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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

avoid the world's religion

The following is from Spurgeon's sermon,
"Abram's call. Or, Half-Way And All the Way"

Will you devote yourself to God and His cause
and truth? In matters of religion follow the Lord
fully. Let the Word of God be your sole and sure
rule and nothing else. That religion which is not
according to God's Word is a false religion.

Accept neither doctrine nor ceremony for which
there is no Scriptural warrant. Search the Word
about it all, "to the Law and to the testimony,
if they speak not according to this Word, it is
because there is no light in them."

Avoid the world's religion! 


For if there is one world worse than another,
it is the religious world. Be distinctly removed
from the religion which is based upon self-will,
pride of intellect, and worldly conformity.

The world's religion is as evil
as the world's irreligion.

Surrender to the plain teaching of the Spirit
of God and resolve in all things to follow
your Lord wherever He may lead you.

Stand alone, if others will not obey.

My brethren, if we thus separate ourselves
from the world's religion, we must expect
violent opposition. Severe criticism will not
be spared us. Some will say, "The man is mad!"
Others more gently will murmur, "He is sadly
misled." Many will accuse you of a liking to be
singular, or a weakness for going to extremes.
Having once made up their mind that you are
foolish and contemptible they will view all your
conduct through colored glasses and condemn
you up and down.

Be not dismayed but endure hardship for
the love of Jesus. The life of a consecrated
believer involves trials.

Avoid the world's religion!

O you, who by Divine Grace are beginners in
the heavenly life, make a strong resolve to be
the servants of God and endeavor in all things
to obey Him.

We live here in this world as strangers and
pilgrims. We find little to charm us in this
foreign land. Our treasure is above and it
will be a joy for our souls to rise to the place
where our hearts already dwell.

If you are now separated unto Him, you
shall find your reward in that day when
He shall divide the sheep from the goats.
You shall be placed at His right hand to hear
Him say, "Come, you blessed of My Father."

Avoid the world's religion!

The abuse of grace

By F. W. Krummacher (1796 - 1868)

What is the principle thing in Christianity? On what does all finally depend, and what is the surest sign of a state of grace? These questions, my brethren, are not difficult to answer. The principal thing, and the surest touchstone of Christianity, is this: that our godliness should shine forth in our life, business, and all our walk and conversation; in our sufferings, in avoiding of evil, in patience, in meekness, in peacefulness, in compassion, in industry, and in a faithful discharge of our daily calling. "Let your light so shine before men," said the Lord, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." "Not everyone that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven." "By their fruit you shall know them." "Show me your faith by your works," says James. And Paul says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." "You are," exclaimed Peter, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 


We ought to try and examine ourselves, sincerely as before the sight of God, whether we know this new life by experience. Many deceive themselves, many pretend to have the seed of God in them, many imagine themselves in a state of grace when it is not so; and the consequence of this will be, that they will turn the grace of God into licentiousness, and still continue to go on in sin. Where grace has really been experienced, it breathes death against the pleasures of sin. We will now consider this so frequent an abuse—not of grace, but of the doctrine of grace.



Perhaps you think that this abuse of the doctrine of grace is of infrequent occurrence? By no means. Most men are sick with the same disease. Why is it, that you are so quiet, so careless, so happy, so confident, so gay, so merry, while you belong to the children of this world? With which do you comfort yourself? You must die; you are traveling towards eternity! You must appear before the judgment seat of God; you have broken the law of God, and deserved the wrath of the Almighty. This you cannot deny. If your mouth says, No! No! Your heart cries, Yes, Amen, it is true. How can your heart have rest while these truths are existing; while the reproaches of your conscience are loud, and warnings of death, and the judgment to come, fill your breast? 

"God is gracious," you say; and with this you try to cover your sins, and to still the goadings of your conscience, as well as you can. But, in God's name how can you believe in the grace of that God whom you despise; whose Word and commandment you reject; and whom you daily and hourly offend by your sins against Him? But you answer, notwithstanding, "God is merciful"; and thus you continue in your sins, in your impenitence, in your enmity against God; you lie and deceive, revel and rage, hate and covet, curse and swear; and spend your day in vain tittle tattle. Is not this abusing the grace of God? Do we not continually abuse His patience more and more, while we walk along the broad way of destruction as unconverted men? 

But what shall we say of those who have really an insight into the grace of God, in the Gospel, and yet knowingly and willingly continue in their sins, or even only in one single sin? Have these hypocrites disappeared, or can we speak of such people as monsters, who are not to be met with in our country? Would to God it were so, but sad experience teaches us to the contrary. Even here, among ourselves in this country, where the knowledge of Christianity has the pre-eminence; where it is less subject to reproach than elsewhere; where the name of the Lord Jesus is acknowledged, even in our neighborhood, it is beyond all things necessary to warm you against the abuse of the doctrine of grace.

Even here there is a very large number of such, who have certainly the appearance of leading a godly life, while they deny the power of it, and declare by their actions, that though they can talk fluently about free grace they have always resisted its chastisement, which would have subdued their ungodly dispositions. Alas! There are but few who earnestly engage in a determined warfare against sin. Most people content themselves with mere knowledge, thoughts, feelings, acknowledgments, and speeches; while they, more or less, willfully turn the comforting truths of the Gospel into a pillow for their sins to rest upon. Thus the free grace of God is extolled by many who openly continue in their sins; and publicly mark themselves, by their pride or indolence; by their judging arrogance and uncharitable speeches; by their fraud and reveling; by their falsehood, avarice, and other vices, as men who know not the true life in grace. 

We meet with many people who are zealous defenders of the truth, while in the observance of their domestic and civil duties they come far behind the great mass of the carnally minded and careless children of the world. They are always extolling the Savior, His merits, His free mercy, while they daily make Him the servant of sin. Men are anxious, truly, to be preserved from the curse, from the final punishment of sin; but they submit to the dominion of this or that sin, without any serious combat. And if men are urgently called to combat sin, they call it all legality, while they make the Gospel, in a carnal manner, favor their indolence and impurity, and run the doctrine of grace into an intoxicating draught, against the voice of the law and of their conscience.

Alas! The number of those who are true believers, and who in all points grow up to the full measure of the stature of Christ, living in the element of free grace, with the greatest purity, is very small; many, many hearts are filled with the leaven of the Pharisees; and the dangerous disease of the abuse of the doctrine of grace is an epidemic which snatches away numberless victims.

 But this is very melancholy—It cries to heaven, it is beyond all measure lamentable. For what is so criminal as for man to degrade Jesus to the rank of a servant of sin, and His Gospel to be a passport for all immorality, to a resting place for his own indolence? What! Has the Son of God trembled and mourned beneath the weight of your sins? Has He endured the floods of torment, and the pains of hell? Has He, forsaken by God, hung upon the cross, and breathed out His precious life there, in order that you might in carnal indolence serve dead idols? Behold, the Eternal God opens His whole heart to you; He follows you, in all your goings; He blesses and delights you in a thousand different ways; He sets before you the most splendid offers for the redemption of your soul; He sends His Divine grace to meet you; and is ready, like a tender mother, to take care of you, to refresh you; and yet you continue with your dead heart to praise his love with your mouth, yet turning this same love into a cloak for your wickedness. 

What are these sins which you commit? Are they not, as it were so many blows from your hand, directed against the infinite love of God? Are they not like the traitor kiss of Judas, worthy of the deepest abhorrence? You say, "God has chosen me, saved me, regenerated me; He has snatched me as a brand from the burning; He has forgiven me my sins; He has received me among the number of His elect, and has embraced me with His free grace."

If God has done all this for you, how can you endure the thought of daily crucifying your merciful Redeemer afresh, and causing him to mourn? Talk not of your awakening, talk not of the grace of God; you have as yet never known the hellish nature of sin, nor have you experienced the true meaning of pardon. If the Lord has chosen, saved, favored, and blessed you, should you not in deep humility bow yourself to the dust? Your heartfelt love for the God who has thus loved you, should daily incite you to gratitude: "For to this end has God chosen us," says Paul, "that we should be holy and unblameable before Him in love." If you can so far abuse the Gospel of the grace of God, as to bear to continue even in one single sin, without contrition, striving, and fighting against it, and without the most earnest wish to subdue it; you are a dreadful hypocrite, and your sins are by far more hateful and abominable than the sins of those who do not possess your knowledge. 

If, however, the abuse of the doctrine of grace is such a horrible and crying sin, such an unnatural wickedness, its punishment will likewise be fearful. We see a proof of this in Judas Iscariot, the traitor. This ungodly wretch imagined that he was in the favor of Jesus, and belonged to the number of His elect; but he deceived himself, it was not so. He was in secret alliance with sin. He was devoted to avarice; and he coveted, and stole, under the very eyes of Him whose disciple he pretended to be. He even journeyed about with the other Apostles; preached the name of Jesus; and who knows but that he was not more conversant with the doctrines of the Gospel than the rest of the Apostles put together? 

But what did it avail him? Discord gnawed at his vitals; an evil conscience tormented him as often as he came under his Master's eye; a warning from the lips of his Lord sounded in his ear, as the thunder of the judgment; until at last the flames of despair; which consumed his vitals, burst forth—until he, finally, in the grasp of this despair, put an end to himself with horror and dread. 

Yes, if you apprehend the doctrine of grace, only carnally; if you leave it as a useless treasure of knowledge, to dwell only in the head, instead of within the heart; if you lend but a finger to Satan, while you pretend to be giving your whole hand to Jesus, and are knowingly and willfully under the dominion of the least appearance of sin; then you are on the direct road which Judas took to eternal damnation. The abuse of this doctrine is the most dreadful ingratitude, the most fearful mockery of the living God, which men can commit—the most hateful insult which we can show to the Lord. What wonder is it that the Lord, who will not be mocked, threatens it with the most dreadful punishments?

 Yes! Our compassionate God guards and warns us, that we may not in future receive our portion with the hypocrites. He assists us in His mercy, that we may be secured from the abuse of His grace, and may attain to the right and proper use of it. How does this appear? How are we to attain to it? We will shortly, in the last place, consider this. We have seen already how this abominable sin is very easy to commit; how common it is; and how criminal, and therefore how worthy of punishment. If you have attentively and considerately followed what has been hitherto said, you will have remarked, that we spoke not so much of the abuse of grace itself, as of the abuse of the doctrine of grace. There is a wide difference between the two. 

The doctrine of grace may be viewed in a false, sinful light, and looked at only on one side, so as to have no influence—at least, no deep, essential influence—upon the reason and actions of the man. But is this possible with grace itself? "God forbid," says Paul, "that we which are dead to sin should live any longer therein!" True grace contains a death blow to all sin, and a powerful incitement to all goodness. Whoever has truly found grace in the eyes of the Lord, has seen sin in all its most hateful forms, and knows its curse, its deserving of condemnation, and has engaged in warm combat against it; bearing a bitter hatred towards it in his heart, and not even having any inward desire in his soul but this, to consecrate his whole heart, his whole life to the Lord, who has in so unmerited a manner saved him, and drawn him to Himself. 

But whoever can grieve this Eternal Comforter, by even one single sin; whoever can reconcile his heart to take pleasure in any sinful deed or desire, has placed a phantom, an airy conception of his brain, in the stead of real grace; and does not belong to those who have experienced the grace of God, and are become partakers of it. If you wish then to be freed from the abuse of grace, and to attain to the right use of it, behold I can give you no other advice than this: Learn to know the grace of God by experience. In grace alone, where it is in truth experienced, lies all saving power. Learn to see what you are in the sight of God; what you deserve according to His law; learn to know, how it is only through His free mercy that your salvation can be effected; and that He has effected it. You must descend from the proud height of your imagined righteousness, until you know yourself, as Paul did, to be the chief of sinners, who has deserved everlasting wrath, curse, damnation, and hell; but who is not worthy of the least benefit from God. 

When you have learned this in deep humility, then the grace of God will become great and precious to you; then you will perceive what a hateful hellish monster all sin, and every sin, is; then it will be your chief desire daily and hourly to destroy all and each sin; yes, then will your heart lay hold of the free grace of God, so that in the deepest heartfelt humility, love, and thankfulness, you will offer yourself as a living sacrifice for the great love with which the Lord has loved you, and will ever love you. 

Means of grace are not lacking to us. If it is the real intention of your heart—and not only of your lips—to attain to grace; if the Spirit of God has kindled a longing after God in you, then you will faithfully employ the Word of God, prayer, and the holy sacraments; and avoid all occasions of sin, and frivolous, vain, worldly society; and strive with all your efforts, and all the powers at your command, to attain the goal—the everlasting blessedness of your soul.

Thus we return anew to begging and entreating you, and admonishing you in Christ's stead: "be reconciled to God." No longer reject the saving hand of your Surety; fall at His feet, and become His blessed heritage. With all the riches of His house, with all the precious blood-bought treasures of His kingdom, with all His most holy merits, with his spotless righteousness, with endless peace, with joy which infinitely outweighs all earthly pleasures, the Everlasting Comforter appears before your soul to crown it with grace and mercy. Oh, receive the presents of this bountiful Lord. Draw Him towards yourself with all the treasures of His grace, and He will establish, strengthen, and settle you in the blessed experience, that His grace shall never depart from you, nor the covenant of His peace fail.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

the 'god' of this generation

by A.W. Pink
The "god" of this twentieth century no more resembles the
Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering
of a candle the glory of the mid-day sun.

The god who is now talked about in the average pulpit,
spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in
most of the religious literature of the day, and preached in
most of the so-called Bible conferences is a figment of human
imagination, an invention of over-emotional sentimentality.

The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods
out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathen inside
Christendom manufacture a god out of their own carnal minds.

In reality, they are but atheists;
FOR THERE IS NO OTHER POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE BETWEEN
AN ABSOLUTE SUPREME GOD AND NO GOD AT ALL!

A "god" whose will is resisted,
whose designs are frustrated,
and whose purpose is checkmated,
possesses no title to Deity, and
SO FAR FROM BEING A FIT OBJECT OF WORSHIP,
MERITS NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

HALLELUJAH!

 Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  -Psalm 146:1

With holy awe let us pronounce the word HALLELUJAH, and by it summon ourselves and all others to adore the God of the whole earth. Men need to be called to praise; it is important that they should praise; and there are many reasons why they should do it at once. Let all who hear the word Hallelujah unite immediately in holy praise.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul.” He would practise what he had preached. He would be the leader of the choir which he had summoned. It is a poor business if we solely exhort others, and do not stir up our own soul. It is an evil thing to say, “Praise ye,” and never to add, “Praise, O my soul.” When we praise God let us arouse our innermost self, our central life, we have but one soul, and if it be saved from eternal wrath, it is bound to praise its Saviour. Come heart, mind, thought! Come my whole being, my soul, my all, be all on flame with joyful adoration! Up, my brethren! Lift up the song! “Praise ye the Lord.” But what am I at? How dare I call upon others, and be negligent myself? If ever man was under bonds to bless the Lord I am that man, wherefore let me put my soul into the centre of the choir, and then let my better nature excite my whole manhood to the utmost height of loving praise. “O for a well-tuned harp!” Nay, rather, O for a sanctified heart. Then if my voice should be of the poorer sort, and somewhat lacking in melody, yet my soul without my voice shall accomplish my resolve to magnify the Lord.

C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The cheap, easy religion of the day

“The vast majority of professing Christians today are far, far more concerned about their bodies than their souls, about carnal pleasures than spiritual riches, about earthly comforts than heavenly consolations, about the good opinion of their fellows rather than the approbation of God. But a few — and O how few — are made serious, become in deadly earnest to examine well their foundations and test every inch of the ground they stand on. With them religion is not something to be taken up and laid down according to their fitful moods. Where will they spend ETERNITY is their all-absorbing concern. Every other interest in life sinks into utter insignificance before the vital consideration of seeking to make sure that they have “the root of the matter” in them. O my reader, can you be satisfied with the cheap, easy-going religion of the day, which utterly ignores the clamant call of the Son of God “Agonize to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24)?
Can you rest content with the “smooth things” now being proclaimed from well nigh every pulpit, which assures those who are at emnity with God they can become Christians more easily than a youth can join the army, or a man become a ‘free mason’ or ‘odd fellow’? Can you follow the great crowd who claim to have “received Christ as their personal Savior” when no miracle of grace has been wrought in their hearts, while the Lord Himself declares
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14)?
Dare you rest upon some “decision” made when you were deeply stirred by some anecdotes addressed to your emotions? Have you nothing more than some change in your religious views or some reformation in your outward ways to show that you are “a new creature in Christ Jesus”? Slight not, we beseech you, this pressing word, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God”.” —A. W. Pink (1886–1952)

Unable



“A preacher may induce a man to believe what Scripture says about his lost condition, persuade him to bow to the divine verdict, and then accept Christ as his personal Savior. No man wants to go to hell, and fire is assured intellectually that Christ stands ready as a fire escape, on the sole condition that he jump into His arms (“rest on His finished work”), thousands will do so. But a hundred preachers are unable to make an unregenerate person realize the dreadful nature of sin, or show him that he has been a lifelong rebel against God, or change his heart so that he now hates himself and longs to please God and serve Christ. Only the Spirit can bring man to the place where he is willing to forsake every idol, cut off a hindering right hand or pluck out an offending right eye.” —A. W. Pink (1886–1952)


Taken from “Gleanings in the Godhead” by A. W. Pink (1886-1952)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Divine Chastisement

Divine Chastisement
(Hebrews 12:5)


                                                        A.W. Pink

The grand truth of Divine Chastisement is inexpressibly blessed, and one which we can neglect only to our great loss. It is of deep importance, for when Scripturally apprehended it preserves from some serious errors by which Satan has succeeded (as "an angel of light") in deceiving and destroying not a few. For example, it sounds the death-knell to that wide-spread delusion of "sinless perfectionism." The passage which is to be before us unmistakably exposes the wild fanaticism of those who imagine that, as the result of some "second work of grace," the carnal nature has been eradicated from their beings, so that, while perhaps not so wise, they are as pure as the angels which never sinned, and lead lives which are blameless in the sight of the thrice holy God. Poor blinded souls: such have not even experienced a first "work of Divine grace" in their souls: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
"My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:5, 6). How plain and emphatic is that! God does find something to "rebuke" in us, and uses the rod upon every one of His children. Chastisement for sin is a family mark, a sign of sonship, a proof of God’s love, a token of His Fatherly kindness and care; it is an inestimable mercy, a choice new-covenant blessing. Woe to the man whom God chastens not, whom He suffers to go recklessly on in the boastful and presumptuous security which so many now mistake for faith. There is a reckoning to come of which he little dreams. Were he a son, he would be chastened for his sin; he would be brought to repentance and godly sorrow, he would with grief of heart confess his backslidings, and then be blest with pardon and peace.
The truth of Divine chastisement corrects another serious error, which has become quite common in certain quarters, namely, that God views His people so completely in Christ that He sees no sin in them. It is true, blessedly true, that of His elect it is stated, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel" (Num. 23:21) and that Christ declares of His spouse "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee" (Song 4:7). The testimony of Scripture is most express that in regard to the justification or acceptance of the persons of the elect, they are "complete in Him"—Christ (Col. 2:10); "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6)—washed in Christ’s blood, clothed with His righteousness. In that sense, God sees no sin in them; none to punish. But we must not use that precious truth to set aside another, revealed with equal clearness, and thus fall into serious error.
God does see sin in His children and chastises them for it. Even though the non-imputation of sin to the believer (Rom. 4:8) and the chastisement of sin in believers (1 Cor. 11:30-32) were irreconcilable to human reason, we are bound to receive both on the authority of Holy Writ. Let us beware lest we fall under the solemn charge of Malachi 2:9, "Ye have not kept My ways, but have been partial in the law." What could be plainer than this, "I will make Him my Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him. His seed also will I make to endure forever and His throne as the days of heaven. If His children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My loving kindness will I not utterly take from Him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail" (Ps. 89:27-33). Five things are clearly revealed there. First Christ Himself is addressed under the name of "David." Second, His children break God’s statutes. Third, in them there is "iniquity" and "transgression." Fourth, God will "visit" their transgression "with the rod!" Fifth, yet will He not cast them off.
What could express more clearly the fact that God does see sin in believers, and that He does chastise them for it? For, be it noted, the whole of the above passage speaks of believers. It is the language, not of the Law, but of the Gospel. Blessed promises are there made to believers in Christ: the unchanging loving-kindness of God, His covenant-faithfulness toward them, His spiritual blessing of them. But "stripes" and the "rod" are there promised too! Then let us not dare to separate what God has joined together. How do we know anything concerning the acceptance of the elect in Christ? The answer must be, Only on the testimony of Holy Writ. Very well; from the same unerring Testimony we also know that God chastises His people for their sins. It is at our imminent peril that we reject either of these complementary truths.
The same fact is plainly presented again in Hebrews 12:7-10, "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily, for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." The apostle there draws an analogy from the natural relationship of father and child. Why do earthly parents chastise their children? Is it not for their faults? Can we justify a parent for chastening a child where there was no fault, nothing in him which called for the rod? In that case, it would be positive tyranny, actual cruelty. If the same be not true spiritually, then the comparison must fall to the ground. Hebrews 12 proves conclusively that, if God does not chastise me then I am an unbeliever, and I sign my own condemnation as a bastard.
Yet it is very necessary for us to point out, at this stage, that all the sufferings of believers in this world are not Divine rebukes for personal transgressions. Here too we need to be on our guard against lopsidedness. After we have apprehended the fact that God does take notice of the iniquities of His people and use the rod upon them, it is so easy to jump to the conclusion that when we see an afflicted Christian, God must be visiting His displeasure upon him. That is a sad and serious error. Some of the very choicest of God’s saints have been called on to endure the most painful and protracted sufferings; some of the most faithful and eminent servants of Christ have encountered the most relentless and extreme persecution. Not only is this a fact of observation, but it is plainly revealed in Holy Writ.
As we turn to God’s Word for light on the subject of suffering among the saints, we find it affirmed, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). Those "afflictions" are sent by God upon different ones for various reasons. Sometimes for the prevention of sin: the experience of the beloved apostle was a case in point, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Cor. 12:7). Sometimes sore trials are sent for the testing and strengthening of our graces: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (James 1:2, 3). Sometimes God’s servants and people axe called on to endure fierce persecution for a confirmatory testimony to the Truth "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).
Yet here again we need to be much on our guard, for the flesh is ever ready to pervert even the holy things of God, and make an evil use of that which is good. When God is chastising a Christian for his sins, it is so easy for him to suppose such is not the case, and falsely comfort himself with the thought that God is only developing his graces, or permitting him to have closer fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. Where we are visited with afflictions personally, it is always the safest policy to assume that God has a controversy with us; humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand, and say with Job, "Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me" (10:2); and when He has convicted me of my fault, to penitently confess and forsake it. But where others are concerned, it is not for us to judge—though sometimes God reveals the cause to His servants (Amos 3:7).
In the passage which is to be before us, the apostle presents a third consideration why heed should be given unto the exhortation at the beginning of Hebrews 12, which calls to patient perseverance in the path of faith and obedience, notwithstanding all the obstacles, difficulties, and dangers which may be encountered therein. He now draws a motive from the nature of those sufferings considered in the light of God’s end in them: all the trials and persecutions which He may call on His people to endure are necessary, not only as testimonies to the truth, to the reality of His grace in them, but also as chastisements which are required by us, wherein God has a blessed design toward us. This argument is enforced by several considerations to the end of verse 13. How we should admire and adore the consummate wisdom of God which has so marvelously ordered all, that the very things which manifest the hatred of men against us, are evidences of His love toward us! How the realization of this should strengthen patience!
O how many of God’s dear children have found, in every age, that the afflictions which have come upon them from a hostile world, were soul-purging medicines from the Lord. By them they have been bestirred, revived, and mortified to things down here; and made partakers of God’s holiness, to their own unspeakable advantage and comfort. Truly wondrous are the ways of our great God. Hereby doth He defeat the counsels and expectations of the wicked, having a design to accomplish by their agency something which they know not of. These very reproaches, imprisonments, stripes, with the loss of goods and danger of their lives, with which the world opposed them for their ruin; God makes use of for their refining, consolation and joy. Truly He "maketh the wrath of man to praise Him" (Ps. 76:10). O that our hearts and minds may be duly impressed with the wisdom, power and grace of Him who bringeth a clean thing out of an unclean.
"In all these things is the wisdom and goodness of God, in contriving and effecting these things, to the glory of His grace, and the salvation of His Church, to be admired" (John Owen). But herein we may see, once more, the imperative need for faith—a God-given, God-sustained, spiritual, supernatural FAITH. Carnal reason can see no more in our persecutions than the malice and rage of evil men. Our senses perceive nothing beyond material losses and painful physical discomforts. But faith discovers the Father’s hand directing all things: faith is assured that all proceeds from His boundless love: faith realizes that He has in view the good of our souls. The more this is apprehended by the exercise of faith, not only the better for our peace of mind, but the readier shall we be to diligently apply ourselves in seeking to learn God’s lessons for us in every chastisement He lays upon us.
The opening "And" of verse 5 shows the apostle is continuing to present motives to stir unto a perseverance in the faith, notwithstanding sufferings for the same. The first motive was taken from the example of the O.T. worthies (verse 1). The second, from the illustrious pattern of Jesus (verses 2-4). This is the third: the Author of these sufferings—our Father—and His loving design in them. There is also a more immediate connection with 5:4 pointed by the "And:" it presents a tacit rebuke for being ready to faint under the lesser trials, wherewith they were exercised. Here He gives a reason how and why it was they were thus making that reason the means of introducing a new argument. The reason why they were ready to faint was their inattention to the direction and encouragement which God has supplied for them—our failure to appropriate God’s gracious provisions for us is the rise of all our spiritual miscarriages.
The Hebrew Christians to whom this epistle was first addressed were passing through a great fight of afflictions, and miserably were they acquitting themselves. They were the little remnant out of the Jewish nation who had believed on their Messiah during the days of His public ministry, plus those Jews who had been converted under the preaching of the apostles. It is highly probable that they had expected the Messianic kingdom would at once be set up on earth, and that they would be allotted the chief places of honor in it. But the millennium had not begun, and their own lot became increasingly bitter. They were not only hated by the Gentiles, but ostracized by their unbelieving brethren, and it became a hard matter for them to make even a bare living. Providence held a frowning face. Many who had made a profession of Christianity had gone back to Judaism and were prospering temporally. As the afflictions of the believing Jews increased they too were sorely tempted to turn their back upon the new Faith. Had they been wrong in embracing Christianity? Was high heaven displeased because they had identified themselves with Jesus of Nazareth? Did not their sufferings go to show that God no longer regarded them with favor?
Now it is most blessed and instructive to see how the apostle met the unbelieving reasoning of their hearts. He appealed to their own scriptures, reminding them of an exhortation found in Proverbs 3:11, 12: "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastenings of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him" (Heb. 12:5). As we pointed out so often in our exposition of the earlier chapters of this Epistle, at every critical point in his argument the apostle’s appeal was to the written Word of God—an example which is binding on every servant of Christ to follow. That Word is the final court of appeal for every controversial matter, and the more its authority is respected, the more is its Author honored. Not only so, but the more God’s children are brought to turn to its instruction, the more will they be built up and established in the true faith. Moreover, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4): it is to them alone we must turn for solid comfort. Great will be our loss if we fail to do so.
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you." Note well the words we have placed in italics. The exhortation to which the apostle referred was uttered over a thousand years previously, under the Mosaic dispensation; nevertheless the apostle insists that it was addressed equally unto the New T. saints! How this exposes the cardinal error of modern "dispensationalists," who seek to rob Christians of the greater part of God’s precious Word. Under the pretense of "rightly dividing" the Word, they would filch from them all that God gave to His people prior to the beginning of the present era. Such a devilish device is to be steadfastly resisted by us. All that is found in the book of Proverbs is as much God the Father’s instruction to us as are the contents of the Pauline epistles! Throughout that book God addresses us individually as "My son:" see Hebrews 1:8, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, etc. Surely that is quite sufficient for every spiritual mind—no labored argument is needed.
The appositeness of Proverbs 3:11, 12 to the case of the afflicted Hebrews gave great force to the apostle’s citing of it here. That passage would enable them to perceive that their case was by no means unprecedented or peculiar, that it was in fact no otherwise with them than it had been with others of God’s children in former ages and that long before the Lord had graciously laid in provision for their encouragement: "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction: For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a Father the son in whom He delighteth" (Prov. 3:11, 12). It has ever been God’s way to correct those in whom He delights, to chastise His children; but so far from that salutary discipline causing us to faint, it should strengthen and comfort our hearts, being assured that such chastening proceeds from His love, and that the exhortation to perseverance in the path of duty is issued by Him. It is the height of pride and ingratitude not to comply with His tender entreaties.
But the apostle had to say to the suffering Hebrews, "Ye have forgotten the exhortation." To forget God’s gracious instruction is at least an infirmity, and with it they are here taxed. To forget the encouragements which the Father has given us is a serious fault: it is expressly forbidden: "Beware lest thou forget the Lord" (Deut. 6:12). It was taxed upon the Jews of old, "They soon forgat His works... They forgat God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt" (Ps. 106:13, 21). Forgetfulness is a part of that corruption which has seized man by his fall: all the faculties of his soul have been seriously injured—the memory, which was placed in man to be a treasury, in which to lay up the directions and consolations of God’s Word, has not escaped the universal wreckage. But that by no means excuses us: it is a fault, to be striven and prayed against. As ministers see occasion, they are to stir up God’s people to use means for the strengthening of the memory—especially by the formation of the habit of holy meditation in Divine things.
Thus it was with the Hebrews, in some measure at least: they had "forgotten" that which should have stood in good stead in the hour of their need. Under their trials and persecution, they ought, in an especial manner, to have called to mind that Divine exhortation of Proverbs 3:11, 12 for their encouragement: had they believingly appropriated it, they had been kept from fainting. Alas, how often we are like them! "The want of a diligent consideration of the provision that God hath made in the Scripture for our encouragement to duty and comfort under difficulties, is a sinful forgetfulness, and is of dangerous consequence to our souls" (John Owen).
"Which speaketh unto you as unto children." It is very striking indeed to observe the tense of the verb here: the apostle was quoting a sentence of Scripture which had been written a thousand years previously, yet he does not say "which hath spoken," but "which speaketh unto you!" The same may be seen again in that sevenfold exhortation of Revelation 2 and 3, "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith (not "said") unto the churches." The Holy Scriptures are a living Word, in which God speaks to men in every generation. Holy Writ is not a dumb or dead letter: it has a voice in it, ever speaking of God Himself. "The Holy Spirit is always present in the Word, and speaks in it equally and alike to the church in all ages. He doth in it speak as immediately to us, as if we were the first and only persons to whom He spake. And this should teach us, with what reverence we ought to attend to the Scriptures, namely, as to the way and means whereby God Himself speaks directly to us" (John Owen.)
"Which speaketh unto you as unto children." The apostle emphasizes the fact that God addresses an exhortation in Proverbs 3:11 to "My son," which shows plainly that His relation to the O.T. saints was that of a Father to His children. This at once refutes a glaring error made by some who pose as being ultra-orthodox, more deeply taught in the Word than others. They have insisted that the Fatherhood of God was never revealed until the Son became incarnate; but every verse in the Proverbs where God says "My son" reveals their mistake. That the O.T. saints were instructed in this blessed relationship is clear from other passages: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Ps. 103:13). This relation unto God is by virtue of their (and our) union with Christ: He is "the Son," and being one with Him, members of His body, they were "sons" too.
This precious relationship is the ground of the soul’s confidence in God. "If God speaks to them as to children, they have good ground to fly to God as to a Father. and in all time of need to ask and seek of Him all needful blessings (Matthew 7:11), yea, and in faith to depend on Him for the same (Matthew 6:31, 32). What useful things shall they want? What hurtful thing need such to fear? If God deal with us as with children, He will provide for them every good thing, He will protect them from every hurtful thing, He will hear their prayers, He will accept their services, He will bear with their infirmities, He will support them under all their burdens, and assist them against all their assaults; though through their own weakness, or the violence of some temptation, they should be drawn from Him, yet will He be ready to meet them in the mid-way, turning to Him—instance the mind of the father of the prodigal towards him" (W. Gouge).

Friday, November 21, 2014

No man cares for my soul



“Not for yourself, O church, do you exist, any more than Christ existed for himself.”
- Charles Spurgeon



HT- Ingrid Schlueter   Please, read Ingrid's post and take note of a comment there by 'teeky'.

two extremes of life

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire!'
"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!'"
 
In some respects, this is one of the most remarkable parables uttered by our Lord. It brings before us . . .
the two extremes of life,
the two extremes of death, and
the two extremes of existence beyond the grave.
Each of these couplets may be regarded as an act in the parabolic drama. The characters employed in their representation, being . . .
a beggar,
a rich man,
the patriarch Abraham,
and attending angels.
While the scene is laid . . .
in Earth,
and in Heaven,
and in Hell.
The consideration of these several acts will put us in possession of the true scope of the parable, and enable us to explain its minor features and design.
 
The first act exhibited before us, is the two extremes of life — a very rich man — and a very poor man.
The RICH MAN presents himself as being "dressed in purple and fine linen and living in luxury every day." Nothing could more clearly indicate his wealth and splendor; for though, in later times, robes of purple have been appropriated to royalty alone — yet in Christ's day it was the dress of the rich, the great, and the favorites in the courts of princes. Robes of purple were very costly, because of the scarcity of the shell-fish (murex trunculus) from which the Tyrians obtained their celebrated dye; or from the rareness of the purple fish, from which, according to Pliny, the Phoenicians extracted their rich varieties of purple.
Of nearly equal costliness was the "fine linen," in which the rich man was clothed; consisting of an under-vest or tunic, composed chiefly of the Egyptian flax or Bambusa, which was of a soft texture, and so expensive, being worth its weight in gold, as to be worn only by princes, priests, or people of great estate. In saying, then, that he was "dressed in purple and fine linen," nothing more was needed to indicate thecostliness and magnificence of his attire.
But he "lived in luxury," as well as dressed royally; and that not occasionally — but "every day." His life was a daily feast, full of everything that could gratify the palate of an epicurean lord. Of course, his dwelling was in keeping with his wardrobe and his table. And when we say, therefore, that he was gorgeously arrayed, sumptuously fed, and nobly lodged — we cover the whole ground of luxurious living, and thatoutward splendor which is so much coveted by men.
Turn now to the BEGGAR. His name is Lazarus. The name of the rich man has not been mentioned (for the term Dives, the Latin word for "rich, magnificent," is a conventional name given to him by uninspired writers) — but that of the beggar has been recorded. The names ofmultitudes of the poor, whom the world knows not of — will be found recorded in "the Lamb's Book of Life," and engraved on the palms of the hands of the crucified One — while the names of but few of the rich, the wise, the noble, are written there; for they are the "men of the world who have their portion in this life."
Of this Lazarus (a name derived, as some think, from a Hebrew word, signifying a helpless person; or according to others, from a word which is interpreted God is my helper), it is said, that he was laid at the gate of this rich man, full of sores, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from his table; moreover even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The portal of a great mansion was often a place of resort for beggars, that the passers in and out might give them alms; a custom mentioned as far back as Homer, in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and still kept up in many parts of the Eastern world. This description of Lazarus, like that of the rich man, is brief — but emphatic, the strokes which draw his condition are few — but masterly, and give us a full insight into hiswretchedness and want. He was helpless, for the verb, was laid, being in the passive voice, implies that he was borne and placed there by the aid of others — consequently was himself helpless. "Was laid at his gate" like a common beggar, a miserable dependent mendicant.
"Full of sores" diseased all over his body with grievous ulcers, which must have been intensely painful by their number and malignity, increased by his daily exposure and by the lack of proper sanatives and emollients.
"Desiring to be fed with the crumbs," not asking to sit at the rich man's table, nor yet to eat with his servants — but only for the broken refuse crumbs which fell from the platters and was swept into the streets.
"Even the dogs came and licked his sores" — he was so miserable that he was unable to fray away the dogs, which, attracted by the blood and sores of his diseased limbs, came and licked them, thus reducing him almost to the level of the brute creation.
These are the outlines of a misery rarely met with — and present to our imaginations, a loathsome and repulsive object.
Such was the relative condition of the two in this life. The one, with a stately mansion, princely clothing, sumptuous fare, numerous servants, courtly friends — having all that heart could wish or money buy; filling himself day by day with these objects of sensuality and pride, and neither thinking nor caring for the poor, the sick, the houseless, the hungry; absorbed in self, living for the present, reckless of the future!
The other, without a home, a bed, a table, with no companions but dogs, no resting-place but the gateway, no clothing but rags; hungry, diseased, helpless; a burden to himself, an offence to the rich; gathering a scanty pittance from the alms of travelers, and satisfying a craving hunger with the crumbs which he shared with dogs!
Who would not envy the rich man?
Who would not shun the condition of Lazarus?
 
But the scene changes, and brings us to the close of their respective lives. "And it came to pass that the beggar died; the rich man also died and was buried." Death is the common lot of all. Death blends the scepter and the spade, and knocks with equal pace at the gates of thepalace, and the hovels of the poor.
The beggar died first. There is, however, no record of his funeral. He was hurried into the ground, perhaps unhonored, unwept, uncared for, "buried with the burial of an donkey, cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem."
Not so with the rich man: "He died and was buried;" interred, doubtless, with pomp and ceremony; for the wealth which commanded friends when living, could command mourners when dead.
Here, again, who would not prefer the condition of the rich man to that of Lazarus? The one dies surrounded by skillful physicians, faithful nurses, helpful attendants, and is borne to the costly tomb with all the insignia of courtly grief. The other passes away alone, is coffined in his rags, and, without a mourner to drop a tear, and is hurried out of sight.
Thus closes the earthly history of Dives and Lazarus. Here the curtain of life drops — and the bodies return to the worm, their native dust, and corruption.
 
The scene again changes, and the future, with its vast consequences, opens before us.
Dives and Lazarus again come into view — but how changed their eternal destinies!
The rich man! Where is he? "In Hell, lifting up his eyes in torment!" Where were his riches, his purple robes, his sumptuous fare, his lordly mansion? Could none of these save him? Could none of these buy him a place in Heaven? No! stripped of his wealth, his robes, his feasts, his friends — he is thrust into Hell, where his riches and luxuries but feed the flames which burn, but never consume their victim.
The beggar! where is he? His body, perhaps, had scarcely the semblance of an earthly burial — yet his soul was borne "by angels into Abraham's bosom." What though princes even carried the body of Dives to the tomb? Lazarus had the higher honor, for celestial spiritsconveyed his soul to glory!
The Jews expressed the happiness of the righteous at death in three ways:
"They go to the garden of Eden;"
"they go to be under the throne of glory;"
"they go to the bosom of Abraham." And it was in reference to this general idea, that our Lord introduced this expression, to denote thefuture happiness of Lazarus.
He was in the bosom of Abraham, "the Father of the faithful." He whom the rich man scorned to have at his table — was received into the arms of Abraham, "the friend of God;" resting in the highest felicity which the Jewish mind could imagine!
The repose of Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham is represented in the parable as being seen by Dives, for it is stated that "in Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side." Here again our Savior accommodates his language to the common notions of the Jews, who were taught by the rabbinical writers to believe, that the gates of Paradise, were near by the gates of Hell; separated, indeed, by an impassable gulf — yet within eye-range and ear-shot of each other.
As soon as the rich man saw Lazarus he recognized him, and calls him by name, and begs to Abraham, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire!" Brief words — yet expressive of intense woe. The tormenting flame, the parched tongue, the quenchless thirst — a thirst so great that the only blessing it asks is one drop of water from the "tip of one finger" — superadded to the humbling position of a beggar — asking like a miserable mendicant for a favor from the hands of him whom, on earth, he spurned with contempt, constitute the elements of his unearthly agony.
His request, as small as it is, is denied. He is bid to remember, that he, "in his lifetime, received his good things;" he was one of those "men of the world" described by the Psalmist, "who have their portion in this life," who flourish here "like a green bay-tree," "whose hearts were as fat as brawn," and who, in consequence, lifted up their proud spirits against God, asking, with all the insulting haughtiness of Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord that I should serve Him?"
All this he is bid remember, and as his busy memory wakes into more than usual activity — he remembers God's calls of mercy rejected, his opportunities of grace slighted, his vows of obedience broken — and guilt, transgression, rebellion, gather around his mind with most harassing power. Among all the fearful torments of the lost — none will exceed those which memory will furnish in the perpetual review of the past!
Undaunted by the denial of this request, he begs another: "Then I beg you, father — send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment!" By the first reply of Abraham, he ascertained that there was no hope for him, and abandoning all attempt to get a personal favor — he turns his thoughts to his relatives on earth, who, pursuing, as he knew, the same course which he had followed — would, like him, take up their abode in everlasting burnings!
For their sakes, therefore, he pleads that Abraham would "send Lazarus to his father's house," to warn them by his horrendous end — of the dreadful fate which awaited them, if they continued in their sinful course. Abraham replies, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them!"
In the request of Dives, there was a virtual implication that he had not been sufficiently warned, an idea which is still further sustained in his rejoinder: "No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent!" evidently hinting that Moses and the Prophets were not a sufficient warning, and that had a messenger from the unseen world visited him, as he wished Lazarus to do his brethren — he would have repented, and avoided that place of torment; thus aiming to charge upon God, what he had brought upon himself!
But Abraham closes the dialogue with the solemn yet emphatic assertion, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!"
The phrase "Moses and the Prophets" is a common formula to express the writings of the Old Testament. And the assertion of Abraham proves that where the teachings of these sacred books are disregarded — no amount of personal revelation will be productive of benefit. For the same evil dispositions and perverse will which hinder men from believing the truths contained in the Scriptures, attested as they are by signs and wonders of most miraculous power, would lead them, after the first startling excitement was over — to disbelieve even though one went unto them from the dead.

To the open ear of the sincere inquirer, the Scriptures speak out clear and full — and he who yields to their guiding voice will, at death, be "carried by angels into Abraham's bosom!" But, to the willfully closed ear — no attestations, come from wherever they may — will prove effectual, for persistent unbelief will cast them all aside, and rush with infatuated step over every barrier, until death ends his earthly career, and "in Hell, he lifts up his eyes, being in torment!"
 
This parable is full of instructive suggestions:

This parable teaches that the condition of the soul, in the eternal world — is not at all affected by the condition of the body in this world. "God is no respecter of people." Spiritual qualifications alone, shall decide our position in eternity.

This parable teaches that a man may be poor and miserable and despised on earth — and yet be dear to saints, to angels, and to God.Joseph in Pharaoh's dungeon, David hiding in caves, Elijah "hunted like a partridge upon the mountains," the Apostles regarded as "the off-scouring of all things;" and above all, the personal history of our blessed Lord, who was "a man of sorrows," and "had nowhere to lay his head" — amply sustain this precious truth.

This parable teaches that riches, honors, and friends — are no security against death and Hell. "Riches," says Solomon, "are no profit in the day of wrath!" And Zephaniah boldly declares of the ungodly, "Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath!"
HONORS are but rainbows painted on the spray of popular applause, vanishing as soon as formed; even as the Psalmist says, "Man being in honor, abides not."
FRIENDS are but flesh and blood, as mortal and as impotent as ourselves; "none of them" writes David, "can, by any means, redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." He, therefore, who trusts in either of these, trusts in that which will fail him in the day of judgement!

This parable teaches that those who revile the godly and the poor in this life — shall respect and envy them in the life to come. The rich man took no notice of Lazarus when living — but was most anxious to secure his services when in eternity. And who are they "of whom" the Apostle says "the world was not worthy?" Its kings? its poets? its heroes? its philosophers? No! but the lowly, despised, and persecuted servants of God — those who "had trial of mockings and scourgings; yes, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments, who were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, who wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." The world does not write these names in its history with illuminated capitals — but they are written in the "Lamb's Book of Life!" They are not decked with earthly honors — but they are dressed with kingly robes, and wear kingly crowns in Heaven!

This parable teaches that all those who have their "good things in this life" — can expect none in the eternal world. So much are we under the dominion of the temporal and the material — that the present too often absorbs our thoughts to the exclusion of the spiritual and the eternal. The cry of most men, like that of the departing Prodigal, is, "Father, give me the portion of the estate now." They are under the sway of sense — they do not walk by faith. They live only for the present, and come under the class described by David, "men of the world, who have their portion in this life." They have chosen their part — but it is a worldly one, and when called hence they lose it, and have no heavenly portion in the future.

This parable conveys a solemn warning to the rich. It is to be observed that our Lord does not charge the rich man with any positive crimeor immorality. He merely states that he was rich, and lived in a style corresponding to his wealth, which may be said of many a truly good man. But he was evidently one who "trusted in his riches," of whom the Savior declared, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The snare of wealth lies in "its deceitfulness," and he who would avoid its entangling meshes, must use his riches as a steward's trust, for which he must give account at the judgment-seat of Christ.

This parable should prove a consolation to the pious poor. What though he begs his daily bread, and lies in rags at the gates of the rich? Was not Jesus born in a stable? And were not the birds and the foxes better housed than He?
The poor Christian may have no earthly treasure — but he has "an inheritance reserved for him in Heaven."
His body may be full of sores — but God says to his soul, "Your beauty was perfect through my loveliness, which I had put upon you."
He may have but "crumbs" to eat here — but he has an invitation "to the marriage-supper of the Lamb!"
He may have no companions now — but angels minister to him as one of the heirs of salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells in his heart as a Comforter, and Christ is to him "a friend who sticks closer than a brother!" And, from the lowest deep of earthly abasement, he can look up to God, and say, "Abba, Father."

Therefore, to all the poor and humbled Christians, we say, in the words of the once lowly and despised — but now glorious and exalted Savior, "Look up, and lift up your heads — for your redemption draws near!"

And finally, this parable teaches that our eternal future corresponds to our earthly character. We enter the world of spirits with precisely the same moral feelings with which we leave this present world. "As the tree falls — so it lies." He who at death is sinful — will be sinful still. He who at death is holy — will be holy still. This being the case, as God's Word positively assures us, and there being guarantied to us only the present moment of time in which to prepare for this unending future, with how much emphasis should this consideration speak to us of the necessity of making immediate preparations to meet our God!
We may be summoned before Him at any moment. If called hence in an unrepenting and unbelieving state — we shall enter that unseen world only to spend an eternity amidst the torments of the lost, with an impassable gulf between us and the land of bliss! An "impassable gulf!" No passing now! No passing ten thousand ages hence! No passing forever! Once in Hell, lifting up our eyes in torment — and we are there forever!
For though there is remorse in Hell,
though there is sorrow there,
though there is weeping and wailing there —
there is no repentance there, no faith there, no Savior there!
Now, there is mercy and forgiveness! Now, the blood-filled fountain is open! Now, the arms of Jesus are outstretched to receive us! Now, the Spirit pleads and moves upon our hearts! Now, the instrumentalities of grace are freely offered. Seize them now, "for now is the accepted time! Now is the day of salvation."

Without me ye can do nothing

“Grieve not the Holy Spirit.”
- Eph_4:30

All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except he worketh in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Do you desire to speak for Jesus-how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit maketh intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardour for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit-”Without me ye can do nothing.” O branch of the vine, thou canst have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, thou hast no life within thee apart from the life which God gives thee through his Spirit! Then let us not grieve him or provoke him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench him in one of his faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting. If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring his blessing. Let us do him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from him, and then depending alone upon him, having this for our prayer, “Open thou my heart and my whole being to thine incoming, and uphold me with thy free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”
C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rejoice and show the world

“The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.”
- Lam_3:24

It is not “The Lord is partly my portion,” nor “The Lord is in my portion”; but he himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is my portion. Not his grace merely, nor his love, nor his covenant, but Jehovah himself. He has chosen us for his portion, and we have chosen him for ours. It is true that the Lord must first choose our inheritance for us, or else we shall never choose it for ourselves; but if we are really called according to the purpose of electing love, we can sing-

“Lov’d of my God for him again
With love intense I burn;
Chosen of him ere time began,
I choose him in return.”

The Lord is our all-sufficient portion. God fills himself; and if God is all-sufficient in himself, he must be all- sufficient for us. It is not easy to satisfy man’s desires. When he dreams that he is satisfied, anon he wakes to the perception that there is somewhat yet beyond, and straightway the horse-leech in his heart cries, “Give, give.” But all that we can wish for is to be found in our divine portion, so that we ask, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Well may we “delight ourselves in the Lord” who makes us to drink of the river of his pleasures. Our faith stretches her wings and mounts like an eagle into the heaven of divine love as to her proper dwelling-place. “The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage.” Let us rejoice in the Lord always; let us show to the world that we are a happy and a blessed people, and thus induce them to exclaim, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.   

C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, November 14, 2014

God's voice in judgments

“Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good” (Jer. 18:11). As the “therefore” denotes, practical application is here made of what has been before us in the context. The Prophet had been called upon to witness an object-lesson set before him in the potter’s house. Then the Lord had made known to him the relations which He sustains unto nations, viz., Sovereign, Ruler and Judge over them, and the principles which regulate His dealings with them: authority and power, righteousness and mercy. A specific yet illustrative example of such is here shown us . . . Israel had long provoked God to His face, and though He had been slow to anger, the time had now arrived when He would take them to task and deal with them for their wickedness. The dark clouds of His wrath were suspended over them, yet even at this late hour if they genuinely departed from their evil ways and walked the paths of virtue, mercy should “rejoice against judgment.”
God speaks to us not only through His word (both personal and written) but also through His works and ways. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psa. 19:1-4). Creation testifies to the excellencies of the Creator. The Divine providences, too, are vocal: “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity” (Jer. 22:21)—My bounties declared My goodness and should have melted your hearts. God’s judgments also carry with them a definite message: that is why we are exhorted to “hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it” (Micah 6:9)—observe how the verse opens with “the LORD’S voice crieth unto the city.” His “rod” bids us consider the Hand that wields it and calls upon us to forsake our sins. When God speaks in judgment it is the final warning that He is not to be trifled with. When the Almighty is roused to fury who can stand before Him? Nations are no more able to successfully resist Him than can the clay hinder the fingers of the potter who shapes it; yea they are counted as “the small dust of the balance” (Isa. 40:15), which signifies utter insignificance. May we exclaim, “who would not fear Thee, O King of nations!” (Jer. 10:7). No spiritual warrant whatever has any people to put their trust in human greatness, the sire of their armies, the excellency of their equipment, the strength of their defenses. God has but to blow upon them and they are immediately overthrown, entirely demolished. Mark how this is emphasized in Jeremiah 18, “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it” (v. 7): it is done in a moment—suddenly, swiftly, invincibly.
“Behold I frame evil against you.” It is the evil of punishment about to be inflicted on the evil of sin. It is no momentary outburst of uncontrollable anger, but dispassionate and deliberated retribution, and when the almighty “frames” or devises that evil against a kingdom, no power can deliver it. Though Lucifer himself says, “I will ascend above the heights of the cloud: I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14), yet is his proud boast seen to be an empty one, for the Lord says, “yet thou shalt be brought down to Hell, to the sides of the Pit” (v. 15). “Damascus is waxed feeble and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her as a woman in travail” (Jer. 49:24)—suddenly, sorely, irresistibly, from which there is no escape. How this should make the wicked to tremble and depart from their evil ways! God turneth “a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein” (Psa. 107:34).
“Behold I frame evil against you.” Calamities and judgments come not by chance, nor are they originated by inferior agents or secondary causes. Though He may be pleased to make use of human instruments, yet the Lord is the Author of and principal Agent in them. Before the Assyrians fell upon apostate Israel Jehovah declared, “I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isa. 10:6). The Lord moved him, though he was in no wise conscious of any Divine impulse or commission. And when God had finished making use of the Babylonians and raised up the Medes and Persians to humiliate them into the dust, He declared of Cyrus “thou art My battle-axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms” (Jer. 51:20). Cyrus was as truly God’s “servant” as Moses or any of the Prophets: see Isaiah 45:1; Ezra 1:1. Curses as much as blessings, calamities as much as boons, judgments as truly as favours proceed from the Almighty, and it is but a species of atheism to deny the fact.
“Behold I frame evil against you.” How this word needs to be pressed upon this evil and adulterous generation, which is occupied with anyone and anything rather than the living God. In a land where Bibles are so plentiful we are without excuse when we look no higher than the agencies now threatening us. Yea, it is a grievous sin for us to throw the blame of our present trials and troubles upon human instruments instead of upon our national iniquities, and refuse to see God employing those instruments against us. Hitler is but a scourge in the hand of the Almighty. Nor are they helping any to fix their gaze on the supreme Framer of Evil who constantly direct attention to the machinations of the pope and his longing to see the British empire destroyed. Doubtless the papacy was behind the entrance of Italy into active conflict and the perfidy of France, as she is responsible for Eire’s refusal to grant us naval bases, of Vichy’s steady opposition, of the French Canadian’s disloyalty, and of many other hostile factors and forces; but who is permitting the “Mother of Harlots” to employ her powerful influence thus? None other than the Lord of Hosts. He is righteously using Rome as a rod on the back of an apostate Protestantism.
We cannot expect the unbelieving nations to look beyond Hitler and his fellows, but it is the privilege of Christians to “look unto the LORD” (Micah 7:7). It is the very nature of faith to be occupied with its Author. It is the duty of faith to “set the LORD always before” it (Psa. 16:8). When the Ammonites and Moabites came up against Judah, Jehoshaphat turned unto God and said, “we have no might against this great company that come against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee” (2 Chron. 20:12). This is the first message to His own people which the voice of the Lord has in His judgments: look above the human scourges and behold My hand in righteous retribution. And it is the business of God’s servants at such a time to urge upon the saints to “consider in thine heart that the LORD He is God in Heaven above and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deut. 4:39). O that it may be the experience of both writer and reader—“Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Psa. 123:1) and then shall we prove for ourselves “they looked unto Him, and were lightened” (Psa. 34:5).
“Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I frame evil against you and devise a device against you” (Jer 18:11). That is the language of God unto a kingdom whose overthrow is threatened by His judgments, to whom the dispensations of his providence announce impending ruin. The dark clouds of calamity overhead testify to God’s disapproval of a nation’s sins. Under such solemn presages of the impending storm of Divine wrath proud spirits ought to be tamed and the masses brought to realize what a vain thing it is to fight against the Almighty and how fearful are the consequences of flouting His authority and treading underfoot His laws. The effects of evil doing are termed by the Spirit “gall and wormwood,” but it is not until God brings a nation into external miseries they are made to realize the truth thereof. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee and thy backsliding shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God and that My fear is not in thee, saith the Lord of hosts” (Jer 2:19).
“Behold, I frame evil against you.” The speaker is the Most High and “none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest thou?” He framed evil against the antediluvians. “The earth was filled with violence… all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen 6:11,12). Warnings of impending doom were given by Enoch (Jude 14,15) and Noah, but none heeded. Then the storm burst: “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven opened” (Gen 7:11). And what could men do to help themselves? Nothing whatever. God “framed evil” against Sodom and Gomorrah and what could their inhabitants do when He “rained fire and brimstone” upon them (Gen 18:24). They were powerless to withstand it. God “framed evil” against Egypt. Her haughty monarch exclaimed “who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exo 5:2), but discovered that He was not to be defied with impunity when He “took off their chariot wheels” and drowned him and his hosts in the Red Sea.
When the Almighty sends a devastating earthquake, what can puny man do? When He withholds the rain and famine ravages a land, who can resist Him? When He visits with a pestilence which cuts off millions in the prime of life, as the “flu” did in 1918, who can say Him nay? When He unleashes the dreadful hounds of war, who can turn them back? Is there, then, no hope? Yes, if the masses will truly humble themselves beneath the Hand that has begun to smite them. God’s judgments are articulate: they call upon all to throw down the weapons of their high-handed rebellion against Heaven. God takes away their peace and comforts that they may put away their idols. Calamities are sent upon evil-doers that they should depart from their wickedness. God is able to destroy the mightiest kingdom in the twinkling of an eye, but usually He spreads His judgments over a period, as in the ten plagues upon Egypt, granting space for repentance and allowing an interval between the announcement of His having “framed evil,” and the actual and full execution thereof.
Thus it is here in Jeremiah 18:11: after declaring He had devised a device against a nation God adds, “Return ye now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” Conversion ought to be the immediate outcome of God’s judgments, whether they be threatened or in actual course of fulfillment. If men would forsake their sins God would soon lay aside His rod. But observe the urgency of the Call: “return ye now every one from his evil way.” There is no time for delay: God will not be trifled with. Men are very prone to procrastinate: they put off the day of repentance and defer their reformation. They hope and resolve, yet postpone the same, and the longer they do so the harder their hearts become and the more completely the Devil obtains possession of them. Agrippa was “almost persuaded,” but that was as far as he went: his lusts held him fast. “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psa 95:7): if ever there was a time when it was imperative to heed that exhortation it is now.
“And they said, There is no hope” (Jer 18:12). There are three possible interpretations of those words. First, they may be regarded as the language of despair: there is no hope for us in God, we have sinned beyond the reach of mercy. But that would necessarily presuppose they were deeply convicted of their guilt, and the remainder of the verse definitely precludes any such concept. Second, “there is no hope” might be the language of confessed helplessness. There is no hope in us: we are too besotted to reform, too wedded to our sins to break from them; but the remainder of the verse is flatly against this too. Third, “there is no hope” was the language of blatant defiance. There is no hope for you: it is useless to preach to us, our minds are fully made up, we are determined to have our own way, and nothing you say can change us. “We will walk after our own devices and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” they declared. It was the language of open rebellion, whether expressed in words or in deeds.
That this is the obvious meaning of their “there is no hope” is clear not only from the words which immediately follow but also from other passages in Jeremiah. “But they hearkened not nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward” (7:24); “thou saidst, I will not hear: this hath been thy manner from thy youth that thou obeyedst not My voice” (22:21 and see 44:16,17). They declined to be affected by the heavy clouds of judgment over their heads. They refused to forsake their evil ways. They were determined to persist in their disobedience. They openly defied the Almighty. They were impervious to all expostulations and admonitions. Their hearts were fully set in them to drink their fill of iniquity. “For the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts” (Isa 9;13). “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they have made their faces harder than a rock” (Jer 5:3).
“We will walk after our own devices.” We are quite resolved to continue in sin, and no preaching can change us. We are fully determined to do so, no matter what it may cost us. Of old God sent a shortage of food on Israel, but it produced no reformation: “yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.” He smote them with blasting and mildew so that their gardens and vineyards were destroyed, but it moved them not: “yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.” He sent pestilence among them and slew their young men, but they continued impenitent: “yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.” He destroyed some of them by fire, but they persisted in their sins: “yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord” (Amos 4:6-10). And history has repeated itself! It is still doing so before our very eyes. The perversity of ancient Israel finds its counterpart in the contumacy of modern Christendom. God has given Britain “space to repent,” alas, it has to be added “and she repented not” (Rev 2:21), nor is their the slightest indication she will yet do so.