Sin, encouragement and grace – Wisdom from Spurgeon

It seems almost counter-intuitive. How can a greater knowledge of our falleness actually serve to encourage our hearts in Christ? Surely, considering the depth of our sin will only lead us to despair?

Well, no, argues that great 19th century ‘Prince of Preachers’, Charles Spurgeon. Actually, the biblical truth is quite the opposite. As we understand our true corrupted nature in Adam, our own sin and struggles will no longer surprise us; and the grace of God, by comparison, will be all the greater and more wonderful to us.

“God saw the light that it was good.” This leads me to say to the young Christian, the Lord would have you encouraged. You have been looking at yourself since you have been converted and, perhaps, you have grown desponding, and have cried, “Alas, I am vile! I did not know all that was in me!” No, and you do not know all that is in you now. “But I am so bad.” Let me assure you, you are a great deal worse than you think you are. “Alas, Sir, I see enough to drive me to despair.” Yes, but if you could see the whole truth about yourself, you would be driven to self-despair 10 times over! You are so bad as to be hopeless! And you had better know it, too! I often thank God for teaching me early that my old nature was dead and corrupt, so that nothing has surprised me since. I commenced as a penniless bankrupt and I have, therefore, never become poorer! I began naked and, therefore, I have never lost a rag! I was dead, utterly dead, and therefore I have lost no strength!
It is a necessary thing for you to know that in your flesh there dwells no good thing. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be.” Put that down at the first, as an ascertained fact, and then nothing will amaze you afterwards! Your nature is incorrigible and incurable! But there is gracious light in you which God has put there and God delights in you because of it. Though you may have been born to God but a week ago and are a poor little crying baby in the nursery of the Lord’s house, yet your Father loves you and sets great store by the Grace He has given you! Now, do not be downcast! Say to yourself, “The Lord has said that the faith which He has given me is good. He has said that this little love that I have for Him is good. I will be encouraged, for if He has begun a good work in me, He will carry it on.”

 

Peace, Hope, Forgiveness – Wisdom from J. C. Ryle

It was a delight to baptise David White last Sunday.  How wonderful to hear such a clear testimony to God’s gracious work of salvation in Christ.  Here are words reflecting on that gracious salvation from J.C. Ryle in his ‘Practical Religion’ from the chapter entitled ‘The Best Friend’:

‘Jesus is able to pardon and save the very chief of sinners He can deliver the most guilty conscience from all its burdens, and give it perfect peace with God. He can wash away the vilest stains of wickedness, and make a man whiter than snow in the sight of God. He can clothe a poor weak child of Adam in everlasting righteousness, and give him a title to heaven that can never be overthrown. In a word, He can give any one of us peace, hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God, if we will only trust in Him. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.” (I John 1:7)

Amen.

Idols and True Worship – A Prayer by A. W. Tozer

In teaching recently about pastoral care, I was reminded again of the importance of the believer’s heart in God’s agenda.  God intends not to shape our thoughts, behaviour and emotions in the first instance, but His work of making us more like Christ begins in our hearts.  Jesus explains why:

43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.’ (Luke 6)

Of course, our hearts are by nature filled not with the love of God, but idols (Rom 1v25).  The wonderful A. W. Tozer, always worth a read, writes this in his ‘The Pursuit of God’ (chp2):

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble.

Here then is Tozer’s prayer for a purity of heart:

Father,

I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come.

Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Beginning with God

As we begin the New Year, why not return to basics.  Does God exist?  Really?  Of course he does.  Allow Prof John Lennox, speaking at the Oxford Union, help you see the persuasive evidence…

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)

As we plough on into the new year, it may be worth taking a moment to reflect on the life of someone who went to be with the Lord last year.  Ellisabeth Elliot lived an extraordinary life.  This short article by Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition website is worth your time to read through.

Defending Christmas

Just before Christmas is entirely lost from our memories as we head to the new term, here’s an amusing defence of the authentic Christian message of Christmas against modern-day arguments created by Lutheran Satire: