Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Defeat of Sin

It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garriosons of the Kingdom.
-John Murray

Tough Question!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our Purpose

My Orders
by Ethelwyn Wetherald
My orders are to fight;
Then if I bleed, or fail,
Or strongly win, what matters it?
God only doth prevail.
The servant craveth naught
Except to serve with might,
I was not told to win or lose
My orders are to fight.

Implications of an Edwardian Vision

From God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper (John, Piper,. God's passion for His glory living the vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the complete text of The end for which God created the world. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1998. Print.)

"Thus the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing. The implications of this are breathtaking. I mention fifteen in acorn-form. Any one of them could become a great oak tree with book-length branches." (33)

Two Great Passions Not at Odds
Implication #1. God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in him are not at odds.
God Is Committed to the Joy of the Saints
Implication #2. Therefore, God is as committed to my eternal and ever-increasing joy in him as he is to his own glory.
The Essence of God’s Love for You
Implication #3. The love of God for sinners is not his making much of them, but his graciously freeing and empowering them to enjoy making much of him.
What Is the Essence of True Virtue?
Implication #4. If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then all true virtue among human beings must aim at bringing people to rejoice in the glory of God.
Sin Is Sacrilege and Suicide
Implication #5. It also follows that sin is the suicidal exchange of the glory of God for the broken cisterns of created things.
Ever-increasing Joy in an Inexhaustible God
Implication #6. Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever greater joy in him.
When Creatures Refuse to Be Happy in God
Implication #7. Hell is unspeakably real, conscious, horrible and eternal—the experience in which God vindicates the worth of his glory in holy wrath on those who would not delight in what is infinitely glorious.
Evangelism: Laboring to Waken a Taste for God
Implication #8. If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then evangelism means depicting the beauty of Christ and his saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labors to help people find their satisfaction in him.
Preaching: Luring out People to God
Implication #9. Similarly, Christian preaching, as part of the corporate worship of Christ’s church, is an expository exultation over the glories of God in his word, designed to lure God’s people from the fleeting pleasures of sin into the sacrificial path of obedient satisfaction in him.
Corporate Worship: The Heart Hunger That Honors God
Implication #10. The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it.
World Missions: A Passion for God’s Glory in the Joy of All Peoples
Implication #11. If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then world missions is a declaration of the glories of God among all the unreached peoples, with a view to gathering worshippers who magnify God through the gladness of radically obedient lives.
We Get the Help, He Gets the Glory
Implication #12. Prayer is calling on God for help; so it is plain that he is gloriously resourceful and we are humbly and happily in need of grace.
Scholarship: Seeing and Savoring God in Every Branch of Learning
Implication #13. The task of Christian scholarship is to study reality as a manifestation of God’s glory, to speak about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it.
God Is Glorified When Death Is Gain
Implication #14. The way to magnify God in death is by meeting death as gain.
The Great Duty: Be as Happy as You Can—in God Forever
Implication #15. Finally, if the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then, as C. S. Lewis said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chapter 9 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 9 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 9: The Lord, The Keeper of His People

How frequently, clearly, and solemnly does the Holy Spirit unfold this great truth in his word, that salvation is entirely in and of God, irrespective of all worth, worthiness, or power of the creature; and that as the salvation of his covenant people is supremely and solely his own work, so in every respect it is infinitely worthy of himself. (308)

God can do nothing but what harmonizes with his own illimitable greatness: he can never act below himself. (308)

Now this salvation, thus so completely and entirely out of the creature, in God, takes in all the circumstances of a child of God. It is not only a salvation from wrath to come - that were an immeasurable act of grace - but it is a present salvation, anticipating and providing for every exigency of the life that now is, including deliverance from all evil, help in all trouble, comfort in all sorrow, the supply of all want, and through all conflicts, assaults, and difficulties, perfect safety and final triumph. But the single point with which we now have to do, is, the present and certain security of the believer, provided for in the covenant of grace, made sure in Jesus the covenant head, and revealed in this glorious covenant plan of salvation. (310)

The principle of self-confidence is the natural product of the human heart: the great characteristic of our apostate race, is, a desire to live, and think, and act, independently of God. (312)

Now, let it be remembered, that Divine and sovereign grace undertakes not the extraction of the root of this depraved principle from the heart of its subjects. The root remains to the very close of life's pilgrimage: though in a measure weakened, subdued, mortified, still it remains; demanding the most rigid watchfulness, connected with ceaseless prayer, lest it should spring upward, to the destruction of his soul's prosperity, the grieving of the Spirit, and the dishonoring of God. (312)

That the Lord Jesus is able to keep his people from falling, is a view of our subject worthy of especial and grateful consideration. This is the ground-work of our faith, - that Christ has power to keep, through all time and to all eternity, the people entrusted to his care. They are his portion, his bride, his jewels; they were committed to him of his Father, and therefore he is responsible for their present and eternal salvation. Let us see how he is in all respects fitted for this great undertaking. (324)

The same perfection which qualified him as the covenant head and surety of his people; the same almighty strength which enabled him to work out their salvation, to bear the burden and the curse of their sins, enables him to preserve them while "dead in trespasses and in sins," and to keep them after they have been called and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit. As God, then, he is able to keep his saints from falling. (326)

The Father knew what his beloved family would need. He knew what corruptions would threaten them, what temptations would beguile them, what foes would assail them, what infirmities would encompass them, and what trials would depress them; therefore it pleased him, it was his own good and gracious pleasure, that in his Son, the mediator of his beloved people, should all fullness dwell; - a fullness of merit, a fullness of pardon, a fullness of righteousness, a fullness of grace, wisdom, and strength, commensurate with the varied, multiplied, and diversified circumstances of his family. (326-7)

O how mighty is the believer, who, in deep distrust of his own power, casting off from him all spirit of self-dependence, looks simply and fully at Jesus, and goes not forth to meet his enemy, only as he is "strong in the strength that is in Christ." (330)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chapter 8 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 8 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 8: The Lord, The Restorer of His People

When we are led to consider the uncertainty of the creature, - when we take the history of a child of God, compressed within the short period of a single day, - mark what flaws, what imperfections, what fickleness, what startings aside, what dereliction in principle, what flaws in practice, what errors in judgment, and what wanderings of heart, make up that brief history, - how are we led to thank God for the stability of the covenant! that covenant which provides for the full redemption of all believers, - which from eternity secures the effectual calling, the perfect keeping, and the certain salvation of every chosen vessel of mercy. (278)

But not so is it now. Adam fell, and in his fall transmitted to his posterity a nature totally corrupt in every part; and although Divine and sovereign grace has undertaken to renew that nature, and does so in part, yet it is but in part renewed and restored to its original glory. The Divine life has its dwelling-place in a fallen, fleshly nature. (279)

Let every believer remember, that the Divine life which he lives, he lives in the flesh; and that there exists not a day that he stands not in need of the restorings of the Lord. (280)

Indeed, true mortification of sin consists in a knowledge of our sinful nature, and its subjection to the power of Divine grace. The reason why so few believers " through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body," is, a forgetfulness that the work has to do first and mainly with the root of sin in the soul: " Make the tree good, and the fruit will also be good "; purify the fountain, and the stream will be pure. Oh, were there a deeper acquaintance with the hidden iniquity of our fallen nature, - a more thorough learning out of the truth, - that " in our flesh there dwells no good thing," - a more heartfelt humiliation on account of it, and more frequent confession of it before God, - how much higher than they now are would be the attainments in holiness of many believers! (283)

There is, then, in every child of God, the innate principle of departure. Notwithstanding the wonders of grace God has wrought for the soul, - though he has elected, called, renewed, washed and clothed the believer; yet if he did not check and rein him in, he would depart, and that forever! - this unsanctified, unmortified principle would bear him away. (283)

What is there in God that you should leave him, what in Jesus that you should wound him, what in the blessed Spirit that you should grieve him? Is not the cause of all your departure, declension, unkindness, unfruitfulness, in yourself, and in yourself alone? But if this has been your conduct towards God, not so has been his conduct towards you. (285)

No: he is a tender, loving father; so tender and so loving, that not one stroke, nor one cross, nor one trial more does he lay upon us, than is absolutely needful for our good; - not a single ingredient does he put in our bitter cup, that is not essential to the perfection of the remedy. It is for our profit that he chastens, not for his pleasure; and that often to rouse us from our spiritual sleep, to recover us from our deep declension, and to impart new vigor, healthiness, and growth, to his own life in the soul. (289)

Merciful to receive you, merciful to pardon you, merciful to heal you. O the boundless mercy of God in Christ towards a soul returning from its wanderings! (299)

Nor must we overlook the grand source of encouragement to a returning soul, - that which springs from the cross of Christ. But for a crucified Savior, there could be no possible return to God; in no other way could he consistently with the holiness and rectitude of the Divine government, with what he owes to himself as a just and holy God, receive a poor wandering, returning sinner. Mere repentance and humiliation for, and confession of, sin, could entitle the soul to no act of pardon. The obedience and death of the Lord Jesus laid the foundation, and opened the way for the exercise of this great and sovereign act of grace. (302)

The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God's hatred of sin, and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it. (302)

Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross. (302)

The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy, that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how he could love a poor, guilty sinner ... Now it is the simple belief of this, that brings the tide of joy down into the soul. It is faith's view of this that dissolves the adamant, rends asunder the flinty rock, smites down the pyramid of self-righteousness, lays the rebellious will in the dust, and enfolds the repenting, believing soul in the very arms of free, rich, and sovereign love. (303)

If your heavenly Father has restored your soul, not only has he done it from the spring of his own unchangeable love, but that which has prevailed with him was the power of the sweet incense of the Redeemer's blood before the mercy-seat. Moment by moment does this fragrant cloud go up, bearing as it ascends all the circumstances of all the Israel of God. There is not only the blood already sprinkled on the mercy-seat, which has satisfied Divine justice, but there is the constant pleading of the blood by Jesus, the Priest, before the throne. (305)

DeYoung's Latest

At the end of March Kevin DeYoung's latest book hits the shelves entitled The Good News We Almost Forgot. The topic this time is addressing the need for a return to old traditions, such as the Heidelberg catechism instead on new trendy movements. Here's a excerpt taken from his blog.

The only thing more difficult than finding the truth is not losing it. What starts out as new and precious becomes plain and old. What begins a thrilling discovery becomes a rote exercise. What provokes one generation to sacrifice and passion becomes in the next generation a cause for rebellion and apathy. Why is it that denominations and church movements almost always drift from their theological moorings? Why is it that people who grow up in the church are often less articulate about their faith than the new Christian who converted at forty-five? Why is it that those who grow up with creeds and confessions are usually the ones who hate them most?

Perhaps it’s because truth is like the tip of your nose—it’s hardest to see when it’s right in front of you.

No doubt, the church in the West has many new things to learn. But for the most part, everything we need to learn is what we’ve already forgotten. The chief theological task now facing the Western church is not to reinvent or to be relevant, but to remember. We must remember the old, old story. We must remember the faith once delivered to the saints. We must remember the truths that spark reformation, revival, and regeneration.

And because we want to remember all this, we must also remember—if we are fortunate enough to have ever heard of them in the first place—our creeds, confessions, and catechisms.

Your reaction to that last sentence probably falls in one of three categories. Some people, especially the young, believe it or not, will think, “Cool. Ancient faith. I’m into creeds and confessions.” Others will think, “Wait a minute, don’t Catholics have catechisms? Why do we need some manmade document to tell us what to think? I have no creed but the Bible, thank you very much. I thought catechisms were for Catholics.” And yet others—the hardest soil of all—want nothing more than to be done with all this catechism business. “Been there, done that. Bor-ing. I’ve seen people who knew their creeds backward and forward and didn’t make them missional, passionate, or even very nice.”

To all three groups I simply say, “Come and see.” Come and see what vintage faith is really all about. Come and see if the cool breeze from centuries gone by can awaken your lumbering faith. Come and see if your church was lame because of its confessions and catechisms or if your lame church made the confessions and catechisms lame all on its own. Whether you’ve grown up with confessions and catechisms or they sound like something from another spiritual planet, I say, “Come and see.”Come and see Christ in the unlikeliest of places—in a manger, in Nazareth, or even in Heidelberg.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Altogether Lovely - Christ Exalted

The third sermon reproduced in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) is entitled Christ Exalted or JESUS CHRIST GLORIOUSLY EXALTED ABOVE ALL EVIL IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION. It can be found many places online, including here.

It was delivered in 1738, and has for its text 1 Corinthians 15:25,26. The ESV renders that verse "25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

I find that if I can perceive and understand the structure of an Edwards work that I have a much easier time working through it. With that in mind, this first post will simply be to reveal the structure of this sermon so, in a later post, I can blog about its content.

Edwards begins with a brief introduction and 2 observations.
I. Here is one thing wherein appears the glory of that exaltation and dominion, that Christ has as our redeemer, viz. that it issues in the subjection of all enemies under his feet. It is not said all his enemies, possibly because those that shall be put under his feet are not only his enemies, but also the enemies of his Father and of his people. Their being under his feet denotes their being perfectly subdued, and his being gloriously exalted over them. It shall be thus with respect to God’s and his, and his people’s enemies universally, not one excepted; which universality is signified here two ways; all enemies — and the very last enemy: when there shall be but one enemy left, that shall also be put under his feet.

II. We may learn what is here meant by enemies by the particular instance here given as the last that shall be destroyed, viz. death. Which shows that by enemies, is not meant persons only, that set themselves in opposition to God and his people, but evils; whatever is against God and his people, and opposes Christ or his saints, whether they be persons or things.

Edwards then divides his sermon into 3 sections which are described as following:
Section 1 - How evil of all kinds has prevailed and highly exalted itself in the world. This section describes 6 evils and discusses their 'exaltation' in the world.

Section 2 - How Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, appears gloriously above all these evils. In 6 points corresponding to the 6 above, Edwards explains how Christ is exalted still higher and more gloriously in His redemptive work.

Section 3 - The subject improved and applied. Edwards elaborates on point II above in 3 subsections.

Keep watching for further posts on Christ Exalted.

Chapter 7 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 7 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 7: The Fruitless and the Fruitful Professor

He who formed the heart, and knew, in consequence of its apostasy, how deeply it was tainted with evil, was not ignorant how far a man could go in an outward profession of his name, and yet live and die destitute of regenerating grace. (239)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: and here is the proof, if all other were wanting, that an individual may approach so near in his external resemblance to a child of God, may look so like a believer in Jesus, may appear to be united to him, and still remain among the dead. (240)

We are not to understand this of a vital union, a spiritual grafting into Christ; the analogy of truth is opposed to such an interpretation. The word of God invariably maintains the influential character of a living faith, - that it is ever productive of the fruits of holiness, - that a union to Christ will always result in a living to God: to suppose, therefore, that a dead and fruitless branch could be vitally in Christ, is to suppose that the word of God was against itself, which it can never be. But we are to understand our Lord as referring to an external union, to an outward profession only. There is such a thing as being externally in Christ; in him by an avowal of attachment to his cross, by a profession of his name, by adherence to his cause, by an apparent zeal for his glory: all this may exist, and in thousands does exist, without one particle of real, spiritual, life-deriving union to Christ. (241-2)

Here is the secret revealed; the hidden evil of that holy man of God we could not discover. The powerful corruptions that dwelt in his heart, - which he, in a degree, knew, and mourned over and confessed daily before the Lord, - were concealed from our eye; and while we were judging from outward appearance, - and, it may be, judging correctly too, for by their fruits we are to know the true and the false professors, - the Lord was probing and searching the heart, and for the subjugation of the evil that he discovered there, was thus disciplining, and pruning, and purging his beloved child. (256)

These are the natural corruptions of our fallen nature, the evils of a heart that is but partially renewed, the heathenish lusts, and passions, and infirmities that formerly were the sole occupants of the soil, and still dwell there, and which we shall never, in the present state, entirely dispossess. (256)

Happy believer, the tendency and real effect of whose indwelling infirmities of the flesh and the spirit are, to school the soul in the knowledge of its own nothingness, to constrain it to a soft and lowly walk, and to endear the blood, the mercy-seat, and the holy of holies, into which the most burdened, distressed, and humble soul may at all times enter! (259)

The Divine life in the soul of man is indestructible, - it cannot perish; the seed that grace has implanted in the heart is incorruptible, - it cannot be corrupted. So far from trials, and conflicts, and storms, and tempests, impairing the principle of holiness in the soul, they do but deepen and strengthen it, and tend greatly to its growth. (260)

No: the pruning of the fruitful branch impairs not, but rather strengthens and renders more fruitful the principle of holiness in the soul, as we now proceed to show. (263)

To loathe self on account of its sinfulness, to mortify it in all its forms, and to bring it entirely into subjection to the Spirit of holiness, is indeed no small triumph of Divine grace in the soul, and no mean effect of the sanctified use of the Lord's dispensations. That must ever be considered a costly mean that accomplishes this blessed end. This unmortified self in the believer, is one of the most deadly enemies of his soul; it shows itself in a thousand ways, and wearing a thousand disguises. It is often difficult to detect the under-current working of the principle; for, frequently, where suspicion of its existence is most lulled to rest, there is it most rife and powerful. (262)

Pray that this may be one blessed result, the abasement of self within you, the discovering of it to you in all its modifications and deformity, and its entire subjection to the cross of Jesus. Blessed pruning, if the tendency and the effect are, to lay you in the dust before the Lord, to cause you to loathe yourself, and to go softly and lowlily all your days! (263)

There are many professors in whose hearts there is not room for Christ: the world, unmortified sin, take up all the space, occupy all the affections; and while his name is outwardly professed, His cross is inwardly despised. (264)

He is the Judge of what is best for you, not yourself: he will sever the useless tendrils only, the small branches that consume the sap, that absorb the nourishment, and are productive of unfruitfulness. (266)

Let it ever be remembered by the tried believer, that supporting grace, in the season of trial, is a greater mercy than the removal of the trial itself. (266)

Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged. (268)

But, dear reader, rest not here; blessed as it is to know your barrenness, and to mourn over it, it is still more blessed to press forward towards a deeper and more spiritual acquaintance with Christ, the source of all real fruitfulness. Too many rest in a mere deploring of their barrenness; they will ingenuously acknowledge their state, freely confess it before God, and yet meet them when you will, this is always their posture, and this their confession. One seems to mark in them no advance, no striving after higher attainments, the crucifixion of known infirmities, the mortification of easy besetting sins, the surrender of that which feeds as a worm upon the root of their religion. There seems just life and consciousness enough to detect the secret declension of the soul, but not enough to arrest its progress. (269)

But, reader, that this should not be your case, seek an increasing knowledge of Christ; be assured of this, - here lies the grand secret of a growing, fruit-bearing Christian. (270)

Not one unkind thought is there in the heart of the God that now chastens you. (272)

In all God's dealings with his covenant people, he seeks their greatest good, their highest happiness, and in nothing more manifestly than in this does he show the intense love which dwells in his heart towards them. (273)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter 6 quotes from Personal Declension

Chapter 6 – On Grieving the Spirit

The "Sun of righteousness" might have risen upon the world in all his peerless splendor; but until the mental eye had been opened by the Holy Spirit, not a beam had found its way into the dark chambers of the understanding and the heart. The Gospel "supper" might have been prepared, the Lamb slain, and the invitation issued; but without a supernatural power working upon the will, the desires, and the affections of man, all would have "made light of it, and have gone their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise." (206)

We commence with that which bears most directly upon the subject of the present volume, the declension of the Spirit's work of grace in the soul of a child of God.
  1. Of all spiritual states, lukewarmness is most abhorrent to God, and grieving to the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Spirit is grieved by a denial, or undervaluing of his gracious work in the heart.
  3. A substitution of his own work in the soul for the atoning and finished work of Jesus, greatly grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
  4. And yet, there is a sense in which the Spirit's own work may be so slighted, as deeply to grieve his heart.
  5. Inconsistency in the Christian profession must be highly grieving to the Holy Spirit of God.
  6. The Spirit may be grieved by a slight put upon the means of grace: these are his channels for the conveyance of his covenant blessings into the soul. (212-235)

Nothing can fill his loving heart with greater and more holy delight, than to witness the deepening character and expanding influence of his own work in the believer. To behold the glimmering light which he created, " shining more and more," - the gentle plant emitting its fragrance and putting forth its fruit, - the well-spring in the heart rising heavenward, Godwards, - such a picture must be grateful to the Spirit. If the enthroned Redeemer looks down with satisfaction upon the travail of his soul in the calling in of his redeemed, equally joyous must it be to the Eternal Spirit, to behold the widening of his kingdom in the saints, - the maturing of the soul for the inheritance and the companionship of " just men made perfect." (214)

Deep self-abasement, the consciousness of utter worthlessness, need not necessarily involve a denial of indwelling grace in the heart; yes, this blessed state is perfectly consistent with the most elevated hope of eternal life. He who can confess himself the " chief of sinners " and " the least of saints," is most likely to acknowledge, " I know in whom I have believed," - "He has loved me, and given himself for me." (216)

The work of the Spirit and the work of Christ, though they form parts of one glorious whole, are yet distinct, and to be distinguished in the economy of grace, and in the salvation of a sinner. It is the work of Jesus alone, his perfect obedience to the broken law of God, and his sacrificial death as a satisfaction of Divine justice, that form the ground of a sinner's acceptance with God, - the source of his pardon, justification, and peace. The work of the Spirit is, not to atone, but to reveal the atonement; not to obey, but to make known the obedience; not to pardon and justify, but to bring the convinced, awakened, penitent soul to receive the pardon and embrace the justification already provided in the work of Jesus. (221)

Now, if there is any substitution of the Spirit's work for Christ's work, - any undue, unauthorized leaning upon the work within, instead of the work without, the believer, there is a dishonor done to Christ, and a consequent grieving of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be pleasing to the Spirit to find himself a substitute for Christ; and yet this is the sin which so many are constantly falling into. If I look to convictions of sin within me, to any motion of the indwelling Spirit, to any part of his work, as the legitimate source of healing, of comfort, or of evidence, I turn my back upon Christ, I remove my eye from the cross, and slight his great atoning work; I make a Christ of the Spirit! (221)

And yet, there is a sense in which the Spirit's own work may be so slighted, as deeply to grieve his heart. He may cherish an imperfect consciousness of the indwelling of the Spirit in his heart. When, too, his still small voice is unheeded, and his gentle constraints are not yielded to, there is a slight put upon his work of a very grievous nature. (225-226)

The abiding Indweller of the saint of God, the Spirit, is perpetually speaking to, admonishing, leading, drawing, and constraining the soul; his great work there is to teach, to sanctify, to shield, to check, and to comfort the believer. Every holy shrinking from sin, every firm resistance of its power, every victory achieved over its motions, every aspiration after holiness, and every feeble desire to walk in the way of filial obedience to, and sweet communion with God, is the fruit of the indwelling Spirit in the heart. How grieving, then, to that Spirit, when this loving voice of his, and these gentle constraints of his, are overlooked, stifled, disregarded, and slighted by the soul he so tenderly loves, and so faithfully watches over! Grieve not thus the Holy Spirit of God. In all his dealings with you, he seeks but your real good; he aims to deepen his own work in your hearts; he seeks but to promote your holiness, and to mature your soul for the joys and the companionship of the saints in light. Yet more; he desires your true happiness, - he would draw you off from carnal things, he would allure you from objects of sense and sin, and open to you springs of higher and purer enjoyment, and lead you into fairer and greener pastures: this would he do, by unfolding to you what you possess in Jesus, in the covenant of grace, and in a covenant God. Let your ear, then, be open to the gentle voice of the Spirit, and follow promptly and implicitly his secret and gentle leadings. (226-7)

In a word; the Spirit is grieved by any deviation from the strict and holy walk of a child of God - by any sense of guilt retained upon the conscience - any sin unconfessed, unrepented, and unforsaken - any known defilement of the temple he inhabits - any slight put upon Jesus - any neglect of the atoning blood - any light and trifling deportment - any uncharitable walk towards other Christians - any taking of the judgment-seat against them - all these must be grieving to the Holy Spirit of God. (236-7)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Divergent Excellencies

From Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997)

Here is a list of some of the divergent excellencies that come together in Christ as described by Jonathan Edwards. For me, these point to several things; clearly to Christ's magnificence, to His having no rival, to His aptness as our Redeemer, and to paradox which seems to be inherent in Christianity.

infinite highness and infinite condescension
infinite justice and infinite grace
infinite grace and infinite mercy
infinite glory and lowest humility
infinite majesty and transcendent meekness
deepest reverence towards God and equality with God
infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil
exceeding spirit of obedience, with supreme dominion over heaven and earth
absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation
self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God

Final post on Edwards' The Excellency of Christ

From Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997)

I have blogged through this sermon in 3 other posts: 1, 2, and 3.

This final post concerns itself with the 'Application' section of this sermon. This sermon is broken up into two main sections. The first section has three main points which are as follows:
I. From this doctrine we may learn one reason why Christ is called by such a variety of names, and held forth under such a variety of representations, in Scripture. It is the better to signify and exhibit to us that variety of excellencies that meet together and are conjoined in him.

II. Let the consideration of this wonderful meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ induce you to accept of him, and close with him as your Saviour. As all manner of excellencies meet in him, so there are concurring in him all manner of arguments and motives, to move you to choose him for your Saviour, and every thing that tends to encourage poor sinners to come and put their trust in him: his fulness and all-sufficiency as a Saviour gloriously appear in that variety of excellencies that has been spoken of.

III. Let what has been said be improved to induce you to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and choose him for your friend and portion. As there is such an admirable meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ, so there is every thing in him to render him worthy of your love and choice, and to win and engage it. Whatsoever there is or can be desirable in a friend, is in Christ, and that to the highest degree that can be desired.
In point two above, Edwards declares that Christ's many and diverse excellencies are good reason for the sinner to put his or her faith in him. Under this heading, Edwards asks the sinner some questions. "
1. "What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ? Are you afraid that he cannot save you; that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul?" (47)

2. "What is there that you can desire should be in a Saviour, that is not in Christ? Or, wherein should you desire a Saviour should be otherwise than Christ is? What excellency is there wanting? What is there that is great or good; what is there that is venerable or winning; what is there that is adorable or endearing; or, what can you think of that would be encouraging, which is not to be found in the person of Christ? Would you have your Saviour to be great and honourable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person?" (47)

Under this second group of questions above, Edwards points towards two things to help one accept Christ as Saviour.
i) How much Christ appears as the Lamb of God in his invitations to you to come to him and trust in him. With what sweet grace and kindness does he, from time to time, call and invite you.
ii) If you do come to Christ, he will appear as a Lion, in his glorious power and dominion, to defend you. All those excellencies of his, in which he appears as a lion, shall be yours, and shall be employed for you in your defence, for your safety, and to promote your glory; he will be as a lion to fight against your enemies. He that touches you, or offends you, will provoke his wrath, as he that stirs up a lion. Unless your enemies can conquer this Lion, they shall not be able to destroy or hurt you; unless they are stronger than he, they shall not be able to hinder your happiness. (49-51)
The third main point above, III, had some good quotes in it:

Indeed goodness is excellent in whatever subject it be found; it is beauty and excellency itself, and renders all excellent that are possessed of it; and yet most excellent when joined with greatness. (53)

His almighty power, and infinite majesty and self-sufficiency, render his exceeding love and grace the more surprising. And how do his condescension and compassion endear his majesty, power, and dominion, and render those attributes pleasant, that would otherwise be only terrible! (53)

One design of God in the gospel, is to bring us to make God the object of our undivided respect, that he may engross our regard every way, that whatever natural inclination there is in our souls, he may be the centre of it; that God may be all in all. (54)

The glory of Christ as it appears in his divinity, though far brighter, more dazzles our eyes, and exceeds the strength of our sight or our comprehension; but, as it shines in the human excellencies of Christ, it is brought more to a level with our conceptions, and suitableness to our nature and manner, yet retaining a semblance of the same divine beauty, and a savour of the same divine sweetness. (55)

Edwards finishes off his sermon high-lighting two benefits founf in choosing Christ:
  1. Christ will give himself to you, with all those various excellencies that meet in him, to your full and everlasting enjoyment. He will ever after treat you as his dear friend; and you shall ere long be where he is, and shall behold his glory, and dwell with him, in most free and intimate communion and enjoyment. (56)
  2. By your being united to Christ, you will have a more glorious union with and enjoyment of God the Father, than otherwise could be. For hereby the saints’ relation to God becomes much nearer; they are the children of God in a higher manner than otherwise could be ... So we shall, according to our capacities, be partakers of the Son’s enjoyment of God, and have his joy fulfilled in ourselves ... And by this means we shall come to an immensely higher, more intimate and full enjoyment of God, than otherwise could have been." (59)

Edwards ends with a flourish. Joy is a noticeable focus as Edwards concludes his sermon. Included below are the last two chapters.
And thus is the affair of our redemption ordered, that thereby we are brought to an immensely more exalted kind of union with God, and enjoyment of him, both the Father and the Son, than otherwise could have been. For Christ being united to the human nature, we have advantage for a more free and full enjoyment of him, than we could have had if he had remained only in the divine nature. So again, we being united to a divine person, as his members, can have a more intimate union and intercourse with God the Father, who is only in the divine nature, than otherwise could be. Christ, who is a divine person, by taking on him our nature, descends from the infinite distance and height above us, and is brought nigh to us; whereby we have advantage for the full enjoyment of him. And, on the other hand, we, by being in Christ a divine person, do as it were ascend up to God, through the infinite distance, and have hereby advantage for the full enjoyment of him also.

This was the design of Christ, that he, and his Father, and his people, might all be united in one. John xvii. 21-23. “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Christ has brought it to pass, that those whom the Father has given him should be brought into the household of God; that he and his Father, and his people, should be as one society, one family; that the church should be as it were admitted into the society of the blessed Trinity. (60)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kill Sin

There are a couple of sermon series I have really enjoyed over the past couple of weeks. They are series I have come across on the internet and have been able to download and listen to. This, to me, is one of the wonderful, edifying benefits of the internet; access to sound biblical teaching and preaching that would otherwise be unknown. One series that I have just finished is by John Piper and is focused on sanctification in general, and on mortification of sin in particular. I highly recommend it and encourage all to follow the links below and have a listen. Remember, as Pastor Piper brings to our attention the famous John Owen quote, "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."

How to Kill Sin, Part 1
How to Kill Sin, Part 2
How to Kill Sin, Part 3

Along with those sermons, here is a short article by John Piper on tips for killing sin in our lives.

Practical Steps to Kill Sin

November 9, 1987

Relief: All true believers have sin remaining in them in this life. Romans 7:23 - “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.”

Therefore we are commanded to constantly kill this sin (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5).

How Is This to Be Done?

1) Take heart from the truth that the old sinful you is decisively already dead (Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:3; Galatians 5:24). This means three things:

  1. the mortal blow to our “old man” has been struck;
  2. he will not succeed in domination now;
  3. his final obliteration is certain.

2) Consciously reckon the old man dead; that is, believe the truth of Scripture about the old man’s death, and seek to live in that freedom (Romans 6:11).

3) Cultivate enmity with sin! You don’t kill friends (Romans 8:13). Ponder how it killed your best friend, dishonors your Father, and aims to destroy you for ever.

4) Rebel against sin’s coup. Refuse to be bullied by his deceits and manipulations (Romans 6:12). Fight your sinful impulses with all your might like a boxer fights an opponent and like a marathon runner fights fatigue (1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Timothy 4:8).

5) Declare radical allegiance to the other side—God—and consciously put all your mind and heart and body at his disposal for righteousness and purity (Romans 6:13).

6) Don’t make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry (Romans 13:14). Don’t prove your purity in a pornography shop.

7) Develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). Fix attention daily on “the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5), “things that are above” (Colossians 3:2), “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

8) Admit failure and confess all known sin every day (1 John 1:9). Ask for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12).

9) Ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:17, 22; Ezekiel 36:27; Isaiah 26:12).

10) Be part of a larger and smaller fellowship where you are exhorted often to beware of the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

11) Beware of “works of law”; but let all your warfare be “the work of faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). That is, let your fight against sin spring from your confidence in the superior pleasures of closeness to Christ.

Pastor John

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What God Really Thinks of His Children

Zephaniah 3:14-17

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, t
he LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:"Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Isaiah 62:5

5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Sam Storms has an amazing sermon on these verses, as well as a book, both entitled The Singing God. One of my all time favourite sermons for sure.

Chapter 5 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 5 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 5: Declension in Connexion with Doctrinal Error

Here is unfolded one of the most solemn and affecting truths touching the character and individual responsibility of a child of God. He is a subject of truth, he is a repository of the truth, and he is a witness for the truth; yes, he is the only living witness to the truth which God has on earth. (178)

The saints who have been called out of it according to his eternal purpose and love, and by his sovereign, distinguishing, and free grace, are the only lights and the only salt in the midst of this moral darkness and corruption. Here and there a light glimmers, irradiating the gloomy sphere in which it moves; here and there a spot of verdure appears, relieving the arid and barren desolation by which it is surrounded. (178)

Let the saints of God, then, solemnly weigh this affecting fact, that though the written word and the accompanying Spirit are God's witnesses in the world, yet they are the only living exemplifications of the power of the truth, and, as such, are earnestly exhorted to be " blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil. ii. 15. (179)

The soul of man in its unrenewed state, is represented as spiritually dead; insensible to all holy, spiritual motion. Now upon such a mind, what impression is to be produced by the mere holding up of truth before its eye? What life, what emotion, what effect will be accomplished? As well might we spread out the pictured canvas before the glazed eye of a corpse, and expect that by the beauty of the design, and the brilliancy of the coloring, and the genius of the execution, we would animate the body with life, and heave the bosom with emotion, and cause the eye to swim with delight, as to look for similar moral effects to result from the mere holding up to view Divine truth before a carnal mind, " dead in trespasses and sins." And yet there are those who maintain the doctrine, that Divine truth, unaccompanied by any extraneous power, can effect all these wonders! Against such a theory we would simply place one passage from the sacred Word: " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (180-81)

The sacred Word, inspired though it be, is but a dead letter, unclothed with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Awful as are the truths it unfolds, solemn as are the revelations it discloses, touching as are the scenes it portrays, and persuasive as are the motives it supplies, yet, when left to its own unaided operation, Divine truth is utterly impotent to the production of spiritual life, love, and holiness in the soul of man. (181)

The design of the whole plan of redemption, was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is pre-eminently secured. The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. (184)

Take the doctrine of God's everlasting love to his people, as seen in their election to eternal life ... Received in the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it lays the pride of man in the dust, knocks from beneath the soul all ground for self-glorying, and expands the mind with the most exalted views of the glory, grace, and love of Jehovah. (184-5)

Is there not in the present day a criminal keeping back by some, and a painful undervaluing by others, of the scriptural and holy doctrines of grace? - The doctrines which unfold the eternity of God's love to his people - the sovereignty of his grace in their election - the effectual power of the Spirit in their calling - the free justification of their persons through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the entire putting away of their sins by his atoning blood - the solemn obligation to " live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world," and the certainty of their final glorification in the world to come, - are not these Divinely-revealed truths, at the present moment, and by the great mass of Christian professors and preachers, excluded from our pulpits and exiled from our land? are they not considered mean and unfashionable? and, having lost their savor with the many, are they not cast out and trodden under foot of men? We verily and solemnly believe that it is so. By some they are professedly received, but criminally held back; by others they are professedly preached, but with such timidity and obscurity, as to render them of none effect: and by the many they are disbelieved altogether, and therefore openly and boldly denied! (195-6)

We hesitate not, then, to say that, along with the denial or the undervaluing of these doctrines of grace, there will go forth an influence that will wither the spirituality and obstruct the prosperity of the churches of our land. It is true, an outward appearance of fruitfulness may follow the exhibition of opposite and conflicting doctrines, - crowds may flock to their standard, and multitudes seem converted by their influence, - but soon these delusive appearances are seen to pass away. The time of trial and of sifting comes, and then it is found - when, alas! too late to close the floodgate against the overwhelming evils which the preaching of error has produced - that the truth, and the truth only, in the hands of the Eternal Spirit of God, can really enlighten the dark mind, regenerate the lifeless soul, and subdue and sanctify the rebellious heart: it is then discovered, that the true prosperity of a church, its stability, its spirituality, its vigor, and its holy influence, are essentially, and therefore inseparably, connected with a fearless and holy maintenance of the doctrines of grace; that where they are denied, or held back, or in any way obscured, there may indeed exist the form of godliness, but the power - the glorious, Divine, and sanctifying power - is wanting. (196-7)

What is more calculated to bring down the Holy Spirit of God upon us in all the plenitude of his awakening influence, - arousing the careless, convincing the impenitent and unbelieving of sin, annihilating the self-righteousness, prostrating the high thoughts, and slaying the pride of the human heart, - than a clear, pointed, and faithful exhibition of God's own revealed truth? (198)

On the contrary, are not human knowledge, and splendid talents, and brilliant eloquence, and moral suasion, greatly substituted for the preaching of the cross? That there should be a sad declension of vital piety, of real spirituality, and of active exertion, where Christ is not fully preached, is not to be wondered at. The cross of Jesus is the very soul of Christianity; all is death where Jesus is not. Grace decays, piety languishes, and formality takes the place of the power of the Gospel, where the person and the work of Christ are slighted, undervalued, or denied. How we should pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain, who is "worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing," should be more fully and simply preached through the length and breadth of our land; that the church and the pulpit should more manifestly crown him Lord of all! (202)

Let those who hold the truth, be careful to maintain good works, and so walk in all the holiness of the truth they profess; let them see that by no carelessness of deportment, by no want of integrity, by no neglect of the means of grace, by no exhibitions of unholy temper, by no worldly conformity, yes, by no inconsistency whatever, they bring a slur upon the holy doctrines they avowedly maintain and love; let them not be satisfied with maintaining a string of doctrines, unaccompanied with their sanctifying power: but let them see that with the truth in their judgments, they possess grace in the heart, and unspotted holiness in the life. (204)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chapter 4 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 3 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Chapter 4: Declension in Prayer

Were we to select a single characteristic of personal declension more marked than another, we should feel no hesitation in adopting the decay of the spirit of prayer as that feature. (141)

What is prayer? It is the communion of the spiritual life in the soul of man with its Divine Author; it is a breathing back the Divine life into the bosom of God from whence it came; it is holy, spiritual, humble converse with God. (142)

Let it be remembered, then, that true prayer is the aspiration of a renewed soul towards God; it is the breathing of the Divine life, sometimes in the accents of sorrow, sometimes as the expression of want, and always as the acknowledgment of dependence; it is the looking up of a renewed, afflicted, necessitous, and dependent child to its own loving Father, in all the consciousness of utter weakness, and in all the sweetness of filial trust. (142)

But we take higher ground than this; we urge the exercise of prayer, not merely as a solemn duty to be observed, but also as a precious privilege to be enjoyed. Happy is that believer, when duties come to be viewed as privileges. What! is it no privilege to have a door of access ever open to God? Is it no privilege when the burden crushes, to cast it upon One who has promised to sustain? When the corruptions of an unsanctified nature are strong, and temptations thicken, is prayer no privilege then ? And when perplexed to know the path of duty, and longing to walk complete in all the will of God, and, as a child, fearing to offend a loving Father, is it then no privilege to have a throne of grace, an open door of hope? When the world is slowly stealing upon the heart, or when that heart is wounded through the unkindness of friends, or is bleeding under severe bereavement, is it then no privilege to go and tell Jesus? Say, you poor, you needy, you tried, you tempted souls I say, if prayer is not the most precious, balmy and costly privilege this side heaven. (147)

Prayer is the spiritual pulse of the renewed soul; its beat indicates the healthy or unhealthy state of the believer. Just as the physician would decide upon the health of the body from the action of the pulse, so would we decide upon the spiritual health of the soul before God, by the estimation in which prayer is held by the believer. If the soul is in a spiritually healthy, growing state, prayer will be vigorous, lively, spiritual, and constant; if, on the contrary, an incipient process of declension is going forward in the soul - if the heart is wandering, and love waxes cold, and faith is decaying, the spirit and the habit of prayer will immediately betray it. (148)

Why is it, reader, that meditation, and the research of God's word, and holy communion with his saints, and praise, are privileges dry and tasteless to your soul? You can turn from them with loathing. Any engagements but these, - the calls of business, worldly company, the perusal of a novel, will satisfy you! Where are you? How have you declined! It was not once so. O how precious in the first love of your espousals were the moments of holy abstraction! - now eagerly sought, and richly enjoyed, was the communion of saints! - how sweet a privilege was praise, and how sacred a duty was prayer! Is it all gone? Is it all winter with you now? No verdant spot, no green pasture, no still waters? O return again to prayer! Your sad distance from God is the secret of your soul's leanness. The withering of the spirit of prayer has withered your grace, and with it all spiritual enjoyment of the means. (158)

The man whose walk is far from God, whose frame is cold, and worldly, and careless, if he be a true child of the covenant, one of the Lord's family, he may expect crosses and trials to increase upon every step he advances towards the kingdom. (161)

For the revival of the spirit and exercise of prayer in the believer:
  1. The believer should correctly ascertain the true character of his prayers. Are they lively and spiritual? are they the exercises of the heart, or of the understanding merely? Are they the breathings of the indwelling Spirit, or the cold observance of a form without the power? Is it communion and fellowship? Is it the filial approach of a child, rushing with confidence and affection into the bosom of a Father, and sheltering itself there in every hour of need? It should be remembered by every professing man, that there is a great difference between prayer and praying; we mean, between the formal observance of the duty, and the spiritual character of the performance. All prayer is not communion; and here a man may be greatly and awfully deceived; he may repeat his visits to the throne of grace, and go and come without having exhaled a single breath of spiritual prayer; there may be no respiration in the soul; all is formal, cold, and lifeless.
  2. A further step in the revival of true prayer is, to become more thoroughly acquainted with our many and varied necessities. It is the knowledge of his need that gives true eloquence to the petition of the beggar: a sense of destitution, of absolute want, of actual starvation, imparts energy to his plea, and perseverance in its attainment. His language is, " I must have bread, or I die." This is just what we want the child of God to feel. What is he but a pensioner on God's daily bounty? - what resources has he within himself? - none whatever; and what is he without God ? - poor indeed. Now, in proportion as he becomes acquainted with his real case, his utter destitution, he will besiege the throne of grace, and take no denial. He must know his wants, he must know what grace he is deficient in, what easy besetting sin clings to him, what infirmities encompass him, what portion of the Spirit's work is declining in his soul, where he is the weakest and the most exposed to the attacks of the enemy, and what yet he lacks to perfect him in all the will of God; let him examine himself honestly, and know his real condition.
  3. There should be the searching out and the removal of that which hinders prayer. Many things weaken true prayer: unsubdued sin - unrepented sin - unpardoned sin, we mean the secret sense of it upon the conscience - worldly-mindedness - light and trifling conversation, vain disputations, much and frequent communion either with unconverted individuals or cold and formal professors; all these combined, or any single one, will, if suffered to prevail, unfit the mind for converse with God, and cause a decay of the spirit of prayer in the soul. Regard that as injurious which touches the devotional frame of your mind; which abridges the hour of prayer, and removes the fine edge of its holy enjoyment.
  4. But that for which we most earnestly plead, and which will tend more than all beside to the revival of true prayer in the believer, is, a more enlarged communication of the Holy Spirit's gracious influence. Here lies the grand source and secret of all true, spiritual, believing, persevering, and prevailing prayer; it is the lack of this that is the cause of the dulness, and formality, and reluctance, that so frequently mark the exercise. The saints of God honor not sufficiently the Spirit in this important part of his work; they too much lose sight of the truth, that of all true prayer he is the Author and the Sustainer; and the consequence is, and ever will be, self-sufficiency and cold formality in the discharge, and ultimate neglect of the duty altogether. (163-169)

In all true prayer, great stress should be laid on the blood of Jesus. Perhaps no evidence distinguishes a declension in the power and spirituality of prayer more strongly than an overlooking of this. Where the atoning blood is kept out of view; not recognized, not pleaded, not wrestled with, not made the grand plea, there is a deficiency of power in prayer. Words are nothing, fluency of expression nothing, niceties of language and brilliancy of thought nothing, and even apparent fervor nothing, where the blood of Christ, - the new and living way of access to God, the grand plea that moves Omnipotence, that gives admission within the holy of holies, - is slighted, undervalued, and not made the groundwork of every petition. (172)

Do not forget that the season of trial and of bereavement is often the sanctified occasion of a revival of prayer in the soul. The Lord has marked your wanderings: he has had his eye upon the declension of your soul. That voice, always so pleasant to his ear, has ceased to call upon him: and now he would recover you; he would hear that voice again. And how will he effect it? He causes you to "pass under the rod," sends some sore trial, lays on you some weighty cross, brings trouble and sorrow into your soul, and then you cry unto him, and do besiege the mercy-seat. (175)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

McLarenism At Its Finest

Here is a review, written by Kevin DeYoung, of Brian McLaren's newest book entitled A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith. It's quite lengthy, but definitely worth the time if you have friends that are into his stuff. Just a warning, DeYoung doesn't hold back.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Excellency of Christ - Post #3

This is the third post on the sermon called The Excellency of Christ as found in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997). You can read #1 here, and #2 here.

This post, again - the third, concerns itself with Edwards' third premise which is as follows:
III. Such diverse excellencies are expressed in him towards men, that otherwise would have seemed impossible to be exercised towards the same object; as particularly these three, justice, mercy, and truth.
To justice, mercy, and truth, Edwards writes "The strict justice of God, and even his revenging justice, and that against the sins of men, never was so gloriously manifested as in Christ. He manifested an infinite regard to the attribute of God’s justice, in that, when he had a mind to save sinners, he was willing to undergo such extreme sufferings, rather than that their salvation should be to the injury of the honour of that attribute" (28).

Under the main point above (III), Edwards preaches five sub-points which he introduces with this: "Having thus shown wherein there is an admirable conjunction of excellencies in Jesus Christ, I now proceed, second, to show how this admirable conjunction of excellencies appears in Christ’s acts"(29). And these acts, as mentioned, are five-fold.
  1. It appears in what Christ did in taking on him our nature.
  2. This admirable conjunction of excellencies appears in the acts and various passages of Christ’s life.
  3. This admirable conjunction of excellencies remarkably appears in his offering up himself a sacrifice for sinners in his last sufferings.
  4. It is still manifest in his acts, in his present state of exaltation in heaven.
  5. And lastly, this admirable conjunction of excellencies will be manifest in Christ’s acts at the last judgment.
It should come as no surprise that Edwards spent the majority of his time on the third point. Christ's atoning work would naturally lend itself to much preaching and would carry the weight of his argument. Thus, Edwards placed seven points expounding how the conjunction of excellencies appears in Christ's sacrifice for sinners. Consider:
  1. Then was Christ in the greatest degree of his humiliation, and yet by that, above all other things, his divine glory appears.
  2. He never in any act gave so great a manifestation of love to God, and yet never so manifested his love to those that were enemies to God, as in that act. Christ never did any thing whereby his love to the Father was so eminently manifested, as in his laying down his life, under such inexpressible sufferings, in obedience to his command, and for the vindication of the honour of his authority and majesty; nor did ever any mere creature give such a testimony of love to God as that was. And yet this was the greatest expression of his love to sinful men who were enemies to God; Rom. v. 10.
  3. Christ never so eminently appeared for divine justice, and yet never suffered so much from divine justice, as when he offered up himself a sacrifice for our sins.
  4. Christ’s holiness never so illustriously shone forth as it did in his last sufferings; and yet he never was to such a degree treated as guilty.
  5. He never was so dealt with, as unworthy, as in his last sufferings; and yet it is chiefly on account of them that he is accounted worthy.
  6. Christ in his last sufferings suffered most extremely from those towards whom he was then manifesting his greatest act of love.
  7. It was in Christ’s last sufferings, above all, that he was delivered up to the power of his enemies; and yet by these, above all, he obtained victory over his enemies.

My fourth post, and hopefully last, will consider Edwards' application to this sermon.

Chapter 3 quotes from Personal Declension

Here are some quotes from chapter 3 of Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. London: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853 )

Yet another character: he is a traveler to eternity, and every step is conducting him towards the close of a brief but responsible probation. Now, if in his religion he commences with unsound, unwarrantable, unscriptural views of any essential doctrine of salvation, the error with which he commenced must affect his entire religion; and unless his steps are retraced, and the error discovered and corrected, the end must prove fatal to his eternal happiness. (99-100)

We maintain that every faculty of the human mind is brought out in its full power, in the great work of heart-religion; that the Holy Spirit, working repentance and faith in man, does more to develop the intellectual faculties, than all human teaching beside. (100)

No mind is so powerful as a renewed and sanctified mind. (102)

This, reader, is faith; faith, that wondrous grace, that mighty act of which you have heard so much, upon which so many volumes have been written, and so many sermons have been preached; it is the simple rolling of a wounded, bleeding heart, upon a wounded, bleeding Savior; it is the simple reception of the amazing truth, that Jesus died for the ungodly - died for sinners - died for the poor, the vile, the bankrupt; that he invites and welcomes to his bosom all poor, convinced, heavy-laden sinners. The heart, believing this wondrous announcement, going out of all other dependencies and resting only in this, - receiving it, welcoming it, rejoicing in it, in a moment, all, is peace. Do not forget, then reader, the simple definition of faith, - it is but to believe with all the heart that Jesus died for sinners; and the full belief of this one fact will bring peace to the most anxious and sin-troubled soul. (104)

The life of faith:
  1. There is its security: a believer stands by faith, - "You stands by faith (Rom 11:20)."
  2. There is, too, the peculiar blessedness of the life of faith: "We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7)."
  3. Faith is an essential part of the spiritual armor: "Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Eph 6:16)."
  4. Faith is a purifying grace: "Purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9)," "Sanctified by faith that is in me (26:18)."
  5. This, too, is the grace that smooths the rugged way, lightens the daily burden, "glorifies God in the fire;" is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;" rests upon God's word because he has said it; and keeps the soul, through all its conflicts and trials, safe unto eternal glory: "Kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation." (105-110)

Permit us to adduce a few causes to which a feeble and declining faith may frequently be traced.
  1. When a believer's visits to his closet grow less frequent and spiritual, faith will assuredly decline.
  2. Dealing much with a life of sense, is a most influential cause of declension in faith.
  3. Faith unexercised in dark and afflictive providences, leads greatly to its declension.
  4. The habitual, or even the occasional, doubtful apprehension indulged in of his interest in Christ, will tend materially to the enfeebling and decay of a believer's faith: no cause can be more certain in its effects than this.
  5. Nor must we forbear to specify, as among the most fruitful causes of a declension of faith, the power of unsubdued sin in the heart: nothing, perhaps, more secretly and effectually militates against the vigor of a life of faith than this.
  6. A looking off of Christ will tend greatly to the weakening and unfruitfulness of faith. (113-123)

Prayer is the channel that supplies faith with its nourishment and vigor. As well might we cut off all the rills and streams which flow down the mountain's side, and expect that the valleys beneath will present their enameled and verdant aspect, as to close up the channel of prayer, and then look for a healthy, vigorous, and growing faith. There is a beautiful connection between faith and prayer, - their influence is reciprocal: constant and ardent prayer strengthens faith, and faith, brought into exercise, stimulates to prayer. A praying man will be a believing man, and a man of faith will be a man of prayer. (114)

If it be true, as we have shown, that the exercise of faith develops its strength, it is equally true, that the perpetual indulgence of doubtful apprehensions of pardon and acceptance, must necessarily eat as a cankerworm at the root of faith. Every misgiving felt, every doubt cherished, ever fear yielded to, every dark providence brooded over, tends to unhinge the soul from God, and dims its near and loving view of Jesus. To doubt the love, the wisdom, and the faithfulness of God; to doubt the perfection of the work of Christ; to doubt the operation of the Spirit on the heart, - what can tend more to the weakening and decay of this precious and costly grace? Every time the soul sinks under the pressure of a doubt of its interest in Christ, the effect must be a weakening of the soul's view of the glory, perfection, and all-sufficiency of Christ's work. (119)

We look for the fruit of faith, - the lowly, humble, contrite spirit - the tender conscience - the traveling daily to the atoning blood - the living upon the grace that is in Christ Jesus - the carrying out of Christian principle - crucifixion to the world - patient submission to a life of suffering - meek resignation to a Father's discipline - a living as beholding Him who is invisible - a constant and vivid realization of eternal realities, - we look for these fruits of faith; but we find them not. And why ? because there is the worm of unmortified sin feeding at the root; and until that is slain, faith will always be sickly, unfruitful, and "ready to die." (123)

It only remains for us to show in what way the Holy Spirit revives, strengthens, and increases the declining grace of faith.
  1. And this he does, in the first place, by discovering to the believer the cause of its declension, and setting him upon, and strengthening him in, the work of its removal.
  2. A further step by which the Holy Spirit revives the decaying faith of the believer is, by leading him to rest more simply on the faithfulness of God. (124-131)

Nothing perhaps more tends to unhinge the soul from God, engender distrust, hard thoughts, and rebellious feelings, than thus to doubt his loving-kindness and faithfulness in the discipline he is pleased to send. But faith, looking through the dark cloud, rising on the mountain wave, and anchoring itself on the Divine veracity, and the unchangeable love of God, is sure to strengthen and increase by every storm that beats upon it. (127)

And then to remember, that the unbelief of the believer never affects the faithfulness of God! (131)

The work of Christ is a great and finished work; it is so glorious that it can admit of no comparison, so complete that it can allow of no addition, and so essential that it can give place to no substitution. (138)

Then make not a Savior of your faith; despise it not if it is feeble, exult not in it if it is strong, trample not on it if it is small, deify it not if it is great; such are the extremes to which every believer is exposed. (139)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Practical Atheist

From Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian

To be a wordly person is, in fact, to be a "practical" or "functional" atheist. It's someone who, despite all he professes, lives and makes daily decisions as if God doesn't exist. A practical atheist is a person who comes to conclusions about money, business, worship, entertainment, ministry, education, or whatever else without the directing influence of God and his revealed truth (the Bible). Instead, for him, cultural assumptions and societal trends serve as the directing influences for how he thinks, feels, lives.
Are you a practical atheist?

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Christian Paradox

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Arthur Bennett

The Excellency of Christ - Post #2

I dealt with the first part of this sermon, found in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997), by looking at Edwards' introduction and first major point. It can be seen here. This second post will deal with Edwards' second major point which is:
There do meet in the person of Christ such really diverse excellencies, which otherwise would have been thought utterly incompatible in the same subject; such as are conjoined in no other person whatever, either divine, human, or angelical; and such as neither men nor angels would ever have imagined could have met together in the same person, had it not been seen in the person of Christ. I would give some instances. (22)
There are 7 sub-points under this heading. The seven sub-points correspond with seven ways in which 'diverse excellencies' meet together in the person of Christ. I have listed them below along with some quotes that I found edifying.

1. In the person of Christ do meet together infinite glory and lowest humility. "Infinite glory, and the virtue of humility, meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person; for no created person has infinite glory; and they meet in no other divine person but Christ ... But however he is thus above all, yet he is lowest of all in humility. There never was so great an instance of this virtue among either men or angels, as Jesus. None ever was so sensible of the distance between God and him, or had a heart so lowly before God, as the man Christ Jesus" (23-4).

2. In the person of Christ do meet together infinite majesty and transcendent meekness. "These again are two qualifications that meet together in no other person but Christ. Meekness, properly so called, is a virtue proper only to the creature: we scarcely ever find meekness mentioned as a divine attribute in Scripture; at least not in the New Testament; for thereby seems to be signified, a calmness and quietness of spirit, arising from humility in mutable beings that are naturally liable to be put into a ruffle by the assaults of a tempestuous and injurious world. But Christ being both God and man, hath both infinite majesty and superlative meekness" (23).

3. There meet in the person of Christ the deepest reverence towards God and equality with God. "Christ, when on earth, appeared full of holy reverence towards the Father. He paid the most reverential worship to him, praying to him with postures of reverence ... This became Christ, as one who had taken on him the human nature; but at the same time he existed in the divine nature; whereby his person was in all respects equal to the person of the Father. God the Father hath no attribute or perfection that the Son hath not, in equal degree, and equal glory. These things meet in no other person but Jesus Christ" (24-5)

4. There are conjoined in the person of Christ infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil. "He was perfectly innocent, and deserved no suffering. He deserved nothing from God by any guilt of his own; and he deserved no ill from men. Yea, he was not only harmless and undeserving of suffering, but he was infinitely worthy; worthy of the infinite love of the Father, worthy of infinite and eternal happiness, and infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love, and service from all men. And yet he was perfectly patient under the greatest sufferings that ever were endured in this world" (25).

5. In the person of Christ are conjoined an exceeding spirit of obedience, with supreme dominion over heaven and earth. "Christ is the Lord of all things in two respects: he is so, as God-man and Mediator; and thus his dominion is appointed, and given him of the Father. Having it by delegation from God, he is as it were the Father’s vicegerent. But he is Lord of all things in another respect, viz. as he is (by his original nature) God; and so he is by natural right the Lord of all, and supreme over all as much as the Father ... And yet in the same person is found the greatest spirit of obedience to the commands and laws of God that ever was in the universe; which was manifest in his obedience here in this world" (26).

6. In the person of Christ are conjoined absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation. "This is another unparalleled conjunction. Christ, as he is God, is the absolute sovereign of the world; the sovereign disposer of all events. The decrees of God are all his sovereign decrees; and the work of creation, and all God’s works of providence, are his sovereign works. It is he that worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will ... But yet Christ was the most wonderful instance of resignation that ever appeared in the world. He was absolutely and perfectly resigned when he had a near and immediate prospect of his terrible sufferings, and the dreadful cup that he was to drink. The idea and expectation of this made his soul exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and put him into such an agony, that his sweat was as it were great drops or clots of blood, falling down to the ground" (27).

7. In Christ do meet together self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God; which is another conjunction peculiar to the person of Christ. "As he is a divine person, he is self-sufficient, standing in need of nothing. All creatures are dependent on him, but he is dependent on none, but is absolutely independent. His proceeding from the Father, in his eternal generation or filiation, argues no proper dependence on the will of the Father; for that proceeding was natural and necessary, and not arbitrary. But yet Christ entirely trusted in God" (28).

Two more posts should cover this sermon: one on the third major point, and one on the application portion of this sermon. Keep checking in!