Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

buying and selling

Arthur Pink, July, 1949
"Buy the truth, and sell it not!" (Proverbs 23:23).
Such an injunction may appear to have a "legalistic" sound to some finical ears, but if Scripture be compared with Scripture, that erroneous impression should be removed. The use of the word "buy" in such passages as Isaiah 55:1, and Revelation 3:18, shows that no thought of human merits is signified. It is by no worthiness of ours that salvation is obtained. A little thoughtful meditation indicates that this figure is a very suggestive and instructive one.
The fact that we are here exhorted to "buy the truth" implies and imports the following things:
First, that by nature we do not possess it, for we do not "buy" what is already ours.
Second, that it is needful and valuable, for only fools will purchase things they consider of no use or worth.
Third, that we desire it.
Fourth, that we must go to the lawful Owner of it.
Fifth, that we are willing to part with something to obtain it.
Sixth, that we actually make it our own, for that is what the "buying" of a thing does.
Seventh, that we now make use of it.
When our Lord said unto Pilate, "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice," the Roman governor responded with, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38). Probably those words were uttered contemptuously, for Christ gave him no answer — what value does apolitician place upon truth! A short time before, the Savior had said to the Father, in the hearing of His disciples, "Your word istruth" (John 17:17) — not simply "contains the truth," but is so. It is expressly denominated "the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15), and that because its Author is omniscient. It is inerrant throughout: without the slightest inaccuracy — "Your word is true from the beginning" (Psalm 119:160). That is what renders it of inestimable value.
Living as we are in a world of liars (Psalm 58:3), truth is an exceedingly rare commodity. Sin has darkened man's understanding and unhinged his mind, so that ignorance and error, prejudice, and superstition abound on every side. How thankful then should we be that we have in hand, and in our own mother tongue, a revelation from Him who cannot lie.
The importance of truth appears from the absolute authority of Him who is its Author, from the miracles He has wrought to confirm it, from its own beneficial tendency and the blessed fruits which it produces. It is by the truth, that we are made "wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15). It is by the truth, that we are made free from the servitude of sin (John 8:32, and compare Psalm 119:45). It is by the truth, that we are "sanctified" (John 17:17). Apart from God's Word, I can know nothing whatever of His everlasting love and sovereign grace, nothing of His will for me, nothing of the destiny awaiting me.
Christ — in His wondrous person, peerless perfections, glorious offices, and so great salvation — is the sum and substance of truth. Yet, indescribably precious as it is, the solemn fact remains that by nature, none of us has any love for the truth — but rather, a strong antipathy to it. We prefer to be flattered and encouraged to believe the best about ourselves; and therefore, the Lord Jesus had to say of those to whom He ministered, "And because I tell you the truth — you did not believe me" (John 8:45).
The truth is as free as it is precious — yet, paradoxical as it may sound, it has to be bought. A price has to be paid before it is actually made ours. Though God's Word is a gift to us — it has to be purchased by us; and there is nothing more incongruous and inconsistent in that statement, than there is in affirming that he enjoys the greatest liberty, who lives in completest subjection to God.
To "buy" the truth is a deliberate and voluntary act: "I have chosen the way of truth," said the Psalmist (119:30), and there must be given us a desire and love for the same, before we are willing to do so. Yet the absence of such a desire is no valid excuse for those who are unwilling to purchase it. "Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?" (Proverbs 17:16). The answer is — to constitute him a responsible creature. That "price in the hand" is the rationality, the capability, the time and opportunity to acquire wisdom; and the absence of a heart for it in no way extenuates his indifference and neglect.
Alas, what millions of such "fools" there are, with no "heart" to buy that which is more valuable than gold, "yes, than much fine gold" (Psalm 19:10)! As one has said, "They would rather lose it — than labour for it; rather go sleeping to Hell — than toiling to Heaven." That which is "more precious than rubies" (Proverbs 3:15) is to the majority of our fellows — of less worth than a pebble. "Herod eyed it with curiosity (Luk 23:8), Pilate with indifference (Joh 18:38), the Jews with scorn (Act 13:46). Enough that it should have a place in our creed, but none in our hearts. The world is preferred to Heaven, time to eternity, and the immortal soul perishes in folly" — Charles Bridges (1794-1869).
It is only when we desire them — that we heed that injunction: "Buy those things that we have need of" (John 13:29). Few indeed are willing to pay the price, for truth is a costly thing to come by honestly, entailing considerable expense and pains. But the more we pay for it, the more we shall prize it. Rare things are always the most expensive, but he who really values and loves the truth, deems no price too high.
"Buy the truth" (Proverbs 23:23). Something has to be parted with, in order to secure it — pride, prejudice, and presumption — so that we be willing to receive it as a little child. "Buy the truth" means make it your own, and that can only be done by personal effort and diligent application. "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God!" (Proverbs 2:1-5).
That is part of the price which has to be paid: an open ear, an applied heart, earnest prayer to God, diligent searching of the Scriptures. Like Mary, we must fix the words of God in our mind and ponder them in our heart (Luke 2:19). Truth has only becomeours, when it is actually reduced to experience and practice — and therefore, another part of the price for buying it is ourconforming to it in heart and life; and that, in turn, requires daily self-examination and supplication.
Many are content with substitutes for "the truth." They fondly imagine they are "sound in the faith," when in reality the great enemy of souls has deceived them with a spurious counterfeit. And when they are lovingly and faithfully warned, they are unwilling to put their beliefs to the proof, and weigh them "in the balances of the Sanctuary." Though they are told that "many false prophets" (1 John 4:1) have gone and are still going forth, they are reluctant to think that they have been beguiled by them. Truth cannot be secured by us until we are prepared to suspect our orthodoxy and bring every article of our creed to the test of Holy Writ.
Very few are ever recovered from the abyss of error, because they are not willing to search diligently and impartially for the truth and embrace it wherever it is to be found, or whatever be the cost. They prefer the sanction of the names of "great men," rather than a "thus says the Lord."
Pray daily for a right understanding of His Word. "The truth," like its Author, is one — we never read in Scripture of "truths". Yet, as He has many perfections or attributes, so His Word has many parts or branches. It is not a portion of truth, but "the truth" itself we are bidden to buy. Alas, that so many content themselves with fragments thereof. Nothing short of the whole truth is what each of us should earnestly covet and seek — every particle of it, for, as one has well said, "The very filings of the gold are invaluable." "Set your heart upon all that I shall show you" (Ezekiel 40:4).
Nevertheless, the most eager and earnest purchaser will find, as Joshua did near the close of his life, "there remains yet very much land to be possessed" (Jos 13:1). But though that is the case, we must strive to acquire and assimilate more and more of it. Never rest content with your knowledge thereof, for at best, it is but meager. Remember, you buy a thing in order to make use of it. As one quaintly summarized it: 
it in the head — memorize it; 
it in the heart — lovingly meditate upon it; 
it in the life — be regulated by it; 
it in the world — yet cast not your pearls before swine (Mat 7:6).


"Buy the truth — and sell it not" (Proverbs 23:23).
There are three things to be attended to in those words.
First, a needful act to be performed — "buy";
second, an invaluable object to be acquired — "the truth";
third, a solemn prohibition to be observed — "sell it not."
The first two have already been before us; the third is now to engage our attention. As many distinct things are implied and imported in the "buying" of a spiritual object, so a number of different things are included in the figure of "selling." As the "buy" is a figurative term to express desire, to seek, and make your own; so "sell it not" signifies despise it not, value it not lightly, grow not tired of it, and do not part with it — no matter how you may be induced by temptation to do so.
At first sight, such an prohibition may strike us as strange and unnecessary: if the truth was valued and sought by us, surely we shall not now disesteem and discard it. Alas, the human heart is very unstable, and its affections fickle. First-love is easily lost. When the novelty of a thing wears off, enthusiasm usually wanes. Moreover, Satan hates the truth and fiercely assails those who buy it. The Jews "were willing for a season" to rejoice in John the Baptist's light (John 5:35). Even Herod revered our Lord's forerunner, and listened to him — "and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly" (Mar 6:20) — yet soon after, consented to the beheading of him. When the truth became incarnate (John 14:6), what crowds first attended His preaching, yet later they cried, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him" (John 19:15)! Nor was it any better with those who became His regular attendants and adherents, for we are told, "Many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66).
Scripture contains many pertinent examples and solemn warnings for us to heed. Paul had to lament: "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10); and to the Galatians, who had turned against him, the apostle wrote, "For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Have I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Gal 4:15-16). What a sad picture is presented in Isaiah 59:14: "And judgment [discretion] is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street." How accurately that portrays present-day conditions: Truth sold — rejected, cast away as worthless, trodden underfoot!
If we compare other passages of God's Word where "selling" is in view, it will the better enable us to understand the meaning and scope of the word "sell" in our text. Thus, "He [Esau] sold his birthright unto Jacob" (Gen 25:33), valuing it so lightly that he bartered it "for one morsel of food" (Heb 12:16). Alas, how many preachers do likewise, sacrificing the truth, for personal considerations: "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." (2 Peter 2:3). Elijah made this charge against Ahab: "You have sold yourself to work evil in the sight of the Lord" (1 Kings 21:20). Lusting after Naboth's vineyard, he listened to the evil counsel of his wife Jezebel and lost his soul in securing a piece of ground. In the days of Ahaz, the children of Judah: "And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil" (2 Kings 17:17) — that is to say, they gave themselves up willingly to Satan to be his slaves. Judas, the betrayer, sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. From the case of Esau, we see how that some esteem divine things so lightly, that they prefer the gratification of their carnal appetites. From the case of Ahab, we learn that others allow the spirit of covetousness to make them blind to their own interests and ready to listen to the advice of the wicked, and so call down upon themselves the judgment of God. From the case of the children of Judah, we behold how that following the ways of the heathen, issues in a fatal sale, which brings completely under the power of the devil. From the case of Judas, we are warned that even those who have enjoyed the highest spiritual privileges, and received the truth from the lips of Christ Himself — are in danger of betraying their trust.
In addition to these examples, it should be pointed out that many have been guilty of selling the truth through a desire to maintain peace at any price. They rightly dislike controversy, but they wrongly preserve silence when it is their duty to "earnestly contend [yet not bitterly] for the faith" (Jude 3). The wisdom which is from above is "first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17). Peace, like gold, may be bought too dearly. That unity which is bought by the sacrifice of any part of the truth is worthless.
None boasts so loudly of her unity, such as it is, as Rome, yet it is a product of selling the truth — taking the Bible away from the people, prohibiting the right of private judgment. While no real Christian will sell the truth in the absolute sense, yet he is prone to sacrifice "the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12). There is some particular aspect of truth which the enemy more especially assails in each generation; and it is those controverted portions of it, those articles of the faith which are being opposed, that we most need to be on our guard against selling or renouncing.
Again, any professing Christian who continues knowingly to listen to false doctrine is guilty of selling the truth and of disobeying its Author, for He expressly bids him, "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge" (Proverbs 19:27). He who is indifferent to what he hears from the pulpit, places no value on the truth! Then "take heed what you hear" (Mar 4:24).
Thus, "sell it not" includes that we "henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:13); but rather that we "ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein," and then "we shall find rest for our souls" (Jer 6:16).
It remains to point out, that the negative implies the positive: thus, when it is said of Christ, "a bruised reed shall he not break" (Isa 42:3), it also intimates the tender care with which He supports and nourishes it. The sword of the Spirit is two-edged: where any evil is forbidden, the opposite good is to be understood as being enjoined. As on the other hand, where a duty is commanded — everything contrary to it is virtually forbidden. Hence, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" (Exo 20:7; Deu 5:11) also imports, You shall hold it in the utmost honor and reverence. And "You shall not kill" (Exo 20:13; Due 5:17) comprehends, You shall do all in your power to preserve life. Consequently, "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Proverbs 23:23) signifies "stand fast, and hold the traditions [oral ministry] which you have been taught, whether by word [of mouth], or our [first] epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). "Continue in the faith grounded and settled" (Col 1:23). No matter what be the temptation to compromise, to be cowardly, or to act from selfish ends, "that which you have already hold fast until I come" (Rev 2:25).
In conclusion, let us offer a few comments upon our text as a whole: "Buy the truth, and sell it not." Go to some pains in making sure that what you obtain is "the truth," and that involves our praying with David, "Teach me your statutes" (Psalm 119:12), and an emulating of the noble Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to ascertain whether what they heard accorded with that holy Standard (Acts 17:11). One reason why God permits so much error and confusion in the religious world, is to test souls, and make it evident who are the ones who honestly desire, highly value, and diligently seek the truth. "Truth is that with which the heart must be girded and governed, for without it, there can be no good works" — Matthew Henry (1662-1714).

It is those who acquire truth cheaply — second-hand, from others — who part with it readily; as the old adage says: "Easy come — easy go." In reality, we possess no more truth than that which actually possesses us, which has become part of our experience and practice, our "shield and buckler" (Psalm 91:4). Those who suffered martyrdom rather than deny the faith, refused to sell the truth! "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21) supplies a parallel with our text.

Let us be therewith content

"having food and raiment, let us be therewith content"- 1Timothy 6:8. 

'having food and raiment, let us be therewith content' - Food and a covering, including habitation as well as raiment. Observe, If God give us the necessary supports of life, we ought to be content therewith, though we have not the ornaments and delights of it. If nature should be content with a little, grace should be content with less; though we have not dainty food, though we have not costly raiment, if we have but food and raiment convenient for us we ought to be content. This was Agur's prayer: Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, Proverbs 30:8. 
Here we see, [1.] The folly of placing our happiness in these things, when we did not bring any thing into this world with us, and we can carry nothing out. What will worldlings do when death shall strip them of their happiness and portion, and they must take an everlasting farewell of all these things, on which they have so much doted? They may say with poor Micah, You have taken away my gods; and what have I more? Jdg_18:24. 
[2.] The necessaries of life are the hounds of a true Christian's desire, and with these he will endeavour to be content; his desires are not insatiable; no, a little, a few comforts of this life, will serve him, and these may hope to enjoy: Having food and raiment.  ~ Matthew Henry

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Refiner


C.H. Spurgeon
“And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” [Malachi 3:3]
“He shall sit.” The POSTURE would not have been mentioned had it not been instructive. Sitting looks like the attitude of indifference. There is the metal vexed with a white heat—here is the Refiner sitting down! There is the child of God upon the bed of pain and he cries, “My Lord, come and help me!” And there the Refiner sits—He looks on, but does not stir a hand. The child of God is sinking in trouble. He fears, like Peter, that the next step may drown him and there is his Lord, calm and unmoved! When the Apostolic ship was out at sea and tossed in the tempest, Christ was asleep in the back part of the vessel! Unbelief dares challenge His love because of this apparent apathy—how can He sit still and see us suffer?
She mutters—“He is indifferent! He does not care.” “Don’t You care that we perish?” is the cry of Unbelief and before the heart actually utters it, it begins to think, “WHERE is the tenderness of Christ? WHERE is the gentleness of God? Am I thus to be tortured? Am I thus to be tried? Am I thus to be tossed from billow to billow without a Helper?” Yet after all our crying and tears the Refiner stillSITS! Yes, He, to all appearances, disregards our prayers and entreaties and fulfils the description of the text—“He sits.” It is amazing how often God seems utterly indifferent to His people and how Christ, filled with compassion because He has been tried in all points like as we are, yet seems to look down upon our sorrows with undisturbed serenity.
I once heard a Welshman preach in his own native tongue. It was a sermon in which he got into the spirit of his subject and spoke as one Inspired. He used a very simple illustration when he said, “The mother has her dear babe upon her knee. It is time for washing. She washes its face. The little one cries. It loves not the soap; it loves not the water and therefore it cries. Here is a great sorrow! Listen to its lamentations! It is ready to break its heart! What does the mother do? Is she sorrowful? Does she weep? No! She is singing all the while because she understands how good it is that the child should suffer a little temporary inconvenience in order that its face, all smeared and foul, should become bright and beautiful again! Thus does the great Father rest in His love and rejoice over us with singing while we are sighing and crying.”
Ours is but a child’s sorrow, sharp and shallow, of which the greatest source is our own ignorance of the great designs of the Perfecter of men! The Lord pities our childish sorrow, but He does not regard it so as to stop His hands from His cleansing work. “Let not your soul spare for his crying,” said Solomon—and our wise Father, when He is chastening us, does not spare us for our crying. What if the metal that is put into the furnace should be sensitive when the crucible is hot and should cry out, “Oh, take me out! The fire is too hot! I cannot bear it. I am dissolving! I am melting! Take me out”? Would the assayer regard the entreaties of the metal? Ah, no! And so, when we are in the furnace, the Refiner SITS STILL. Why should He be flurried? He knows what He is doing and He knows that His Divine methods are wise and infallible.
HE IS NOT HURTING THE SILVER, BUT DOING IT LASTING SERVICE. He is not even putting it through a NEEDLESS process. He is taking the shortest way of working when He seems to be longest in His assays. There is a haste that is not good speed and God uses not such haste as that—He moves at the pace of perfection and that may seem slow to us. He shall sit as a Refiner TILL you shall ask, “Does He care at all for me?” Carnal reason may judge as it pleases as to the indifference of Him who seems to sit at ease while His people are melted in the flames, but faith is full-well assured that in the attitude of the Divine Refiner there is real attention. Why does the Refiner sit, but because He is resolved to steadily watch the crucible? He will not go away and leave it, even for a moment, lest the heat should grow too great or a certain point should be passed over when His Presence would be essential to the success of the process.
I have often heard that a refiner sits and looks at the silver till he can see his own reflection in it. Our Lord sits as the Refiner at the furnace mouth because He is all attention. He has, as it were, given up all other cares just to sit there and watch His treasure. He is DETERMINED that His servants shall be purified—that the sons of Levi shall be purged, and so there He is, everything else laid aside, giving His whole heart and soul to those whom He is refining.
“Oh” you say “but you exaggerate if you talk about the Lord’s giving all His heart and soul to one of His people.” No, I do not. The Lord Jesus watches each one of His people as intensely as if He had no other. Finite minds must have a center, somewhere, and as that center changes, so our circumference of thought and action shifts. But God’s center is everywhere and His circumference is nowhere!
Each one of us may be in the center of the Divine mind and yet none of the redeemed may be any the less near because of it. Jesus watches each one—you, me, 50,000 others—all of them His chosen ones that are undergoing the purifying process. He watches each one as if there were never another for His blessed eyes to rest upon. He is all attention, watching not as children gaze on soldiers in the fire, but as practical refiners watch their precious metal! Poor, bowed Heart, Jesus is all attention! His sitting down is not because He forgets, but because He remembers!
“God’s furnace does in Zion stand,
But Zion’s God sits by,
As the refiner views His gold,
With an observant eye.”
Always observing, always watching. Jesus shall sit—“He shall sit as a refiner.”
But we may notice more than this. I think I see in the sitting down of the Refiner a settled patience, as if He seemed to say, “This is stern work and I will sit down to it, for it will need care, time and constant watchfulness. This metal may need to be purified in a furnace of earth seven times, but I am set upon the perfecting of the work and, therefore, here I place Myself. I shall bear with this man till I have delivered him from his faults. I shall bear with this woman till I have made something of her—till I have taken away that which weakens and injures her character. I mean to bear with this poor, petulant, unbelieving, complaining, selfish, groaning mortal—My Spirit has given him some love for Me and some life in Me—and, therefore, I will bear with him till his life and love shall have conquered all earthly grossness and he shall be a lump of pure metal fit for My Father’s treasury.”
I find, in looking at the original, that the word for, “sit,” is one which is used many times in Scripture for the posture of a king upon a throne—it is a sort of regal sitting down. So that we have here the POSTURE OF POWER. “He shall sit as a refiner,” signifies, then, I take it, that He who seems indifferent, but who is constantly observant and patient, is seated on His Throne possessing infinite power over all things so that the process which He is watching can be checked or quickened according to His own will and wish. HE REIGNS AS A REFINER. He has power over every coal, over every single jet of gassy flame! He has power over every breath of air that fans the fire and over the furnace to its inmost center and its utmost vehemence. He has power over the metal, itself, and its dross and all that is excellent about it as well as all that is vile.
Oh, this is a grand consolation! He that has undertaken to purify us can do it, for He sits on the Throne of boundless might! NOTHING SHORT OF AN OMNIPOTENT SAVIOR COULD HAVE SAVED ME! It were ill news for me if men could show that Christ were not Divine, for short of a Divine Redeemer I know I shall never be perfected! No strength but that which made me can make me new! Only He that says, “I kill and I make alive,” can ever kill my sin and make me alive unto God. Oh, Christian, this ought to be a delight to you, that He who sits as a refiner sits on the Throne while He is refining you and exercises Sovereign Grace and infinite power while dealing with your soul! Jesus reigns in the work of sanctification, having all things at His disposal, and He CAN AND WILL perform that which He has begun—
Grace will complete what Grace begins,
To save from sorrows or from sins.
The work that wisdom undertakes
Eternal mercy ne’er forsakes.”
Eternal power performs what everlasting love designs.
So I conceive that the text may also teach us the perfect perseverance of Christ in the work of the purifying of His people. “He shall sit as a refiner.” Might not your backsliding, after you had once reached a great height of sanctity, have disappointed Christ and made Him leave you? Yes, if it were not true of Him, “I am God: I change not,” He would have left you to be consumed! But you are not consumed because, from His blessed purpose He will not swerve. Oh, how many times you and I have seemed to make advances towards purity but have gone back, again, to folly, thus manifesting the abundance of our alloy! It did seem as if, at last, the blessed flame of Grace had begun to make us bright and yet we have dulled again back to the old state.
And WHERE is the Refiner? Has He gone? BY NO MEANS! There He is! He has been sitting as a refiner and He is still sitting! That is a blessed text—“He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” There is much to discourage Him, but He is not discouraged! There is much to make Him relinquish the work, but He determines not to fail in it. His mind is made up and well it may be, for He has paid in bloody sweat and in His heart’s blood, the ransom price to purchase us and He will never leave half-effected what He has spent His life to achieve! WHAT HE HAS REDEEMED, HE WILL REFINE! Gethsemane and Calvary have bound the Refiner to His task.
He undertook a stupendous labor and He went through with it till He shouted from the Cross, “It is finished!” And, therefore, we may rest assured that He will go on with the further portions of His great enterprise till, from His Throne above He will say, “It is finished,” as He surveys every one of us, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”—pure lumps of gold and silver brought Home by Himself without a speck of dross about us. Oh, blessed hope! Where should we dare to indulge it but in the Presence of an Almighty Savior whose Immutable oath has bound Him to carry out the work of our perfection?
[Quoted from the sermon – ‘THE SITTING OF THE REFINER’
– C.H. Spurgeon]