Friday, June 20, 2008

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 3 - Section 2

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 3

SECTION II. – Faith’s victories over sin and Satan, through new and farther discoveries of CHRIST, making believers more fruitful in holiness than all other pretenders to works.

THE gospel-path leads heav’n-ward; hence the fray,
Hell’s pow’rs still push the bride the legal way.
So hot the war, her life’s a troubled flood,
A field of battle, and a scene of blood.
But he that once commenc’d the work in her,
Whose working fingers drop the sweetest myrrh,
Will still advance it by alluring force,
And, from her ancient mate, more clean divorce;
Since ‘tis her antiquated spouse, the law,
The strength of sin and hell did on her draw.
Piece-meal she finds hell’s mighty force abate,
By new recruits from her almighty Mate.
Fresh armour sent from grace’s magazine,
Makes her proclaim eternal war with sin.
The shield of faith, dipt in the Surety’s blood,
Drowns fiery darts, as in a crimson flood.
The Captain’s ruddy banner, lifted high,
Makes hell retire, and all the furies fly.
Yea, of his glory every recent glance
Makes sin decay, and holiness advance.
In kindness therefore does her heavenly Lord
Renew’d discov’ries of his love afford,
That her enamour’d soul may, with the view,
Be cast into his holy mould anew.
For when he manifests his glorious grace,
The charming favour of his smiling face,
Into his image fair transforms her soul, (1)
And wafts her upwards to the heavenly pole,
From glory unto glory by degrees,
Till vision and fruition shall suffice.
And thus in holy beauty Jesus’ bride
Shines far beyond the painted sons of pride,
Vain merit-vouchers, and their subtle apes,
In all their most refined, delusive shapes.
No lawful child is ere the marriage born;
Though therefore virtues feigned their life adorn,
The fruit they bear is but a spurious brood,
Before this happy marriage be made good.
And ‘tis not strange; for, from a corrupt tree
No fruit divinely good produced can be,(2)
But, lo! the bride, graft in the living Root,
Brings forth most precious aromatic fruit.
When her new heart and her new husband meet,
Her fruitful womb is like a heap of wheat,
Beset with fragrant lilies round about,(3)
All divine graces, in a comely rout,
Burning within, and shining bright without.
And thus the bride, as sacred scripture saith,
When dead unto the law through Jesus’ death,(4)
And matched with him, bears to her God and Lord
Accepted fruit, with increase pure decored.
Freed from law-debt, and bless’d with gospel ease,
Her work is now her dearest Lord to please,
By living on him as her ample stock,
And leaning to him as her potent rock.
The fruit that each law-wedded mortal brings
To self accresces, as from self it springs.
So base a rise must have a base recourse,
The stream can mount no higher than its source.
But Jesus can his bride’s sweet fruit commend,
As brought from him the root, to him the end.
She does by such an offspring him avow
To be her ALPHA and OMEGA too.
The work and warfare he begins, he crowns,
Though maugre various conflicts, ups and downs,
Thus through the darksome vale she makes her way,
Until the morning dawn of glory’s day.

(1) 2 Cor. iii. 18.
(2) Matt. vii. 17, 18.
(3) Cant. vii. 2.
(4) Rom. vii. 4.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is There No Hope?

My lovely wife read my blog article yesterday and advised me, "You've left them no hope."

In a way, that is true. When a nation defiantly shakes its fist in the face of God, trampling under foot the spiritual heritage He has given them, they can not long endure. One only need to read of the judgment of God toward a rebellious Israel. Thoughout the scriptures God judged His people. It was a big cycle. God's people would turn away from him. Their sin would become exceedingly great. God would judge them. They would realise the error of their way and repent. God would turn His heart back toward them. Then God's people would walk in His ways, for a while. Then the cycle would continue as they once again turn away from His precepts.

In thinking back on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a couple of thoughts come to mind. God was willing to save both cities if (ultimately through Abraham's pleading) only 10 righteous were found in the city. Now, I'm not sure what the population of Sodom and Gomorrah was, but I'm pretty sure that it was much smaller than the entire population of the state of California. If God's mercy was a matter of percentages, then it is likely we need a lot more than just 10 righteous in that state in order to appease God's wrath. There is one big fallacy in this view, however. Our mediator is much greater than Sodom's mediator was. Christ is our high priest. He is entirely God and entirely man. Abraham had a sinful nature that he inherited from Adam. Christ did not.

So, the answer to the quandry and the doom and gloom I left you with yesterday is found in the very same chapter of Romans.

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
-- Romans 3:22-26

So then, while there is none righteous, no not one, we can, by faith, apply the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to our account. Stop and let that soak in for a minute. Though born a vile and wretched sinner, I can be counted righteous in the eyes of God. This is possible only through faith in the blood of Christ.

I believe that it is solely due to the remnant of God's people, that He has scattered throughout this country, that this nation avoids catestrophic judgment. Don't be fooled. You may see a church on every corner, but only a tiny remnant can truly be called "God's people." You will not find God's people among the "ministers" performing sodomite marriages. You will not find them among the "Easter and Christmas" only crowd. God's people seek His face daily. They walk in His ways.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
-- Luke 9:23

Friend, turn to Him today. Deny yourself and take up your cross daily, and follow Him. It may well be that either:

1) You will be counted among the righteous so that the nation can be saved from the impending doom of judgment


2) God may provide a way of escape for you and your household, as he did for Lot, when the judgment comes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spitting in the Face of God

But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
-- Genesis 13:13

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
-- Genesis 19:4-7

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
-- Genesis 19:24-25

Today at 5:00 PM Pacific time, California will become the second state in the nation to legalize same-sex “marriage.” Adding to this madness is the fact that this was done in direct violation to the will of the people. Proposition 22 was passed by a 61.4% majority of the people in 2000 which explicitly defines the union of a man and a woman as the only valid or recognizable form of marriage in the State of California. Yet, through today’s renegade judicial activism, sodomites will be lining up to “exchange vows.” Californians will have to wait until the November elections to vote for an amendment to their constitution to try and undo the damage.

I’ve heard it said, As California goes, so goes the nation. As we stand by and watch our falling dollar, ask yourself if maybe this is just the beginning of God’s judgment on America. Abraham interceded on behalf of the people in the following conversation with God:

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
-- Genesis 18:23-32

Now read the sobering truth:

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
-- Romans 3:10

God help us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's with great pleasure that I announce to you the "pre-launch" of The Lord has laid it on my heart to offer encouragement to other Christian fathers out there trying, in spite of all the challenges the world throws their way, to raise a godly family.

It is by God's grace alone that I can ever hope to offer encouragement in this area, as I continue to learn so much myself in my journey as a father.

In the next few weeks I will be starting up a newsletter that I will send out on a weekly basis. There are still a few loose ends I need to tie up before I make this happen. But I am looking forward to it with eager anticipation, even as I work toward that end. I will continue to post articles out here as well, but the focus of the other site will be specific ministry to fathers.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An Unprofitable Servant

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
(Luk 17:10)

In each of the commentaries on this verse that I have consulted, there appears to be a common theme. We are "unprofitable" servants because even our best efforts are intermingled with error. We have no righteousness of our own. Everything that we have is due solely to God's working in us.

Now, I will not dispute the godly teachers of the past. Surely men such as John Gill and Matthew Henry spent many more hours in the Word of God than me. Yet, when I approach this passage, I must ask myself if this is just yet another passage speaking to the total depravity of man? Is it just one more reference that proves our inadequacy? Maybe. But what I read here is that a servant *has* successfully done his duty. Yet, he is still found lacking. He is described as "unprofitable."

Could it be that the servant is called unprofitable because he has done the bare minimum of his duty? Consider the following instruction of our Lord:

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
(Mat 5:40-41)

In this passage, wouldn't the "duty" described be the bare minimum? Duty would dictate that you give up the coat that has been judged against you. But duty does not require the giving away of the cloke. Duty requires us to "go a mile." Yet going "twain" is above and beyond the call of duty.

I was listening to Geoff Botkin present a message from the 200 Year Plan Practicum. In it, he was relating the comparison of the army of Christ with an earthly military army. He was talking about ranks of privates, corporals, sergeants, captains, colonels, and generals. He stressed that being a private in Christ's army is not a bad thing. In an earthly military, we absolutely need the efforts of privates. There is honor in serving as a private. Yet, if the entire army is made up of privates, something is terribly wrong. There needs to be those who will rise above the ranks of private both in earthly armies, as well as Christ's army.

Mr. Botkin did not bring up the scripture from Luke 17:10, but I could not help but think of it while he was presenting. If all we ever do is just our bare minimum duty, which, by the way, includes daily Bible reading, prayer, homeschooling, family worship, and releasing control of the womb to the Lord, then we will never rise in the ranks to the officer status that the Lord needs in His army. The duties I mentioned above are vital. Sadly many Christians do not even strive to maintain these "minimum" standards. Indeed, observing someone doing these things is most often a rarity in today's depraved times in which we live. Yet, I agree with Mr. Botkin, that greater efforts need to be done. Bravery in the midst of battle should be apparent. God is calling men to be leaders who can make quick, wise decisions while engulfed in the thick of the battle.

If a young man comes desiring to court our daughters, and all he can claim is that he consistently reads his Bible, prays, desires to homeschool, desires to lead in family worship, and believes in having many children for the glory of God, is that really "enough" qualification to release our daughters into his care? If you have set yourself on having your daughters marry a "private" in Christ's army, then maybe it is "good enough." Yet, for those of us who desire leadership qualities, for those who have a clear vision and passion for the next 200 years, we will not hand our daughters over to someone who is an unprofitable servant that has simply done what was their duty to do.

Men, this is a challenge to you. This is a challenge to me. The answer is not to simply hold off in giving away our daughters until an officer in Christ's army comes to court. The answer is also that we must rise in the ranks ourselves, and we must raise sons who do likewise. In listening to Mr. Botkin's message, I realized that what he is describing is a range of ranks. In my own self assessment, I feel that I am above the rank of private. Yet, that same self assessment shows me that I have much, much further to go before advancing to the ranks of the upper leadership. And yet, that is my desire. I can think of no other purpose in living than in living a life that is constantly desiring the deeper, greater things of God. I take seriously our Lord's great commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Mat 28:19-20)

So, if we see that being unprofitable is simply doing our duty, what things in scripture are described as "profitable?"

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Tit 3:8)

Hmm... Are good works "profitable?" The scripture declares that they are profitable. But they are profitable unto men. It's a good thing to do things that are profitable unto men. The Lord has told us that we are to treat one another with kindness. Yet, my greater desire is to be profitable unto God.

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
(1Ti 4:8)

Godliness is profitable unto all things. True godliness cannot be faked. Godliness is not simply a matter of performing a check list of duties that bring us to a rank of private in Christ's army. I submit to you that godliness is the trait that God is looking for in His officers. This is not something we drum up within ourselves. It is God who imparts it. Yet, we are responsible to be willing vessels. We cannot hope to walk in godliness while harboring habitual sin. We all fail. But what does our heart look like after we fail? David was king. He certainly failed on more than one occasion. But when he did, his heart was sincerely grieved that He had sinned against His Lord. His repentance was deep and meaningful. And we are told that David was a man after God's own heart.