Thoughts on the Way Home

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Christ's Love in Us

H. Taylor on our need for Christ's love toward the lost (taken from 'The Growth of a Work of God'):

"One thing, and one only, will carry men through all and make and keep them successful: the Love of Christ, constraining and sustaining, is the only adequate power. Not our love to Christ, nor, perhaps, even Christ's love to us personally; rather His love to poor, ruined sinners in us. Many waters will not quench that love, nor floods drown it. That love will seek the wandering sheep until they are found; and if, when found, they are but wayward, wandering sheep still, will yet love and care for them. Oh, beloved friends, pray that this love may be in us, abide in us, dwell richly in us all who are already on the field, and in those who join us. But this love will not be put into anyone by a journey to China. If it be not there already, a change from a more to a less favorable sphere is not likely to produce or develop it. Our aim, therefore, must be to ascertain as far as possible whether it exists..."

Let's take his advice. If we feel coldness instead of love, let's get alone with God confess it and pray about it.

"If I have all faith so as to remove mountains... and have not love, I am nothing." - The Apostle Paul

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When I'm Down In The Dumps - Mack T


When I'm Down in the Dumps

There is really only one direction to look when you are cast down and really in the dumps, whether it is discouragement or deeper depression.

1. Don't Look Within

This is often the biggest mistake and what causes one to sink down in the beginning; you surely don't want to look within, but we often do, to our own detriment, thus delaying coming out of the pit of discouragement.

2. Don't Look Outward

By this, I mean that do not focus on what is happening around you; you do not want to look outward, focusing on the circumstances, pressures, and outward situation you find yourself in. That will in no way help you, but will only drag you down deeper.

Instead, there is a clear path to take--a choice to make-- once you realize you are down or are sinking down in the valley, with the clouds of despondency gathering around you like a fog, and you are neutralized and unable to even know what to do.

3. Look Upward

The only way to look is up, that is to God the Father, to Christ the Saviour, to heaven, from whence comes our help always, in every situation, regardless of the circumstances or how deeply one is cast down.

Here are some things that can always help in this regard.

1. Pour Out

Get alone, away from everyone; then pour out your feelings honestly to your dear friend and only Helper, Jesus your compassionate Saviour. Tell Him all you feel--tell Him exactly how you feel, no matter how painful it is to be that honest. Pour it out, ugliness and all, feelings and all, struggles and all; hold nothing back--pour it all out to the only one who can ultimately help you out of it. Tell the Saviour--come to Him and bring with you all your words.

2. Pour Over

Get alone away from everyone for at least 2 hours, then open the Bible and ask God to give you exactly what you need to help you; then begin to pour over the Word of God for several hours, reading it slowly, praying back to the Lord anything that speaks to you; stay there and keep doing it until light arises in your mind and comfort begins to come to your heart. David, in Ps. 119, said that the Scriptures were his counselors. Do we need other people at times to counsel us? Yes, but we first need the Bible as our counselor. It addresses anything we can be going through. Pour over it, praying it, taking it in, renewing your mind to it, until help begins to come.

3. Look Deliberately

Look deliberately and consciously to Christ alone, away from yourself, away from your circumstances, and focus on Him; He has the answers, the wisdom, the counsel, the help, the relief, the directions, the encouragement that He alone can provide.

If we learn to make Him our refuge, we will find help more regularly and much quicker. If we don't, we won't.

-- Mack T.


Monday, March 23, 2009

What Is the Gospel? - Carson and Nicole


Here are two excellent summaries of the gospel as it relates to the Bible's overall storyline. The first from D. A. Carson:

Thus the gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s story-line. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that story-line. God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

And the second from Roger Nicole:

Moved by His incomprehensible love for mankind, the Triune God was pleased not to abandon our rebellious and corrupt race to the misery and hell that it justly deserved, but to undertake to save a great multitude of human beings who had absolutely no claim on His mercy.

In order to bring this plan into execution, the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, took unto himself a full human nature, becoming in all things like his brethren and sisters, sin excepted. Thus he became the Second Adam, the head of a new covenant, and he lived a life of perfect obedience to the Divine Law.

Identifying with his own, he bore the penalty of human sin on the cross of Calvary, suffering in the place of the sinner, the just for the unjust, the holy Son of God for the guilty and corrupt children of man.

By his death and resurrection he has provided the basis

  • for the reconciliation of God to humans and of humans to God;
  • for the propitiation of a righteous Trinity, justly angry at our sins;
  • for the redemption of a multitude of captives of sin whose liberty was secured at the great price of His own blood.
He offered himself as an expiatory sacrifice sufficient to blot out the sins of the whole world and secured the utmost triumph over the enemies of our soul: sin, death, and Satan.

Those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ are thus to be absolved from the guilt of all their sins and are adorned with the perfect righteousness of Christ himself. In gratitude to him they are to live lives of obedience and service to their Savior and are increasingly renewed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This good news of salvation by grace through faith is to be proclaimed indiscriminately to mankind, that is to every man, woman, and child whom we can possibly reach.

HT: JT & Mike Francis


"Is This All? I Will Do This." - George Bowen


With his poor, wrecked soul, man staggers in the presence of Jesus, expecting to behold a series of acts in all respects unlike what man performs, and to his amazement beholds Him pouring water into a basin and washing the feet of certain Galileans. He says, "Is this all? I will do this." Wilt thou do this? Thou must first go up to the throne of God and sit there, and then come down holy, harmless and undefiled. Thou seest no beauty in this act? The acknowledgment is thine own severest condemnation. It shows thee unregenerate, a denizen of the defiled and disorganized world in which sinners dwell.

-George Bowen, Love Revealed, Pg. 15


Advancing in the Estimate of His Humility - George Bowen


George Bowen on Jesus washing the disciples' feet:

Christ's acts of humiliation are to be estimated by the dignity of the agent, and inasmuch as the dignity surpasses conception, the condescension of this act also surpasses conception. In eternity, as we advance in the knowledge of Christ's glory, so shall we advance in the estimate of His humility. It is evident that we do not yet understand the action that is here recorded. We have not attained unto a proper understanding of that height of glory from which He descended in order to perform the acts of His earthly ministry. It is good for us to remember, as we read each narrative of the Gospel, that into the hand of Jesus the Father had given all things, and that He came from God and went to God.

-George Bowen, Love Revealed, Pg. 14


The Life of a Christian - John Bunyan


O soul, consider this deeply: it is the life of a Christian that carries more conviction and persuasion than his words. Even if you, like an angel, talk of Christ, of the gospel, of the doctrines of grace, and of heaven, yet if you indulge devilish tempers, and live under the power of any sinful lusts and passions, you will hereby harden others against the things of God and prevent their setting out in the ways of God. Study and pray to be a consistent walker in the ways of holiness; otherwise, all is but windy profession and airy talk. O, how much harm is done to Christ's cause by the unholy walk of many professors!

-- John Bunyan

HT: Mack T


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Christ - The Passionate Missionary

I really liked this two part sermon by Tim Conway:

From Weeping to Whipping: The Necessity of Passion in Missions

If the title sounds weird let me help you a little, the "weeping to whipping" part refers to Christ weeping for Jerusalem, and then going in to cleanse the temple. I didn't get it at first.

This is the first sermon that I can recall someone pointing out Christ as our supreme example as to what a missionary should be.

Download here:
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Love is Upon the Throne of the Universe - George Bowen


We never shall have any proper conception of what true dignity is until we understand that love is upon the throne of the universe. He that sitteth upon the throne came into the world and washed the feet of those Galilean fisherman, that believers might be blissfully aware that love is wedded to Omnipotence. If we see the glory of the infinite God in the face of Him Whose hands are pouring water on the feet of those twelve disciples, it will be impossible for us to shrink from any because they move in a different circle.

-George Bowen, Love Revealed, pg. 12


A Couple of Keller Quotes


“At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness. The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him.”

- Timothy Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 61.

“What God wants is not just behavioral compliance but loving service. The tree-command [in the garden] means: ‘Please do this commandment just because of who I am, just for me, not because it looks profitable to you. Obey me out of love.’ But we failed to love him because we believe the Lie that he doesn’t care. Here ‘the Lie’ of the serpent is not just the fount of sadness but of disobedience. We lack self-control not just because we are ‘bad’ in some general way but because we disbelieve in the love and goodness of God.

How can our hearts be changed? [Jesus] obeyed the tree-command [at the Cross] simply because of his love for his Father and for us. He obeyed not because it profited him but because it profited us. Now love God for his own sake, for the sake of his beauty and worth–because he loved you for your own sakes in Jesus.”

- Tim Keller, Preaching the Gospel in a Post-modern World (RTS Class Syllabus, Page 45)

HT: Of First Importance


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Beneath the Cross of Jesus"

This section was very encouraging this morning:

I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of His face;

Content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.

We get used to the fact that we were once held in sin.
Imagine the sacrifice it took to make one of Adam's children
pen those words. What a Savior!

Read the whole hymn here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Persuasion of Christ's Love - George Bowen


I began to re-read Love Revealed by George Bowen last night, and was struck by the following quote. It is worth meditating on:

The persuasion of Christ's love must be graven in our hearts so deeply that no semblance of indifference on His part will ever make the slightest impression on us. This is the victory which overcometh the world.


Friday, March 13, 2009

"Newness of the Spirit" Vs. "Oldness of the Letter" - John Murray


But now we have been released from the Law,
having died to that by which we were bound,
so that we serve in newness of the Spirit
and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6

"Newness of the Spirit" as contrasted with "oldness of the letter" is not the contrast which we often draw between the "letter" and the "spirit", as when we distinguish between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Neither is it a contrast between the "literal" sense and the "spiritual" sense. "Newness of the Spirit" is a reference to the Holy Spirit and the newness is that which the Holy Spirit effects. Grammatically, it may be the newness which consists in the Holy Spirit. "The oldness of the letter" refers to the law, and the law is called the letter because it was written. The writing may refer to the two tables of stone on which the ten commandments were written or to the fact of the law as contained in Scripture. It is law simply as written that is characterized as oldness and the oldness consists in the law.

This is apparent not only from the context where the apostle has been dealing with the powerlessness of the law to deliver from sin and the confirmation it adds to our servitude but also from the parallel passage in II Cor. 3:6. The contrast there between the letter and the Spirit is the contrast between the law and the gospel, and when Paul says "the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive", the letter is shown by the context to refer to that which was engraven on stones, the law delivered by Moses, and the Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord (vs. 17). The thought is, therefore, that, having died to the law and having been thus discharged from it, believers no longer serve in the servitude which law ministers but in the newness of the liberty of which the Holy Spirit is the author (cf. Gal. 3:3).

-John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, pg. 246-7


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Walking with God or Running from God?

--- --- ---

This first half of Genesis 3:8 is quickly becoming one of my favorite verses:

"They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..."
God was physically present walking on the earth! You don't hear the sound of someone walking, unless they are treading the ground with their feet. The really great part is, not only was God present in a special way on earth, but man was there too, to hear it, and see and experience the blessing of the presence of God. This is heaven on earth is it not? What made the Garden of Eden paradise was not the temperate climate and abundance of fruit, it was God himself walking around, talking with his creatures face to face.

What I find myself longing for more and more is to be with God. Reconciled and now walking by faith, I want to be as near to God as I can. Earthly pursuits that are temporary and man-centered don't seem as alluring as they once did, not when we can walk with God, like Enoch and Noah in days of old (Gen. 5:24, 6:9). But what about not just walking with him and communing with him by faith as we do now, but by sight! That's right here in the passage. What if 2 Corinthians 5:7 were to be reversed?

When trying to explain the glory of heaven to unbelievers I have put it like this. If God were to show up and talk to you one day, face to face, and manifest His presence, you would never forget that. It would be life changing. Think of the Pevensie children meeting Aslan. How awesome Aslan was. His presence was overpowering, fearful and yet wonderful. When he showed up trees and flowery spirit beings would come to life and begin to sway and dance. His presence was their blessing, just as God's nearness is our good.

Let me ask you a question. Are you hungry for heaven? Do you long to be more with God?

--- --- ---

Now consider carefully the rest of the verse.

"... and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden."
As much as we may think that being near God would bring blessing, Adam and Eve's experience was quite different. Adam didn't want to be near to God or experience the presence of God, at least, not anymore. Why? What had broken the euphoria? Why did he want to get away from God, when I'm saying the best thing in the world would be to be near God? Answer: he rebelled, and it led to fear. And did he ever have a right to fear! God had promised to kill him should he defy His one command. So he became afraid.

But reader, might I suggest to you that one of the worst parts of standing condemned, as Adam did, is not merely the horror of death and Hell (and yes, for all we know, Adam, the first man, went to Hell). No, what's worse is missing out on fellowship with the creator. Were man simply like the animals or the angels, the loss wouldn't be so bad, for animals don't have the same capacity to enjoy God that as we do, nor were even angels given the privileges of fellowship with God that we were given. But that's just it, man had it all... and lost it all. That is what is being shown here. Man's privilege is part of what makes his disobedience so sinful, and is also what makes the regret so painful.

--- --- ---

Where do you stand today, and what do you want, to walk with God, or to walk without him (perhaps even to run from him)?

Follow David's example:

He was a sinner that had a right to fear - (Ps. 51:4)
He found reconciliation in Christ - (Ps. 32:1)
He was restored to the privilege and desire of nearness to God - (Ps. 27:4)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coarse Language in the Pulpit


Last week at the Shepherd's Conference, Phil Johnson spoke to the issue of the growing "tendency of so many pastors lately to employ profanity, crude and obscene words, vile subject matter, carnal topics, graphic sexual imagery, erotic language, and filthy jokes." I've said this before, but what shocks me the most is that there is even a NEED to give a message like this! But, this is the day in which we live. For those interested, I would commend Phil's message to you. You can download and listen to the MP3 HERE, and transcripts are in the process of being posted as well (Part 1, Part 2).

Additionally, Phil has begun to respond to criticism and questions he has received over the message HERE.

HT: Puritan Fellowship & Challies


Friday, March 06, 2009

An Excellent Hymn For Prayer Meetings

Dear Shepherd of Thy people, hear;
Thy presence now display;
As Thou hast given a place for prayer,
So give us hearts to pray.

O Lord, our languid souls inspire,
For here, we trust, thou art!
Send down a coal of heav’nly fire,
To warm each waiting heart.

Show us some token of Thy love,
Our fainting hope to raise;
And pour Thy blessings from above,
That we may render praise.

Within these walls let holy peace
And love and concord dwell;
Here give the troubled conscience ease,
The wounded spirit heal.

The feeling heart, the melting eye,
The humble mind bestow;
And shine upon us from on high,
To make our graces grow!

May we in faith receive Thy Word,
In faith present our prayers;
And, in the presence of our Lord,
Unbosom all our cares.

And may the Gospel’s joyful sound
Enforced by mighty grace,
Awaken many sinners round,
To come and fill the place.

John Newton

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Excerpt From An Interview with Sinclair Ferguson

What are some of your concerns related to the health of Protestant Christianity we see here in present-day America and in your beloved Scotland?

I try not to focus my gaze too much or too long on the discouraging things I see simply because I think I need to be careful not to become jaundiced, and cynical. As a Scottish person I already have enough native tendency to be melancholic! Yet it is true that there are many things to cause concern.

The passage which was expounded at my ordination to the gospel ministry was 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, and it has served as a kind of guiding light to me ever since. Paul says there that he has put aside not only disgraceful, underhanded ways, but that he does not "do" things just because "they work." Instead he expounds the truth and does so in such a way that both the truth of the gospel and his own integrity are clear. By contrast we have become a very pragmatic church; we have a thirst for size (bigger is seen as better).

We have also spawned a cult of the personality and the guru. I have seen pulpit search committee material stating in black and white that they need an "outstanding communicator" to be their minister. Much of our thinking has actually become very worldly.

One indication of this recently is in the ease with which Christians now speak about "the quality of our worship" but unlike their forefathers do it only once on Sunday (and many ministers know that an evening service would not be well attended .... for all kinds of reasons that I suspect will not hold up before the God of the universe who is worthy to be worshiped and adore world without end! I wonder what he thinks of the quality of our worship!). It is also a concern to me that we are living in the age of the worship leader and the counselor rather than the preacher (what we do and what we talk about--sadly usually ourselves--takes precedence over God talking to us.

Again there is the lack of prayer, and of the church praying. This is to me the most alarming, for this reason: we have built apparently strong, large, successful, active churches. But many of our churches never meet as a congregation for prayer. I mean never! What does that indicate we are saying about the life of the church as a fellowship? By contrast the mark of a truly apostolic spirit in the church is that that we give ourselves to prayer and the word together (Acts 6:4; no wonder "the word of God continued to increase and the number of the disciples multiplied" Acts 6:7!). If this is so, it should not surprise us that while many churches see growth it is often simply reconfiguration of numbers, not of conversion. I greatly wish that our churches would learn to keep the main things central, that we would learn to be true churches, vibrant fellowships of prayer, gospel ministry and teaching, genuine mutual love. At the end of the day such a church simply needs to "be" for visitors who come to sense that this is a new order of reality altogether, and be drawn to Christ.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who Loves Their God More?

William Carey wrote, "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens" in 1792. He had a lot of really good things to say. It's a short writing on missions that I've had commended to me, and now I commend it to you. You can find it all over the internet, here, for example. Below is what I wanted to quote.

In reply to those that claimed the difficulties and obstacles standing in the way were too great to be overcome, he had this to say:

"Natural impossibility can never be pleaded so long as facts exist to prove the contrary. Have not the popish missionaries surmounted all those difficulties which we have generally thought to be insuperable? Have not the missionaries of the _Unitas Fratrum_, or Moravian Brethren, encountered the scorching heat of Abyssinia, and the frozen climes of Greenland, and Labrador, their difficult languages, and savage manners? Or have not English traders, for the sake of gain, surmounted all those things which have generally been counted insurmountable obstacles in the way of preaching the gospel? Witness the trade to Persia, the East-Indies, China, and Greenland, yea even the accursed Slave-Trade on the coasts of Africa. Men can insinuate themselves into the favour of the most barbarous clans, and uncultivated tribes, for the sake of gain; and how different soever the circumstances of trading and preaching are, yet this will prove the possibility of ministers being introduced there; and if this is but thought a sufficient reason to make the experiment, my point is gained."

If money and idolatry of the basest form can push men to travel the world wide and suffer hardship, should not we redeemed, humbled, lovers of God not be more motivated to do the same for His name's sake? Do we love God more than lost men love their idols?

Later Carey says:
"Christians are a body whose truest interest lies in the exaltation of the Messiah's kingdom."