Church SHOULD Be Boring!

I came across the following article and I could not agree more.  As one who walked away from the praise band of a “church” that prided itself on being exciting, relevant and progressive, I want to thank you, Todd Bordow, for saying what I have been thinking for a long time and what led me away from an “exciting” church to a church that does not coddle the goats, but feeds the sheep!

If the cross of Christ is foolishness to those perishing (I Cor. 1:18), shouldn’t a worship service be the most boring thing imaginable to those the Spirit is not bringing to Christ or has not already brought to Christ? Either the simple truths of the cross are glorious, or foolish; worth as much as the greatest treasure, or worthless for usefulness in everyday life. When churches try to make worship interesting, fun and relevant, are they not implicitly admitting that the cross of Christ needs help to excite people, that the gospel is really not enough? Admittedly preachers can boor genuine believers with poor organizational and communication skills, but churches should not try to change the message or simple medium of direct communication (preaching) to make the service any less “boring” to those who complain of such things, less they deny the heavenly power of the gospel to save and strengthen God’s people. When people complain about our services being too boring for them, whether they want more politics, social commentary, entertainment, or legalistic rules, that is not always a bad thing. It could be you are refusing to coddle them with earthly substitutes for heavenly manna, manna which only tastes delicious to those with eyes of faith. So hang in there – being boring isn’t always a bad thing!

Round Up

How To Identify False Teachers – In part 1, Denny Burk lists 6 traits of false teachers.

Without God, Without Hope – When I hear myself say things like “what is wrong with people these days?,” shake my head in disgust and marvel that human beings could be so rebellious, so foolish, so crass, so arrogant, it is a good sign that I am not remembering where I came from.

Divisiveness Vs. DiscernmentIf we are going to be discerning people, we must develop the skill of discriminating between truth and error, good and bad...So discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.

T4G Livestream – The Together for the Gospel Conference starts tomorrow.  Here is the livestream link.

Quote:

“Since God is truth, a contempt for truth is equally a contempt for God.”- Gordon H. Clark

Loosing Site of Sin

What follows is an article from The Banner of Truth Website and the original post can be found here.

I was reading recently some words of George Swinnock (a mid seventeenth century Puritan) that seemed (at least to me) to describe twenty-first century evangelical Christianity: “We take the size of sin too low, and short, and wrong, when we measure it by the wrong it doth to ourselves, or our families, or our neighbours, or the nation wherein we live; indeed, herein somewhat of its evil and mischief doth appear; but to take its full length and proportion, we must consider the wrong it doth to this great, this glorious, this incomparable God. Sin is incomparably malignant, because the God principally injured by it is incomparably excellent” (Works Vol.4.456, Banner of Truth). Swinnock, of course, is saying no more than the Bible itself says. The ultimate tragedy of sin is not that it spoils my life, disrupts my relationships, scars my world, but that it dishonours, defies, and disgraces my God!

This is a truth, a most basic and elementary truth, that our present generation has all but lost sight of. Sin, if it is mentioned at all, is conceived of almost wholly in self-referential terms. It is described in terms of its “psychological pains and its relational disruptions.” And truly sin does produce deep psychological pains and relational disruptions. The heart and horror of sin, however, is not its effect on me, but its effect on God, “the incomparably excellent” God. This is remarkably highlighted in Psalm 51:4: King David had been deeply convicted of his sin by conspiring to have Uriah murdered. And yet, when he comes to cry to God for mercy, David prays, “Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David is not denying his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, his own family, God’s Church. He is, however, telling himself, and us, that the true horror of sin is that it is against God. Sin’s ultimate tragedy can only be defined theologically, not psychologically nor relationally.

This is a truth the evangelical church needs to be reacquainted with in our day. We live in a self-referential culture. The Church, rightly, wants to minister the gospel of God’s grace and love into this culture. The ever present danger facing us is that we contour the Bible’s teaching on sin to suit the felt needs of this culture. This is what “Alpha” seeks to do. The initial concern of Alpha was laudable: How can we best reach the unchurched pagans in our society with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ? I, for one, deeply admire that desire, and am rebuked by it. But when you look carefully at Alpha, it basically seeks to present sin almost solely as a psychological, personal and social disrupter. And sin is such a disrupter. It is the root of all the evils in this world, personal and global. But until men and women are helped to see that the horror of sin is that it is against God, and makes you his enemy (Romans 5:10), Jesus Christ will never be seen for what he most essentially is, the One sent from God and by God to reconcile us to God, deliver us from the coming wrath, and fit us for eternal fellowship with God. The root of all our ills is our sin-ruptured relationship with the living God.

Many of the great theologians of the Christian Church have called sin “Deicidium,” literally “God murder!” Is that how you and I think of sin? We can so easily lose the felt sense, if not the theological fact, of the sinfulness of sin. If we do, we end up talking about sin in ways that sit easily with our culture. And, when we speak of sin only in self-referential and therapeutic terms, moral responsibility diminishes proportionately. Is there not an obvious connection between the loss of the theological dimension of sin and the moral collapse at the heart of professing evangelicalism?

Where does all this leave us? Not simply parroting what the Puritans preached four centuries ago. They were men of their times; they understood the times they lived in – and so must we. We must labour to speak relevantly into this culture. Paul’s address in Athens (Acts 17) is perhaps a model for us in many ways. We need to speak to people where they are, not where we would like them to be. We need to be less concerned with “success” and more concerned with “faithfulness.” We need to cultivate Paul’s confidence: “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” One of our great challenges is to commend the gospel relevantly without becoming gimmicky. This is easier said than done, but do it we must.

Where then do we start? With Sin? No. With God! Let me end, as I began, with some words from George Swinnock: “should this God of glory appear to thee…and show thee a glimpse of his excellent glory…should he discover to thee but a little of that greatness which the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain…of those perfections that know no bounds…what wouldst thou then think of Sin?” If we are to see sin for what it truly is, we must first come to see God as he truly is. And so Thomas Goodwin wrote, “if thou wouldst see what sin is, go to mount Calvary” – because there, we see God as he most truly is. The cross of Christ is the glory and the measure of everything.

Ian Hamilton

On 12th December at Westminster Chapel Ian Hamilton is speaking on “The Puritan Doctrine of Sin and the Wrath of God.”

Spurgeon Thursday

 MEN BEWITCHED

NO. 1546

 DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth,

before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently

set forth, crucified among you? Galatians 3:1.

 Spurgeon Pen & InkWITH very great enthusiasm the Galatians received the Gospel when Paul preached it to them. They seem to have been a very warm-hearted but fickle people and Paul found to his great grief that while he was away from them, certain false teachers came in and turned them aside from the Gospel which he had delivered to them. He spoke out very plainly about the matter. In this verse he uses very strong terms, while he says to them—“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” I do not know that any such witchery has fallen upon any of you, but I do know that, being men, we are all subject to the same dangers and I know, also, that there is a witchery in the very air at this time so that many are to be found throughout the Churches of this land to whom these words might be justly spoken.

We can only hope to escape this evil which Paul so severely condemns by the use of right cautionary means. It is only, in fact, as the Holy Spirit shall keep us that we shall be preserved from the fascinations of error and kept true to the grand old Gospel of the blessed God. At this time I shall very briefly speak, in the first place, upon the subtle danger which is hinted at here—“Who has bewitched you?” Secondly, at more length I shall speak upon the blessed preservative—there is no way of being kept from this witchery like having Christ Jesus, evidently crucified, set forth among us. And, thirdly, a few words, in closing, upon the supreme folly of any who, having tried this Divine preservative, nevertheless become bewitched by error.

I. First, then, let us think of THE SUBTLE DANGER which is always around us. It was hard work to preach the Gospel, at first, among the heathen. Men had to lay down their lives to do it. They had to propound new things which the heathen mind did not readily receive. But, by the power of the Spirit of God, converts were made and Churches were formed. And now came another difficulty. Even those that were converted, or appeared to be so, became suddenly, as it were, bewitched with error of one kind or another, just as in families children are suddenly taken ill with certain complaints which seem incidental to childhood. If parents had never heard of such things before, they would be astonished! They would suppose that they must lose their children when such unaccountable diseases suddenly appeared in them and yet they survive.

In the family of Christ certain epidemics break out at times. We cannot tell why they come when they do and, at first, perhaps, we are puzzled and perplexed to think that such diseases should come at all. But they do come and, therefore, it is well to be on our guard against them. Paul calls it being bewitched because these people fell into strange error—error which had no argument to back it—error surprising and startling. He seems to say, “I cannot make it out. I cannot understand how you should be thus misled.” In Paul’s day the error was Continue reading

Daily Roundup

Sermons Are Not For Liking – Sermons are for listening, they are for discerning, they are for applying, but they are not for liking.

Let There Be Light – Charles Spurgeon gave special attention to achieving truthful integration of biblical doctrine in his preaching ministry. He believed this was a special stewardship for the preacher.

Believing and Preaching the Bible With Certainty – We must present the Bible as the Word of God, not the words of men, but the Word of the living God.

12 Gospel Passages to Soak In – Mere truth won’t do it. Our souls desperately need the gospel!

Quote:

All knowledge of God rests on revelation. Though we can never know God in the full richness of his being, he is known to all people through his revelation in creation, the theater of his glory. The world is never godless. In the end there are no atheists; there is only argument about the nature of God. The recognition is universal of a power greater than human beings themselves, to whom they owe piety. – Herman Bavinck

 

Spurgeon Thursday

First off, let me apologize for not posting Spurgeon on a regular basis lately.  My work schedule has been extremely rough for the past month, but hopefully that is past and this feature of my blog will get back on track.  Now, on to the feature…

LACKING MOISTURE

NO. 2845

A SERMON

PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 1903.

DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 20, 1888.

And some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.” Luke 8:6.

spurgeon5IN this parable of the sower, there is great discrimination of character, not only between those who bring forth fruit and those who bring forth none, but also between those who bring forth fruit in different degrees—not only between the fruitful and the fruitless—but  also between various forms of fruitlessness. The reasons are given, not in bulk, but in detail—why this failed, and that failed, and the other failed. All this points to discrimination in hearing. When there is discrimination  in the preacher, as there should always be, there should be an equal discrimination  in the hearer, and each one should try to take to himself that special part of the Word which is intended for him.

The true preacher, especially our great Lord and Master, resembles a portrait  painted by a real artist which always looks at you, no matter where you are in the room—to the right, or to the left of it, its eyes seem to be fixed upon you. So does our Lord, whenever He preaches, look at us. May He look at us in that way just now and may we catch His eyes as He gazes upon us—and  may the preacher also seem to be looking straight at you, because you are on the watch for that particular part of the Truth  which especially concerns you! If there is anything hopeful and cheering in the sermon, may it come to you who are mourning and doubtful! If there is anything awakening, may it come to those of you who happen to be tinged with self-confidence!

Coming to our text, I think it suggests to us three observations.  First,  let us note well that there is a reception of the Word of God which fails to be effectual. Secondly, we shall enquire why it fails in these cases. And, thirdly, we shall consider how this failure is to be avoided.

I. First,  THERE IS A SOWING THAT COMES TO NOTHING. There is even a reception of the Seed into the soil which disappoints the sower.

This failure was not because the Seed was bad. It was the same Seed which, in the good soil, produced thirty,  sixty, or a hundredfold. You know that, sometimes, when we do not succeed in impressing our hearers, we condemn ourselves, perhaps very justly. If men are not saved, the preacher must not put the blame upon Divine Sovereignty—he must blame himself. He must also ask himself, “Have I really preached the Truth?  Have I preached it in a right spirit? Have I preached different Truths in due proportion?  Have I given the most weight to that which is of primary importance and have I put that which is secondary in its proper position?” We poor sowers often chastise ourselves for our failures, or, if we do not, we ought to do so—otherwise  we shall never improve. God help us to preach better, to love men’s souls more and to be more earnest in seeking to bring them to Christ! I mean this wish for myself and for all of you who love the Lord.

But there was no fault to be found with the Seed that fell on the rock, although it did not result in a harvest. The Seed was good, thoroughly good. The sower got it from his Master and his Master’s granary contains no Seed which will not grow. True preachers can say with the Apostle Peter, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” We have preached to you the Word of God, so that whenever we put our head upon our pillow, we can truly say that we have not preached what we thought,  or what we imagined, but we have declared what we believe to be revealed in this blessed Book of God. That is the Good Seed that we sow and if it does not grow in you, it is not the fault of the Seed, it is your own fault. There is something about you that hinders it. Will you think of that, dear Hearer, if you are unconverted?

But, in the next place, the failure was not from lack of receptiveness. Those hearers who are like the Seed sown on the rock, do receive the Seed. We are expressly told that by our Lord, Himself—“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy.” We have hearers who take in all we say, perhaps too readily. They hear indiscriminately. There are some hearers who are like a sponge—they suck up all—good,  bad and indifferent. If they hear of a clever, oratorical preacher, they speedily run after him. What he preaches, or whether he preaches with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven, is not a matter about which they enquire. They have not much depth of earth, but what little earth there is takes in the Seed. There is not enough depth of earth for the Seed to really bear fruit, yet they do, in some sort of fashion, receive it. I am not going to pile up indiscriminate censure upon this receptiveness. It is a briar upon which a rose may grow but, still, it is a briar until it is properly grafted. Receptiveness may easily be carried too far and men may even ruin themselves by being too ready to receive what they hear—not  by being too ready to rightly receive the real Word of Truth, but by receiving it in the wrong fashion. Do they disbelieve what you say? No, they are not earnest enough to do that! Do they doubt what you preach? No, they have not gone so far aside as that. Do they argue against the Gospel? Oh, no—they have not fallen into that form of depravity! They take in what they hear. They do not do much with it. There is not Grace enough in their heart, after they have nominally received the Word, to cause it to grow. There is a lack somewhere—not a lack of receptiveness, but a lack in another direction.

The failure, also, was not caused through  lack of heat. There was a hard rock with a little soil upon it, just enough to take in the Seed. That rock needed to be broken up, ground to powder and made into good soil, but as it was not broken up—when the sun shone, the rock refracted and reflected all the heat and gave great warmth to the soil in which the seed was lying—so that it grew very fast, for it was in a kind of hothouse. We have many hearers who, if enthusiasm could save them, would have been saved long ago. On Sundays they are very soon warmed up, and there is so little of them that the heat of the sun soon penetrates to their rocky nature. The heat is refracted and straightway they are all in a blaze. I know them, they are very nice people to preach to. How excited they grow! They are ready enough to shout, “Hallelujah!” They speedily receive the Word, but there is no depth about them, so they do not retain it. They will do anything that we want them to do. They are not only enthusiastic, but they soon grow fanatical. I am not blaming them for this. If there were something  else to go with it, it would be a good thing.

The gardener or florist likes a good bottom heat to make his plants grow rapidly, but if it is all heat—if it is a dry heat and nothing else, very soon they are scorched to death. The little moisture that was in them at first, makes them grow rapidly, but when that is exhausted, they are soon withered. I do not deny that it is quite a pleasure to meet with a warm-hearted man. We have plenty of people about who are either cold or only lukewarm. If they give you their hand, you feel as if you had laid hold of a fish, it is so cold. We like to meet with hearers who respond to our appeals with kindly friendliness and who, when the Word is brought  before them, display a warmth of feeling towards it. These are very hopeful people. I cannot say more about them. Their name is Hopeful, but they do not always grow into Faithful.  They give us great encouragement,  but, alas, they often cause us great discouragement.

Then, again, this failure was not caused through  lack of joy, for we are told by our Savior that they received the Word with joy. Oh, they are so happy! They feel that they are saved and they are full of joy! And the main reason why they believe that they are saved is that they are so happy. Well, there is something in being joyful. I do not like to see people who seem to have a religion that disagrees with them. True religion does, indeed, make us glad. But then, my dear Friends, if your only evidence of the possession of Grace is that you are so happy, you may be unhappy tomorrow—and what will be your state then? Our human nature is so constructed and our body has so much influence upon our mind and soul, that we can soon become very low in spirit and scarcely know why we are in such a condition! That joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, I cheerfully acknowledge, but there are many joys that are not fruits of the Spirit at all, for they are earth-born and carnal. And there is often a so-called religious joy which is the fruit of carnal excitement and supposed conversion—not the result of a real saving knowledge of God.

Perhaps if these people had received the Word with sorrow—if  they had received it with a broken heart and a contrite spirit—if  they had received it tremblingly, in the very depth of their souls. If they had gone home to cry to God in secret prayer instead of rejoicing in open exultation, there might have been evidences in them of a deeper, surer, truer  and more abiding work. These people had joy and plenty of it. I am not saying anything against their joy—it was not the point in which they failed. They failed somewhere else, as I shall try to show you presently.

And, once more, they did not fail from lack of eagerness and speed in receiving the Truth.  They received it at once and the Seed sprang up at once. Just because they had no depth of earth, it sprang up all the faster. The Seed that fell upon the shallow soil covering the rock grew quickly—it sprang up because of the very absence of the element that was necessary to bring it to perfection! I believe in instantaneous  conversion. I believe that the new birth must be instantaneous, that there is a moment in which a man is dead and another moment in which he is alive and that, just as there is a certain instant in which a child is born, so there is an instant in which we become the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. But there is also a supposed conversion which is undone as quickly as it is done. There are to be found, in some churches, men who have grown wonderfully fast. They were drunks a fortnight ago and they are taking the lead among experienced Christians today! Well, it may rightly be so. God acts according to His own Sovereign will and He can work such wonders of Grace and miracles of mercy. But it may turn out that a thing that grows very fast does so because it will not stand fast and will not last long. We have to deal with so many who are always procrastinating  and putting off and, therefore, it seems a good fault when men are hasty about these things—it  is a blessed fault, if a fault at all! Yet it did so happen that while these people were excellent in that direction, they failed in another, and failed in a fatal way, of which I have now to speak.

II. That brings me to ENQUIRE WHY THESE PEOPLE MADE SUCH A SAD FAILURE?

The seed that fell on the trodden  path,  while they were lost to the farmer, did feed the birds, at any rate. But these on the rock did not. They quickly sprang up, and were soon withered and good for nothing. They promised much, but it came to nothing at all. And, in this way, some of those who appear to be the most hopeful, may cause us most grief by being our greatest disappointments.

Now why was this? Luke tells us, and no other Evangelist tells us, that it was because they “lacked moisture.”

Does not this mean, first of all, that they lacked the influences of the Divine Spirit? When we speak of spiritual dew, we refer to the operation of the Holy Spirit. When we talk of the river of the Water of Life, we mean those sacred things which come streaming down to us from the Throne of God through the working  of the Spirit of God. These people lacked that moisture. They were converted, so far as they were converted at all, through  the eloquence of the preacher— and a man who is converted by eloquence, can be unconverted by eloquence! Or they were converted by the zeal and earnestness of Christian  people. But if you were converted by one man, another  man can unconvert you. All that is of man is sure to be unraveled as all the spinning and the weaving of earthly machinery can be pulled to pieces. But the work of God’s Grace endures forever. Have you, my dear Hearer, felt the power of the Holy Spirit first withering you up? “The grass withers, the flower fades because the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it.” Has He ever dried up, in you, all that was of yourself and turned the verdant meadow into a barren wilderness? It must be so with you at first—there  is no sure work which does not begin with emptying and pulling down. Was the Spirit of God ever so worked in you as a spirit of bondage, shutting you up in prison under the Law, fixing your hands in handcuffs and your feet in fetters, putting  you in the stocks and leaving you there? If you have never known anything about that experience, I am afraid you have, up to now, “lacked moisture.”

Then, when the Spirit of God comes to a soul that is thus broken down, He reveals Christ as a Savior for that sinner, a full Savior for the empty sinner! And oh, how sweetly does the soul rejoice as it perceives the suitability,  fullness and freeness of Christ—and looks to Jesus and trusts Him! Have you ever felt that sacred moisture which softens the heart so that it sweetly yields to Christ, that moisture which refreshes the heart and makes it bloom again with a holy hopefulness and delight in Christ? O my dear Hearers, what we say about the Holy Spirit is no mere talk—it is a matter of fact! “You must be born-again,”  born from above! You must be partakers of the Spirit of God, or else all your religion, however beautiful it may appear to be, will wither when the sun has risen with burning heat.

Now, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you find that everything goes ill with you when you lack moisture. One of our Brothers  sometimes says to me, after a service, “Oh, Sir, there will be good done today, for there was dew about!” I know what he means and hope you also do. You have a little flower at home which you keep in the window, a geranium, or perhaps a fuchsia. You set great store by it because of its associations. But perhaps you have been out for a week and when you come back it looks so drooping that it seems as if it must die—and you soon discovered the reason why. It was quite dry—“it  lacked moisture.” You gave it some water and it soon began to revive. These plants are kept alive by moisture. But when they lack moisture, the more the sun shines upon them, or the warmer the room is, the worse it is for them. They need moisture and so do we, poor plants that we are. We need the Holy Spirit and if the Lord does not water us daily from the living springs on the hilltops of Glory, we shall certainly die! So take heed, Brothers and Sisters, that you do not lack the moisture of the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence.

Why did these people lack it? There was moisture in the air. It is evident that the other Seed which brought forth thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold,  had moisture. Yet this, which was in the same air as the other,  “lacked moisture.”  There were morning dews and there were mists and rains, yet these Seeds on the rock “lacked moisture.”  The reason was that there was a lack of power to retain the moisture in the soil. When it came down, it ran off again, or speedily evaporated because there was a rock and only a very little earth on the top of it to hold the moisture, and all that came there soon disappeared.  There are many persons who seem to be like this rocky soil—they  have no receptiveness for the Divine Spirit—they seem to manage to do without Him.

Now let me warn you of certain things that indicate a lack of moisture. The first is Doctrine without  feeling. You believe the Bible Doctrine concerning Christ. I am glad that you do, but dry Doctrine, without the bedewing influence of the Spirit of God, is just a granite rock out of which you will get nothing whatever. You say that you believe the Doctrine of Human Depravity, but have you ever really felt it and mourned over it? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Redemption,  but have you ever proved the power of the precious blood of Jesus? Have you ever been melted at the sight of the Cross? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Effectual Calling, but have you been effectually called by Grace? You say that you believe the Doctrine of Regeneration,  but have you been born-again?  If not, you lack moisture. I have known some Brothers and Sisters who have been so “sound” that they have been nothing but sound. “Sixteen ounces to the pound,” they said they were. I thought that they were 17 ounces to the pound and that the last bad ounce spoilt the other sixteen! You may be wonderfully orthodox  and yet be lost! That hard pan of rock must be broken up and ground to powder, that the moisture may get to the Seed. Of what use is Doctrine without  feeling?

It is equally worthless where there is experience without  humiliation.  I mean that some talk about having felt this, and having felt that—and  they boast of it. Some of them have even thought that they have become perfect—and  they glory in it. Well, they lack moisture! As soon as you get side by side with them, you feel a need of something, you do not quite know what it is. It is dry experience. Perhaps it is boiling hot, but it is very dry. There is no bowing before the Lord in a humble confession of unworthiness. There is no understanding  of what it is to feel the sentence of death in our- selves, that we should loathe ourselves, as condemned criminals ought to do. I pray the Lord to save us from an experience, however perfect it seems, which is not moist, which has not a living tenderness worked into it by the power of the Spirit of God. Avoid, then, experience without  humiliation.

Also shun practice without heart-love. I have known some Brothers and Sisters who have been most exact and precise in all their conduct. I have thought  that they scarcely ever sinned and I have not wondered that they did not because there did not seem to be enough juice in them to sin. They did not appear to have any human nature in them. They were just like dry pieces of leather—never  excited, never getting  into a bad temper—they have not seemed to have any temper, either bad or good. They never say a word too hastily. They always measure things out very exactly, yet a lack of love is a fatal lack. I knew one whom I greatly esteemed as a minister of the Word for many years. I esteemed him for his regularity of conduct. I believe that he got up to the tick of the clock, that he had family prayer to the tick of the clock and that he did everything in the same methodical manner. I remarked to him once, “There are many people, round about your Chapel, who are living in the depths of sin. Do you ever get any of them into your place of worship?” “No,” he replied, “I do not want to get them in.” I asked, “Why?” “Well,” he answered, “they are mostly harlots and thieves. What could I do with such people?”

Then I saw that it was possible to be regular, precise and good up to a certain point, and yet to have no moisture. And as the moisture was not there, of course no thief or harlot would go to hear him—he was too dry for them. It is an awful thing to have a Pharisaic practice—perfect when looked at by the casual eye, yet without  the life and light of love—and, therefore, lacking moisture.

Beware, dear Friends, of a belief that never had any repentance connected with it, for that is another way in which the lack of moisture is manifested. There are some people who are willing to believe a great deal, but you never hear of them groaning  because of sin, or confessing it with a broken heart in true humility before God. To trust in repentance without faith would be ruinous to the soul—but to have a kind of faith without repentance, would also be ruinous. If faith never has tears in its eyes, it is a dead faith. He who has never wept because of his sin, has never really had his sin washed away. If your heart has never been broken on account of sin, I will not believe that it was ever broken from sin. And if your heart is not broken from your sin, you are still at a distance from your God and you will never see His face with acceptance.

Beware, also, of a confidence that is never associated with self-diffidence. Yes, my dear Sir, speak as boldly as you will, be as brave as you may for your Master, but, at the same time, be very lowly in spirit.  Let your own weakness be seen, as well as your Master’s strength. While you glory in Christ’s merits, confess your own sinfulness and admit that in yourself, you are nothing.  We can never have too much confidence in God, but, unless it is associated with deep self- distrust, it will lack moisture and it will never produce any real harvest unto God.

Beware, also, of action without spirituality.  We have many people of that kind. They are very active in serving God in one way and another. Would that all were—if it were in a right spirit! They are busy from morning to night, but there is no prayer and no dependence upon God mingled with their efforts—that will not do. That is all wasted activity. However busy we may be, we shall effect nothing  unless we receive from the Holy Spirit  all the power with which we work and are dependent upon Him for the success of every word  we say. Beware of having  so much to do that you really do nothing at all because you do not wait upon God for the power to do it right.

Then there is another dry thing, namely, zeal without communion with God. Zeal for extending the Kingdom of Christ, zeal for spreading the denomination, zeal for the advance of a particular  sect, zeal that is intolerant,  probably, but, all the while, no careful walking according to God’s Word, no observing what God would have us to be zealous about, no humbling of ourselves in the Presence of the great Lord of all, and no bathing of ourselves in the river of the Water of Life by fellowship with God.

Thus I might keep on showing you various ways in which people may have a great deal that is very good, yet it will all come to nothing  because they lack moisture. But the seed cannot assimilate the dry earth until it is mixed with water and held in solution, and spiritual life can only be fed by Truth held in solution by the Holy Spirit. When He softens and prepares us, then our roots and rootlets  take up the true nutriment  and we grow.

In the case of the seed upon the rocky ground,  there was, also, a deficiency of sensitive vitality. The seed grew for a time, and then became dry—and  are there not multitudes of people, in our Churches now, who are just like that? They are as dry as old hay, they have withered away. We cannot turn them out, but, oh, that we could turn life into them! Oh, that the Water of Life might flow all about them, so that they might live and bring forth fruit unto God!

I have said enough, if God shall bless it, to set many people searching their hearts to see whether  this sacred moisture is there.

III. Now, to close, we are to CONSIDER HOW THE EVIL IS TO BE AVOIDED.

Well, first, let us one and all cry to God to break up the rock. Rock, rock, rock, will you never break? We may scat- ter the Seed upon you, but nothing  will come of it till that rock is broken. The great steam-plow needs to be driven right through  men’s hearts till they are torn in sunder and the old rock of nature is ground to powder, made soft and turned into good soil. Dear Friend, do pray to God to make sure work of you. As far as you are concerned, the one thing you have to do is to believe in Christ Jesus, that you may be saved. But a part of the process of your salvation is the taking out of you the heart of stone and the giving to you of a heart of flesh. There is no true growing unless this takes place.

The next thing is, look well to spirituality. This moisture was a very subtle thing. Men might easily overlook that dampness in the atmosphere and in the soil which was all-essential. Who can tell you what unction is? Yet a sermon with- out unction is a poor, worthless thing. There is a certain secret something which distinguishes a true Christian from a worldling or a mere professor—see that you have it. Do not be content with the Creed, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or anything  else that is visible, but say, “Lord,  give me the moisture that I need. Give me that secret something without which I shall be lacking the very thing which I most need.” You cannot see your soul. You cannot  fully tell what it is. Yet you know that it is a something that keeps your body alive and when that something is gone, the body becomes dead—so is all religion dead until it receives the life which comes from the moisture that so many lack.

That leads me further to say, look to the Holy Spirit. Be very tender towards the Holy Spirit. We preach Christ to you, as we are commanded to do, but we do not want you ever to forget the blessed Spirit, without whom nothing saving can ever be worked in you! You cannot make yourself to be born-again. Even the faith that saves is the work of the Spirit of God, if it is the faith of God’s elect. Be zealous and tender, therefore, and walk carefully in reference to the Spirit of God lest you grieve Him.

Then I would say, next, try to avoid all dry heat. Do not work yourself up into a frenzy and think that there is any- thing saving in it. The heat of excitement may be necessary, just as dust flies from the wheels of a chariot when it moves swiftly, but, as the dust does not help the chariot, but is a nuisance to those who are riding in it, so is it with excitement. It does not help the true movement and it is a nuisance to those who are living near to God.

Lastly,  be constantly looking for that Divine mystery of secret vitality  which is called in the text, “moisture.” I commend to you this prayer, “Lord,  give me this blessed moisture. Saturate  me through  and through  with the heavenly dew, the Divine rain, that I may grow and bring forth fruit to the Glory of Your holy name.” God bless you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

God’s Absolute Sovereignty

God is SovereignNo doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation.

But that is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches. Even faith is God’s gracious gift to His elect. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65). “Nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). Therefore no one who is saved has anything to boast about (cf Eph. 2:8, 9). “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). . . .

Moreover, everything that exists in the universe exists because God allowed it, decreed it, and called it into existence. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6). . . .

Paul anticipated the argument against divine sovereignty: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” (v. 19). In other words, doesn’t God’s sovereignty cancel out human responsibility? But rather than offering a philosophical answer or a deep metaphysical argument, Paul simply reprimanded the skeptic: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” (vv. 20, 21).

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have (Rom. 2:19, 20), so that punishment is just if they reject the light. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40). He told unbelievers, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (v. 37); “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (v. 40); “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44); “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (v. 47); and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (v. 65). How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that? In Psalm 50:21 God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8, 9).

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33 the apostle writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33, 34).

– John MacArthur, ‘God’s Absolute Sovereignty