity given over to corruption and the misery’s of hell than to be subject to God in heaven.

One of the reasons why certain people have so much difficulty with election and they have so much difficulty with hell is because they think man is good, that there is something good in man that wants God.  There is a little spark, there is a little something, there’s got to be some goodness in there somewhere.  Therefore they say hell is immoral, how could God throw man in hell?  What you need to understand is that that is not true.  Hell is moral because man is immoral.  The only reason they may look a little moral in the context of present society is because the grace of God is restraining their evil.  But if God where to pull back, man would become monsters of iniquity.  So every time you see some vile crime that comes out on the local news, or some atrocity committed by some government that is beyond the mind to comprehend, realize that that is you apart from the grace of God.

Ephesians 1, Part 1

Ephesians 1, Part 2

Augustine on the Trinity

300px-Augustine_of_HippoThere are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and each is God, and at the same time all are one God; and each of them is a full substance, and at the same time all are one substance.  The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.  But the Father is the Father uniquely; the Son is the Son uniquely; and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit uniquely.  All three have the same eternity, the same immutability, the same majesty, and the same power.

What Shall It Profit A Man?

This was originally posted at Knowing the Time by Laura Marvin.  I have re-posted it here because there is so much truth to this.

What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37)

One moment spent in fellowship with Jesus Christ is worth much more than a million years spent in the pursuit and pleasures of this dying world. How much better to live for eternity! Jesus himself asked, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37) Men and women everywhere need to soberly reflect upon this question.

How many of us have our whole focus centered on this life, Continue reading