Posts Tagged ‘love’
Lewis Allen with some helpful and balanced transparency on the role of our emotions in worship:
There’s no real embarrassment in expressing a heart-reaction to the Saviour’s love. We might, one day, realise that we’ve expressed our live to Him so little. Now that would be more than an embarrassment.
John Newton, writing in the delightful day when to waste an empty space on your paper would be a crying shame, and fortunately having plenty to write about to fill up the gap:
And now, how shall I fill up the rest of my paper? It is a shame for a Christian and a minister to say he has no subject at hand, when the inexhaustible theme of redeeming love is ever pressing upon our attention. I will tell you then, though you know it, that the Lord reigns.
He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows, is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth. Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before him. Every event in the kingdoms of providence and of grace is under his rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part, as if there were only that single object in his view. From the tallest archangel to the meanest ant or fly, all depend on him for their being, their preservation, and their powers. He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He overrules the rise and fall of nations, and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom, all events; so that, while many intend nothing less, in the issue, their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of his holy will. He restrains with a mighty hand the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness; and Satan, with all his hosts, cannot exert their malice a hair’s breadth beyond the limits of his permission.
This is He who is the head and husband of his believing people. How happy are they who it is his good pleasure to bless! How safe are they whom He has engaged to protect! How honoured and privileged are they to whom He is pleased to manifest himself, and whom He enables and warrants to claim him as their friend and their portion! Having redeemed them by his own blood, He sets a high value upon them; He esteems them his treasure, his jewels, and keeps them as the pupil of his eye. They shall not want; they need not fear; his eye is upon them in every situation, his ear is open to their prayers, and his everlasting arms are under them for their sure support. On earth He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all his dispensations for their good; while, in heaven, He is pleading their cause, preparing them a place, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory that shall be shortly revealed.
Oh how is this mystery hidden from an unbelieving world! Who can believe it, till it is made known by experience, what an intercouse is maintained in this land of shadows between the Lord of glory and sinful worms? How should we praise him that He has visited us! for we were once blind to his beauty, and insensible to his love, and should have remained so to the last, had He not prevented us with his goodness, and been found of us when we sought him not.
The Letters of John Newton, “To Mrs. Place,” (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2007), 237-239.
via The Old Guys.
I liked this article from Kevin DeYoung, concluding:
Preachers must preach the law without embarrassment. Parents must insist on obedience without shame. The law can, and should, be urged upon true believers—not to condemn, but to correct and promote Christlikeness. Both the indicatives of Scripture and the imperatives are from God, for our good, and given in grace.
What can I do for him now? What can I still give?
Flowers? No, the hospital will not permit them in his room, and he would not be able to appreciate them.
Books? No, for he lacks the strength to hold them and the sight to read them.
Food? No, for he can no longer eat, and only drips of water have gone into his body over the last ten days.
Clothes? No, for his emaciated frame will not need them for much longer.
What can I give? The only things I have left to give are truth and love. I can speak of the love of God in Christ and show love by being there and caring as I can. Not to deny the other things, of course, but this actually helps to set priorities for those who are not on their deathbeds. What do men need more than truth and love? We should not wait until death looms before we give these gifts. The only time to prepare for death is life. Not only must I prepare others, God helping me, but I myself must so live as to be ready to die.
This is the solid foundation of all Christian comforts, that God loves freely. Were his love to us to be measured by our fruitfulness or conduct towards him, each hour and moment might stagger our hope; but he is therefore pleased to have it all of grace, “to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed,” Rom. iv. 16. This comforts us against the guilt of the greatest sins, for love and free grace can pardon what it will. This comforts us against the accusations of Satan drawn from our own unworthiness. True, I am unworthy, and Satan cannot show me to myself more vile than, without his accusations, I will acknowledge myself to be; but that love which gave Christ freely, gives in him more worthiness than there is or can be unworthiness in me. This comforts us in the assured hope of glory, because when he loves he loves to the end, and nothing can separate from his love. This comforts us in all afflictions, that the free love of God, who has predestinated us thereto, will wisely order all things for the good of his servants, Rom. viii. 29-39 ; Heb.xii. 6.
Our duty therefore is, 1. To labour for the assurance of this free love. It will assist us in all duties; it will arm us against all temptations; it will answer all objections that can be made against the soul’s peace; it will sustain us in all conditions, into which the saddest of times may bring us, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Though thousands be against us to hate us, yet none shall be against us to hurt us.
2. If God love us freely, we should love him thankfully, 1 John iv. 19, and let love be the salt to season all our sacrifices. For as no benefit is saving to us which does not proceed from love in him, so no duty is pleasing to him which does not proceed from love in us, 1 John v. 3.
3. Plead this free love and grace in prayer. When we beg pardon, nothing is too great for love to forgive: when we beg grace and holiness, nothing is too good for love to grant. There is not any one thing which faith can manage to more spiritual advantages, than the free grace and love of God in Christ.
4. We must yet so magnify the love of God, as that we turn not free grace into wantonness. There is a corrupt generation of men, who, under pretence of exalting grace, do put disgrace upon the law of God, by taking away the mandatory power thereof from those that are under grace, a doctrine most extremely contrary to the nature of this love. For God’s love to us works love in us to him; and our love to him is this, that we keep his commandments; and to keep a commandment is to confirm and to subject my conscience with willingness and delight to the rule and preceptive power of that commandment. Take away the obligation of the law upon conscience as a rule of life, and you take away from our love to God the very matter about which the obedience thereof should be conversant. It is no diminution to love that a man is bound to obedience, (nay, it cannot be called obedience if I be not bound to it,) but herein the excellency of our love to God is commended, that whereas other men are so bound by the law that they fret at it, and swell against it, and would be glad to be exempted from it, they who love God, and know his love to them, delight to be thus bound, and find infinitely more sweetness in the strict rule of God’s holy law, than any wicked man can do in that presumptuous liberty wherein he allows himself to shake off and break its cords. (An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, 654-655)
So, have you been loved freely by the God of all grace? Are you assured of it? Do you love him thankfully in response? Do you plead this love and grace of God in prayer? Do you magnify his love by finding sweetness in the rule of his holy law?
Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Volume 2: 1552-1566) compiled and introduced by James T. Dennison (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), is the second volume in this excellent series. Here, each with a lucid and brief introduction, are a further 35 confessions, including both the Forty-Two and the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, the Heidelberg Catechism, and such lesser-known works as the Geneva Students’ Confession (1559), Beza’s Confession (1560), productions from Tarcal and Torda and Enyedi, and the delightfully named Synod of Gönc (1566). Particularly fascinating are those truths which our forefathers thought primary (and therefore worthy of confessing), and which today are often discounted as secondary (and vice versa). One of the values of such a study is to send us back to our Bibles to recalibrate our sensitivities, informed both by the necessities of the present and the instruction of the past. Well-bound and clearly printed, this series provides an excellent resource for those interested in examining and learning from the Reformed confessional heritage.
James M. Renihan puts 1 Corinthians 13 firmly in its context to explore True Love: Understanding the Real Meaning of Christian Love (Evangelical Press, 2010). Beginning with God’s love for us in Christ, and the law and gospel of love, Renihan also situates chapter 13 in the epistle as a whole and then – without dealing with other contentious issues – focuses on this love, its importance and its outworking. Given how misunderstood and abused the whole notion of love is both within and without the church, and how often abused and sentimentalized this chapter can be, this is a powerful corrective to shallow and errant views, providing us with a solid, careful, and challenging study of this most vital Christian grace and duty.
Along the lines of Banner’s ‘Puritan Paperbacks’ series, Reformation Heritage Books has begun a ‘Puritan Treasures for Today’ line. First up is George Swinnock with The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). The aim of the series is to provide an easy way in to Puritan writings by making available a briefer work in updated English. In this volume Swinnock expounds Psalm 73.26, demonstrating and applying the fact that man must die, and must therefore prepare to die, and that the immortal God is man’s only true happiness, and so the best preparation for the soul is to take God as its chief treasure. With holy warnings and enticements, Swinnock addresses both believers and unbelievers with that warm exhortation and vivid illustration characteristic of Puritan preaching at its best. Well-edited and well-presented, this volume (and the projected series) would provide a helpful gateway to the riches of the Puritans.
In this volume, we are Heading for Heaven (Evangelical Press, 2009) under the safe guidance of that Greatheart, J. C. Ryle. A previously published and nicely redesigned (but not reset) selection from Ryle’s sermons on The Christian Race, here we see Ryle as a preacher rather than an essayist. Leaving behind all the finery of eloquence, Ryle deals with the heart to urge the reader to ensure that they are on the right path, and then to pursue that path to the end. Homely and earnest, these sermons on various texts will serve to stir and warm the heart, and any reader would be well-served by investing the time to digest these addresses.
In Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Crossway, 2008), John Piper wades carefully into murky water to address the thorny issue of God’s sovereignty over and in the very worst events that have taken place and will take place in this world. Familiar Piper themes and phrases pepper the book as the author spends time establishing the absolute supremacy of the Godhead over all things, including sin, and then begins to look at concrete examples that demonstrate both God’s sovereign power and his sovereign and good purposes even in the most grim events. Satan’s existence, Adam’s fall, Babel’s rise, Joseph’s slavery, Israel’s monarchy, and Judas’ betrayal all provide opportunity to demonstrate how such apparent catastrophes served God’s purposes to glorify his Son and save his people. Walking and sometimes wobbling along a tightrope between seeking to bring Scripture light to bear on the darkest matters and the danger of peering into things which God has intentionally left dark, Piper’s purpose is to equip the saints for the hard times that always come. Given the nature of the case, it is invariably hard to bring the general lessons down to the particulars when one is overwhelmed with pain and grief, but this is nevertheless a clear and courageous reminder that God is never absent nor ignorant, but actively working all things together for good.
Part of the continued fall-out from the Calvin quincentennial is Calvin: Theologian and Reformer (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), a collection of papers from the John Owen Centre conference at London Theological Seminary, edited by Joel Beeke and Garry Williams. The collection is divided into three sections – Calvin’s life and work, then doctrine and experience, and finally Christian living and ministry – and include contributions from Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, and Joel Beeke. Maintaining something of the style and sense of conference addresses, those who attended will enter again into the spirit of the meetings, and those who did not will get a taste of it. As a brief introduction to Calvin’s life with God, thought of God, and pursuit of godliness, this is very helpful.
God’s sovereignty and God’s grace walk hand in hand through A Long Line of Godly Men (Volume 1, 1400BC – AD100): Foundations of Grace by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, 2006). That complex title points to the structure of this projected five-volume series in which our author intends to survey history from a divinely-appointed perspective. This first volume lays the foundation with a canter through the entire Bible seeking to establish, from first to last, the coherent and consistent and credible testimony of Scripture to God’s saving purposes. From Moses to John, Genesis to Revelation, Dr Lawson traces his theme with penetrating insight and profound understanding. With helpfully-flagged ‘Doctrine in Focus’ sections littered through the pages and a series of study questions at the end of each chapter, this is a book intended to address the whole man. Sympathetic readers might query certain details while enjoying the very broad sweep of this thematic study as Lawson skips across the high hills of our Bibles in an attempt to link up and light up the peaks by firing the beacons of God’s grace at each point. Do not misinterpret the title: this book is not about men but about their God and his glorious dealings with sinful men. With an extended introduction by John MacArthur, this is no light read but it should prove an immensely profitable one.
In 2009, Joel Beeke was the main preacher at the Aberystwyth Conference, and addressed the theme of Contagious Christian Living, which sermons are now gathered into this slim volume (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). Desiring that the people of God will learn to live lives of godliness that have a profound and lasting impact on the people around them, Beeke presents four lives and their lessons: Jephthah’s daughter teaches us sacrificial submission (the author takes the line that she was consecrated to God and not sacrificed); Bartimaeus instructs us in Christ-centredness; Jacob, in contagious blessing; and, Daniel, consistent integrity. The teaching is simple, earnest, and pastoral, and the spirit of it is the very one which Beeke wants to encourage others to cultivate. There is vigorous challenge here, to be certain, but also direction and encouragement which will benefit every humble believer ready to learn contagious Christian living.
John D. Currid portrays for us The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained (Evangelical Press, 2009). Presenting the dialogue between the bewildered prophet and his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-guiding God, he guides us to and through the prophet’s closing psalm in which his expectant dependence upon the Lord comes gloriously to the fore. Currid directs us sensitively, simply and wisely through this short but too-often-neglected portion of God’s Word, his often stimulating perspectives and insights making Habakkuk a truly profitable prophet for readers who, in the face of similar challenges and questions, need to find and rest in Habakkuk’s answers.
Amazing Conversions: John Ashworth and His Strange Tales (Tentmaker Publications, 2009) is a book for weeping over. There will be tears of shame, that we are not more persuaded of and acting upon the saving mercies of God; tears of pity, for the fearful condition of the lost; and, tears of joy, for God’s goodness in bringing those under the power of darkness into his Son’s kingdom. A brief biography of Ashworth, founder of the “Chapel for the Desitute” gives way to his records of God’s gracious dealings with needy sinners. While all conversions are amazing, Ashworth – not neglecting to tell of difficulties and disappointments – nevertheless focuses on some of the more distinctive and unlikely (humanly speaking) regenerations he saw, accomplished by ordinary means, applied faithfully, prayerfully, winsomely and patiently. This is a book to stir the soul, give confidence in God, and set the Christian, and especially the preacher, about his regular business with zeal and hope. I commend it vigorously.
Perhaps concerned at being undersold, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne give us The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media, 2009). The book is built around the metaphor of the relationship – and often the imbalance – between the trellis (the structures and supports of church life) and the vine (the conversion and growth in grace of the people who make up the church). In essence, it is a plea to focus on the growing of the vine and not the building of the trellis, investing in people rather than structures. There is much to appreciate, especially the concern to see Christian maturity that enables them to invest in the lives of others. At the same time, the authors occasionally present some false dichotomies in trying to distinguish their approach from others, and run into self-contradictions on several occasions. In attempting to encourage the saints to employ their gifts, there is a danger of flattening out Christ’s own structures in the church, especially when the notion of vocation (pastoral or otherwise) is fairly swiftly dismissed. Certain assumptions evidently lie behind some of the teaching here. A very worthy and entirely laudable aim, together with some helpful and insightful suggestions, can still leave one feeling that, for a book that wants to be about vines, there is an awful lot of trellis being constructed, not least in the sustained advertisement of other programmes and materials available from the same publisher.
Wayne Grudem’s Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Crossway, 2003) is a kidney-punch of a book: 91 pages of to-the-point striking. Developed from an address at a conference for entrepreneurs, it is an unapologetic hymn to the positive moral goodness of ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, and borrowing and lending. Grudem is not blind to the temptations in and potential abuses of these things, and seeks to address them, albeit briefly. He also has short sections on heart attitudes and world poverty. Concerned to encourage those in business to use their calling to glorify God, it is less about doing business in a godly way, and more about the inherent goodness of business in itself. Loaded with assumptions, pithy rather than profound in its employment of Scripture, and provocative in its absoluteness, some will be tempted to wonder if this book could have come out of anywhere but 21st century America. Businessmen and women will find every encouragement to continue in and pursue their callings here. However, the claim for fundamental and inherent goodness in some of these aspects of our culture raises questions that the book itself does not answer. A vigorous book to be read vigorously, and requiring determined engagement.
Rest in God & A Calamity in Contemporary Christianity (Banner of Truth, 2010) is a pithy contribution to debates over the Lord’s day by Iain Murray. Beginning in Genesis 2.3 and working through the ceremonial law, with a brief excursus on the earlier and later Calvin’s thoughts on the matter, we arrive at length in the New Testament and then take a short survey of post-apostolic church history. Five terse conclusions draw this booklet (35 pages) to a close. There is nothing new here, but a simple and earnest rehearsal and representation of the Scriptural and historical orthodoxy of the Lord’s day. The subtitle and the tone of the book make plain that this is no take-it-or-leave-it matter, but a battle of vital importance for the present and future health of Christ’s church. Many will no doubt dismiss or despise Murray’s assessment, but many more will join with him in recognising an area in which contemporary Christianity badly needs to set its house in order.
In The Breeze of the Centuries: Introducing Great Theologians from the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas (IVP, 2010), Michael Reeves provides us with the first book of an intended two-volume set giving an overview of major contributors to theology during the first thirteen post-apostolic centuries. He surveys the apostolic fathers, moves on through Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, before spending some time on Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. The aim is to provide a straight report – with a good smattering of original material, and surveys of major works –though our author occasionally breaks cover to add a little spice of his own. Helpful recommendations and timelines add usefulness, although the lack of an index is a problem with a book that many would find a handy ready-reference. Written with verve and respect, this should prove a very helpful introduction to novices and a good overview for more experienced readers.