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, May 31, 2015

The unrepenting repenter

The believer in Christ is a lifelong repenter. He begins with repentance and continues in repentance (Rom. 8:12-13). David sinned giant sins but fell without a stone at the mere finger of the prophet because he was a repenter at heart (2 Sam. 12:7-13). Peter denied Christ three times but suffered three times the remorse until he repented with bitter tears (Mt. 26:75). Every Christian is called a repenter, but he must be a repenting repenter. The Bible assumes the repentant nature of all true believers in its instruction on church discipline. A man unwilling to repent at the loving rebuke of the church can be considered nothing more than "a heathen and a tax collector" (Mt. 18:15-17).

 What is repentance? 
Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God, which is known by its fruit—obedience (Mt. 3:8; Acts 26:20; Lk. 13:5-9). It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ. The true repenter is cast on God. Faith is his only option. When he fully knows that sin utterly fails him, God takes him up (Mt. 9:13b). He will have faith or he will have despair; conviction will either deliver him or devour him.

continue reading here...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The wonders of His providence

(Charles Spurgeon, "Esther Defeats her Enemies")

"In his heart a man plans his course--but the LORD determines his steps."Proverbs 16:9 
"Many are the plans in a man's heart--but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21 
"A man's steps are directed by the LORDHow then can anyone understand his own way?" Proverbs 20:24 
Do not judge divine providence in little pieces--it is a grand mosaic, and must be seen as a whole

The Lord's wisdom is seen in arranging the smallest events so as to producegreat results. We frequently hear people say of a pleasant or a great event, "What a providence! This is the finger of God!"--while they are silent as to anything which appears less important, or has an unpleasant savor.

But the place of the flower upon the hillside--is as fixed as the station of a king! And the dust which is raised by a cart-wheel--is as surely steered by divine providence as the planet in its orbit! 

There is as much providence in the creeping of an insect upon a rose leaf--as in the marching of an army to ravage a continent!

Everything, the most minute, as well as the most magnificent--is ordered by the Lord who has prepared His throne in the heavens, whose kingdom rules over all. 

Whatever the event may be, the attentive eye will as clearly see the Lord's providential hand. 

I am sure that God is in the world, yes, and is at my own fireside, and in my chamber--and manages my affairs, and orders all things for me, and for each one of His redeemed children. We need no miracles to convince us of His working, the wonders of His providence are as great marvels as miracles themselves.

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is the papacy the anti-Christ?

The mercy of Christ

When this seductive world intrudes itself into the mind, and is insidiously busy in establishing its ascendancy over the heart; when wealth is riveting its chains, to fasten us in bondage; when ambition invites us to the high places of power and distinction, and promises that we shall be as gods in grandeur and glory; when pleasure informs us, that we have “much goods laid up for many years,” and bids us “take our ease, eat, drink, and be merry;” in a word, when temptation, sense, and sin, crowd around us, and prepare us to absorb all our affections in selfish gratification; let us look to the mercy of Christ, and remember and behold what he has done for us. If we are not hardened indeed, . . . we shall find it difficult, and I hope impossible, not to go, and in some measure, do likewise. We shall, like him, “love our enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return:” we shall “bless them that curse us, and pray for them who despitefully use us and persecute us.”                       

Timothy Dwight, 1752‐1816

God's attributes

(Stephen Charnock, "The Attributes of God")

Power is God's hand or arm.

Omniscience is God's eye. 

Mercy is God's heart.

Eternity is God's duration. 

Holiness is God's beauty. 
Without holiness . . .
  His patience would be an indulgence to sin,
  His mercy would be a sentimental fondness,
  His wrath would be a madness,
  His power would be a tyranny,
  His wisdom would be an unworthy subtlety.
Holiness gives balance to all of God's attributes

I see not an inch of the road

Image result for image of abandoned road

I see not an inch of the road before me, and
have no stock of strength or ability for the journey.
But I must live moment by moment on the Lord God,
who will make my feet like hinds' feet, to tread upon
very high places—even the God who performs all
things for me.

Moreover, to use another figure, I must lie in the
arms of my Beloved as a helpless infant—without
wisdom or power to do anything for myself—but
believing that "the everlasting arms of love" will
prove a safe conveyance.

Oh! what a blessed Jesus we have—who can so soften
affliction and so sweeten Marah's bitter stream, making
us exceeding joyful even in tribulation.

Ruth Bryan

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Going on towards the grave

“Redeeming the TIME, because the days are Evil.” [Eph 5:16]
In a sermon preached during a New-year’s Eve watch-night service, just before midnight, Charles Spurgeon said the following. “Remember, my hearers, it may seem a light thing for us to assemble tonight at such an hour, but listen for one moment to the ticking of that clock!” [At this point, a few minutes until midnight, the preacher paused, and amid solemn silence, everyone heard the clock with its tick, tick, tick.] “It is the beating of the pulse of eternity. 
You hear the ticking of that clock! It is the footstep of death pursuing you. Each time the clock ticks, death’s footsteps are falling on the ground close behind you. Ah! solemn is the thought, but before that clock strikes 12, some here may be in hell; and, blessed be the name of God, some of us may be in heaven! But O, do you know how to estimate your time, my hearers? Do you know how to measure your days? Oh! I have not words to speak tonight. Do you know that every hour you are nearing the tomb – that every hour you are nearing judgment – that the archangel is flapping his wings every second of your life, and, trumpet at his mouth, is approaching you?
Do you know that you do not live stationary lives, but are always going on, on, on, towards the grave? Do you know where the stream of life is hastening some of you? To the rapids – to the rapids of woe and destruction! What shall the end of those be who obey not the gospel of God? Ye will not have so many years to live as ye had last year!
See the man who has but a few shillings in his pocket, how he takes them out and spends them one by one! Now he has but a few coppers, and there is so much for that tiny candle, so much for that piece of bread. He counts the articles out one by one: and so the money goes gradually from his pocket. Oh! if you knew how poor you are, some of you! You think there is no bottom to your pockets; you think you have a boundless store of time – but you have not!
O take care! take care! time is precious! and whenever we have little of it, it is more precious; yea, it is most precious. May God help you to escape from hell and fly to heaven. I feel like the angel, tonight, who put his hand upon Lot, and cried- ‘Escape! look not behind thee! stay not in all the plain: flee to the mountain, lest thou be consumed!’”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Too many nominal Christians

(Arthur Pink)

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven."Matthew 7:21

"Holding to the form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:5 

Never have there been so many millions of nominal Christians as there are today--and never has there been such a small percentage of real believers. Never has Christendom been so crowded with those who have a form of godliness, but who are strangers to its transforming power. We seriously doubt whether there has ever been a time in the history of this Christian era when there were such multitudes of deceived souls within the churches, who truly believe that all is well with their souls, when in fact the wrath of God abides on them!

It is not that those empty professors who call themselves Christians are all conscious hypocrites, rather are they deceived souls; and the tragic thing is that in most churches there is nothing in the preaching which is at all calculated to un-deceive them; instead, there is only that which bolsters them up in their delusion! 

There is a large class in Christendom today who are satisfied with a bare profession. They have heard some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and have given an intellectual assent thereto, and they mistake that for a saving knowledge of the Truth. Their minds are instructed--but theirhearts are not reached, nor their lives transformed! They are still worldly in their affections and ways. There is . . .
  no real subjection to God,
  no holiness of walk,
  no fruit to Christ's glory.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hallowed by Thy name

After reading this post, I decided to re-post A. W. Pink's writing on the Lord's prayer, starting with 'hallowed be Thy name'.  I will include the link to the teaching on the entire prayer at the end of this post.

Our primary duty in prayer is to disregard ourselves and to give God the preeminence in our thoughts, desires, and supplications. This petition necessarily comes first, for the glorifying of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things. All other requests must be subordinate to this one and be in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the glory of God be dominant in our desires. We are to cherish a deep sense of the ineffable holiness of God and an ardent longing for the honoring of it. Therefore, we must not ask God to bestow anything that would contradict His holiness.
"Hallowed be Thy name." How easy it is to utter these words without any thought of their solemn import! In seeking to ponder them, four questions are naturally raised in our minds. First, what is meant by the word hallowed? Second, what is signified by God’s name? Third, what is the import of "hallowed be Thy name?" Fourth, why does this petition come first?
First, the word hallowed is a term from Middle English used here to translate a form of the Greek verb hagiazo. This term is frequently translated "sanctified." It means to set apart for a sacred use." Thus, the words "hallowed be Thy name" signify the pious desire that God’s matchless name might be reverenced, adored, and glorified, and that God might cause it to be held in the utmost respect and honor, that its fame might spread abroad and be magnified.
Second, the name of God stands for God Himself, calling to the mind of the believer all that He is. We see this in Psalm 5:11: "Let them also that love Thy name [that is, Thyself] be joyful in Thee." In Psalm 20:1 we read, "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee," that is, may the God of Jacob Himself defend thee. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower" (Prov. 18:10), that is to say, Jehovah Himself is a strong tower. The name of God stands for the Divine perfections. It is striking to observe that when He "proclaimed the name of the Lord" to Moses, God enumerated His own blessed attributes (see Ex. 34:5-7). This is the true significance of the assertion that "they that know Thy name [that is, Thy wondrous perfections] will put their trust in Thee" (Ps. 9:10). But more particularly, the Divine name sets before us all that God has revealed to us concerning Himself. It is in such appellations and titles as the Almighty, the Lord of hosts, Jehovah, the God of peace, and our Father that He has disclosed Himself to us.
Third, what thoughts did the Lord Jesus intend for us to entertain in our hearts when He taught us to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name"? First, in the widest sense, we are to plead thereby that God, "by His overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to His own glory" (The Westminster Larger Catechism). Hereby we pray that God Himself sanctify His name—that He cause it, by His providence and grace, to be known and adored through the preaching of His Law and Gospel. Furthermore, we pray that His name might be sanctified and magnified in and by us. Not that we can add anything to God’s essential holiness, but we can and should promote the manifestative glory of His holiness. That is why we are exhorted thus: "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name" (Ps. 96:8). We do not have the power within ourselves to hallow the name of our God. Yet Christ instructs us, by putting an imperative, passive verb in our mouths, to command our Father, saying, "Let Thy name be hallowed!" In this mandatory petition, we are taught to call upon our Father to do what He must do, according to the tenor of the words that He spoke through Isaiah: "And concerning the work of My hands command ye Me" (Isa. 45:11)! It is because God’s name must be hallowed among His creatures that our Master instructs us so to pray. "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us" (1 John 5:14). Since our God has so clearly stated His mind, every true believer must desire the hallowing of God’s name among men and must be determined to advance the revealed glory of God on the earth. We are to do this especially by prayer, since the power to accomplish this great end resides only in God Himself. By prayer we receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit to hallow and glorify God in our own thoughts, words, and deeds.
By praying, "hallowed be Thy name," we beg that God, who is most holy and glorious, might enable us to acknowledge and honor Him as such. As Manton forcefully expressed it,
In this petition the glory of God is both desired and promised on our part; for every prayer is both an expression of a desire and also an implicit vow or solemn obligation that we take upon ourselves to prosecute what we ask. Prayer is a preaching to ourselves in God’s hearing: we speak to God to warn ourselves—not for His information, but for our edification.
Alas, that this necessary implication of prayer is not more insisted upon in the pulpit today, and more clearly perceived in the pew! We but mock God if we present to Him pious words and have no intention of striving with our might to live in harmony with them.
For us to hallow or sanctify His name means that we give God the supreme place, that we set Him above all else in our thoughts, affections, and lives. This high purpose of life is antithetical to the example of the builders of the tower of Babel, who said, "Let us make us a name (Gen. 11:4), and of Nebuchadnezzar, who said, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30). The Apostle Peter commands us to "sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts" (1 Pet. 3:15). An awe of His majesty and holiness should so fill our hearts that our whole inner beings bow in entire and willing subjection to Him. For this we must pray, striving to obtain right views and a deeper knowledge of Him, that we may worship Him aright and serve Him acceptably.
This petition not only expresses the desire that God sanctify Himself in and through us, enabling us to glorify Him, but it also voices our longing that others may know, adore, and glorify Him.
In the use of this petition we pray that the glory of God may be more and more displayed and advanced in the world in the course of His providence, that His Word may run and be glorified in the conversion and sanctification of sinners, that there may be an increase of holiness in all His people, and that all profanation of the name of God among men may be prevented and removed (John Gill).
Thus, this petition includes the asking of God to grant all needed effusions of the Spirit, to raise up faithful pastors, to move His churches to maintain a Scriptural discipline, and to stir up the saints to an exercise of their graces.
Fourth, it is now obvious why this is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, for it provides the only legitimate basis for all our other requests. The glory of God is to be our chief and great concern. When we offer this petition to our heavenly Father, we are saying, "Whatever comes to me, however low I may sink, no matter how deep the waters be through which I may be called to pass, Lord, magnify Thyself in and through me." Mark how blessedly this spirit was exemplified by our perfect Savior: "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name" (John 12:27, 28). Though it was necessary for Him to be baptized with the baptism of suffering, yet the Father’s glory was Christ’s great concern.
The following words beautifully summarize the meaning of this petition:
O Lord, open our eyes that we may know Thee aright and may discern Thy power, wisdom, justice, and mercy; and enlarge our hearts that we may sanctify Thee in our affections, by making Thee our fear, love, joy, and confidence; and open our lips that we may bless Thee for Thine infinite goodness; yea, O Lord, open our eyes that we may see Thee in all Thy works, and incline our wills with reverence for Thy name appearing in Thy works, and grant that when we use any one of them, that we may honour Thee in our sober and sanctified use thereof (W. Perkins).
In conclusion, let us point out very briefly the uses to be made of this petition. (1) Our past failures are to be bewailed and confessed. We are to humble ourselves for those sins whereby we have hindered God’s manifestative glory and profaned His name, such as pride of heart, coldness of zeal, stubbornness of will, and impiety of life. (2) We are to earnestly seek those graces whereby we may hallow His name: a fuller knowledge of Himself, an increase of holy fear in our hearts; increased faith, hope, love, and worship; and the right use of His gifts. (3) Our duties are to be faithfully practiced, that there may be nothing in our conduct that would cause His name to be blasphemed by unbelievers (Rom. 2:24). "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

from 'The Lord's prayer' by A. W. Pink

This is why the world hates you

(Arthur Pink)

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!" John 15:18-19 

"Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you!" 1 John 3:13 

The world will not hate mere professors

The man . . .
  who is conformed to this world,
  who takes part in its politics,
  who shares its pleasures,
  who acts according to its principles--
even though he claims the name of Christ, will not be ostracized or persecuted. 

The woman . . .
  who is conformed to this world,
  who follows its fashions,
  who enjoys its society,
  who desires its amusements,
--will not be shunned by it. 

The world loves its own. But those who walk in separation from the world (and they are few in number), those who follow a rejected Christ, will know something of what it means to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why is it?

(Arthur Pink, "Fearing God in His Sovereign Majesty")
"An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:There is no fear of God before his eyes!" Psalm 36:1

Why is it that, today, the masses are so utterly unconcerned about spiritual and eternal things, and that they are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?
Why is it that defiance of God is becoming more open, more blatant, more daring?
Why is it that even among those who profess to be the Lord's people, that there is so little real subjection to His Word, and that its precepts are so lightly esteemed and so readily set aside?
The answer is, because "There is no fear of God before their eyes!" Romans 3:18
Ah! what needs to be stressed today--is that God is a God to be feared!Happy is the person who has been awed by a view of God's majesty, who has had a vision of . . .
  God's unutterable greatness,
  His ineffable holiness,
  His perfect righteousness,
  His irresistible power,
  His sovereign grace!

Time was, when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as "a God-fearing man". That such an appellation has become extinct, only serves to show where we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, "Like as a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him!" Psalm 103:13

When we speak of godly fear, of course, we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No! We mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, "To this man will I look--even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2 

Nothing will foster this godly fear, like a recognition of the sovereign majesty of God!

"I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you--this is the One to fear!" Luke 12:4-5
"Our God is a consuming fire!" Hebrews 12:29
"It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Running the race

The verse which is now to engage our attention continues and completes the important exhortation found in the one which was before us in the last article. The two verses are so closely related that only the requirements of space obliged us to separate them. The latter supplies such a blessed sequel to the former that it will be necessary to present a summary of our comments thereon. We saw that the Christian life, the life of faith and obedience, is presented under the figure of a "race," which denotes that so far from its being a thing of dreamy contemplation or abstract speculation, it is one of activity, exertion, and progressive motion, for faith without works is dead. But the "race" speaks not only of activity, but of regulated activity, following the course which is "set before us." Many professing Christians are engaged in multitudinous efforts which God has never bidden them undertake: that is like running round and round in a circle. To follow the appointed track means that our energies be directed by the precepts of Holy Writ.
The order presented in Hebrews 12:1 is the negative before the positive: there must be the "laying aside" of hindering weights, before we can "run" the race set before us. This order is fundamental, and is emphasized all through Scripture. There must be a turning from the world, before there can be a real turning unto the Lord (Isa. 55:7); self must be denied before Christ can be followed (Matthew 16:24). There must be a putting off the old man, before there can be any true putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:22-24). There has to be a "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts," before we can "live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Titus 3:12). There has to be a "cleansing of ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit," before there can be any "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). We must "be not conformed to this world," before we can be "transformed by the renewing of our mind," so that we may "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2, 3).
Before the plants and flowers will flourish in the garden weeds must be rooted up, otherwise all the labors of the gardener will come to naught. As the Lord Jesus taught so plainly in the Parable of the Sower, where the "thorns" are permitted to thrive, the good Seed, the Word, is "choked" (Matthew 13:22); and it is very searching and solemn to note, by a careful comparison of the three records of it, that Christ interpreted this figure of the "thorns" more fully than any other single detail. He defined those choking "thorns" as "the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches," "the lust of other things and pleasures of this life." If those things fill and rule our hearts, our relish for spiritual things will be quenched, our strength to perform Christian duties will be sapped, our lives will be fruitless, and we shall be merely cumberers of the ground—the garden of our souls being filled with briars and weeds.
Hence it is that the first call in Hebrews 12:1 is "let us lay aside every weight." "Inordinate care for the present life, and fondness for it, is a dead weight for the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards and pulls it back when it should press forwards" (Matthew Henry). It is the practical duty of mortification which is here inculcated, the abstaining from those fleshly lusts "which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). The racer must be as lightly clad as possible if he is to run swiftly: all that would cumber and impede him must be relinquished. Undue concern over temporal affairs, inordinate affection for the things of this life, the intemperate use of any material blessings, undue familiarity with the ungodly, are "weights" which prevent progress in godliness. A bag of gold would be as great a handicap to a runner as a bag of lead!
It is to be carefully noted that the laying aside of "every weight" precedes "and the sin which does so easily beset us", which has reference to indwelling corruption. Each Christian imagines that he is very anxious to be completely delivered from the power of indwelling sin: ah, but our hearts are very deceitful, and ever causing us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. A criterion is given in this passage by which we may gauge the sincerity of our desires: our longing to be delivered from indwelling evil is to be measured by our willingness and readiness to lay aside the "weights." I may think I am earnestly desirous of having a beautiful garden, and may go to much expense and trouble in purchasing and planting some lovely flowers; but if I am too careless and lazy to diligently fight the weeds, what is my desire worth? So, if I disregard that word "make not provision for the flesh unto the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14), how sincere is my desire to be delivered from "the flesh!"
"And let us run with patience the race that is set before us." For this two things are needed: speed and strength—"rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race" (Ps. 19:5): the one being opposed to sloth and negligence, the other to weakness. These are the prime requisites: strength in grace, diligence in exercise. Speed is included in the word "run", but how is the strength to be obtained? This "race" calls for both the doing and suffering for Christ, the pressing forward toward the mark set before us, the progressing from one degree of strength to another, the putting forth of our utmost efforts, the enduring unto the end. Ah, who is sufficient for such a task? First, we are reminded of those who have preceded us, many, a "great cloud": and their faith is recorded for our instruction, their victory for our encouragement. Yet that is not sufficient: their cases afford us a motive, but they do not supply the needed power. Hence, we are next told:
"Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (verse 2). "The cloud of witnesses is not the object on which our heart is fixed. They testify of faith, and we cherish their memory with gratitude, and walk with a firmer step because of the music of their lives. Our eye, however, is fixed, not on many, but on One; not on the army, but the Leader; not on the servants, but the Lord. We see Jesus only, and from Him we derive our true strength, even as He is our light of life" (Adolph Saphir). In all things Christ has the pre-eminence: He is placed here not among the other "racers," but as One who, instead of exemplifying certain characteristics of faith, as they did, is the "Author and Finisher" of faith in His own person.
Our text presents the Lord as the supreme Example for racers, as well as the great Object of their faith, though this is somewhat obscured by the rendering of the A.V. Our text is not referring to Christ begetting faith in His people and sustaining it to the end, though that is a truth plainly enough taught elsewhere. Instead, He is here viewed as the One, who Himself began and completed the whole course of faith, so as to be Himself the one perfect example and witness of what faith is. It was because of "the joy set before Him"—steadily and trustfully held in view—that He ran His race. His "enduring of the cross" was the completest trial and most perfect exemplification of faith. In consequence, He is now seated at the right hand of God, as both the Pattern and Object of faith, and His promise is "to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21).
It is to be duly noted that the little word "our" is a supplement, being supplied by the translators: it may without detriment, and with some advantage, be omitted. The Greek word for "Author" does not mean so much one who "causes" or "originates," as one who "takes the lead." The same word is rendered "Captain of our salvation" in Hebrews 2:10, and in Acts 3:15, the "Prince of life." There its obvious meaning is Leader or Chief, one going in advance of those who follow. The Savior is here represented as the Leader of all the long procession of those who had lived by faith, as the great Pattern for us to imitate. Confirmation of this is found in the Spirit’s use of the personal name "Jesus" here, rather than His title of office—"Christ." Stress is thereby laid upon His humanity. The Man Jesus was so truly made like unto His brethren in all things that the life which He lived was the life of faith.
Yes, the life which Jesus lived here upon earth was a life of faith. This has not been given sufficient prominence. In this, as in all things, He is our perfect Model. "By faith He walked, looking always unto the Father, speaking and acting in filial dependence on the Father, and in filial reception out of the Father’s fullness. By faith He looked away from all discouragements, difficulties, and oppositions, committing His cause to the Lord, who had sent Him, to the Father, whose will He had come to fulfill. By faith He resisted and overcame all temptation, whether it came from Satan, or from the false Messianic expectations of Israel, or from His own disciples. By faith He performed the signs and wonders, in which the power and love of God’s salvation were symbolized. Before He raised Lazarus from the grave, He, in the energy of faith, thanked God, who heard Him alway. And here we are taught the nature of all His miracles: He trusted in God. He gave the command, ‘Have faith in God’, out of the fullness of His own experience" (Adolph Saphir).
But let us enter into some detail. What is a life of faith? First, it is a life lived in complete dependence upon God. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding... in all thy ways acknowledge Him" (Prov. 3:5, 6.) Never did any so entirely, so unreservedly, so perfectly cast himself upon God as did the Man Christ Jesus; never was another so completely yielded to God’s will. "I live by the Father" (John 6:57) was His own avowal. When tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, He replied "man shall not live by bread alone." So sure was He of God’s love and care for Him that He held fast to His trust and waited for Him. So patent to all was His absolute dependence upon God, that the very scorners around the cross turned it into a bitter taunt.—"He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him" (Ps. 22:8).
Second, a life of faith is a life lived in communion with God. And never did another live in such a deep and constant realization of the Divine presence as did the Man Christ Jesus. "I have set the Lord always before Me" (Ps. 16:8) was His own avowal. "He that sent Me is with Me" (John 8:29) was ever a present fact to His consciousness. He could say, "I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly" (Ps. 22:10). "And in the morning, rising a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35). From Bethlehem to Calvary He enjoyed unbroken and unclouded fellowship with the Father; and after the three hours of awful darkness was over, He cried "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit."
Third, a life of faith is a life lived in obedience to God. Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6), and love delights to please its object. Faith has respect not only to the promises of God, but to His precepts as well. Faith not only trusts God for the future, but it also produces present subjection to His will. Supremely was this fact exemplified by the Man Christ Jesus. "I do always those things which please Him" (John 8:29) He declared. "I must be about My Father’s business" (Luke 2:49) characterized the whole of His earthly course. Ever and anon we find Him conducting Himself. "that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." He lived by every word of God. At the close He said, "I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:10).
Fourth, a life of faith is a life of assured confidence in the unseen future. It is a looking away from the things of time and sense, a rising above the shows and delusions of this world, and having the affections set upon things above. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1), enabling its possessor to live now in the power and enjoyment of that which is to come. That which enthralls and enchains the ungodly had no power over the perfect Man: "I have overcome the world" (John 16:31), He declared. When the Devil offered Him all its kingdoms, He promptly answered, "Get thee hence, Satan." So vivid was Jesus’ realization of the unseen, that, in the midst of earth’s engagements, He called Himself "the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13).
"And so, dear brethren, this Jesus, in the absoluteness of His dependence upon the Father, in the completeness of His trust in Him, in the submission of His will to that Supreme command, in the unbroken communion which He held with God, in the vividness with which the Unseen ever burned before Him, and dwarfed and extinguished all the lights of the present, and in the respect which He had ‘unto the recompense of the reward’; nerving Him for all pain and shame, has set before us all the example of a life of faith, and is our Pattern as in everything, in this too.
"How blessed it is to feel, when we reach out our hands and grope in the darkness for the unseen hand, when we try to bow our wills to that Divine will; when we seek to look beyond the mists of ‘that dim spot which men call earth,’ and to discern the land that is very far off; and when we endeavor to nerve ourselves for duty and sacrifice by bright visions of a future hope, that on this path of faith too, when He ‘putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them,’ and has bade us do nothing which He Himself has not done! ‘I will put My trust in Him,’ He says first, and then He turns to us and commands, ‘Believe in God, believe also in Me’" (A. Maclaren, to whom we are indebted for much in this article).
Alas, how very little real Christianity there is in the world today! Christianity consists in being conformed unto the image of God’s Son. "Looking unto Jesus" constantly, trustfully, submissively, lovingly; the heart occupied with, the mind stayed upon Him—that is the whole secret of practical Christianity. Just in proportion as I am occupied with the example which Christ has left me, just in proportion as I am living upon Him and drawing from His fullness, am I realizing the ideal He has set before me. In Him is the power, from Him must be received the strength for running "with patience" or steadfast perseverance, the race. Genuine Christianity is a life lived in communion with Christ: a life lived by faith, as His was. "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21); "Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20)—Christ living in me and through me.
There are four things said in our text about the Savior’s life, each of which we need to ponder carefully. First, the motive or reason which prompted Jesus to do and suffer, wherein He is presented as our example and encouragement: "who for the joy that was set before Him." Here is made known to us what was the final moving cause in His mind which sustained the Savior to a persevering performance of duty, and of the endurance of all sufferings that duty entailed. Various definitions have been given of that "joy," and probably all of them are included within its scope. The glory of God was what the Redeemer preferred above all things: Hebrews 10:5-9, but that glory was inseparably bound up with the personal exaltation of the Redeemer and the salvation of His Church following the accomplishment of the work given Him to do. This was "set before Him" in the everlasting covenant.
Thus the "joy" that was set before Jesus was the doing of God’s will, and His anticipation of the glorious reward which should be given Him in return. Hebrews 12:2 sustains the figure used in the previous verse: it is as the model Racer our Savior is here viewed. At the winning-post hung a crown, in full view of the racers, and this was ever before the eye of the Captain of our salvation, as He pursued the course appointed Him by the Father. He steadily kept before Him the cheering and blissful reward: His heart laid hold of the Messianic promises and prophecies recorded in Holy Writ: He had in steady prospect that satisfaction with which the travail of His soul would be fully compensated. By faith Abraham looked forward to a "City" (11:10); by faith Isaac anticipated "things to come" (11:20); by faith Moses "had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (11:26); and by faith, Jesus lived and died in the enjoyment of that which was "set before Him."
Second, He "endured the cross." Therein we have the Commander’s example to His soldiers of heroic fortitude. Those words signify far more than that He experienced the shame and pain of crucifixion: they tell us that He stood steadfast under it all. He endured the cross not sullenly or even stoically, but in the highest and noblest sense of the term:—with holy composure of soul. He never wavered or faltered, murmured or complained: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it" (John 18:11)! And He has left us an example that we should "follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21), and therefore does He declare, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross" (Matthew 16:24). Strength for this task is to be found by "looking unto Jesus," by keeping steadily before faith’s eye the crown, the joy awaiting us.
Third, "despising the shame." Therein we see the Captain’s contempt of whatever sought to bar His progress. We scarcely think of associating this word "despising" with the meek and lowly Jesus. It is an ugly term, yet there are things which deserve it. The Savior viewed things in their true perspective; He estimated them at their proper worth: in the light of the joy set before Him, He regarded hardship, ignominy, persecution, sufferings from men, as trifles. Here, too, He has left us "an example." But alas, instead of scorning it, we magnify and are intimidated by "the shame." How many are ashamed to be scripturally baptized and wear His uniform. How many are ashamed to openly confess Christ before the world. Meditate more upon the reward, the crown, the eternal joy—that outweighs all the little sacrifices we are now called upon to make.
Fourth, "and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Here we witness the Captain’s triumph, His actual entrance into the joy anticipated, His being crowned with glory and honor. His "sitting down" denoted three things. First, rest after finished work, the race run. Second, being invested with dominion: He now occupies the place of supreme sovereignty: Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2:10. Third, being intrusted with the prerogative of judgment: John 17: 2, Acts 17:30. And what have these three things to do with us, His unworthy followers? Much indeed: eternal rest is assured the successful racer: Revelation 13:14. A place on Christ’s throne is promised the overcomer: Revelation 3:21. Dominion too is the future portion of him who vanquishes this world: Revelation 2:26, 27. Finally, it is written "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? "Do ye not know we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:2, 3). "Joint heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17).
One other word in our text yet remains to be considered: "looking unto Jesus the Author (Captain) and Finisher (Perfecter) of our faith." We have already seen from the other occurrences of this term (in its various forms) in our Epistle, that it is a very full one. Here, we believe, it has at least a twofold force. First, Completer: Jesus is the first and the last as an example of confidence in and submission unto God: He is the most complete model of faith and obedience that can be brought before us. Instead of including Him with the heroes of faith in chapter 11, He is here distinguished from them, as being above them. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending: as there was none hitherto who could be compared with Him, so there will be none hereafter. "Author and Finisher" or "Captain and Completer" means Jesus is beyond all comparison.
The fact that we are bidden to be looking unto Jesus as "the Leader and Finisher of faith" also denotes that He perfects our faith. How? First, by His grace flowing into us. We need something more than a flawless Model set before us: who can in his own strength imitate the perfect Man? But Christ has not only gone before His own, He also dwells in their hearts by faith, and as they yield themselves to His control (and only so) does He live through them. Second, by leading us (Ps. 23:3) along the path of discipline and trial, drawing our hearts away from the things of earth, and fixing them upon Himself. He often makes us lonesome here that we may seek His companionship. Finally, by actually conducting us to glory: He will "come again" (John 14:2) and conform us to His image.
"Looking unto Jesus." The person of the Savior is to be the "mark" on which the eyes of those who are pressing forward for the prize of the high calling of God, are to be fixed. Be constantly "looking" to Him, trustfully, submissively, hopefully, expectantly. He is the Fountain of all grace (John 1:16): our every need is supplied by God "according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). Then seek the help of the Holy Spirit that the eye of faith be steadfastly fixed on Christ. He has declared "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," then let us add, "The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:5, 6). Salvation is by grace, through faith: it is through "faith" we are saved, not only from Hell, but also from this world (1 John 5:4), from temptation, from the power of indwelling sin—by coming to Christ, trusting in Him, drawing from Him.
What are the things which hinder us running? An active Devil, an evil world, indwelling sin, mysterious trials, fierce opposition, afflictions which almost make us doubt the love of the Father. Then call to mind the "great cloud of witnesses": they were men of like passions with us, they encountered the same difficulties and discouragements, they met with the same hindrances and obstacles. But they ran "with patience," they overcame, they won the victor’s crown. How? By "looking unto Jesus": see Hebrews 11:26. But more: look away from difficulties (Rom. 4:19), from self, from fellow-racers, unto Him who has left us an example to follow, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, so that He is able to succor the tempted, strengthen the weak, guide the perplexed, supply our every need. Let the heart be centered in and the mind stayed upon HIM.
The more we are "looking unto Jesus" the easier will it be to "lay aside every weight." It is at this point so many fail. If the Christian denies self of different things without an adequate motive (for Christ’s sake), he will still secretly hanker after the things relinquished, or ere long return to them, or become proud of his little sacrifices and become self-righteous. The most effective way of getting a child to drop any dirty or injurious object, is to proffer him something better. The best way to make a tired horse move more quickly, is not to use the whip, but to turn his head toward home! So, if our hearts be occupied with the sacrificial love of Christ for us, we shall be "constrained" thereby to drop all that which displeases Him; and the more we dwell upon the Joy set before us, the more strength shall we have to run "with patience the race that is set before us." - A. W. Pink

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What God has prescribed

If we are earnest in religion, we shall aim to let its power regulate, and its beauty adorn, all our social relationships, so that all that we have to do in public, or in the family, may be performed under its influence.
And because motives have much to do with actions, and contain all morality; and because thoughts and feelings are the seeds of actions, a man who is earnest in religion will pay most assiduous attention to the state of his mind—will watch his HEART with all diligence; will often scrutinize his soul, and will crucify the affections and lusts of his corrupt nature.
Nor may he stop here, for knowing his own weakness, he must pray, wrestle, and agonize, for the POWER OF THE SPIRIT to help his infirmities. He must have grace, or he will fall. Hence he prays in faith for the aid without which he cannot take a step, and will gladly place himself under the teaching and guidance of this ever-present, all-sufficient Agent.
Such is a condensed view of the Scripture account of true religion. If anything more than this were required to set forth the necessity of earnestness, I might refer to the figures under which the divine life is exhibited in the Word of God. It is a race; what preparation, what laying aside of encumbrances, what intense solicitude, and what strenuous exertion are here implied! It is a conflict, a fight of faith; what anxiety, what peril, what skill, what courage, what struggling, are included in the strife of the battlefield! It is a pilgrimage; what self-denial, what perseverance, what labor, are required for such a journey!
It is impossible not to be struck in reading such an account, with the idea that something more is there than a round of ceremonies, a course of physical exertion, a routine of mechanical action. This is not a mere repetition of prayers, a counting of rosary beads, and a holding of vigils—which are all mere bodily service. But what the Scriptures lay down is a reasonable service, a course of action for the intellect, the will, the heart, the conscience; all the more difficult for being mental, and calling for reflection, determination, resolute purpose, and resistance of opposition.
This, be it recollected, is not what man has devised—but what God has prescribed. It is not what ministers have determined—but what God has set before us. Whether we like it or not, every particular of it is drawn from the Bible. We may complain of it as being too strict—but that must be settled with God, since it is no stricter than he has thought fit to make it. Let us read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. Let us set it before us. Let us turn away from the religion we see in the church, to the religion we read in the Bible. Let us not listen to what man says is necessary—but to what God says is necessary. Let us go for information not to the imperfect and blurred copy in the ordinary profession—but to the perfect and unspotted original.

The religion of the multitudes

(J. A. James, "Earnestness in Personal Piety" 1847)
It appears quite clear that great numbers of Christian professors are very imperfectly acquainted with the requirements of "pure and undefiled religion," and need to be led to re-study it in the pages of Holy Scripture. We have lost sight of the 'Divine Original', and have confined our attention to the 'imperfect transcripts' which we find on every hand in our churches. We have by tacit consent reduced the standard, and fixed our eye and our aim upon an inferior object. We are a law to each other--instead of making the Word of God the law to us all. 

We tolerate worldly-minded, diluted, and weakened piety in others--because we expect a similar toleration for ourselves. We make excuses for them--because we expect the like excuses for our own conduct in return. We have abused, shamefully abused, the fact that 'there is no perfection upon earth,' and converted it into a license for any measure and any number of imperfections!

Our highest notion of religion requires only . . . 
  abstinence from open immorality and 
  the more polluting worldly amusements,
  an attendance upon an evangelical ministry, 
  and an approval of orthodox doctrine. 
This, this, is the religion of multitudes!
 There may be . . .
  no habitual spirituality,
  no heavenly-mindedness,
  no life of faith,
  no communion with God,
  no struggling against sin, Satan, and the world, 
  no concern to grow in grace,
  no supreme regard to eternity,
  no studied and advancing fitness for the eternal world,
  no tenderness of conscience,
  no careful discipline of our disposition,
  no cultivation of love,
  no making piety our chief business and highest pleasure,
  no separation in spirit from the world. 
In short, there may be no impress upon the whole mind, and heart, and conscience and life--of the character of the Christian, as delineated upon the page of Scripture. 
We all need to be taken out of 'the religious world', as it is called, and collected again around the Bible to study what it is to be a Christian! Let us endeavor to forget what the bulk of professors are, and begin afresh to learn what they ought to be. 

It is to be feared that we are corrupting each other, leading each other to be satisfied with a 'conventional piety'. Many have been actually the worse for attending church. They were more intensely concerned and earnest before they came into church fellowship. Their piety seemed to come into an ice house, instead of a hot house! They grew better outside the church--than in the church. At first they were surprised and shocked to see . . .
  the lukewarmness,
  the irregularities, 
  the worldliness,
  the inconsistencies, 
of many older professors, and exclaimed, with grief and disappointment, "Is this the church of Christ!" But after a while, the fatal influence came over them, and their piety sank to the temperature around them!

"Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth!" Revelation 3:16

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Do not abuse prayer

Prayer is not appointed for the furnishing of God with the knowledge of what we need, but it is designed as a confession to Him of our sense of the need.  In this, as in everything, God's thoughts are not as ours.  God requires that His gifts should be sought for.  He designs to be honoured by our asking, just as He is to be thanked by us after He has bestowed His blessing.
The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked.  But this is a most dishonouring and degrading conception.  The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires.  No, prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best.

Real prayer is communion with God, so that there will be common thoughts between His mind and ours.  What is needed is for Him to fill our hearts with His thoughts, and then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him.

Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude—an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God.

—Arthur W. Pink

The pearl oyster

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate "the pearl oyster"—A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but "cover" it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.
—Charles Spurgeon

Christ will be Master

Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.
—Charles Spurgeon