Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clasped by the Wooden Cross

"Homer once sang of his Hellenes and Trojans
and Vergil composed verse about the descendants of Romulus;
Let us sing about the kindly deeds of the king of Heaven
whom the world never ceases joyously to praise.
Homer and Vergil took pleasure in speaking about the flames that brought
sudden destruction to Troy and about the struggles of their heroes,
but our delight is to sing of Christ
drenched in blood after vanquishing the prince of this world.
They were both learned in how to compose falsehoods
with an appearance of truth and how to deceive an Arcadian verse;
we prefer to sing hymns of fine praise
to the power of the Father and His true wisdom.
Let us therefore hold the supreme victories of Christ
as brilliant stars in our minds.
Behold the four corners of the world are clasped by the wooden cross."

John Scotus (A.D. 810-877)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hast Thou No Scar?

"Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?"

Amy Carmichael

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spurgeon's Account of His Conversion

"I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved….

The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—“LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED,ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Isa. 45:22)

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.

The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” he said in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ ”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!”

When he had … managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.

Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought … I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.” Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say—

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die. . .”

That happy day when I found the Saviour, and learned to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me … I listened to the Word of God and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ. I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped, I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of that hour. Many days of Christian experience have passed since then, but there has never been one which has had the full exhilaration, the sparkling delight which that first day had.

I thought I could have sprung from the seat in which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren … “I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace! A sinner saved by blood!”

My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Jesus Christ, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock and my goings established … .

Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me! Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, “Something wonderful has happened to you,” and I was eager to tell them all about it. Oh! there was joy in the household that day, when all heard that the eldest son had found the Saviour and knew himself to be forgiven."

C.H. Spurgeon

HT: Tim Challies

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is it okay to be angry toward God?

"What are we to say to people who are desperately hurting and feel that God has let them down or is even against them? Is it okay to be angry toward God? Most pop psychology would answer yes. 'Just vent your feelings toward God.' I've even read the statement, 'It's okay to be angry with God. He's a big boy. He can handle it.' In my judgment, that is sheer blasphemy.

Let me make a statement loud and clear. It is never okay to be angry at God. Anger is moral judgment, and in the case of God, it accuses Him of wrongdoing. It accuses God of sinning against us by neglecting us or in some way treating us unfairly. It also is often a response to our thinking that God owes us a better deal in life than we are getting. As a result, we put God in the dock of our own courtroom. I think of a man who, as his mother was dying of cancer, said, 'After all she's done for God, this is the thanks she gets.' Never mind that Jesus suffered untold agony to pay for her sins so she would not spend eternity in hell, this man thought that God also owed her a better life on this earth.

I acknowledge that believers can and do have momentary flashes of anger at God. I have experienced this myself. But we should quickly recognize those occurrences as the sins that they are and repent of them.

How, then, can we deal with our temptation to be angry at God? Must we just 'stuff' our feelings and live in some degree of alienation from God? No, that is not the biblical solution. The answer lies, first of all, in a well-grounded trust in the sovereignty, wisdom, and love of God. Second, we should bring our confusions and perplexity to God in a humble, trusting way. We can pray somewhat in the following fashion:

God, I know that You love me, and I also know that Your ways are often beyond my understanding. I admit that I am confused at this time because I do not see the evidence of Your love toward me. Help me, by the power of Your Spirit, to trust You and not give in to the temptation to be angry at You.

Remember also that our God is a forgiving God. Even our anger toward Him, which I consider a grievous sin, was paid for by Christ in His death on the cross. So if you have anger in your heart toward God, I invite you - no, I urge you - to come to Him in repentance and experience the cleansing power of Christ's blood, shed on the cross for you."

Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Faith will Discover a Hidden Beauty

"So faith will discover a hidden beauty in it [suffering], under a very unsightly outward appearance, perceiving the suitableness thereof to the infinite goodness, love, and wisdom of God, and to the real and most valuable interests of the party; by which means one comes to take pleasure, and that a most refined pleasure, in distresses (2 Cor. 12:10)."

Thomas Boston, Crook in the Lot

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

He Who Grows in Grace

‎"He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it. When our virtues become more mature, we shall not be more tolerant of evil; but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms."

C.H. Spurgeon

A special thanks for Michael McClain for bringing this quotation to my attention.

Friday, July 9, 2010

To Love at all is to be Vulnerable

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they shall break, so be it."

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crooked Things

"In every disciple's life there are crooked things, unpleasant and unwelcome, which God uses to test us, strengthen us, humble us, correct us, teach us lessons, further our self-knowledge, repentance, and sanctity, shield us from greater evils, and thus bring us blessing, grievous as at first sight the crooked things seem to be."

J.I. Packer

Blessed Assurance Indeed!

"When I know that Christ is the one real sacrifice for my sins, that His work on my behalf has been accepted by God, that He is my heavenly Intercessor - then His blood is the antidote to the poison of the voices that echo in my conscience, condemning me for my many failures. Indeed, Christ's shed blood chokes them into silence.

Thus, knowing that Jesus Christ is my Savior delivers me from my anxious fears and brings me joy and wonderful assurance. I am condemned no more - not even by my own conscience. Jesus is mine. Blessed assurance indeed!"

Sinclair Ferguson

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gospel-shaped Lenses

Do you have Gospel-shaped lenses through which you view the body of Christ? Do you look for evidences of God's grace in others? I was listening to Pastor Mark Driscoll discuss 3 types of people who are in the church: positives, negatives, and neutrals. My endeavor is to expand on this concept a bit and challenge you to assess how you view the body of Christ.

Positives are people who have a gospel mind-set about the church. They see other believers through a lens of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Positives are for the body of Christ and default to trusting and giving the benefit of the doubt to others. In other words, Positives look for and expect the Holy Spirit's work in other people. Positives do not overlook your sin, nor are they unrealistically optimistic. Rather, they are those who are looking for the grace of God in your life. Positives are those who confront you for sin, but always in the context of seeing evidences of grace in your life. They do not keep a record of wrongs over time that they hang over your head and threaten to end your relationship over. Instead, Positives keep a record of God's grace in your life in an effort to always pursue reconciliation. Positives expect grace to prevail and the Holy Spirit to win the war with the flesh!

Neutrals are people who are still growing in their understanding of the gospel, but have not become strongly rooted in a gospel mind-set. Neutrals are not defined as those looking for sin in others, nor are they looking for evidences of grace. Neutrals may be emphasizing either of these aspects depending on the company they are keeping. If Neutrals are spending time with and being influenced by Positives, then they tend to see evidences of grace in others. If Neutrals are spending time with and being influenced by Negatives, then they tend to see sin and failures in others. Neutrals lack the gospel maturity to dismiss slanderous reports they hear about others and often give ear to gossip. Neutrals are the largest group of people in the church and they will tend to follow the culture of the church.

Negatives are people who have either an over-developed sense of human depravity or an under-developed sense of sanctifying grace, or both. Of course, a negative would rightly point out that since humanity is deeply wicked they could hardly be over-developed in their sense of human depravity. However, I would contend that they wrongly assume "total depravity" means men are as wicked as they can be, rather than they are fallen in every faculty. Further, I would argue they really do have an under-developed sense of sanctifying grace. Negatives are those who are expecting sin to trip others up and who notice it as soon as it happens. Negatives default to believing bad reports they hear about brothers. Negatives share those same bad reports with other people. Negatives see the sin in brothers far more than they see the evidences of grace. Negatives are quick to accuse and slow to defend. They are quick to assume the worst and slow to give the benefit of the doubt. Negatives are not people who expect the gospel to change others over time. They are those who keep records of wrongs. Negatives are those who are keeping a record of sin over time in order to present a full case to you of your sins and why they can no longer maintain a relationship with you. Negatives suffer from the fundamental flaw in their functional theology that the flesh will defeat the Spirit and that sin will conquer grace!

Now, I want to challenge you to assess whether you are a Positive, Neutral, or Negative. I spent a good portion of my life as a Negative. By the grace of God, I eventually moved from that mind-set through neutrality to being a Positive. I want to include a self-assement for determining where you fall with regard to these categories in two important relationships in your life:

Your Marriage (assuming you are both Christians)
1. Do you assume the best or worst about your spouse? When your spouse does something that looks remarkably similar to a past sin or failing, do you jump to the conclusion that they are in fact sinning in this manner again, or do you expect it may be just a misunderstanding?
2. Do you have an easier time listing marital irritations, sins your spouse has committed and failures in their lives; or do you have an easier time listing evidences of God's grace in changing them?
3. Would your spouse report that you are generally expressing thankfulness for the way God is working in their life; or that you are generally disappointed and nagging them about the ways in which they are failing? Ask them!
4. Would your friends say that your speech about your spouse reflects your thankfulness for what God is doing, or your complaints about what is lacking? Ask them!

Your Church Leaders (assuming they are Christians:))
1. Do you assume the best or the worst about your leaders? When your church leaders do something that looks remarkably similar to a past sin or failing, do you jump to the conclusion that they are in fact sinning in this manner again, or do you expect it may be just a misunderstanding?
2. Do you have an easier time listing bad decisions, sins leaders have committed and failures in their lives; or do you have an easier time listing evidences of God's grace in changing them?
3. Would your church leaders report that you are generally expressing thankfulness for the way God is working in the church, or that you generally seem disappointed and complain to them about the ways in which the church could be better? Do your pastors get a knot in their stomach when they see an email from you in their inbox, or do they anticipate great encouragement? Ask them.
4. Would your friends say that your speech about your church leaders reflects your thankfulness for what God is doing, or your complaints about what is lacking? Ask them.
5. Are you often participating in and entertaining gossip about leaders at your church, or are you known for not tolerating it? If others in the body feel comfortable telling you their complaints about the church leaders, then you have your answer!

Sadly, when we are a Negative toward others we are generally being defeated regularly by sin ourselves. We are being defeated because we are not constantly meditating on the Gospel, and it is not our constant motivation. We are defeated because the Gospel is the power to save and to sanctify and we aren't trusting in it! We need to remember that both our positional and practical holiness before God come by grace.

The major breakthrough for me came when I was considering Paul's view of the church at Corinth. Corinth was a church that was riddled with division over leaders, sexual immorality, lawsuits, idolatry, unholy practice of communion, an incorrect understanding of the role of women, and the abuse of spiritual gifts in the church. Yes, the apostle Paul rebuked and corrected this sin in the church. However, Paul began his letter saying something astounding about them:

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

I pray that we can be as gospel-minded as the apostle!

To watch Mark Driscoll's sermon on Positives, Negatives, and Neutrals, watch here.