Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Oh this is an important topic! There are so many men in our culture that have no idea what it means to be serious and wise. Our culture glorifies the man who is constantly joking and acting like a fool. I believe our culture idolizes that kind of man, because it is the polar opposite of what the scripture lays out what a man of God should look like.
There is a time for levity. There is nothing wrong with smiling or laughing. In fact, the scriptures implore us:
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
However, if you are known as a man who is always joking; if you have a reputation for never being serious; if you are generally known as the “life of the party;” then I urge you to take caution! Such men may be popular in our culture, but they lack the fortitude to keep their faith through the difficult times.
Look back in history. Note the truly great men. Was George Washington a prankster and a joker? A quick read through his Rules of Civility (which he authored sometime before his 16th birthday) will answer this question promptly. His rule number 19 reads:
Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
Washington implores us in rule 47:
Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abstain from Laughing there at yourself.
Number 108 reads: (eighteenth century spelling preserved)
When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & wt. Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.
It is clearly seen that George Washington was a sober minded man. I believe that if you were to research them, you would find similar characteristics in other great leaders, both secular and in the church. Consider Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, John Knox, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, Martin Luther, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. The list goes on and on.
So, joke if you must, sparingly, but please do not lack for serious minded discussion as a typical rule of life.
Monday, February 18, 2008
By Ralph Erskine
SECTION IV. – The working of the Spirit of faith, in separating the heart from all self-righteousness, and drawing out its consent to, and desire after CHRIST alone and wholly..
THE bride at Sinai little understood
How these law-humblings were designed for good,
T' enhance the value of her Husband's blood.
The tow'r of tott'ring pride thus batter'd down,
Makes way for Christ alone to wear the crown.
Conviction's arrows pierc'd her heart, that so
The blood from his pierc'd heart, to her's might flow.
The law's sharp plough tears up the fallow ground,
Where not a grain of grace was to be found,
Till straight perhaps behind the plough is sown
The hidden seed of faith, as yet unknown.
Hence now the once reluctant bride's inclined
To give the gospel an assenting mind,
Dispos'd to take, would grace the pow'r impart,
Heav'n's offer with a free consenting heart.
His Spirit in the gospel-chariot rides,
And shews his loving heart to draw the bride's;
Though oft in clouds his drawing pow'r he hides.
His love in gracious offers to her bears,
In kindly answers to her doubts and fears,
Resolving all objections more or less
From former sins, or present worthlessness.
Persuades her mind of's conjugal consent,
And then impow'rs her heart to say, Content.
Content to be divorced from the law,
No more the yoke of legal terms to draw;
Content that he dissolve the former match,
And to himself alone her heart attach;
Content to join with Christ at any rate,
And wed him as her everlasting mate;
Content that he should ever wear the bays,
And of her whole salvation have the praise;
Content that he should rise, though she should fall,
And to be nothing, that he may be all;
Content that he, because she nought could do,
Do for her all her work, and in her too.
Here she a peremptory mind displays,
That he do all the work, get all the praise.
And now she is, which ne'er till now took place,
Content entirely to be sav'd by grace.
She owns that her damnation just would be,
And therefore her salvation must be free:
That nothing being hers but sin and thrall,
She must be debtor unto grace for all.
Hence comes she to him in her naked case,
To be invested with his righteousness.
She comes, as guilty, to a pardon free;
As vile and filthy, to a cleansing sea;
As poor and empty, to the richest stock;
As weak and feeble to the strongest rock:
As perishing , unto a shield from thrall;
As worse than nothing, to an all in all.
She, as a blinded mole, an ign'rant fool,
Comes for instruction to the Prophet's school.
She, with a hell-deserving conscious breast,
Flies for atonement to the worthy Priest.
She as a slave to sin and Satan, wings
Her flight for help unto the King of kings.
She all her maladies and plagues brings forth
To this Physician of eternal worth.
She spreads before his throne her filthy sore;
And lays her broken bones down at his door.
No mite she has to buy a crumb of bliss,
And therefore comes impoverished as she is;
By sin and Satan, of all good bereft,
Comes e'en as bare as they her soul have left.
To sense, as free of holiness within,
As Christ, the spotless Lamb, was free of sin.
She comes by faith, true; but it shews her want,
And brings her as a sinner, not a saint;
A wretched sinner, flying for her good
To justifying, sanctifying blood.
Strong faith no strength nor power of acting vaunts,
But acts in sense of weakness and of wants.
Drain'd now of every thing that men may call
Terms and conditions of relief from thrall;
Except this one, that Jesus be her all.
When to the bride he gives espousing faith,
It finds her under sin, and guilt, and wrath,
And makes her as a plagued wretch to fall
At Jesus' footstool for the cure of all.
Her whole salvation now in him she seeks,
And musing thus perhaps in secret speaks;
"Lo! all my burdens may in him be eased;
The justice I offended he has pleased;
The bliss that I have forfeit he procured;
The curse that I deserved he endured;
The law that I have broken he obeyed;
The debt that I contracted he has paid;
And though a match unfit for him I be,
I find him every way most fit for me.
"Sweet Lord, I think, would thou thyself impart,
I'd welcome thee with open hand and heart.
But thou that sav'st by price, must save by power;
O send thy Spirit in a fiery shower,
This cold and frozen heart of mine to thaw,
That nought, save cords of burning love, can draw.
O draw me, Lord, then will I run to thee,
And glad into thy glowing bosom flee.
I own myself a mass of sin and hell,
A brat that can do nothing but rebel:
But didst thou not, as sacred pages shew, (1)
When rising up to spoil the hellish crew,
That had by thousands, sinners captive made,
And hadst in conqu'ring chains them captive led,
Get donatives, not for they proper gain,
But royal bounties for rebellious men,
Gifts, graces, and the Spirit without bounds,
For God's new house with man on firmer grounds?
O then let me a rebel now come speed,
Thy Holy Spirit is the gift I need.
His precious graces too, the glorious grant,
Thou kindly promis'd and a greatly want.
Thou art exalted to the highest place,
To give repentance forth, and ev'ry grace. (2)
O giver of spiritual life and breath,
The author and the finisher of faith; (3)
Thou husband-like must ev'ry thing provide,
If e'er the like of me become thy bride."
(1) Psalm xviii. 18.
(2) Acts v. 31.
(3) Heb. xii. 2.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
On this Valentine's Day everyone is focused on "love." What is love? That's an age old question, isn't it? One thing that love is not, is simply ignoring someone in their error. True Christians are constantly being told they are unloving or insensitive when they share the message of the Gospel. Which is more loving, smiling at someone as they worship their false god, knowing that if they die in that condition they will burn in hell? Or confronting them, and warning them of the impending doom? I say the man who will declare the warning the loudest is showing the greatest amount of love. On this day of "love," let's read what the scripture declares love (charity) to be:
(1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
(2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
(3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
(4) Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
(5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
(6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
(7) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
(8) Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
(9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
(10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
(11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
(12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
(13) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
There is a troubling tendency in our age. It seems to grow more prevalent each day among Christians. This tendency is that of sincere Christian believers embracing unorthodox doctrine. When questioned about their unconventional beliefs, their reply is often "God has revealed this to me. I won't change my mind unless He reveals to me something differently." I guarantee you that at some point in their future God will have "changed His mind" and revealed something new to them. The problem is that when we base our doctrine on gut feelings or special revelations given to us personally by "God Himself" we have no standard with which to judge these newly embraced convictions. The referenced scripture above (2 Peter 1:3) gives us an assurance of how we may know all things that pertain unto life and godliness. This is through the "knowledge of him." This knowledge comes from the Word of God alone. Christ Jesus is the Word incarnate. (John 1:1) The Reformers' cry of Sola Scriptura rings throughout the ages. Scripture alone must be our absolute standard for judging all doctrine taught by men.
The alternative is very concerning. When we leave behind the truths of scripture, we open ourselves up to a plethora of strange ideas and concepts. I certainly don't claim to have the market on truth cornered. I may have misinterpreted some scripture passages. To the extent that I have misinterpreted scripture, I deserve to be corrected. Yet, how should this correction come? It should come through the sharpened edge of the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. I believe that I stand on a firm foundation by holding to truths expounded in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The men who drafted this confession spent countless hours in the Word of God expounding it and applying it to an outline that lays out what they believed. The 1689 Confession is not infallible. It is a document written by fallible men. However, the great pangs taken to insure its correct interpretation of scripture make a much greater impression upon me than a modern, surface reading of scripture, with the intention of arriving at a pre-conceived desired "end goal" of proving some new fangled doctrine. I recently read an article knocking the views of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and A.W. Pink. I greatly admire all these men. Each of them faithfully expounded the Word of God. Yes, they are just men, and they are fallible, but I have a feeling that they are not near as fallible as the modern author who sought to discredit them.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
The World’s Verdict of Christ and His Followers; Or, The Truly Devout Ridiculed and Reproached by the Profane
This morning we had several children in our family who were sick. Therefore we were unable to fellowship with other believers in our Church fellowship. I took this opportunity to read excerpts from one of Ralph Erskine’s sermons. This sermon is highly relevant to today and describes, almost to a T, what many of God’s people are facing from other professing Christians. Read these words, and be encouraged that we are not the first generation who faced persecution for standing up for the truths of scripture. This sermon was delivered by Ralph Erskine in his own church at Dunfermline, December 16, 1772. Remember that date as you read, for this could very well have been written in 2008. What I am recording here is the very last page out of about 11 pages of sermon. He ends with a question and an answer. Imagine the fire in which it was delivered, and I believe it will be an encouragement for you as well. The base text for this sermon is given above.
“What help, in order to bear reproach for Christ, will you offer us?”
A man that would bear reproach for Christ, must be a Christian indeed, a believer indeed; otherwise he will never bear his reproach aright. It is he and the children whom the Lord hath given him, that are signs and wonders: if you be not among his children, you cannot be a zealous sufferer for him. Yea, a man that would bear reproach for Christ, needs to be, not only a believer, but a strong believer, having much Christian courage, that he may bear a hiss, as well as a hymn; I mean, a hiss of reproach and disdain, as well as a hymn of applause and commendation: to bear this, requires the armor of patience and spiritual courage, for marching through the world’s contempt and hazard, being looked upon as a monster, and made the scorn of fools: and all this requires the strength of faith; “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb. xii. 2. And , in the following words, we are called to “consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds; for we have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. It requires much zeal for God, and love to him. Alas, who can say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?” It requires a good cause and a good conscience: if a man be firmly persuaded of the goodness of the cause, it will help him to bear reproach; while he doth not suffer as an evil doer, though he be reproached as such: and a good conscience is an encouraging thing in this warfare; also, “having a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ,” 1 Pet. iii. 16. iv. 15. In a word, it requires constant dependance upon the Captain of salvation, who was “made perfect through sufferings.”
Finally, Let us all consider and remember, that the cause of Christ will be a prevailing cause in the issue, however it be reproached in the world. There is a schism, a rent, and division in the world, Sirs, ever since the fall of Adam; a battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels; but Michael and his angels, Christ and his children, will carry the day; and contradicted truths will be effectually cleared and vindicated; if never fully here, yet the day of the Lord will be the valley of decision, when the great cause of true religion will be decided, and the serpent’s head broken so as that he shall never hiss nor spit his venom any more.
It is now a day of reproach, a day to be lamented, for the bitter calumny that takes place therein; yea, I may call heaven and earth to witness, whether ever gospel preachers and professors suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue than in the apostate age, wherein, if some ministers fall foul upon the sins and errors of the times, the very naming thereof is enough to offend, though yet the nation be sinking under the weight thereof. Never was a gospel ministry more contemptible than in our day. Satan has used many instruments, and most of them have had their effect, to bring the dispensers of gospel ordinances into contempt; and it is still more lamentable, that many have had a sinful hand in bringing their own ministry under a reproach, and laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the success of the gospel, and marring the edification of souls, by sad compliances with the public defections of the day and errors of the age.
It is a day wherein the gospel of Christ is contemned. The time has been when some have thought it worth crossing the seas to enjoy the everlasting gospel: but now, that it has become plenty and cheap, many are loath to cross the streets to hear it upon a week-day, unless they have some other errand, perhaps to compliment a neighbor with their presence at a baptism or a marriage. How much are we souring upon the gospel, and loathing the honey-comb!
It is also a day wherein some of the friends of Christ are openly bantered, and lampooned, and gazed upon as signs and wonders; and wherein many sacred truths are publically defamed and ridiculed; and heart-enemies to revealed religion and to the gospel in its purity, in the mean time taking occasion utterly to run down the gospel. What am I saying? In the name of the great God I defy all the powers of earth and hell to run it down: they may sooner run down the flowing tide or the sun rising in its strength than run down the least of the dictates of eternal truth; “Not one jot or tittle thereof shall fall to the ground.” Dagon shall fall before the ark; and the rod of Aaron shall swallow up the gods of the magicians.
It is likewise a day wherein providence is shaking both church and state; and particularly the ark must needs shake, when they who carry it are stricken with axes and hammers, and many are knocking at all the four corners of it at once, namely, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, to get it broken to pieces, while open enemies, (viz: cursed Popery and abjured Prelacy,) are making inroads upon all corners of the land, in the public view of the church: she, in the mean time, unthoughtful of her danger, seems to be doing nothing, but, by intestine broils, cutting off her right hand with her left.
In a word, it is a day wherein that word seems to be made out, that there “shall be scoffers, walking after their own lusts:” drunkards, whoremongers, atheists, blasphemers, debauchees, and profane scoffers of the age, now have their day: it is now their hour, and the power of darkness. This is matter of lamentation. But, however, God will have his day ere long: and it will be a glorious day when Christ will appear, in all the glory and grandeur of the upper world, to the everlasting terror and confusion of all his adversaries, and to the eternal joy and honour of all his friends, who, though now they are for signs and wonders, by way of reproach, will then be for signs and wonders by the way of renown; when Christ will present them blameless unto his Father, saying, “Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me,” ‘who, as they have suffered with me in my reproach in time, must now reign with me in my glory through eternity.’
O sirs, let us seek, above all things, to be on Christ’s side, on the side of truth now, and on the right hand road to heaven, whatever rubs we may meet with by the way, so as we may come to be on the right hand of the throne in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God.
May the Lord bless what hath been said: and to his name be praise.