Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category
Last night at a meeting at Maidenbower we heard a stonking sermon from Andy Young of Cheltenham on the preciousness of God’s word, highlighting how we ought to receive it, our appropriate response to it, and the fearful rejection of it. In his introduction, Andy made reference to the video below about the Kimyal people:
That further reminded me of this video of Chinese believers receiving the Word of God in their own language for the first time . . .
. . . and of this video of Christians in Africa getting their own Bibles:
What is the Bible to you? Is it better than thousands of pieces of gold and silver? Do you treasure it? I am reminded of a famous sermon by John Rogers. What difference would losing your Bible make to you?
The new generation of Christian journalists are doing the same. On podcasts, in blogs, on social media, and in places where an old fogey like me would not know to look—and, yes, even on television and radio—, they are writing, speaking, and advancing ideas that can save souls, transform lives, and renew cultures for the glory of God and the good of Man. Men and women just like Shaun Tabatt are joining with their predecessor of the Seventeenth Century, John Milton, in declaring,
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties” (50).
Michael Milton identifies the new Christian journalists who are having a real influence for good, using a friend, Shaun Tabatt, as an example. Some encouragement here for the intelligent and principled use of new media.
While immensely thankful for the benefits of modern travel, there are elements of it that are not in the first rank of Walker enjoyments. I tend toward dislike of the experience of being herded and managed, with even the temperature of the environment sometimes being adjusted in order to prompt appropriate dispositions. And there are, of course, those elements of being in confined spaces with a bundle of other sinners which tend to prompt more carnal reactions.
And so it was with that combination of weariness and amusement that I surveyed the departure lounge at Newark airport a few days ago on my way home from a delightful time of fellowship and ministry. All human life, if not quite there, was certainly well on the way to being healthily represented. Looking about me, I was struck by the prominent ways and means in words and in deeds by which various of my fellow wanderers were proclaiming their personal identity and spiritual allegiance.
Read more thoughts about the Christian traveller.
This day was the best that I have seen since I came to England. . . . After Dr. Twisse had begun with a brief prayer, Mr. Marshall prayed largely two hours, most divinely, confessing the sins of the members of the Assembly, in a wonderful, passionate, and prudent way. Afterwards, Mr. Arrowsmith preached an hour, then a psalm; thereafter, Mr. Vines prayed near two hours, and Mr. Palmer preached an hour, and Mr. Seaman prayed nearly two hours, then a psalm. After this, Mr. Henderson brought about a sweet discussion of the heated disputes confessed in the assembly, and other seen faults to be remedied. . . . Dr. Twisse closed with a short prayer and blessing.
Read some lessions from Robert Baillie’s experiences at Reformation21.
From time to time, in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the new school year, I receive enquiries about churches in particular places. They usually go something like this: “So-and-so has got a place to study this-or-that at such-and-such university in such-and-such a city. Do you know of any good church that he or she could go to?”
My initial response is almost always to hang my head in my hands, because I am grieved over the failure of the prospective students and their parents and perhaps their pastors to consider the consequences of their actions and to plan accordingly. In one sense, there is no good time of the year to address this, but hopefully that means that this is not a bad time. For some, I hope it will be timely, and help you to make the right decision in the right way in the right time.
Read the rest at Reformation21.
Mr Chantry dissects the Pharisee:
So that is what a Pharisee really is: a moralistic, legalistic antinomian. Too many in our lawless age assume that this is oxymoronic, that legalism and antinomianism are and must be opposites. This is simply untrue. Legalism and antinomianism are instead the twin children of moralism. Here is how it works . . .
Find out how it works here.
O my brethren, what can be better for informing the understanding than the Word of God? Would you know God? Would you know yourself? Then search this Book. Would you know time, and how to spend it? Would you know eternity, and how to be prepared for it? Then, search ye this Book. Would you know the evil of sin, and how to be delivered from it? Would you know the plan of salvation, and how you can have a share in it? This is the Book which will instruct you in all these matters. There is nothing which a man needs to know for the affairs of his soul, between here and heaven, of which this Book will not tell him. Blessed are they that read it both day and night; and especially blessed are they who read it with their eyes opened and illuminated by the Divine Spirit. If you want to be wise unto salvation, select the Word of God, and especially the Spirit of God, as your Teacher. There is nothing else that is equal to the Bible for inflaming, sanctifying, and turning in the right direction, all the passions of the soul.
A little more of the good stuff from Spurgeon at the Pyromaniacs.
Although this piece presumes an American context, the principles highlighted are ones that Christians would do well to bear in mind whenever ‘moral’ arguments for evil deeds are produced.
For too long we’ve limited the demand of faithfulness to “telling the truth.” To this we must also add “showing His beauty.”
Read all of David Murray’s reasoning.
Michael Horton offers some useful tips on how to argue like a Christian, with fairness and clarity.
In preparing to preach, I came across this little snippet by Francis Davison, part of a longer treatment of Psalm 86:
In knotts, to be loosed never,
Knitt my heart to thee for ever,
That I to thy name may beare
Fearfull love and loving feare.
Here is a sentiment that should more often rise from our too readily divided hearts.
Although he has this in mind especially for students returning to universities and colleges, Kevin DeYoung’s nugget of unlikely wisdom is worth remembering for all of us.
“Few are tired of talking, but many are wearied with hearing.” So says Spurgeon, encouraging us to receive the exhortations of those appointed and equipped to give them:
The text itself says, “Exhort one another daily”; from which I gather two lessons. First, hear exhortation from others; and, secondly, practise exhortation to others. I have known people of this kind, that if a word is spoken to them, however gently, as to a wrong which they are doing, their temper is up in a moment. Who are they that they should be spoken to? Dear friend, who are you that you should not be spoken to? Are you such an off-cast and such an outcast that your Christian brethren must give you up? Surely you do not want to bear that character. I have even known persons take offence because the word has been spoken from the pulpit too pointedly. This is to take offence where we ought to show gratitude.
“Oh,” says one, “I will never hear that man again! He is too personal.” What kind of a man would you like to hear? Will you give your ear to one who will please you to your ruin, and flatter you to your destruction? Surely, you are not so foolish? Do you choose that kind of doctor who never tells you the truth about your bodily health? Do you trust one who falsely assured you that there was nothing the matter with you when all the while a terrible disease was folding its cruel arms about you? Your doctor would not hurt your feelings. He washes his hands with invisible soap, and gives you a portion of the same. He will send you just a little pill, and you will be all right. He would not have you think of that painful operation which a certain surgeon has suggested to you. He smirks and smiles, until, after a little while of him and his pills, you say to yourself, “I am getting worse and worse, and yet he smiles, and smiles, and flatters and soothes me. I will have done with him and his little pills, and go to one who will examine me honestly, and treat me properly. He may take his soap and his smile elsewhere.” O sirs, believe me, I would think it a waste of time, nay, a crime like that of murder, to stand here and prophesy smooth things to you. We must all learn to hear what we do not like. The question is not, “Is it pleasant?” but, “Is it true?”
My purpose is to show, that from the constitution of our nature, the former method is altogether incompetent and ineffectual and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart from the wrong affection that domineers over it.
So wrote Thomas Chalmers in what is probably his best-known sermon, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. You can read a summary of its principles here.
Better yet, you can read the whole sermon here.
Ask yourself: When was the last time I did anything worthwhile and told no one about it? When was the last time I visited a lonely person and didn’t drop it into the next conversation I had? When was the last time I shared the Gospel and didn’t share that I shared the Gospel?
David Murray asks some very pertinent questions about our readiness to broadcast our good deeds before men as opposed to our awareness of and contentment with the eye of God.
Stirring sanity from Spurgeon:
It is thought nowadays that a man must not try to proclaim the gospel, unless he has had a good education. To try and preach Christ, and yet to commit grammatical blunders, is looked upon as a grave offence. People are mightly offended at the idea of the gospel being properly preached by an uneducated man. This I believe to be a very injurious mistake.
There is nothing whatsoever in the whole compass of Scripture to excuse any mouth from speaking for Jesus when the heart is really acquainted with His salvation. We are not all called to “preach,” in the new sense of the term, but we are all called to make Jesus known if we know Him.
Has the gospel ever been spread to any extent by men of high literary power? Look through the whole line of history, and see if it is so. Have the men of splendid eloquence been remarkable for winning souls? I could quote names that stand first in the roll of oratory, which are low down in the roll of soul-winners. Those whom God has most honoured have been men who, whatever their gifts, have consecrated them to God, and have earnestly declared the great truths of God’s Word. Men who have been terribly in earnest, and have faithfully described man’s ruin by sin, and God’s remedy of grace—men who have warned sinners to escape from the wrath to come by believing in the Lord Jesus—these have been useful. If they had great gifts, they were no detriment to them; if they had few talents, this did not disqualify them.
It has pleased God to use the base things of this world, and things that are despised, for the accomplishment of His great purposes of love. Paul declared that he proclaimed the gospel, “not with wisdom of words.” He feared what might happen if he used wordly rhetoric, and therefore he refused the wisdom of words. We have need to do so now with emphasis. Let us trust in the divine energy of the Holy Ghost, and speak the truth in reliance upon His might, whether we can speak fluently with Apollos, or are slow of speech, like Moses.
Lewis Allen has a couple of very profitable posts about praying for our children. In the first, leaving a legacy, he quotes Flavel:
For my own part, I must profess before the world that I have a high value for this mercy, and do, from the bottom of my heart, bless the Lord, Who gave me a religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul for me. He was the one that was inwardly acquainted with God, and being full of compassion for his children, often carried them before God, prayed and pleaded with God for them, wept and made supplication for them.
This stock of prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord, I cannot but esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. O, it is no small mercy to have thousands of fervent prayers lying before the Lord, filed up in heaven for us. And O that we would all be faithful to this duty! Surely our love, especially to the souls of our relations, should not grow cold when our breath doth. O that we should remember this duty in our lives, and if God give opportunity and ability, fully discharge it when we die; considering, as Christ did, we shall be no more, but they are in this world, in the midst of a defiled, tempting, troublesome world. It is the last office of love for ever we shall do for them.
John Flavel, “Sermon on John 17.11,” Works, 1:257-8
In the second, Lewis offers the pattern of his own prayers for his children. I am rebuked by the consistency, specificity and spirituality of those prayers. A good example for us all . . .
Many are inclined to say that we long for a revival, but I often wonder if we know what we are asking. I do not say that we should not pray for more profound and intense operations of the Holy Spirit, but let us not forget that – given where so many of us are as churches – if the Holy Spirit does draw near, there is likely to be much weeping before there is rejoicing:
But mark, wherever the Spirit of God comes, He destroys the goodliness and flower of the flesh. That is to say, our righteousness withers as our sinfulness. Before the Spirit comes we think ourselves as good as the best. We say, “All these commandments have I kept from my youth up,” and we superciliously ask, “What do I lack?” Have we not been moral? No, have we not even been religious? We confess that we may have committed faults, but we think them very venial, and we venture, in our wicked pride, to imagine that, after all, we are not so vile as the Word of God would lead us to think.
Ah, my dear hearer, when the Spirit of God blows on the comeliness of your flesh, its beauty will fade as a leaf, and you will have quite another idea of yourself. You will then find no language too severe in which to describe your past character. Searching deep into your motives, and investigating that which moved you to your actions, you will see so much of evil that you will cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
From J. C. Ryle:
The Christianity which I call fruit-bearing, that which shows its Divine origin by its blessed effects on mankind – the Christianity which you may safely defy unbelievers to explain away – that Christianity is a very different thing. Let me show you some of its leading marks and features.
(1) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always taught the inspiration, sufficiency, and supremacy of Holy Scripture. It has told people that God’s Word written is the only trustworthy rule of faith and practice in religion, that God requires nothing to be believed that is not in this Word, and that nothing is right which contradicts it. It has never allowed reason, a person’s mind, or the voice of the Church, to be placed above, or on a level with Scripture. It has steadily maintained that, however imperfectly we may understand it, the Old Book is meant to be the only standard of life and doctrine.
(2) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always taught fully the sinfulness, guilt and corruption of human nature. It has told people that they are born in sin, deserve God’s wrath and condemnation, and are naturally inclined to do evil. It has never allowed that men and women are only weak and pitiable creatures, who can become good when they please, and make their own peace with God. On the contrary, it has steadily declared a person’s danger and vileness, and their pressing need of a Divine forgiveness and satisfaction for their sins, a new birth or conversion, and an entire change of heart.
(3) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always set before people the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief object of faith and hope in religion, as the Divine Mediator between God and humanity, the only source of peace of conscience, and the root of all spiritual life. It has never been content to teach that He is merely our Prophet, our Example, and our Judge. The main things it has ever insisted on about Christ are the atonement for sin He made by His death, His sacrifice on the cross, the complete redemption from guilt and condemnation by His blood, His victory over the grave by His resurrection, His active life of intercession at God’s right hand, and the absolute necessity of simple faith in Him. In short, it has made Christ the Alpha and the Omega in Christian theology.
(4) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always honored the Person of God the Holy Spirit, and magnified His work. It has never taught that all professing Christians have the grace of the Spirit in their hearts, as a matter of course, because they are baptized, or because they belong to the Church, or because they partake of Holy communion. It has steadily maintained that the fruits of the Spirit are the only evidence of having the Spirit, and that those fruits must be seen, – that we must be born of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit, and feel the operations of the Spirit, – and that a close walk with God in the path of His commandments, a life of holiness, charity, self-denial, purity, and zeal to do good, are the only satisfactory marks of the Holy Spirit.
Summary ► Such is true fruit-bearing Christianity. Well would it have been for the world if there had been more of it during the last nineteen centuries! Too often, and in too many parts of Christendom, there has been so little of it, that Christ’s religion has seemed extinct, and has fallen into utter contempt. But just in proportion as such Christianity as I have described has prevailed, the world has benefited, the unbeliever has been silenced, and the truth of Divine revelation been acknowledged. The tree has been known by its fruit.
via J.C. Ryle Quotes.
Many who profess faith leave things to the last minute. What will I do when I am tempted? Will I do what I already know to be my duty? Will I leave it to how I feel at the last moment? Will I attend church? Will I go to prayer meeting? Will I read the scriptures? Will I seek to bear witness? Will I watch this kind of thing on television? Will I turn it off or will I indulge? In a very real sense, we say that we decided when we began to follow Jesus. We vowed to take Him as our Lord and Master. We said to all the future questions of obedience, “I already decided.” Now we need to live like it.
Read it all at Main Things.
I am not what I ought to be. Ah! how imperfect and deficient. Not what I might be, considering my privileges and opportunities. Not what I wish to be. God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him. I am not what I hope to be; ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as He is. Not what I once was, a child of sin, and slave of the devil. Thought not all these, not what I ought to be, not what I might be, not what I wish or hope to be, and not what once was, I think I can truly say with the apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
John Newton (1725-1807), cited in Letters of John Newton, 400.
via Justin Taylor.
“No one is more holy than anyone else.” That was the statement I heard in a recent sermon. At first, I thought I must have misheard it. But, I had not. The point being made to the congregation was clear: abandon your ‘self-righteousness’ and recognize that you are no holier than the person in the pew next to you.
For why this is nonsense, read the rest.