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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A necklace of pearls

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self of unfading beauty, the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

I would ever persuade young people to wear little in the way of ornament, as it is very often a proof of vanity. The best ornament is a meek and quiet spirit, and a holy consistent life. But there are jewels worth wearing. The wisdom of days gone by, is often treasured up in short, pithy sentences: I will call these pearls. I will string five of them together, and ask you to put them on. Bind them about your neck, write them on the table of your heart, carry them about with you, and never forget them.
1. No Pains — no Gains. In matters of everyday life we find this true. Toil, effort, care, striving after doing your very best, is essential to success. In business, in farming, in gardening, there is no profit without it. Leave things to take their chance, do them in an idle, thoughtless spirit — and they will be sure to go wrong.
It is the same in household work. Unless care and trouble is taken, there will be perpetual discomfort to all in the family: there will be no cleanliness, no punctuality; clothes will be badly made or mended, food is spoiled in the cooking, and all through forgetfulness of this proverb. Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
"I don't care!" "It is no consequence!" such sayings as these do great mischief. Dig a deep grave fifty feet deep and bury them forever out of sight.
The proverb is equally true in still greater matters. Reading your Bible, times of secret prayer, going to God's house — all these often bring no benefit through lack of mental effort. You don't bring your heart to them, and so they are all without blessing. Learn the better plan — fight against sloth in all shapes; do everything with a hearty good-will; take pains about the least things and the greatest. Work will then be far happier, for it is always pleasant to do that in which we succeed. You will find far more of the joy of God's service, for the diligent soul shall be made fat. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
2. The Cranes of Ibycus. This proverb hangs upon a story of ancient history. A gang of robbers once attacked a man named Ibycus, upon a lonely road: they robbed him and then murdered him. In the midst of their wicked work a flock of cranes flew over their heads; the dying man called out, "Be my avengers!" Months passed away: men could hear nothing of Ibycus, for his murderers had hidden his body out of sight. One day, however, two of these men were sitting together in an amphitheater; some cranes were flying a little distance off; one said to the other, with a laugh, "The Cranes of Ibycus!" The word was heard: attention was directed to the men; they were questioned, and seemed confused. Their guilt was afterwards brought home to them, and they were condemned. So it passed into a proverb: "The Cranes of Ibycus." It means — sin will come to light, the most unlikely means will often discover it: a bird of the air may carry the matter.
The Great Judge and Heart-searcher knows how to bring men's sins unto the clear day-light. It may be a word, a look, some article of clothing left about, a footstep, a child's cry, a ring at the door-bell, an unexpected call — something of this kind has often tinged the cheek with a guilty shame, and made a guilty conscience tremble. Remember how God revealed Achan's theft, and Ahab's cruel murder of Naboth, and the deceit of Gehazi, and the lying of Ananias and his wife — will you not learn the lesson? Do nothing that you are afraid to come out — be thoroughly honest and true — let everything be open and straightforward. If it is otherwise, you will find in some way "the Cranes of Ibycus" will prove true in your case. If not before, at the great final day every secret shall be known. For God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
3. The River passed — God is forgotten. This proverb teaches us that men seek unto God in their trouble — but when the trouble is over they go back to the world. When the hand of God was on Pharaoh, he promised again and again, that he would sin no more; but afterwards his heart was hardened. When Christ healed the ten lepers, only one returned to give glory to God — the other nine went their way, and forgot the kindness of the Savior. How has it been with you? Have you had seasons of great trial, seasons of sickness, or of sorrow? What were your thoughts and feelings then? Did not God seem to come near? Did you not feel that He alone could preserve you? Did you not see that death without God's favor and mercy, would be a terrible thing? Did you not try then to pray as you had not prayed before? And perhaps God has answered your prayer, and given you back again life and health, for a season at least.
But what has followed? Now that the river has been passed — has the mighty Friend who brought you safely through been indeed forgotten? Has the solemn promise you then made to live a new life, been lost sight of? Oh, if it has — recall it now! Ask the grace of His Spirit to give you a tender conscience — place yourself in thought upon that sick bed, and think of those solemn truths, which then seemed so important — be sure they are just as important still. Yes, by and by, they will look to you of far more importance, than as yet you have seen them to be.
And remember you have another river to pass — if you forget God now, then what will you do in the swellings of Jordan? Can you look for the living and loving One then to stand by you and hold your hand, and show you the stepping-stones of promise as the waves roll over you — unless now you choose Him for your own? If now you turn your back upon Him, may He not then be far from you? And perchance a secret voice within tells you that it is too late to seek for mercy, when it is the time of judgment?
4. There is no Way to Heaven but by Weeping-Cross. Do you wish to know the way to the better land? Jesus tells you: He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." And He becomes the way, because He died on the cross — He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, He received the stripes we deserved — He was punished and smitten in our stead.
A story is told of two lads at school. The one taller and stronger was a great friend to the other, who was weak and delicate. One day the latter had committed a fault, and the master called for the lad who had done it to come up to the desk. His friend bade him sit still, and he would go up as if he were the offender — so he received the correction which the other deserved. Thus has Jesus borne our stripes and taken our place. But what must we do? We must confess with sorrow all that we have done amiss, and in our hearts trust only in His precious death. A few words written up over the chimney-piece of the late Earl Roden, taught many who saw them the true way of life:
In peace let me resign my breath,
And Your salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.

We remember too, the story of Christian in "Pilgrim's Progress", how he came to the cross on his way to the celestial city: there his burden of sin was unloosed, and he saw it no more.
This shows us the only right path. It is not looking at any material cross, or wearing one, which many do — who yet live with uncrucified hearts. But it is the humble, contrite spirit, which perpetually turns to Him, Who once died as the atonement and ransom of our souls. Follow any other path, and you will lose your way forever. No man comes unto the Father but by Christ — nor by Him, except through faith in His finished work upon the cross. His precious blood cleanses from all sin. Oh, come and thus believe in Christ! Delay is dangerous; our only safety is to come now. We learn this from our last proverb.
5. By the street of By-and-by, we come at last to the House of Never. Too many are waiting for something before they turn to God. Some wait for better feelings, some wait for more leisure time, some wait until they have had more of the world's gaiety and dissipation, some wait until those around them become Christians. But all these agree in one thing — they walk along the street of By-and-by: tomorrow will do better than today; the future will be a more convenient season than the present.

Nay, my sister, do not believe it; your enemy whispers this in your ear, that he may rob you of your soul's salvation. In this way he will lead you on, step by step, until he has brought you to the gate of Hell, and then he will tell you plainly, It is too late! Believe rather the voice of your Father — Behold now is the accepted time! Now is the day of salvation! Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Boast not yourself of tomorrow, for you know not what a day may bring forth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The connection between worshiping the beast and taking the mark

Popular preacher John MacArthur has stated you may take the mark of the beast and that's okay, it isn't an unforgivable sin to do so. How tragic that such a heretical teaching is being spewed out by such a popular preacher. It would appear Satan is using John MacArthur to deceive the masses. What does the Bible say about this mark and what should we be looking at concerning those who take this mark and why? Here are some verses to ponder...

Rev. 13:4  'And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?' 
Rev. 13:8  'And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' 
Rev 13:11  And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 
Rev 13:12  And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 
Rev 13:13  And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 
Rev 13:14  And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. 
Rev 13:15  And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 
Rev 13:16  And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 
Rev 13:17  And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 

Take notice of what happens with this beast and what he causes/does - 1. he deceives 2. by his deceptive power and wonders, he causes those whose names are not written in the Lamb's book to worship him, and to receive a mark. 
It is clear from verse 8 that all will worship the beast, their allegiance is proven by the taking of a mark. Notice as well those who do not take a mark or worship the beast will be killed {verse 15}. What is the significance of all this? There is a  connection between  worshiping the beast and receiving a mark, it all goes hand in hand {no pun intended}. Those who take the mark prove themselves to be worshipers of Satan, he is their father. 

What does the Bible say is the fate of those who worship the beast and receive the mark? 

Rev 14:9  And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 
Rev 14:10  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 
Rev 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. 
Rev 16:1  And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. 
Rev 16:2  And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. 
Do you see the connection between worshiping the beast and taking the mark? This mark is the end result of worshiping Satan. Those who do so will face wrath and eternal damnation, why? Because they deny Christ and worship Satan and they prove who their 'father' is by their worship of him and receiving his mark. To tell sinners they can take this mark and still be forgiven is the most heretical teaching of our day! Those who take this mark are already marked by God for eternal damnation, for their names are not written in the Lamb's book of life {verse 8}. John MacArthur should be marked and avoided by the remnant, for he teaches falsely. May God grant us continued discernment in these apostate times. 

What becomes of those who do not worship the beast and receive his mark? 

Rev 15:2  And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. 
Rev 15:3  And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. 
Rev 15:4  Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. 

And all God's people say 'AMEN' !!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An affront, an act of treachery!

“The Bible is the grand repository ... It is the complete system of divine truth, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth, in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us, either to avoid the displeasure, or to court the favour, of our fellow mortals, must be an affront to the majesty of God, and an act of treachery to men." - John Newton

Man's folly

“Men have thought themselves more prudent than the All-wise. The Law has been lowered lest sinners should call it hard; the way has been hedged up, lest the blind, and the halt, and the lame, should find it too easy; the church has been barricaded with walls of ceremony, and garrisoned with ranks of officials ... and the blessed Gospel, free as the air of Paradise, has been laden with conditions and restrictions, lest faith should be too simple. In every one of these, and in a thousand like ways, men show their distrust of divine revelation.” - J. W. Alexander

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The words of victory

"It is finished." Here was the triumphant answer to the rage of man and the enmity of Satan. It tells of the perfect work which meets sin in the place of judgment. All was completed just as God would have it, just as the prophets had foretold, just as the Old Testament ceremonial had foreshadowed, just as divine holiness demanded, and just as sinners needed. How strikingly appropriate it is that this sixth cross-utterance of the Saviour is found in John’s gospel - the gospel which displays the glory of Christ’s deity! He does not here commend his work to the approval of God, but seals it with his own imprimatur, attesting it as complete, and giving it the all-sufficient sanction of his own approval. None other than the Son of God says "IT IS finished" - who then dare doubt or question it.
"It is finished." Reader, do you believe it? or, are you trying to add something of your own to the finished work of Christ to secure the favour of God? All you have to do is to accept the pardon which he purchased. God is satisfied with the work of Christ, why are not you? Sinner, the moment you believe God’s testimony concerning his beloved Son, that moment every sin you have committed is blotted out, and you stand accepted in Christ! O would you not like to possess the assurance that there is nothing between your soul and God? Would you not like to know that every sin had been atoned for and put away? Then believe what God’s word says about Christ’s death. Rest not on your feelings and experiences but on the written word. There is only one way of finding peace, and that is through faith in the shed blood of God’s Lamb.
"It is finished." Do you really believe it? Or, are you endeavouring to add something of your own to it and thus merit the favour of God? Some years ago a Christian farmer was deeply concerned over an unsaved carpenter. The farmer sought to set before his neighbour the gospel of God’s grace, and to explain how that the finished work of Christ was sufficient for his soul to rest upon. But the carpenter persisted in the belief that he must do something himself. One day the farmer asked the carpenter to make for him a gate, and when the gate was ready he carried it away to his wagon. He arranged for the carpenter to call on him the next morning and see the gate as it hung in the field. At the appointed hour the carpenter arrived and was surprised to find the farmer standing by with a sharp axe in his hand. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "I am going to add a few cuts and strokes to your work," was the response. "But there is no need for it," replied the carpenter, "the gate is all right as it is. I did all that was necessary to it." The farmer took no notice, but lifting his axe he slashed and hacked at the gate until it was completely spoiled. "Look what you have done!" cried the carpenter. "You have ruined my work!" "Yes," said the farmer, "and that is exactly what you are trying to do. You are seeking to nullify the finished work of Christ by your own miserable additions to it!" God used this forceful object lesson to show the carpenter his mistake, and he was led to cast himself by faith upon what Christ had done for sinners. Reader, will you do the same?

"It is good for me to draw near to God." Psalm 73:28.

"It is good for me to draw near to God." Psalm 73:28.

The more any object is to us a source of sweet delight and contemplation, the more strongly do we desire its presence, and the more restless are we in its absence. The friend we love we want constantly at our side; the spirit goes out in longings for communion with him; his presence sweetens, his absence embitters every other joy. Precisely true is this of God. He who knows God, who with faith's eye has discovered some of His glory, and, by the power of the Spirit, has felt something of His love, will not be at a loss to distinguish between God's sensible presence and absence in the soul. Some professing people walk so much without communion, without fellowship, without daily, filial, and close communion with God; they are so immersed in the cares, and so lost in the fogs and mists of the world; the fine edge of their spiritual affection is so blunted, and their love so frozen by contact with worldly influences and occupations- and no less so with cold, formal professors- that the Sun of Righteousness may cease to shine upon their soul, and they not know it! God may cease to visit them, and His absence not be felt! He may cease to speak, and the stillness of His voice not awaken an emotion of alarm! Yes, a more strange thing would happen to them if the Lord were suddenly to break in upon their soul with a visit of love, than were He to leave them for weeks and months without any token of His presence. Reader, are you a professing child of God? Content not yourself to live thus; it is a poor, lifeless existence, unworthy of your profession, unworthy of Him whose name you do bear, and unworthy of the glorious destiny towards which you are looking. Thus may a believer test the character of his love. He in whose heart divine affection deepens, increases, and expands, finds God an object of increasing delight and desire, and communion with Him the most costly privilege on earth; he cannot live in the neglect of constant, secret, and close fellowship with his God, his best and most faithful friend. 
Octavius Winslow

Wonder of wonders

Have you ever owned before God “Behold, I am vile”? Do you bear witness to the humbling fact before your brethren and sisters in Christ? It is comparatively easy to utter such words, but do you feel them? Does the realization of this truth make you “blush” (Ezra 9:6) and groan in secret? Have you such a person and painful sense of your vileness that often, you feel thoroughly unfit to draw nigh unto a holy God? If so: You have abundant cause to be thankful to God that his Holy Spirit has shown you something of your wretched self, that He has not kept you in ignorance of your woeful state, that He has not left you in that gross spiritual darkness that enshrouds millions of professing Christians. Ah my stricken brother, if you are groaning over the ocean of corruption within, an feel utterly unworthy to take the sacred name of Christ upon your polluted lips, then you should be unfeignedly thankful that you belong not to that great multitude of self-complacent and self-righteous religionists of whom it is written, “They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down” (Jeremiah 8:12).
Much cause have you to praise the God of all grace that He anointed your sin-blinded eyes, and that now, in His sight, you are able to see a little of your hideous deformities, and cry “I am black” (Song of Sol. 1:5). You have abundant cause to walk softly before God. Must not the realization of our vileness truly humble us before Him, make us smite upon our breast, and cry “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” Yes, such a prayer is as suited to the mature saint as it was when first convicted of his lost estate, for he is to continue as he began: Colossians 2:6, Revelation 2:5. But alas, how quickly does the apprehension of our vileness leave us!
How frequently does pride again dominate us. For this reason we are bidden to, “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:1) Beg God to daily show you your vileness that you may walk humbly before Him. You have abundant cause to marvel at the surpassing love of the Triune God towards you. That the Eternal Three should have set Their heart upon such a wretch is indeed the wonder of all wonders. That God the Father should foreknow and foresee every sin of which you would be guilty in thought and word and deed, and yet have loved thee “with an everlasting love” must indeed fill you with astonishment. That God the Son should have laid aside the robes of His glory and be made in the likeness of sin’s flesh, in order to redeem one so foul and filthy as me, was truly a love “that passeth knowledge.” That God the Holy Spirit should take up His residence and dwell in the heart of one so vile, only proves that where sin abounded grace did much more abound.
A.W. Pink

Without excuse

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse"  - Romans 1:20

Friday, March 25, 2016

secret prayer

George Everard, 1880
"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." 1 Peter 4:7
Faithful, sincere, believing prayer is the secret of strength to every Christian. It is the power by which he overcomes the Tempter. It is the channel by which he receives daily help, wisdom, grace, and consolation from above. Few promises in Holy Scripture are more encouraging than that spoken by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
Hence the Adversary seeks by every means to hinder the Christian in this duty and privilege. Many are the devices which he uses for the purpose. Just as the commander of a besieging army might endeavor to cut off the water-supply, blocking up or destroying the conduit-pipes or otherwise, thus hoping to take the city — so the enemy of God and man strives to hinder a Christian's prayers. If only he can prevent the child of God seeking peace and help from above, he knows that, sooner or later, he shall be able to take the citadel of the heart. It is for this reason I write these introductory remarks. In putting forth a manual of private prayer, it may be well to name a few of the more common hindrances that are found to lie in the Christian's path. I will add also a few words as to the best means by which they may be overcome. I will briefly mention eight points on which it is of the utmost importance you should be on your guard.
1. Any breach of the law of love, anything of strife, envy, ill-feeling, or separation in the home — is a great disturber of communion with God. For this reason Peter urges the husband and wife to live together "as heirs of the grace of life, that their prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). It is only in the spirit of mutual forbearance, love, and unity — that prayer can thrive and grow. Only the still water can reflect the bright stars in the sky above. Only the heart at peace with others, can look up to Heaven and receive back the light which God is ever ready to bestow.
2. Worry is another enemy to be avoided. If you yield to perpetual anxieties and distractions about family matters, or business, or daily duties, or if you dwell continually upon troubles that you imagine are coming — you will seldom be able to pray with comfort. These burdens must be laid down at Christ's feet. Entrust them all to Him. Leave Him to undertake and manage for you, and He will do it far better than you can for yourself. If He laid down His life for you, if He has all power in Heaven and in earth, and if nothing be too small or unimportant for His eye to notice — then exercise more simple confidence in Him, and cast all your care on Him who cares for you.
3. The spirit of hurry is another of these dangers. Prayer need not be long, and in many cases it cannot be; but some time must be given to it in which you can quietly speak to your Father in Heaven. Had you to go into the presence oft our Queen, it would be very unsuitable that you should rush in with a hurried step, and, after a moment's conversation with Her Majesty, hastily leave the royal throne. But is it not far more so when you go into the presence of the Great King? Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place is holy ground. Wait a few moments before the lip is opened, that you may consider the glory and holiness of Jehovah. God is in Heaven and you on earth, therefore let your words be few and real. Do not be content with muttering a short prayer after you have crept into bed. Lay aside all hasty speech, all thoughtless, hurried petitions, and worship Him "with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire."
4. A worldly spirit must be avoided if prayer is to be true and effectual. If the harp is out of tune, if the strings are loose or broken — then how can it give forth a delightful strain of pleasant melody? And if you come to the throne of grace with a mind preoccupied with a thousand eager, feverish worldly desires — then how can you offer such hearty spiritual worship as will be music in the ear of our Father in Heaven? If you would pray and praise aright — then watch continually that you are not conformed to the world.
Ever seek grace and power from above, that you be renewed in heart and mind to desire above all things an increase of spiritual life. Cherish heavenly thoughts throughout the day. Cultivate short prayers throughout the day. If possible, at noonday get a few minutes alone with God; and from morning to evening, again and again, let some short petition arise to your Father in Heaven. Even in your busiest hours you may steal a moment for silent prayer; and it will oil the wheels of everyday work, and form a link of connection between your morning and evening prayer. In this way you will find prayer more profitable and helpful to yourself, and more acceptable to your Father in Heaven.
5. Permitted sin is another deadly foe to effectual prayer.
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
"Dead flies spoil the precious ointment."
"He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination."
If you allow yourself in any sin, or inconsistency, or neglect of duty — if you give the rein to the tongue or the temper — if worldly thoughts are allowed to lodge in the heart — if you set up any idol, money or pleasure or human praise or anything else, in the sanctuary which belongs to God — if you indulge yourself in that which is your own besetting snare — be sure that you will lose all comfort in prayer. Either prayer will conquer sin, or sin will take away all power in prayer.
6. Mere lip-service in prayer is no less fatal than any of the other evils I have named. It is the shell without the kernel. It is the husk without the wheat. It is the body without the soul. It is the form without the power or reality. You may repeat the most beautiful words by rote, you may utter the Lord's Prayer hundreds of times over — but if there is no earnest desire for the things you ask, "What does it profit?" God looks at the heart, and He sees the emptiness and worthlessness of all such seeming devotion. Beware of it as one of the greatest perils. It is in vain that you worship God and draw near to Him with your lips — while your heart is far from Him. He will never accept it at your hands. "In Spirit and in truth" is the one great requisite.
On this account, it is needful to exercise much caution in the use of a manual like this. It may prove a hindrance instead of a help. Never be content with using a prayer, however Scriptural and helpful in its way, unless your heart goes along with each petition. Only take this book to guide and assist you in coming to God, but do not rest in it as if you needed nothing further.
When you pray, think what you need, and what God has promised — and then plead both with your Father in Heaven. Think of your own special sins and temptations, and spread them out before the mercy-seat.
If you use the prayers of this book, speak also to God in your own words. A crutch is useful for one who is weak, but a strong man is able to walk without one. Therefore go forward, and seek to grow in the spiritual life. Ask of God a praying heart, and then His grace within you will stir you up to pray in words and desires which will be acceptable to Him. Never forget it. A sigh, a groan, a look, an inward longing of the soul has in it more of real, true prayer, than any number of words merely repeated from the memory, or read from a book, without the deep feeling of an humble, believing heart.
7. A wandering of the mind in prayer is another evil to be carefully avoided. I imagine there is no child of God but has continually to lament wandering thoughts — something coming in to divert the attention, and often carrying you miles away from the presence of the Lord. Even those who most grieve and regret this evil find that it often comes and disturbs them. It meets them in the sanctuary, it meets them in family worship, it meets them in their private devotions. It is a weed that is ever growing, and no remedy has yet been found that can completely root it out of the garden of the heart.
Yet some guidance may be given in the matter. Strive to be very definite in your prayers. Think of what you most need, and then put it very distinctly before the Lord. Endeavor always to speak as to a living person. If you could more fully realize and always recollect that when you pray, a living Redeemer and Friend bows down the ear to hear, that He is close by you, that you are not speaking into the air, or to the walls and ceiling of the room where you are — but that you speak your words to one who as truly sees you and hears you as if you saw Him with your very eyes before you, this would help you more than anything.
Believe, also, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy, and freely forgives these your infirmities. When conscience tells you that you have been wandering in thought, at once turn again to the Lord, trusting in the precious blood, and looking afresh for the present help and quickening of the Holy Spirit.
8. Unbelief is the last hindrance I will name. You must believe that God is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Many doubts are abroad in the world. Many question whether God hears prayer. But there is a living God, our Creator, our Father, and He does hear the cry of all who truly call upon Him. He makes use of the laws of nature, which He has appointed, to fulfill His own purposes of mercy in answering the prayers of His people. In the course of His wise providence, He disposes men's hearts, and turns about trials and sorrows, and all events, to work out His own wise designs. Give no heed to unbelieving fears. Unbelief dishonors God, keeps back the blessing you might receive, and robs you of all joy and comfort in prayer.
On one occasion we are told that Christ "could do no mighty works because of the unbelief" of the people. On the other hand He said, "According to your faith, be it unto you." Therefore in prayer believe much, expect much, and hope against all delay and discouragement. Sooner or later, in the very best way, God will abundantly reward the prayers of all humble, true worshipers.
Look up to Heaven and behold a gracious Father standing "with both hands full of precious gifts, and delighting to shower them down on such as wait upon Him.
Behold a merciful High Priest and Advocate pleading at the mercy-seat, full of sympathy and loving-kindness, presenting His own merits on your behalf, and thus securing every spiritual and temporal blessing for those who trust in His name.
Behold the Eternal, Ever-blessed Spirit, the Comforter, ready to aid you, ready to quicken you in prayer, and to make intercession within you in longings which no words can utter.
Behold unnumbered promises, like so many bright angels, beckoning you forward, and encouraging you to pray without ceasing.
Behold the example of God's saints in all ages, who witness to you of the faithfulness of God in hearing prayer.
Behold the joyful eternal rest that awaits all who love to pray, where weeping prayers shall be exchanged for joyful praises, and where your eyes shall see the King in His beauty.
Consider all this, and then rejoice to make use of this privilege of prayer.
Morning and evening and at noonday,
in the glare and heat of the world,
in the silent watches of the night,
in joy and in sorrow,
in youth and in old age,
in health and on a sick-bed,
in the full strength of life and in the solemn hour of death
— still pray on, pray always, pray hopefully, pray joyfully. And then through eternity you shall bless God for His everlasting mercy, and the countless and untold benefits He has granted in answer to your prayers.

"Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Matthew 6:9-13

A poor cottage

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"The house of the wicked will be destroyed--but the tent of the upright will flourish." Proverbs 14:11 

The upright man is far happier in the poorest circumstances--than a wicked man in his greatest prosperity. Though a wicked man surmounts his neighbor as far as the cedars of the mountain overtop the creeping shrubs of the valley--yet he shall be filled with the strokes of divine vengeance. Though he dwells in a magnificent palace--the tempest of divine indignation shall beat it down! 

But the righteous man, though at present he appears like the incarnate Savior, a tender plant--shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon. And though his dwelling place is but a tent, it shall flourish, and prosper, and grow into a heavenly mansion! It is far better to dwell in a poor cottage where the blessing of God rests, and in which is heard the melody of joy and praise--than in a palace which lies under the curse of the Lord!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sin is costly

I believe there are three words which will haunt you in hell and I believe these three words are being shouted in hell tonight. The cries of the damned are encircled around these three terrible words. Listen to me, friends, if you die in your sins and you are cast into hell's fire, the three words will follow you there, three words will gnaw at you there. The three words which will haunt you in hell are these: sin is costly. Sin is costly. Sin is costly. That's what the doomed are crying right now. That's what the wicked are screaming right now. That's what the damned in hell are hollering right now. Sin is costly! Sin is costly! Sin is costly! 
That's the title of my message this evening, friends, "Sin Is Costly," and my text can be found in the book of Numbers 32. You can turn in your Bibles there now, friends. It's just one little verse, but that one verse will follow you into hell. Look at verse 23,  "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out".

I wish to begin the sermon with the aspect of how sin will cost you in life and I believe the proof text for this can be found in one of the saddest chapters in my Bible, 2 Samuel 11. Turn in your Bibles there now, friends, as we peer into the life of a man favored by God who carelessly and presumptuously sinned against God and that man was King David. We find David reclining and resting on his recent successes when he should have been out fighting the Lord's battles. He rises from his bed and goes for a stroll atop his palace and his eyes fall upon a stunning beauty who was washing herself. She is naked and he should have looked away, but instead he leered, he lusted, and he began his great descent into the sins of adultery and murder. Listen to me, friend, sin will always take you further than you want to go. It will leave you there longer than you want to stay and it will cost you more than you ever realized. Our text in verse 2 reads, "And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon."

Now I want to have you turn over in your Bibles, friends, as we scan the price that King David paid for his sin, the consequence of his sin, the cost of his sin in his life. In chapter 13 of 2 Samuel, we find the record of Amnon raping Tamar, then Absalom kills Amnon for this wicked act. Then in chapter 15, verse 13 we read, "The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom." David's choice son has turned against him in rebellion. Then Absalom is killed and we see David's heart break from the news of his son's death. Listen to the anguish in his voice as found in 2 Samuel 18:33, "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" This, friends, is a clear picture of the certain fact that sin is costly. Sin will cost you in life. David's sin affected his entire family.

I once knew a man who had a perfect life. He had a lovely home, a good job, an affectionate Christian wife and several beautiful children. He served in several capacities of leadership at his church. Then he got a new young secretary who was half his age and he had an adulterous affair with her. His sin cost him his family, for his marriage ended in divorce. He lost his house. He lost his reputation as a Christian leader. One of his children rebelled in her teenage years and her life became a train wreck. Listen to me,  friend, and listen to me very carefully: sin will cost you in life. It will ruin your marriage. It will ruin your home. It will ruin your family. Do you believe that? Do you?

Listen to me, friend: if I could walk you right now over to the precipice of hell and lift the lid off that bottomless pit, I believe you'd hear millions and millions of lost souls crying out in agony tonight, "Sin is costly! Don't come here to this place of torment! Listen to our warnings! Sin is costly! Sin is costly! It cost me my soul. I can't get out of this horrible prison. Listen to me, those of you still on the earth, don't come to this place of torment and misery! Sin is costly! Sin is costly! Sin is costly!" That is their cry, friend. Will it be your cry as well?

Now, let me explore a final aspect of our theme this evening and it is this: sin cost a holy God his only begotten Son and sin cost Jesus Christ his precious blood. Mark 15:25 records the result of the cost of sin. Listen to these stark words which cause the angels in  heaven to pause and weep, "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." Listen to me, friend, the little god you serve in this life won't serve you too well in eternity. You'd better trade out your little god of your imagination, the little god who lets you have a salvation and still be comfortable in sin. Listen to me: you'd better get rid of that god, friend, for he will surely cost you in hell because God must punish sin. The God of the Bible must punish sin. Now, some of you don't believe that, your God wouldn't act that way, but the God of the Bible would. God will and must punish sin. Sin costs. And when they took the Lord of glory with cruel hands, when they took that innocent blood and nailed him to that horrible death instrument of the cross, when the Roman soldiers took that hammer in their hands and began to pound and drive those thick nails into the Savior's tender hands, every blow of the hammer was an exclamation point of, "God must punish sin! God must punish sin! God must punish sin!"

Look at me, friend, give me your undivided attention. Listen to what I’m saying to you right now. All of you within the sound of my voice, listen to these 3 words and listen to them loud and clear: sin is costly. Sin will cost you in life. Sin will cost you in eternity. Sin is costly! Sin is costly! Sin is costly! Jesus said, "Unless you repent, ye shall all likewise perish," and that means you, friend, even if you're the Chairman of the Deacons.

Sin is costly!

E.A. Johnson 

Sunday, March 20, 2016


David Harsha, 1856

"Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me." Psalm 23:4

"And when the closing scenes prevail,
When wealth, state, pleasure, all shall fail;
All that a foolish world admires,
Or passion craves or pride inspires;
At that important hour of need,
Jesus shall prove a friend indeed.
His hand shall smooth your dying bed,
His arm sustain your drooping head;
And when the painful struggle's o'er,
And that vain thing, the world, no more
He'll bear his humble friend away,
To rapture and eternal day."

It is a solemn truth that you and I must die. Death will soon overtake us. Before the termination of the present year; yes, before the sun shall have again passed the horizon, the hand that now writes these lines, and the eye that now reads them, may both have felt the chill of death.

Oh, what is human life? A vapor; a dream; a tale that is soon told; a feeble spark of vitality, emitting its light for a moment, and then forever extinguished! "How frail is humanity! How short is life, and how full of trouble! Like a flower, we blossom for a moment and then wither. Like the shadow of a passing cloud, we quickly disappear." "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle flying back and forth. They end without hope. O God, remember that my life is but a breath."

Our continuance on earth is but for a short moment. "Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding." "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more." "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." How short, how uncertain is life; but how certain is death!

How true it is that God will bring us to death, and to "the house appointed for all living." "It is appointed unto men once to die." Millions have fallen before the irresistible stroke of death. All mankind are dying creatures, and are pressing onward to the grave.

Reflect upon the past history of mankind. "Generation after generation," says a beautiful writer, "have passed away. Time was, when they were alive upon the earth, and active amid its busy scenes. They had their joys and their sorrows. They flitted across life's busy stage, and disappeared forever behind the curtain of mortality. They have gone. The winds of centuries have swept over their graves."

As it was with them, so it will soon be with us. Look at the future. It is computed that eight hundred million people constitute the population of our globe: these, in less than a century, will all be lodged in the grave. The grave receives alike as its victims the inmate of the cottage, and him who sits on his throne and sways the scepter of nations. The paths of glory and honor lead but to the grave. Here come the nobles with their titles, kings with their crowns, and scholars with their volumes. Here is the home of the mighty hero, who once with his steel-clad millions thundered over the field of battle, and with an arm of power shook the foundations of kingdoms.

"How populous, how capacious is the grave!
This is creation's melancholy vault."

O look at the brevity and vanity of human life, and learn a solemn lesson. Though you have soared in fame, or have accumulated wealth in abundance; though you glory in human power, and, like Alexander, could ride triumphantly over the ruins of desolated nations, yet the time will soon have arrived when the feeble tenement of clay shall moulder, leaving its only epitaph upon the crumbling marble; when it may be pronounced, over your mortal remains–
"How loved, how valued once, avails you not;
To whom related, or by whom begot:
A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
'Tis all you are, and all the great shall be."

But death does not annihilate our existence. We are immortal beings. Human life is but a prelude to an immortal state of being. As we close our eyes on the visionary scenes of time, we open them amid the solemn realities of eternity; we enter upon that life which will never end. To die, then, is but to live.

Oh! how important it is that we should become interested in the atonement of Christ; that we may find redemption in his blood, and forgiveness of sins, that we may be in peace. All must tread the dark valley alone. All must cross the Jordan of death. But the humble follower of Christ is, through grace, enabled to exclaim, as he approaches the dreadful precipice that hides the view of mortality: "Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me."

Christ's presence is with believers in the hour of death; he cheers their departing spirits. They have fled for refuge to him, and he sustains them in their trying hour. Then he is a friend indeed; a friend that sticks closer than a brother. This love is manifested to them; it enables them to shout forth triumphantly, in the face of the last enemy, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

It is to the believer in Jesus, and to him alone, that death comes disarmed of his terrors; being only a faithful messenger to convey him to his dear Lord and Savior: so that in the prospect of dissolution, he can express a desire with Paul, "To depart and be with Christ, which is far better." He knows that Christ is his loving friend, that he is watching over his dying bed, ready to receive his departing spirit, and he can confidently say with Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And with David, "Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." "I will behold your face in righteousness. I will be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness." And with Simeon, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation."

Such is the peaceful end of the Christian's mortal career. He dies in peace. He passes the swellings of Jordan, cheered by the Savior's presence, and animated by the manifestation of his love. It is in the trying hour of death, when flesh and heart fail, that the love of Christ is amazingly manifested to believers.

It is when the 'swellings of Jordan' come almost over the poor believer's soul; when he is ready to sink beneath the boisterous waves, that Christ reveals to him his wonderful love, which fills his heart with joy; which enables him to shout forth joyfully upon his bed, and be more than a conqueror through Him that loved us. "Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds." "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." And at that solemn period, when the last sands of life are running out, when life's last hour is closing, he visits them individually, and unfolds the riches of his grace, and the wonders of his love. He whispers in their ears his gracious promises. "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

And they find him faithful to his promises; yes, when they tread the verge of Jordan, they find him like the high priest of old, who bore the ark of the covenant, standing in the midst of the waters, that they may safely pass through its proud waves to the heavenly Canaan, that glorious land of promise- the happy home of the believers, the heaven of eternal rest. "They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." Jesus Christ, our blessed high priest, himself has passed through the Jordan of death. He has dipped his feet into this stream. He has rolled back its swelling waves. He has made a safe and easy passage for all his followers.

Christian, why then are you afraid to die, to plunge into this stream, when you see the very footprints of your Savior in the bottom? "Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died." His eyes have been closed in death. O, believer! Christ has been laid in the cold and silent grave before you. He has felt the chill of death. But he has removed its sting. Through death, he has destroyed him that had the power of it. Fear not, death is a vanquished foe. Christ says concerning his people, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem there from death O death! I will be your plague; O grave! I will be your destruction."

Christian, death cannot hurt you. It is but a sure step into glory! Are you in bondage through the fear of death? Christ has delivered you from this bondage. "Because God's children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying."

Thus, the children of God are safely conducted through death to mansions of glory, and awake amid the splendors of are immortal day. How happy they, who, when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, find that Jesus is their friend and companion!
"How glorious he! how happy they,
In such a glorious friend!
Whose love secures them all the way,
And crowns them at the end."

Thus, while the believer is standing on the verge of the grave, and looking back on his past life, his past conflicts, his earthly pilgrimage, he can exclaim in the language of the Apostle Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;" and as he looks forward into a vast eternity, and sees the rich rewards that are shortly to be his, the kingdom that he is going to possess, the crown of glory that is soon to he placed upon his brow, he triumphantly adds, "And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return." At last, he hears that happy approbation, and joyful invitation, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into time joy of your Lord."

The solemn scene closes. The dark valley is passed. Jordan is crossed. No more struggles. No more pain. No more tears of sorrow, and affliction. No more death. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces." The believer is "absent from the body, and present with the Lord." In the Savior's perfect love, he rests, and finds his eternity of joy. In his dying moments he could say, "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me." "For this God is our God, forever and ever; he will be our guide, even unto death." And he has experienced a happy realization of these promises. That Savior who loved him in life, also manifests his love to him in the hour of death. His love is abiding, it is not subject to mutation; it knows no change. "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end."

As the believer's mortal career is about to terminate, the Savior stands by him, and encircles him with the arms of his love. He sheds abroad his love in the believer's heart. He sustains him amid the agonies of dissolving nature. He strengthens him by his grace. The dying Christian cries, "My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever."

Thus he finishes his earthly course with joy. His end is peace. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." With him all is calm, and peaceful. The heavens are serene. The thunders of the law are hushed. Calvary is in his view. Around him all is sprinkled with atoning blood. No wonder, then, that he should die in peace; for, "being justified by faith," he has "peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." He has obtained the victory over death, the last enemy. Hence, many a dying Christian has been able to say, with Goodwin, "Is this dying? Is this the enemy that dismayed me so long, now so harmless, and even pleasant?"

Not so with the end of the wicked. To him, death is terrible; the grave, gloomy; and eternity, dark. "The wicked are crushed by their sins, but the godly have a refuge when they die."

The death-bed of the Christian is a glorious, happy place– "The chamber where the good man meets his fate, Is privileged beyond the common walk of virtuous life, Quite on the verge of heaven."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Intermittent springs

George Everard, 1884

In a village near a large seaport town, there are several springs of water which are subject to very remarkable changes. Sometimes for months they are perfectly dry. Then suddenly they send forth, as at the time I visited them, vast quantities of water. This will last occasionally for weeks or months together, and then the water ceases to flow; and perhaps for a long time there is no further flow.
It struck me that these springs are an exact picture of a certain class of people in the professing Church. Whatever religion they have, it is by fits and starts. There is nothing constant and abiding about it.
You take such a man as Jehu. When first called to the throne, you might imagine that he would be a staunch and faithful defender of the worship of Jehovah. He speaks well. He says, "Come and see my zeal for the Lord!" He slays the wicked Jezebel and the seed of Ahab, as God had commanded. He destroys the prophets of Baal, and breaks down the house of Baal, and thus roots out this form of idolatry from Israel. But Jehu stops here. His zeal for Jehovah is at an end. "Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit." 2 Kings 10:31
It was the same with King Joash (2 Chronicles 24.). For a time he was zealous for God. While Zechariah, the good priest, lives — he cannot do too much for the house of God. He bids Zechariah chide the workmen because they did not restore the breaches. He gathers money from the people, that the work may go forward. But this does not last. When Zechariah is dead he hearkens to the ungodly princes of Judah, and forsakes the Lord. He worships idols, and brings great wrath upon the land.
Perhaps we might name King Herod as an example of the same thing. We read of his calling for John the Baptist. He hears him gladly, and will do many things. But there is no depth and permanence about his religion. When something evil must be renounced, he shuts up the Baptist in prison — that he may not reprove him for his sin. His adulterous passion for Herodias is stronger than his desire for truth. So we find him from this time going farther and farther away; and he ends by joining Pilate in mocking and dishonoring our Lord.
It is just the same with people now. We have constant proof of it. There is something hopeful — but it does not last. The waters begin to flow; there is apparent life and earnestness and zeal — but they soon cease. Interest flags. Prayer becomes a burden. The Bible is left unread. Other things come and engross the mind.
You find many aroused to a temporary interest in religious truth in times of awakening. Perhaps there is a mission in a town, and a very real power is put forth. The preacher speaks in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit awakens many to begin a new and holy life. But others are drawn in by that which they see around them, and perhaps for a time they are somewhat changed — but a few weeks pass, and you find them exactly as they were before!
You find, too, sometimes a temporary manifestation of some particular grace, but without any real depth of purpose. I have known a man kneel down and shed bitter tears at the recollection of a sin he had committed — and yet he would yield to the very next temptation.
A person will take up some work for God, perhaps in the Sunday school. But there is no steadfastness or perseverance — the work is soon neglected, or the class left without a teacher.
A member of a family will endeavor to be more considerate and kind toward the others. Self-denial is practiced for the moment, and duties performed which add much to the comfort of the home. But there is the same evil. There is no continuance in the path of well-doing. It is only a flash in the pan. It is only a stream which presently dries up, and leaves no mark behind.
The secret of the evil in all these cases, is very similar. It is lack of depth. The regenerating and renewing work of the Holy Spirit is lacking. Religion has touched the feelings — but the will has not been yielded up to God, nor the conscience purged by the blood of sprinkling. There has been no true self-condemnation, no taking the place of a guilty sinner before God. Neither has there been any true union with Christ by faith. There may have been attendance on the ordinances of grace, but there is no reliance on the Spirit of grace.
Let our prayer be for reality and depth. "O Lord, give me life, and give it more abundantly! Humble me in the knowledge of my sin. Exalt me in the assurance of Your mercy. Make my heart sound in Your statutes. Work in me to will and to do of Your good pleasure. Put Your Spirit within me, and make Your work in me lasting, deep, and true! Empty me of self — and fill me with Your own fullness. Give me patient continuance in well-doing now, and at length the crown of glory that never fades away."
There is a promise for the godly man in Isaiah 58:11, which presents a striking contrast to the thought upon which I have been dwelling. It is true there are many like "intermittent springs;" but it is said of the servant of God, that he shall be "like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11
He has drunk of the great River, and he has received the grace found there. He shall not be one whose religion is fitful and uncertain. His graces shall not dry up and pass away. No, it shall be the very reverse. "His waters never fail." Others around may go back — but he abides the same. Difficulties may perplex, and trials harass him — but he has grace sufficient for him. Weeks, months, and years may roll on. Youth may pass into mature life, and middle life into old age — but his fruit shall not cease, nor Christian principle be loosened. He is "like a spring whose waters never fail." Faith, hope, love, patience, prayer, and praise still continue and follow him to his last hours.
This promise in Isaiah is exactly parallel to the words of our Lord: "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life" (John 4:14). Or again, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said — out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7).
There is something strange and remarkable about this promise. We know that Jehovah is the Fountain of living waters. We know that from the throne of God and the Lamb, there flows a River of the water of life — as pure as crystal. But here is something quite different. Here is a poor, frail child of dust, a weak, trembling believer, one who is himself the chief of sinners. Yet such a one, believing in Christ, has within him this well of life — from such a one we read "flow rivers of living water."
"Living waters" are thus traced to a believer's heart. They "flow" not occasionally bursting forth — but constantly flowing on. They "spring up" until they reach their source, even "everlasting life." Nor are they simply waters, but "rivers". Not a tiny stream, not a single river, but "rivers" — abiding, plenteous, rich streams, ever flowing forth and spreading blessings wherever they flow!
Here then we have the great truth that the believer, receiving from the one Divine Fountain, becomes himself a little fountain of the water of life. Constantly receiving out of the great reservoir of grace in Christ — he is enabled to give back to others that which has been first given to him. Freely he receives — freely he gives. And just in proportion as he keeps in close connection with the source of life, as he abides in fellowship with the living Savior — he is a channel of blessing to those around him.
This hidden, secret spring of life and grace within the soul, is no less than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. As you are in Christ and abide in Him — the Holy Spirit dwells within you and stirs you up to holiness of heart and life, and to active zeal in the service of God.
If therefore you wish to be useful, if you wish to do good to the souls of your fellow sinners — remember that it is not natural gifts, it is not wide opportunities or much leisure time, or powers of eloquence, that determine this. But it is your daily dependence upon Christ, and your continually realizing His presence and help. The great secret of success is, that you should "live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you."
You will not then be "an intermittent spring," but will ever be giving forth out of your own heart, something of what you have received from Christ, and that which His Spirit will bless to those around.
But HOW can you do this?
Think of the power of a faithful witness for Christ. "The mouth of the righteous is a well of life." You may speak words that may lead many to know and love Christ. You may tell of His Word, of His promise, of His blood, of His free salvation. And in doing that, you may lead those who hear you to come to Him and be saved.
Think of the influence of a holy, Christlike life. A wicked or a worldly life has been compared to a filthy stream, which leaves a black mark on the meadows through which it passes, and spreads pestilence and disease abroad. But a truly Christian life, is like the fertilizing river, that in all its windings spreads fruitfulness wherever it goes.
Nothing is more certain than the power exercised by the example of one who in small and great things — endeavors to adorn his profession by a very holy and consistent walk. It becomes again and again a great means of conversion or edification to others. Let me give an example.
A conceited young Hindu attended a government college in India. One day he heard a missionary preach in the bazaar, and in a very rude way he put a question to the missionary. He expected a sharp reply; but, instead, the missionary kindly invited him to his house. He accepted the invitation, and when he called, he found the native servant had been neglecting his duty in preparing the tent for a mission journey. The neglect had just come to light, and the young man expected the missionary would have punished his servant by blows, or at least by a torrent of abuse. Nothing of the kind! A quiet reproof was all; and at once his visitor was persuaded there was something in Christianity to make him so gentle and forbearing. It was this which led him to earnest inquiry, and at length to his embracing the truth.
After a time he fell, through the bitter and determined hostility of his wife. But again he was restored through the Christian love of a missionary who did not upbraid him, but threw his arms around him and wept over his apostasy. Henceforth he followed Christ without wavering, and became eminently useful in winning others for the Lord.
Christian, let your influence and example be felt in the same way. In the thousand little things of daily life, in your conduct towards your children or your spouse, towards those in your employ — let your religion be proved to be real and genuine. It has been pithily said, "Let Christ have the best room in the house, and let Him be seen looking out at the window." Every look, every word, every action should manifest something of the mind and spirit of the Master.
Think again of the benefits that may flow from a believer's prayers.
Let the Christian cultivate the gift of intercession for others, let him believe the mighty and prevailing power of prayer through the name of Christ, let him pray in faith for those in his own circle of relations and friends, and then enlarge his petitions until he takes in the various needs of the whole Church of Christ. And who shall tell the limit of blessing that will follow?
Perhaps, when no longer able to engage actively in work for Christ — he may be touching the spring of blessing on high, and thus showers may fall, bringing grace and salvation to those he has never seen.
Think of a believer's gifts and active endeavors to do good. How many through these, may have found the hope of life in Christ, or fresh peace and consolation on the way.
Think of a believer's godly home. Each member of his family may one day become a center of good. If the piety of the parent is reflected in the children, how vast the effects may be in the next generation!
Think of the good that may be left behind after death. How many a Christian, long since sleeping in the dust — has yet, for years or even centuries, been a blessing ever since his departure. Abel being dead, yet speaks. Paul and Peter and John speak to us through the Epistles they were inspired to write. Martin Luther speaks by the glorious Gospel which he was permitted to set free from Romish error. Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Robert Leighton, John Hall, and multitudes beside, are speaking to us by their writings — and many others by the Christian hymns they have penned.
Believer, if you cleave to Christ, you cannot live or work in vain. You will fill your niche, and leave behind some good that will never be lost. Remember, the smallest drop may become the mightiest river. A single word of prayer, or of Gospel truth spoken in faith — may set at work agencies that may be instrumental in saving hundreds or thousands!

Only "abide" in Christ. Beware of all mere fitfulness in religion. Be not "an intermittent spring." "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!"

Monday, March 14, 2016

Perverted notions of God

Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is - in itself a monstrous sin - and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God. ”Thou thoughtest,” said the Lord to the wicked man in the psalm, “that I was altogether such as one as thyself.” Surely this must be a serious affront to the Most High God before whom cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.

 Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God. Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him - and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

O, God of Bethel, by whose hand
 Thy people still are fed; 
Who through this weary pilgrimage 
Hast all our fathers led! 
Our vows, our prayers we now present 
Before Thy throne of grace: 
God of our fathers!
 be the God Of their succeeding race. 

Philip Doddridge

from A.W. Tozer's 'Knowledge of the Holy One'