The Most Dangerous Kind of Self-Deception

The Most Dangerous Kind of Self-Deception

The Most Dangerous Kind of Self-Deception
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
13 Mar, 2020

If the most dangerous form of deception is self-deception, then we must know the most dangerous way of deceiving ourselves. There are all kinds of ways we may overestimate our good qualities or be blind to reality. Scripture warns about deceiving ourselves in spiritual things (1 Corinthians 3:18; James 1:22,26). But when it concerns our eternal good it is of infinite concern. That is unsettling of course, but Scripture does seriously and frequently warn us about this (Matthew 7:20-22). The heart is supremely deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). That is why we need to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5; Psalm 139:23-24). We may be able to deceive ourselves but God is not deceived (Galatians 6:7-8). If we simply brush it off for ourselves or pull back from warning others, what are the consequences? It is not just a blight of nominal Christianity on the Church, it is eternal ruin.

We do not want people to be always questioning the reality of God’s grace when it is really there. We want the freeness and fulness of the grace of the gospel to be embraced and enjoyed. But there is also the real danger of a reckless false assurance. Some think that they can make a profession with their mouth while their lives are professing something very different. Others take comfort from all their activity in the life of the Church or how much they know. Surely this means they are the real thing?

We need to address this urgent question. “God knows their/my heart” is too easy a reflex response to avoiding seriously searching questions. Are we blurring the distinction between a real and an empty profession? Andrew Gray sounds a warning note from Galatians 6:3 in this updated extract.

1. What is Self-Deception?

It is when someone:

  • believes themselves to be that which indeed they are not;
  • thinks they have more than indeed they have;
  • desires not to appear what they really are but desires to appear that which they really are not.

2. Is Self-Deception a Widespread Problem?

Scripture makes it clear this is a significant problem.

  • Scripture commands make it clear that it is a widespread problem (Romans 11:20; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 3:18).
    (b) Scripture makes it clear that it is not one or two persons but often a whole generation that deceive themselves (Proverbs 30:12). Christ observes I in many (Revelation 3:17) who thought themselves to be rich when they were poor.
    (c) Christ often reproves people for misconceptions about their own spiritual state (Luke 12:57).
    (d) Scripture makes it clear this is a significant problem by giving many marks and evidences of grace for people to examine and test their condition. Why would all these marks of real grace be given in Scripture, if there were not too much self-deception?

3. Why Should We Be Concerned About Self-Deception?

We need to consider the following to be on our guard against self-deception.

(a) Many Are Self-Deceived
Do Not Think of Yourself More Highly Than You Ought. There are many whose delusion will be exposed when Christ will come and judge the world. This is clear from Proverbs 30:12 and Matthew 7:22. It is more than probable that where there is one who does not mistake, there are six who do mistake. I urge you therefore to search, lest God should be provoked to search and find out your iniquity.

(b) It is Very Hard to Undeceive Ourselves
This is an evil that is very hard to drive people away from, “They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return” (Jeremiah 8:5). No matter what anyone says they will go down to their grave with this, “I am in Christ.” It is exceedingly hard for one under the power of this to abandon their mistake.

(c) Self-Deception is Mocking God
It is, as it were, denying the justice and omniscience of God for a person to live under such a mistake. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7).

(d) Self-Deception is One of the Greatest Possible Evils
There are seven things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16). But what is that which leads someone to these seven things? It is “a proud look”. If you would not want to make yourselves hateful in the eyes of the Lord, guard against self-deception. There are some who say, “I am holier than thou”; but these are a smoke in His nostrils.

(e) Self-Deception Hardens Us Against the Gospel
There is nothing that hinders the success of the gospel on many men and women’s hearts so much as this: they do not think they need Christ (Proverbs 26:12). There are lies in their right hand, so that they cannot deliver their souls (Isaiah 44:20). The two sorts of people who are furthest away from conversion by the gospel are the presumptuous person and the hypocritical person.

(f) Self-Deception Will Be a Fearful Discovery to Make in Eternity
What a dreadful day some will have who think they are going to heaven, when they will go down to those everlasting flames. They will see their hope has been nothing but as a spider’s web and as a morning dream? I confess, it is one of the most lamentable things to be under this mistaken presumption; it is like an ox going calmly to the slaughter.

4. How Does Self-Deception Happen?

The reason this happens is that many use a false standard for examining themselves and this leads them to a wrong conclusion. Here are the false standards that people use.

(a) An Outward Rather Than Spiritual View of the Law
They use the letter rather than the spiritual meaning of the law than by the spiritual meaning of the law. This was the rule Paul took before his conversion; “I was alive without the law” (Romans 7:9), and, “Concerning…the law, [I was] blameless” (Philippians 3:6). A person may be blameless in their view, according to the letter of the law, to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23). The law reaches to the inward person as well as outwardly. If you never committed one act of iniquity, yet if you think only one evil thought, the law pronounces a curse on you. If many of us sat down to judge ourselves by the spiritual meaning of the law, we might be forced to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am undone.”

(b) Activity Rather than Grace
People judge themselves by their religious activities rather than whether it is done through grace. This is like the Pharisee (Luke 18:12). Judge yourself more by your graces than by your religious duties.

(c) Extraordinary Rather than Ordinary Experience
Some people are ready to judge their condition by the extraordinary experiences they have had rather than their ordinary way of living.

(d) Conscience Rather than the Law
Some people think all is well if their consciences do not speak any evil against them. But the law has much to say to you when your conscience says nothing against you. Some think they can build their eternal blessedness on a peaceful or silent conscience. But do not always believe your conscience.

(e) Good Intentions Rather than Good Practice.
Some say “I have good intentions” when their behaviour is challenged. But if you yourself by your intentions, you may be making a very great mistake. If good intentions could bring someone to heaven, then every slothful person would be in heaven because they have desires (Proverbs 13:4). The gospel and the law require not just intentions but obedience.

(f) Gifts Rather than Grace and Practice.
If you could speak about God like an angel and could understand all the mysteries within the Scriptures, yet still did not practice in some measure what you know, God would say unto you, “I never knew you.”What advantage will you have in knowing alll the excellent things of God, if you do not practice them? If knowledge could have brought people to heaven, Balaam would be a shining star in heaven today. Do not judge yourselves by your gifts and knowledge, but by your graces and practice.
(g) Human Rather than Divine Approval
Some say, “I have the approval of all the saints, I may therefore conclude I will go to heaven.” Although the approval of the saints may sometimes have its own weight, there are some in hell who have had much approval of the saints. Let Christ’s approval be the rule by which you judge yourself. What advantage would it be if every minister called you a saint, but Christ called you a reprobate?

(h) Outward Blessings
You may have temporal blessings such as food, drink and clothing in abundance and yet be a stranger unto God. Do not judge your condition by God’s outward dealings.

5. Why Are People Self-Deceived?

(a) They Do Not Examine Themselves
The apostle follows his warning to help the Galatians guard against presumption with this direction, “Let every man prove his own work” (Galatians 6:4). Search yourselves much using God’s standard. Some are unwilling to examine themselves because it will discourage them others are unwilling because they have already come to the conclusion. “Why do I need to search? Am I not certain that Christ is mine?” But we can never be too sure He is ours.

(b) They Do Not Exercise Faith
Some do not exercise spiritual faith. Faith will help a Christian exceedingly in humbly walking with God (Romans 3:27).

(c) They Boast of What They Have
Paul, reproves those who boasted of the things they had received as though they had not received them (1 Corinthians 4:7). If you are conscious of that, it will keep you humble.

(d) They Are Ignorant of their Corrupt Nature
This is the mother of pride and presumption. When Paul speaks about original sin in Romans 11:25 he warns them of presumption.

(e) They Do Not Consider What They Ought to Be
If someone compared their attainments with what they ought to be, it would crush presumption. If we think we knows anything, we know nothing as we ought to know.

(f) They Compare Themselves With Those Who Are Worse
Some judge themselves by the lives of those who are worse as the Pharisee did (Luke 18:11).

Conclusion

Are you prepared to ask yourself the question, “am I under this mistake and delusion?” The person who is furthest from it will be most ready to ask this question. Search yourselves and see how it stands between God and you. Many assume quickly and easily they are forgiven and at peace with God. It is a matter of eternal concern. This is one of the most dreadful and terrible things we can be, a self-deceiver. Do not think yourselves to be something when indeed you are nothing.

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How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
17 Jan, 2020

Guilt is deeply uncomfortable. That’s why most people want to get away from it. It’s the pain that inhibits their pursuit of pleasure. Guilt exists because sin exists. Forgiveness for sin is freely offered in the gospel of Christ (Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:9). Some people know this, believe it and have sought the mercy of forgiveness but from time to time they may wonder: do I feel forgiven? Guilt for sin is something that is objective before God’s law. We often think of guilt feelings and the sense of whether or not we are forgiven. It can be a real issue. How do I know I am forgiven? We have to take God at His promise (1 John 1:9) but there is more to it than that. There are also evidences of forgiveness that we can discover.

Andrew Gray gives us 8 helpful evidences of having been forgiven to help us. First, he makes some helpful core principles in relation to forgiveness.

  • There is a difference between granting forgiveness and communicating this to the person forgiven. Christ forgives the man’s sin before he announces it to him (Matthew 9:2).
  • There is also a difference between communicating forgiveness and applying it. David was told that his sins were forgiven by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13) but in Psalm 51 he prays for it to be applied to him.
  • Many take forgiveness to themselves before God gives it to them. They get this decree from the court of self-love. Many forget their sins before God forgets them. All the ministers and believers in the world may forgive you but what will you do when you get to the judgement? God will ask you “where is my Son’s name on your pardon?” All forgiveness comes from Christ’s goodwill and purchase (Psalm 68:18). We ought to praise Him for pardoning grace but also for restraining grace.
  • Once a sin is truly forgiven it can never be unforgiven (Romans 11:29). But you can lose your sense of forgiveness because of pride which brings us low. If we commit gross sins it will open up the guilt of other buried sins. Forgiveness is a tender plant which we must take great care of. We need to maintain a fresh sense of forgiveness. Otherwise it will become like a document that is old and grimy and cannot be read. Otherwise unbelief and discouragement will make us think that forgiveness has been withdrawn.
  • The best proof of being forgiven is a close, humble walk with God. Pride and slothfulness are the two greatest enemies of a Christian’s growth. They spoil our resolutions and our duties. Nothing hinders our growth more than pride, self-conceit and laziness.

1. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Highly Esteem the Forgiver

A forgiven sinner has a high estimation of Jesus Christ, the Forgiver. Any who hate the Son of God in their heart do not know what forgiveness is. Why does Micah cry out in wonder at God (Micah 7:18)? It is because He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. Do you love the creature more than Christ? You have never been forgiven and are not able to commend Christ. Even Christians are forced to swallow up their commendations in silence, wondering in awe at Him for His pardoning mercy.

2. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Love the Forgiver

Those who have been forgiven love the Forgiver much. We read of Mary, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much” (Luke 7:47).

3. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Praise the Forgiver

Have you experienced such conversion that you dare not praise Him for it by yourself alone but call on others to help you praise Him? This is the experience of Psalm 103:1-3. Blessed is the Christian who can sing this song morning and evening because all his sins are forgiven.

4. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Hate the Sin

If you can view your sin with delight you do not know the pardon of Christ. Some find their hearts flutter when they see their sin or even an image of it (Ezekiel 8:10-11). When they see their idols portrayed their hearts fall in love with them. A pardoned sinner will look on their sin with hatred and disdain.

5. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Weep

A forgiven sinner will weep as much (if not more) for the sin afterwards as they did before they received a declaration of being forgiven. There may be mourning without hope when pardon is not yet received but there is mourning with hope after it is received. The pardoned sinner may mourn just as much after their sin is forgiven as before (Luke 7:38 and 47).

6. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Highly Esteem Forgiveness

A pardoned sinner has a high account of the forgiveness received. No matter what their outward condition may be in this world, all their doubts and fears are answered with the fact of having been forgiven (Psalm 32:1). Who is most blessed? The pardoned man. Forgiveness is one of the sweetest clusters that grow on the tree of life. Have you never esteemed forgiveness of sin?

7. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Be Sincere

Those who have been forgiven are real and have an honest and sincere spirit. They are without guile (Psalm 32:2). I fear there is a great deal of pretend love, reverence, hope, assurance, faith and forgiveness among us.

8. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Experience Enlargement

What was your spirit like when you received your pardon? The Christian usually experiences three things after receiving forgiveness. The first is liberty of spirit and an enlarged heart, so that they are constrained to sing for joy. The second is great delight in duty and obedience. The third is great hatred and abhorrence for sin. Have you experienced these?

Encouragements

Here are some encouragements to stir you up to seek forgiveness of sin from Jesus Christ. This is a great matter indeed for some will never get their sins purged from them till they die (Isaiah 22:14).

  • Christ is very ready to forgive (Nehemiah 9:17)
  • God declares forgiveness as part of His very name (Exodus 34:6)
  • There is a promise of abundant forgiveness (Isaiah 55:7). 

Is it not unspeakable folly to lie in prison while the Son of God is saying: “Here is your pardon”? You may use the strongest pleas with God to forgive you “Pardon mine iniquity for it is great” (Psalm 25:11 see also Psalm 40:11-12 and Psalm 41:4).

Further Reading

Other articles that may be helpful include: Forgiveness Does Not Trivialise Sin, Denying Any Wrongdoing?,  How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine? and 5 Comforts in Trials for Those Who Have Been Forgiven.

 

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Valuing the Deepest Possible Friendship

Valuing the Deepest Possible Friendship

Valuing the Deepest Possible Friendship
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
21 Nov, 2019

Like many other things modern friendship has changed dramatically. Electronic communication has expanded our circle of friends and made maintaining contact easier. But its limitations can also stifle deeply connected bonds. And, the modern world seems friendless for too many.     We need to value and deepen friendship in a greater way for the spiritual good of others and ourselves. It demands time, a desire to benefit others and undivided attention. God Himself extends to us the greatest and deepest friendship and we need to learn how to value that above all.

Andrew Gray considers what it means to be “called the friend of God” as Abraham was (James 2:23). It is the highest possible privilege and yet Adam threw it away. Christ, however, has “found out the precious way of making the blessed and more durable knot of friendship between God and us”.

The great goal of the everlasting gospel is to reconcile sinners and make them friends with God. How do we become such friends? “Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me” (Isaiah 27:5).

But, asks Gray, do our lives and prayers make plain that we are friends of God? What are the evidences of a true friendship toward Christ? How is it the deepest friendship there is? In this updated extract Andrew Gray also outlines the blessings of friendship with God so that we may truly value it.

1. CHRIST’S FRIENDS ARE TRUE FRIENDS

(a) A true friend maintains constant friendship to Christ at all times (Proverbs 17:17). No matter what trials we have or what He requires of us, we will be faithful.

(b) A true friend has the highest esteem for Christ (Song 5:10 and 16). Is Christ matchless to you? Who had your thoughts first today? Was it Christ (Psalm 139:18)?

(c) A true friend finds everything in Christ exceedingly lovely (Song 5:16). There is nothing in Christ that will not be lovely. Christ’s rebukes will be lovely, His convictions will be lovely, His visits will be lovely. There is nothing that Christ can do but you will cry out, “This is lovely.” There is not a commandment that Christ can give but it will be lovely. If you be a friend to Him, you will cry out, “I have a respect to all the commandments of God.”

(d) A true friend obeys all Christ’s commands (John 15:14). A Christian must be all-inclusive in their obedience to be a friend to Christ. If they do not love the duty for itself, yet will he love it because it comes from Christ.

(e) A true friend tells Christ their secrets. There are some things that a Christian will tell Christ, which he will not tell to anyone in the world. It does not offend your precious friend when you tell Him all your secrets.

(f) A true friend is burdened by Christ’s absence. Is it not the true kindness of a friend to long to see one’s absent friend?

(g) A true friend delights in fellowship with Christ (Song 1:2).

2. CHRIST’S FRIENDS FEAST WITH HIM

Christ invites His friends to feast with Him (Song 5:1). The great Master of the feast invites them. It is a royal feast (Isaiah 25:6); it is a glorious,
purchased feast to be valued by the price that was paid for it (Matthew 22:3–4). Only friends are invited to come to the feast of the Lord’s Table because only they can fellowship with Christ in the banquet of love. Only they can exercise the graces suitable for this feast. Can an enemy exercise the grace of love? An enemy cannot exercise the grace of sorrow for offending Christ, and yet that is a qualification of one that would approach the table of the Lord. No one is able to discern the Lord’s body except friends.

3. CHRIST’S FRIENDS LEARN HIS SECRETS

The person who is a friend to the Most High is a person who will be brought in to know the deep secrets of the Lord (John 15:15). He will let you know whether you are in the state of nature or in the state of grace. (Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 3:32). He will communicate unknown truths to His friends (Matthew 13:11). Paul says of himself, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

There are excellent secrets of duty that Christ will unfold to His friends. He will tell His friends the duty of the times in which they live (1 Chronicles 12:32). There are many secret duties that are made known unto the friends of God that are not made known to others who are strangers to Him. Christ will also make the secrets of providence known to His friends (Psalm 36:9).

4. CHRIST’S FRIENDS CAN PRAY WITH BOLDNESS

The soul who is a friend of God may come with boldness to God to seek anything from Him. Is God your friend? Then you may say, “God is my friend; I may be bold with Him.” Yes, when you approach to God in prayer, if you could introduce it with this, “O my friend,” you might pray with much confidence and boldness of faith.

5. CHRIST’S FRIENDS CAN PRAY CONFIDENTLY

A friend of Christ may come to God with confidence. If Christ is your friend, you may go to Him with great persuasion that He will deny you nothing and is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Did you ever have such a precious friend as this?

6. CHRIST’S FRIENDS ARE STRENGTHENED IN DUTY

This precious, matchless friend sharpens you and stirs you up to do your duty (Proverbs 27:17). A sight of your precious friend Christ would make you swift in your duty.

7. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD

A friend of God has much communion with God and dwells and walks much with God. He walks much with God (Amos 3:3). If you are friends to Christ, you will have much of His heart (to long after you), His hand (to help you) and His mind (to reveal precious secrets hidden from the world).

8. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE COUNSEL IN DIFFICULTY

God will give counsel to His friends in all their dark and difficult distresses (Proverbs 27:9). If you were a friend to God, you would sometimes sing of Him giving you counsel (Psalm 16:7; Psalm 73:24).

9. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE SYMPATHY

If you are a friend of God, Christ will sympathise with you in all your anxieties (Proverbs 18:24).  Christ is more afflicted with our circumstances than we are afflicted with them ourselves (Zechariah 2:8).

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The above has been extracted and updated from a sermon included within the new volume Be Reconciled with God: Sermons of Andrew Gray. 

These 12 rare sermons have not been printed for almost 300 years. They are packed with both simple and profound thought communicated with almost tangible passion and highly recommended.

We have obtained the following special discounts exclusively for Reformation Scotland readers.

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Why We Need to Keep Exercising and Strengthening Faith

Why We Need to Keep Exercising and Strengthening Faith

Why We Need to Keep Exercising and Strengthening Faith
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
25 Oct, 2019

We are witnessing an evident increase in people being health and fitness conscious. Bodily exercise does indeed have a certain limited benefit for us in preserving our health and life (1 Timothy 4:8). But Paul tells us that exercising or training ourselves to godliness brings every kind of benefit (1 Timothy 4:7-8). The comparison is clear. Just as bodily exercise brings benefit so our spiritual health requires spiritual exercise. Part of Christian growth is exercising and strengthening faith. How can we do this?  

Andrew Gray explains the benefits of exercising and strengthening faith. Faith must constantly go out to Christ depending on His Word and promises. It becomes stronger the more it is exercised in this way. This is vital for the Christian life. 

1. FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith keeps our soul in the most constant fellowship with Christ. He dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). It is through exercising the grace of faith Christ that becomes our husband, our householder, and the one who dwells within us. It is a most sweet and desirable thing to have Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and our souls dwelling with Christ by love. It is a sweet connection.

2. CHRIST’S PRECIOUSNESS INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith can make Christ more precious to a Christian than feelings can. Faith’s estimate of Christ is based on His person but feelings look to what Christ does. Faith looks at what Christ was before the world began, but feelings only look at what Christ is at the present time. The grace of faith looks to the love in Christ’s heart: feelings only look to the smiles of His face. Faith’s estimation is more constant than that of feelings especially when Christ withdraws His felt presence. When faith needs wisdom, it consults with Christ, whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor. Faith is like a sinew which when it is cut, all our strength goes from us. Faith is heroic; the crown of martyrdom is set on the head of faith.

3. HUMILITY INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

A Christian who excels in this grace, is the most humble Christian. By what law is boasting excluded? By the law of faith (Romans 3:27). Faith shows a Christian the excellence of God, and humbles them in the dust. Faith makes a Christian both ascend and descend, so to speak. It keeps all the graces of the Spirit in motion.

4. SIN DECREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith likewise puts sin to death. When Christ is revealed to a soul, it will cast away its idols as filthy rags and will cry out that it has none in heaven besides God (Psalm 73:25). The soul is drawn more to where it loves than where it lives.

5. PATIENCE INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Being justified by faith, we glory even in what we suffer (Romans 5:3). Faith holds out the crown on the right hand to a Christian with this motto written on it: “He that perseveres to the end shall he saved”. Moses never arrived at patience until he got to the top of the mountain from which he saw the promised land. Faith brings home the promises of eternal glory to a Christian.

6. SPIRITUAL FRUITFULNESS INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith is a grace that sanctifies our lives. Faith has a sweet influence on our fruitfulness to Christ by helping us to abide in Him (John 15:5). Faith is the mother grace that bears good works as its children and as it moves so all the other graces move with it.

7. UNDERSTANDING INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith is an intelligent grace, understanding the “mystery of God” (Colossians 2:2). Faith raises the soul to the highest level of reason.

8. PEACE INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith pacifies the heart. Peace is the daughter of faith, Faith is the dove that brings the olive branch of peace in its mouth.

9. SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS INCREASE AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith is an empty hand that receives the precious free gifts that come from Christ’s merits. It is the channel through which the blessed streams of life flow to us from Him.

10. PURITY OF HEART INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

Faith is a heavenly plant which will not grow in an impure heart. Faith is a heart-purifying grace (Acts 15:9). It can only grow in a pure and heavenly soil.

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How Does Faith Help Love?

How Does Faith Help Love?

How Does Faith Help Love?
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
5 Jul, 2019

Perhaps it’s a question that never exactly occurred to you. But it matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. There may be some distance in your relationship with Christ and a sense of absence or sorrow. Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6) but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. As Augustine put it, “neither hope nor love are without faith”. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

Faith and love are uniting graces; they are a bond of union with Christ. The Christian loves someone they have not seen (1 Peter 1:5). This may seem mysterious and strange to others but (as Andrew Gray observes) not to those who have embraced Christ with the two arms of faith and love.  He also says that those who have truly seen Christ with the eye of faith cannot but love Him. Neither faith nor love are blind, they know the person trusted and loved.

This is why the Christians of the Early Church were ready to die and suffer for professing a crucified Christ. Though they could not see Christ, no imaginable torments could break the precious cords of love and faith intertwined together by an unseen Christ. They have spent nearly two thousand years in a blessed contemplation of He whom they loved although they did not see while they were here on this earth. But now they both see him and love Him.

Gray notes how Peter commends these two graces of faith and love. He shows how they made these Christians “rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory”. They had a joy that could not be put into language, not even by the most eloquent person. It is a “joy full of glory”, in other words there is a constant joy that flows from exercising faith and love in the one not seen. Permanent joy and unspeakable delight are sweet flowers that come from the root of faith and love. They shall remain eternally green throughout all the ages of long eternity. What will be the joy of saints that are now made perfect if there is such joy here?

1. Faith Reveals the Object of Love

Faith comes first, before love is produced in the heart. It goes out to discover the invisible things of God. Love sits down and comforts itself in the discoveries of faith. Faith reveals the object of love. Faith discerns, comprehends and receives most in relation to God; it reveals the invisible things of God to the Christian. Love is then stirred up by the enlarged spiritual discoveries that faith makes.

2. Faith Helps Love to Trust

When we meet with some sad trials that make us anxious, love begins to call the reality of Christ’s good will into question. It does not know how to reconcile together His good will and His dealings in providence. Faith helps love here. It can read the thoughts of Christ’s heart and can behold His face behind a veil. It can see that though He seems to frown, He still loves.  It is not easy to discern this in such sad trials, only faith can understand it.

3. Faith Feeds on the Promises

Faith also helps love in opening up to the Christian the most precious promises that they have received and how they are being fulfilled. This stirs up the Christian to a pre-eminent love for Christ, who has given them such precious promises. If Christians could see how all these promises given to them in Scripture are being fulfilled, their souls would be longing after Christ. They would be constrained to love Him who has thus loved them.

 

If Christians could see how all these promises given to them in Scripture are being fulfilled, their souls would be longing after Christ.

4. Faith Draws Strength from Christ

Faith helps love in that it goes to Jesus Christ in whom all of our strength is found. It draws strength from Him to exercise all the graces of the Spirit. Love of course, helps faith too (Galatians 5:6). It is impossible for the Christian to be truly exercising faith without exercising love. When love is in exercise, faith increases with the increase of God. When love languishes, it makes faith groan within us with the groanings of a mortally wounded man. Keep love exercised and you will keep faith exercised also.  Keep faith exercised and you will likewise keep the grace of love in exercise.

 

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6 Benefits Believers Receive from Christ’s Death

6 Benefits Believers Receive from Christ’s Death

6 Benefits Believers Receive from Christ’s Death
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
17 May, 2019

​Christians know that it is important to believe in Christ’s death on the cross. But some find it difficult to explain how it benefits us. They know that salvation depends on it but perhaps struggle to explain how it is central to the Christian life. Christ taught that it must be crucial in how we live (Matthew 16:24). Paul said that it was the controlling principle of his life (Galatians 2:20).  How can we make it central to our life?

This is a very large theme and we can only consider one aspect of it. In this updated extract, Andrew Gray helpfully outlines some of the advantages that Christians experience from Christ’s death. Enjoying these benefits enables us to see how the cross influences the Christian life.

 

1. Enjoying Justification

Christ’s death is the evidence of our justification, the cause of our sanctification and the pledge of our glorification. It is the hope of our eternal and complete victory and the door of hope that will make you sing and triumph over death (1 Corinthians 15:55). We are brought to paradise by four streams: (a) His justification by which He justifies us; (b) His sanctification by which we that lay among the pots are made white as a dove; (c) His wisdom by which we are conducted to heaven; and (d) His redemption by His complete victory.

Is it not clear that Christ’s death was an evidence of our justification? “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12)  He has “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). By the solid faith of Christ’s death we may answer all objections. If you could multiply objections throughout eternity, you could have no answer but this: Christ has died and is risen again. His resurrection is a great pillar of justifying faith; “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

All objections are answered in this, Christ has died and, risen again (Romans 8:34). “For while we were enemies, we were reconciled by his death” (Romans 5:10). The great pillar on which faith is founded is Christ’s resurrection. Is the death of Christ not the cause of our glorification? “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself witlìout spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). Paul, speaking of the cross of Christ says, “By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). You were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19). Christ died that “they which live should not live unto themselves, hut unto God” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Is Christ’s death not the pledge of your glorification? Did Christ not wear a crown of thorns so that you might wear a crown of immortal glory? Did He not wear a purple robe, that you might wear that robe of His righteousness? If Christ ascended up, then He will certainly draw all the members of His body after Him.

You have Christ’s death as the door of hope to overcome your sins.  Christ’s victory is that He has in His person overcome principalities and powers and has made an open show of them. He has likewise overcome death and the grave. That is evidence of your victory and overcoming; for there is a great similarity between the head and the members of the body.

 

2. Enjoying Communion with Christ

Christ’s death may be a strong argument to embrace and welcome Christ. It may stir us up to that duty, “Open to me, my sister, my spouse, for my head is filled with the dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2). If Christ has died and is now risen again, will not that persuade you to love Him? O what arguments will work with you? Do the five wounds of His blessed body not preach this doctrine to you: to love Him?

 

3. Enjoying Christ’s Love

If you believed the sufferings of Christ in the right way it would be a comprehensive way to bring your souls under the constraining power of His love (2 Corinthians 5:14).  There is a sweet constraint in His love that it lays hold on the understanding and the affections. Christ’s love constrains a Christian’s understanding so that they think Christ alone to be excellent. It constrains their affections and makes them burn within out of love to enjoy the person they love.

 

4. Enjoying Eternal Life

The way to heaven is now made manifest through the sufferings of Christ. “I will make a new covenant with them, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers” (Hebrews 8:8-9). Believe this, it was more difficult for Christians to go to heaven under the Old Testament than under the New. Christ is now clearly revealed as crucified before your eyes. We do not need to exercise faith in Christ as being yet to come, but as already come. Sins against the gospel will certainly therefore be of greater guilt than under the law.

 

5. Enjoying Assurance

If you truly believed that Christ died for sinners your unbelief would be at an end. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Paul then adds, “of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). If you believe that Christ came over that infinite distance that was between Himself and man, how easily, will He come over the infinite distance between you and Him? Christ’s love is that which will bring your souls to see the necessity of this love. It will bring you to a felt sense of the preciousness of Christ, who has perfected the work of your redemption.

 

6. Enjoying Holiness

Christ’s death is an excellent way for a Christian to bring their soul to a God-given holy hatred of sin, “we should not live unto ourselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Since Christ has “suffered for us, let us arm ourselves with the same mind, to cease from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). There are these two things in Christ’s death to make sin most hateful to you.

(a) consider the burden of sin. Do you not think that it was a heavy burden that made Him cry out that he was troubled and “exceeding sorrowful” (Mark 14:34)? And was it not an infinite weight that made Him say, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39)?

(b) consider that these sufferings were because of sin. Might you not conclude that the justice of God was highly offended? “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isaiah 53:10).

 

7. Three Questions

(a) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to sit down in speechless humility and put your mouth in the dust (Lamentations 3:29)?
(2) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to love him, and cry out, “His love to us has been wonderfully great!”
(3) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to wonder at that union between Him and us? Was the death of Christ ever an effectual means to unite you to Christ by the two chains of faith and love?

 

Conclusion

When we speak of the cross this also includes Christ’s resurrection. As Calvin emphasised we can’t think of them in isolation even when only one of them is mentioned. All that the cross and resurrection means should be central to our lives. The Christian life is a dying life; dying to sin (Colossians 1:22; Galatians 5:24). But it is also a life in the power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10).The cross must have an overwhelming influence on how Christians should live and the motives for their life. They walk in loving obedience, a love that is derived from Christ’s dying love (Ephesians 5:2).

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How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
26 Apr, 2019

In a sinful world it’s natural to be discontented with the way that things isn’t it? What’s wrong with wanting things to be better and how they ought to be? But discontentment is more often focussed on our personal circumstances and what we think we deserve. People can get a wrong idea of contentment as though it is pretending that things are not as they are. But this isn’t true contentment. Being spiritually content involves a full view of what is worst in our situation but still submitting to God’s will in it. Why? Because we are able to compare present realities with greater realities in the eternal purpose of God for us. Discontentment is far easier than contentment, that’s why we need to be armed against it.

As Andrew Gray notes, the apostle Paul calls contentment in all kinds of circumstances a secret (literally, a mystery) which is not easily attained (Philippians 4:11). Previously we have considered why You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness. We also need to know how to deal with discontentment when it arises and even seek to prevent it from rising.

1. What is Contentment?

The whole of time that has been, is or will yet be is only a single moment in comparison to eternity. What is our life, but a small part of that moment? Why then should someone anxiously complain about spending a part of a moment in enduring the most anxious and sad things that can befall them? What poor advantage is gained by discontentment and sorrow? It only renders a person more miserable. Heavenly-mindedness and contentment live and die together; they are two sweet companions, that always go together and cannot be divided.

Content literally means all-sufficient.  Thus the words may be attractively rendered in this way, “I have learned in every state…to be all-sufficient.  Proverbs 14:14  speaks in a similar way of how a godly man shall be satisfied from himself. There is a well-spring of everlasting consolation within the Christian, which makes them endure every anxious condition. “I have learned”, indicates the difficulty of attaining this mystery of divine contentment. Paul was once ignorant of this but now through the understanding and wisdom of God, he has full knowledge of it. “In every state”, indicates that no condition could put him wrong.

Contentment is a sweet and composed frame of spirit in relation to every anxious condition and circumstance we encounter. This grace and duty of contentment includes a holy delight and sweet serenity and calmness of spirit in every condition, even trials (James 1:2; Romans 5:3). It is clear that the Christian is required to be content (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5; James 4:7).

2. What Damage Results from Discontentment?

(a) It makes us unfit for spiritual activities

It is impossible for a Christian to praise or pray. Praise requires a composed frame of spirit (Psalm 58:7). In 1 Timothy 2:8 it is said that right prayer should be without wrath, not having any murmurings in the heart. Discontentment cuts off three ingredients of prayer: love, fervency, and faith. A discontented Christian cannot be burning with love but rather jealousy. Neither can a Christian exercise faith, because he has taken up so bad an opinion of God, that he cannot rest his confidence nor hope in Him. When people are poring over their present condition so much, they can be fervent about nothing except that being changed. It is certain, that nothing cuts the neck of prayer so much as discontent.

(b) It makes us open to temptation

Discontentment makes us altogether unable to resist temptations. It is impossible for a Christian to be a put sin to death when discontentment is being exercised. Prevailing sin, pride and all other lusts get great victory over such a person. A Christian may lose more by one hour’s discontentment under trials, than he can regain in many months. It is no wonder that temptations prevail because such a person is off their guard and their strength is gone.

(c) It makes us hardened

Discontentment results in lack of tenderness of spirit. Nothing cuts off spiritual sensitivity so much as discontentment. A discontented Christian does not act from the fear or love of the Almighty–the two great principles of tenderness of spirit. When they examined themselves they will find that anxiety and bitterness of spirit have made their hearts to die as a stone within them.

(d) It makes us undervalue God’s mercies

When a Christian meets with that which contradicts his preferences, he loses his esteem of everything previously bestowed on him. Jacob undervalues what he has in this way (Genesis 42:36). Nothing makes a Christian disrespect the most precious and excellent things of God more than discontent.

 

3. How Can We Overcome Discontentment?

(a) Through self-examination

Discontent comes from not exercising self-examination much. We are to be still and examine ourselves (Psalm 4:4). It is the best way to get submission and contentment in any condition. Self-examination has great influence on contentment because it considers accurately our own imperfections. Instead of complaining, we ask why should we complain (Lamentations 3:39)? Self-examination helps us understand the intention behind chastisement and its benefit. It helps us to submit patiently and adore the unsearchable wisdom of God towards us rather than fret against it (Proverbs 19:3).

(b) Through resolve

If we are resolved to bear and submit to any and every trial it has great benefit. When we are chastened we bless God because it is not worse with us. Afflictions often take us by surprise and so we faint in the day of adversity and prove our strength to be small (Proverbs 24:10).

(c) Through heavenly-mindedness

Paul had courage and constancy in affliction because he looked to the things that are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16 compared with verse 18). Drown the thoughts of your present misery in those precious depths of eternity. Behold so much in heaven that it might infinitely console and make up for all your losses here.

(d) Through looking to God

If we looked to God’s sovereignty and purpose in the trials we face we would be ashamed to dispute and murmur as much as we do. We would rather submit to Him (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 39:9; Isaiah 39:8). Do we dare to debate with the Almighty or force the supreme and absolute One to account for His ways?

(d) Through considering the brevity of time

Serious thoughts of the brevity of our life and of time will deal with discontentment. If someone knew they would only endure trials for an hour, or for ten days they might patiently submit. But it is not long before the small period of time between eternity past and eternity future will be swallowed up and there will be nothing but eternity.

(e) Through humility

Pride is the great predominant evil which brings contention (Proverbs 13:10). It is only by pride that we contend with God concerning His dealings with us. It is impossible for a Christian who is not humble to be content. Pride is one of the greatest opposites of being content in any condition.

 

Conclusion

Discontent involves murmuring and complaining against God. This prevents believing trust in God. It also prevents us benefiting from trials. Rather than being sanctified by them and sin being removed, discontentment only increases sin. We can overcome the spirit of discontentment as we focus faith on God and eternal realities. Contentment is learned through a painful and gradual process of experience and through dependence on God and His grace.

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How Can I Stop Being Spiritually Lazy?

How Can I Stop Being Spiritually Lazy?

How Can I Stop Being Spiritually Lazy?
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
9 Nov, 2018

​Sloth is neglect. It isn’t necessarily doing nothing, simply neglecting what we need to do. Not making spiritual things a priority. Its possible to be busy active in Christian things yet neglect our spiritual wellbeing.  It may be that we want to be comfortable and resist anything that makes demands.  So we divert our desires for greater spiritual reality. It’s much more comfortable sometimes to settle for the superficial and to coast along.  It’s a battle we face every day we raise our head from the pillow. How do we move from having unfulfilled desires of breaking out of this state to acting on them?

​The Book of Proverbs has much to say about slothfulness in general that can also be applied to spiritual things.  Andrew Gray did this in various sermons and the following is an updated extract from one of them.  He believed that slothfulness and neglect of our duty in spiritual things was very common and is therefore very direct in his words. He warns that slothfulness is like a creeping spiritual disease that gradually kills off conviction of sin, resolutions, desires for God, promptings from the Holy Spirit and our enjoyment of God. It also kills to a certain extent our faith and love, our hatred of sin and the spiritual strength a Christian has to resist temptation. It’s the reason that our spiritual life and liveliness may be very weak. All this makes it an urgent matter for us to consider.

1. Consider Your Need

Do you want to be diligent? Get a vivid impression of what you need from God engraved on your heart. Why are Christians today not diligent? It is because they do not know their need.  We say that “necessity makes dumb men orators” – we can add that necessity makes lame men to labour.

If we say our need we would take no refusal. Necessity is one of the most unmannerly things possible. It will not go away from God’s door until He answers it. Necessity would make us diligent in the things to which He calls us. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him” (Ps. 34:6). It would be an excellent sight, if every one of us got a sight of our necessities. Some of us are as great strangers to our own hearts, as if we were living a thousand miles away from one another.

2. Seek to Know God Truly

Be much acquainted with God and seek to have much of the knowledge of the Most High. This is clear when we compare Job 22:27 with v. 21. If we have acquainted ourselves with God, the evidence of this will be that we will pray to Him. It could be translated, “many strong prayers”.  Why do we correspond so little with God? Do we know Him or not (John 4:10)?

3. Consider Death and Judgment

Live in view of death and judgment approaching. Live in view of the fact that you must appear before Him. This would provoke you to be diligent. This is clear by comparing these two passages: 2 Corinthians 5 and Ecclesiastes 9:17. The reasoning is that eternity approaches and you can do nothing after it has come. I am sure that if we thought in the morning that we are now a day nearer eternity than before, it would be impossible for us to be as slothful as we are.

4. Seek to Have Christ’s Love Constrain You

A Christian should live under the impression of the sweet constraining love of God. The soul should be under the sweet impression of Christ’s love.  Paul asserts the principle of his obedience to be the love of Christ constraining him (2 Corinthians 5:14).

5. Consider the Omniscience of God

A Christian should live under the impression of the omniscience of God. The Psalmist says that he kept God’s precepts and testimonies because all his ways were before God (Psalm 119:168). In other words he is saying,  “do you want know why I am such a diligent Christian? Because I knew there was nothing I did that the Lord did not know.”

6. Seek to Get Your Heart Engaged Towards Duty

Strive to have your heart inclined and engaged to do duty. The Psalmist could say he had inclined his heart to keep God’s precepts always to the very end (Psalm 119:112). This is indeed a most remarkable thing, never to be out of obedience to His commandments. Not just for a while but always, even to the end. He goes on to say that his soul has kept God’s testimonies (Psalm 119:167). What leads him to this? “I love them,” he says of God’s testimonies. Thus, to have your heart engaged towards the duties of religion would make you a diligent Christian.

7. Resolve Not to Be Slothful

I would charge every one: young and old, professing and not professing Christians, you who know God, and you who are ignorant of Him. I desire you today, in His name, to take this oath of love on your heart, that you may take away this resolution with you, “I shall never be such a slothful Christian anymore.” “I have sworn, and I will perform it” (Psalm 119:106). I urge you to do this in the sight of God the Father, the first person of the blessed Trinity, and in the fight sight of the Son, the second person of the blessed Trinity, and in the sight of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the blessed Trinity. Make this the oath that you will swear and labour to perform: that you will not be slothful any more.

8. Consider the Majesty of God

If you desire to rise above slothfulness then strive to keep yourself under high and majestic considerations of God. I am sure that the low conceptions we have of the majesty of God are the reason why many of us bow our knee so seldom to Him. The psalmist had an unusual expression, “I give myself unto prayer” (Psalm 109:4). It may be translated, “I prayer.” He would say, “I am so much taken up in that work, that they may call my name ‘Prayer'”.

Conclusion

Consider those have died in the Lord and rest from their labours. Their reward is with them and their works follow them. Consider what all those glorious thousands who are round about the throne are doing. They have now entered into the glorious and eternal possession and enjoyment of God, wisdom’s ways were pleasant to them while they were here. The day is coming when the Christian who is most diligent in the duties of religion will not repent of it. No one went down to their grave without this conviction, “Woe to me that I spent so little of my time in the duties of religion.”  It is astonishing that while God is spending so much effort on us, we move our hearts so little in the duties of religion.

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6 Times When We Best See Christ’s Intercession

6 Times When We Best See Christ’s Intercession

6 Times When We Best See Christ’s Intercession
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
30 Mar, 2018

​Christ’s intercession in heaven is unseen but that does not mean we cannot see the benefits and effects of it. Because it is unseen we are inclined to forget about it and not derive the comfort and help we should. The more we meditate on it, the more it ought to fill us with a sense of wonder. As we consider our own weakness and neglect in prayer by contrast it helps us to think that He is more conscious of our spiritual needs than we are. He knows the spiritual dangers we face better than we do. The more we contemplate Christ’s intercession the better we would be able to trace the benefits we experience from it.

​Christ’s intercession for believers is continual (Hebrews 7:25). Andrew Gray opens up something of its nature and benefits with a sense of wonder. He says that this “divine action of Christ’s interceding at the right hand of God for sinners, is that in which a sinner may behold much spotless condescension and much boundless compassion”. It is a great mystery indeed to “behold infinite majesty standing as a suppliant before the throne of God”.

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me – Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

What is the nature of this intercession? Gray speaks of it as “successful” because Christ has infinite power. The Father also gives Christ whatever He requests (John 11:22). The Father has a “precious delight” in “doing good to sinners”. Christ “intercedes with a great deal of brotherly affection and sympathy for us”. “Christ is more affected with the miseries of His own than they themselves are”. It is also a constant intercession. This “consideration may sweetly engage our souls to Christ”:

when you are all asleep in the silent watches of the night, Christ is standing at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for you

Andrew Gray also draws out helpfully the following ways “in which Christ’s intercession reveals itself”.

1. When We Are Tempted

When a believer is surrounded with temptations, Christ intercedes for him, as we see in relation to Peter in Luke 22:31-32. Christ prays for His own in the world to be kept from evil (John 17:15). I would only say to you concerning this to lay more strength on Christ’s intercession than on your own prayers. Were you never convinced that all the strength that comes to you to put to death even one lust is by Christ’s intercession? I confess that there are many works that Christ does for us which we do not at all acknowledge He has done.

2. When We Are Discouraged

Christ’s intercession for us with the Father also shows itself when believers are under the spirit of discouragement. It is then that Christ prays for their consolation. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). Is it not Christ’s great purpose to have His own refreshed in a strange land?

3. When We Pray

Christ’s intercession shows itself toward us in relation to our prayers. He stands at the throne of grace, pleading for the acceptance of the prayers and petitions that believers send up to God. An excellent purpose of His intercession is for believers to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). In Revelation 8:3-4, John saw an angel standing at the altar (this is usually understood to be Jesus Christ). There was given unto Him much incense, which represents His merits making the prayers of His people to be accepted. He offered the incense with the prayers of the saints before God.

I desire then to mention the three works that Christ performs concerning the prayers of believers.

(a) Christ sweetly takes away the superfluities and redundancies that are in our prayers. Christ puts all the prayers of believers in a new frame, and He cuts off all expressions that may render our prayers unsavoury to God. Is that not an excellent work?

(b) Christ takes our prayers and supplications and presents them to the Father.

(c) Christ stands before the throne of God, pleading for an answer and return to our prayers. Do you know the reason why Christians get so few answers and returns to their prayers? It is because they do not make use of Christ’s intercession surely; otherwise they would get answers to their prayers. He has promised that whatever we ask in His name, that is, through His intercession, we receive it.

4. When Sin Has Ensnared Us

Christ’s intercession shows itself when sinners are taken and ensnared in sin. He intercedes for their pardon, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He answers the charges that are laid against us and intercedes with the Father for all our offences done against Him to be forgotten. He is praying today that our sins may be buried in that immense sea of everlasting forgetfulness. We see this in Zechariah 3:2-3 where Christ answers the challenges of the devil against believers.

5. When We Experience an Extended Time of Trouble

When believers are under a long and painful period of troubles, Christ prays that they may have release from that condition. This is clearly illustrated in Zechariah 1:12. In this passage, Christ as a priest is making intercession for believers. An explanation is made to Christ in verse 15 of chapter 1 “For I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction”.

6. When We Face Death

The last aspect in which Christ’s intercession reveals itself is this.  He intercedes with the Father, that those for whom He died should be where He is, to partake of the everlasting depths of that precious and blessed happiness that is above. We see this in the prayer of Christ recorded in John 17:24 that they may be “with me, where I am; that they may behold my glory”. We do not know whether that looks more like a prayer or a command, but certainly it is a most imperious prayer. Christ longs for believers to come where He is.

Conclusion

We need to make use of Christ’s intercession. Gray gives three reasons why believers make so little use of Christ’s intercession.

(a) most of us do not believe in the power of the spiritual virtue of Christ’s intercession. It is a mystery to us, a great mystery even to a Christian’s faith to believe the power of Christ’s intercession for them.

(b) we are not living under a spiritual conviction of the absolute necessity of the things we seek in prayer. The result is formalism in prayer.

(c) we are not deeply convinced of the sweet delight of that which we are seeking from God in prayer; therefore, we seek it with great coldness of affection.

We must value the benefits that we receive by Christ’s intercession, if we are believers.

(a) It strengthens justifying faith like a pillar (Romans 8:34). Indeed that verse mentions four pillars of justifying faith: Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and intercession.

(b) It is evidence that Christ will finish the work of your salvation and lead you within the borders of eternity. Christ will save to the utmost all that come to Him through faith.

(c) It persuades Christians of Christ’s infinite love towards them.

(d) It is an excellent encouragement to go to the Father and pray to Him. It greatly helps the duty of prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16).

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6 Reasons to Delight in God

6 Reasons to Delight in God

6 Reasons to Delight in God
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
17 Nov, 2017

Mostly, we are well aware that we get our life in focus by concentrating on the most important things. But do we live our life in such a way that the things most important to us are obvious to those who observe us? The most important thing is to glorify God and enjoy Him. We can only glorify Him by grace and we can only enjoy Him by glorifying Him. Delighting in God is what makes seeking to glorify Him a pleasure. When we have discovered this, we will know that there is no satisfaction to be found in seeking other things in place of God. True pleasure from created things comes through delighting in God. Even affliction and adversity are sweetened for the soul that seeks its delights in God. Since we are to glorify and enjoy God forever, delighting in God gets our life in eternal focus and prepares us for that unending activity. These are some reasons for delighting in God but there are many more. We also need to know what we mean by making God our delight.

Andrew Gray has a sermon on delighting in God that expounds Psalm 37:4.  It something enters into the deepest parts of the heart mastered by gospel grace. The following is an updated extract from the sermon.

 

What is Delighting in God?

Delighting in God consists of the following things:

(a) Loving God

A soul should be much taken up in exercising the grace of love. To delight in God is to have love smoking in a Christian’s heart towards God. Love is only a bruised reed; but delight is love coming up to perfection.

(b) Esteeming Christ

A soul delighting in God has a high esteem and account of Christ. One whose delight is in God will have a matchless estimation and high considerations of Him.

(c) Thinking on God

The soul that delights in God has all its thoughts running towards God and exercised on Him. His thoughts are only terminated on Him; He is the object of them all. Now, Christians, on what are your thoughts fixed? Is it not certain that they are all confined within this rivulet and span-length of time? Does the world not have your first thoughts in the morning and your last thoughts at night? Then certainly, your delight is not in God.

(d) Desiring Fellowship

One who delights in God is consumed with desire for communion and fellowship with God. Then try yourselves by this test. If your main desire is not fellowship with God, your delight is not in Him. If God is the object of your delight you will strongly desire communion with Him and it will be refreshing to you.

(e) Mourning for the Absence of Christ

Such a soul will often lament and grieve the absence of Christ. Certainly, if your delight is in God, His absence will be your greatest affliction and His presence your main joy and pleasure.

(f) Striving to Please God

The person who delights in God will strive and endeavour in all things to please and give satisfaction to God. If we delight in any person, certainly we will attempt to please Him in all things. We can test whether we delight in God; our main design and endeavour will be to please Him in all things.

 

1. Delighting in God is a Foretaste of Heaven

Dear Christians, do you desire to have the noble activities of those that are above around the throne? Then delight yourselves in God. To delight in God is the only activity of the saints above. I will point out three differences between the saints in heaven and the saints that are below on earth.

(a) The saints above are in the higher room, and we are in the lower room.

(b) The souls of the saints above are in a higher degree of love than we are; their praise is higher than ours. They are delighting themselves in and praising Him through all eternity.

(c) Those above are enjoying Christ by sight and fruition, we on earth enjoy Him through the veil of faith. They have the immediate sight of God, and behold Him face to face. But we behold Him through a glass darkly. Oh, Christians, if you desire to delight yourselves in God, you would bring down heaven upon earth. What is heaven, but a soul’s delighting itself in God, and God delighting Himself in the soul?

 

2. Delighting in God is Incomparable

Be persuaded to delight yourselves in God for it is an exceedingly commendable pursuit. I would commend delight in God in four ways.

(a) It unites us with Christ

What is it to delight in God? It is the soul of a Christian embracing the soul of Christ by the two arms of love and desire. Is not that an excellent thing which may commend it unto you?

(b) It lifts us above ourselves

The soul of a Christian that delights in God is more where it loves than where it lives. It is more where its object is than where its own abode is.

(c) It brings us to adore Christ

By delighting in God, a Christian achieves three acts of admiration.

First, Christian, you will say, “Oh, how far is Christ above the report that I have heard of Him!” You will be constrained to say, “The half was never heard of Him that now I see.”
Second, you will then experience and remark, “Oh, how far is Christ above the love that I have had to Him! He is far above it.”
Third, you will be forced to say, “Oh, how far is Christ above the admiration and amazement that I have had of Him!” Now, if your delight is in God, you will be compelled to such admiration and astonishment.

(d) It helps the soul towards a more spiritual and holy life.

 

3. Delighting in God Makes Duty Pleasant

Delight in God makes all duties pleasant and heart-warming. Without delight in God, all the duties of religion will be most unpleasant and burdensome (Job 22:26-27). There are four advantages in the exercise of duty that waits on delighting in God. These four advantages are as follows:

(a) Increased Boldness in Prayer

He that has his delight fixed on God has boldness to speak to Him (Job 22:26).

(b) Increased Prayer

Delight in God will help a Christian to multiply his prayers (Job 22:27).

(c) Increased Fervency in Prayer

Delight in God will help with great fervency in prayer. The word rendered prayer may also be rendered as “many strong prayers.”

(d) Increased Freedom in Prayer

Delighting in God will help a Christian to tell all his mind to Him (Job 22:27).

 

4. Delighting in God Helps us Bear Affliction

Delighting in God will bring a Christian to bear patiently any cross or affliction that he encounters. This is clear from the scope of the text. It will be an excellent help and guard against fretting at the prosperity of ungodly men.

 

5. Delighting in God is the Most Excellent Delight

Consider the excellence of the object of the Christian’s delight – the Lord. He is the most excellent object of delight. He is the fountain from which all our streams come. Oh, then delight in Him who is excellent and majestic!

 

6. Delighting in God Gives us the Desires of our Hearts

If you delight yourself in God, surely He will give you the desires of your heart. I say, they will lack nothing that is for their own welfare and God’s glory. If you delight yourself in God, you will lack nothing that is fitting for you.

 

Conclusion

Oh then, be persuaded to give obedience to this most soul-concerning commandment of delighting in God. Christians, it is of your everlasting concern. Oh, do it while it is still being offered. Do not neglect this excellent work any longer. Oh, do not delay any longer, for delays are dangerous, especially in the matter of our eternal salvation.

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What it Really Means to Guard Your Heart

What it Really Means to Guard Your Heart

What it Really Means to Guard Your Heart
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
24 Mar, 2017

For many the instruction to “guard your heart” means controlling your emotions, specifically in relation to the opposite sex. Others use it to emphasise resisting impurity. These applications tell us more about current evangelical preoccupations than what Proverbs 4:23 means by the heart and how we are to keep it. It is a much more difficult, comprehensive and urgent task than these specific counsels suggest.

​It is certainly urgent and essential. John Flavel said that keeping our heart “is the most important business of a Christian’s life”. “It is the great work of a Christian, in which the very soul and life of religion consists, and without which all other duties are of no value with God”.

Andrew Gray spent considerable time explaining these matters. The following is extracted and updated from his three sermons on Proverbs 4:23.

 

1. What is Our Heart?

Our hearts are the most important aspect of our being.

“Even if you gave Christ all your members, yet it would be considered nothing if you would not give Him your heart”. It is clear from what Gray says that our heart is not merely our thoughts or feelings. It includes our whole understanding, reason, memory, will, affections and conscience. It is the soul and all its faculties. It is every aspect of our inward and spiritual life.

But crucially the heart is by nature corrupt, deceitful and constantly departing from God.

 

Our hearts are exceedingly deceitful.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Isaiah likewise speaks of a deceived heart which leads people aside (Isaiah 44:20). The heart of man is a deceitful thing, it will preach “peace, peace” when there is none. It will make us commit sin when there is not even any outward pleasure in it.

This is the great mystery of iniquity, that even our hearts will deceive our own hearts, and study to bring them to ruin. If your hearts were left one hour to yourselves to keep, you would commit more iniquity than you can imagine or dream of.

 

Our hearts are desperately wicked. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). If there were threatenings, commands, promises and convictions of sin, yet your heart will cause you to sin. If hell were put in your way, yet, for the pleasure of an idol, you would run to sin.

 

Our hearts love idols.

That there is a cursed union between the heart and idols (Hosea 4:8 and 17). Three times we read in Ezekiel 24:3-5: “they have set up their idols in their hearts”. Keep your hearts with diligence lest this union be tolerated.

 

Our hearts are mad. 

There are many of our hearts that are exceedingly mad (Ecclesiastes 9:3) Certainly the hardness of our hearts shows that we do not keep our hearts.

 

Our hearts are divided. 

The fact that the heart is divided (Hosea 10:2) shows great necessity of keeping our hearts. If we were all well searched, it is to be feared that many of us would be found two-hearted. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). A man with two hearts has part of his heart going to God and part of his heart going to the devil.

 

Our hearts depart from God.

I am broken with their whorish hearts, which have departed from me (Ezekiel 9:6).

 

Our hearts are ignorant.

By nature our hearts are exceedingly dull and ignorant in the ways of godliness (Ephesians 4:18).

 

Our hearts are unstable and changeable.

We may compare the heart of a Christian (while here below) to Reuben: “unstable as water” which mars its excellence. While a Christian is here below he is like the moon: changeable and subject to many vicissitudes.

 

2. Why Should We Keep Our Heart?

This is something of eternal consequence. The reasons why are in Proverbs 4:23 “for out of it are the issues of life”. If you keep your heart, you shall have life; but if not, the issues of death will come from it.

It is a most excellent thing for a Christian to keep his heart. It is better to conquer that little thing of the heart, than it is for one to conquer a city (Proverbs 16:32).

It is something that is also very difficult and so must be done with “all diligence” or “all keeping”.  There is such difficulty in keeping our hearts that we ought strongly to guard them. Adam kept his heart for only a short time and yet he could not keep it. This shows the difficulty of keeping it. Pray to God to keep your heart (Psalm 25:20; 1 Peter 4:9). Pray that prayer that Christ prayed when He was on the cross committing His Spirit into the hands of the Father (see Luke 24:36).  O pray that prayer every day.

 

3. What is it to Keep Our Heart?

Keep Sight of Everything in Your Heart.

Keeping our heart means that a Christian should observe the motions of his heart, and should not let his heart nor thoughts go astray, but should have a register of all their motions (Luke 21:34).

 

Keep Everything that Pertains to Your Heart.

(a) Your thoughts; (b) Your eyes (Proverbs 4:25); (c) Your tongues (Proverbs 4:25); (d) Your feet, (e) Your ears.

 

Keep Everything Unclean Out of Your Heart.

(Proverbs 5:8; Deuteronomy 12:30).

 

Keep Restraints on Your Heart.

Keep it so you may not commit iniquity. Bind these ropes on you to restrain yourselves: (a) the rope Christ’s love; (b) the rope of judgment – God will call you to a reckoning for all your wickedness; (c) the rope of God’s omniscience – all things are known to Him.

 

Keep Watch for Opportunities for Strengthening Grace in Your Heart.

If you disregard them you are not keeping your heart.

 

Keep Your Heart in a Prayerful Condition.

“Watch and pray” and “Pray without ceasing”.

 

Keep Your Heart in a Loving Condition.

You ought to have your heart burning within you with love towards that glorious, infinite, and mysterious Jesus Christ.

 

Keep Your Heart in a Condition of Fearing Self.

Fear the danger you are in if you are left to yourselves and your own strength.

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6 Reasons Why You Must Constantly War Against Sin

6 Reasons Why You Must Constantly War Against Sin

6 Reasons Why You Must Constantly War Against Sin
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
17 Feb, 2017

​The battlefield is the worst place in the world. Constant danger, bombardment and stress take their debilitating toll on mind and body. No doubt it is impossible for those who have never been in a foxhole fully to comprehend it. Yet the Christian is in the midst of a constant spiritual battle against sin (Romans 7:23; James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11). It is an enemy that never calls a truce. We will suffer great spiritual damage if we do not maintain constant warfare against it.

​Andrew Gray preached several sermons on spiritual warfare against sin. They are positive in showing the victory that may be obtained through Christ (Romans 7:24-25). The blessings and benefits of this warfare are included in a new free e-book called War Against Sin (download). Yet Gray says that he is “afraid that the Christians of this generation have proclaimed truce and a treaty of peace with their lusts”. “O, can such a delusion as this overtake you, that you can be an overcomer without fighting? Is your strength greater than those that have gone before you? Do you think you can accomplish this war in one day and pursue your enemies till you overtake and consume them? O when will it be that we will be daily groaning forth daily this mournful cry: ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death'” (Romans 7:24).

 

What is Spiritual Warfare Against Sin?

In these words Paul breathes out a sweet desire to be delivered, not only from his actual corruption, but from his original guilt, which here he calls the body of this death.  Great multitudes of corruptions flow from the root of original sin. It has so many different and varied members and parts that they make up a body, which, unless it is resisted, will certainly occasion death. When Paul is under strong conviction of his guilt and sees himself completed he uses these words:  “O wretched man:. The word in the original signifies one wearied with troublesome and continual combat with little apparent success. This certainly implies that he was a man who was greatly and continually taken up in wrestling against his corruptions. He was endeavouring to bring them unto subjection to the obedience of Christ Jesus.

You can see the way Paul sought to overcome his lusts, he was much in prayer. The words of verse 24 are a short and sad prayer. It is like Isaiah 38:14 “O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me”.

It is the duty of a Christian to wrestle against their corruptions (Acts 24:16; Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 6:13 and 1 Corinthians 5:7). No doubt, if we reflected more on the nature of sin we would be more constant in this warfare. Especially if we considered that through sin precious conformity with God is lost. We must also consider the woeful effects of sin: that it works death and brings us under the curse of a living God. Failure to consider these means that Christians are greatly disabled to stand fast in liberty with which Christ has made them free and often entangle themselves again with the yoke of bondage.

 

1. Lack of Assurance Comes from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

Most Christians, if were asked when they last set aside some hours to put their sins to death would not be able to give an answer. A Christian that can interrupt the work of putting sin to death for several weeks may either suspect that grace is groaning within him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man or else that he is not at begotten again to a lively hope at all. There is no discharge in this warfare. We must fight until we have one foot within that place of everlasting delight.

 

2. Hardness of Heart Comes from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

This was clearly the case with David, having ceased this war he could write a letter to get godly Uriah killed. Scripture makes no mention of David’s heart smiting him for it. Those who are not putting sinful self to death make their heart die as a stone within them. 

A warring Christian keeps this holy zeal within. He hates the garments spotted with the flesh. Why is there such hardness of heart among us in these days? It is because Christians are not putting sin to death much. We think we will gain heaven easily and this makes us give so little consideration to this blessed work.

 

3. Prevailing Sin Comes from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

Christians that do not war constantly against sin ordinarily have their indwelling lusts reigning most. Sin will gather more strength when we neglect to put it to death for a single day than we can gain to prevail over it through wrestling with it many days. Sin has a subtle dexterity. It can regroup with ease within a few hours. If you are not constant in this warfare you will not sing many songs of triumph over your lusts. A triumpher in the fight must be constant. How long is it since you set up an Eben-ezer to God as  a trophy and monument of your victory? We think the Christians of this generation have the fewest and least trophies of their victory in the way to heaven as ever any that went before them.

 

4. Lack of Hope Comes from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

A Christian who neglects to war constantly against sin fights a doubtful war. They have not determined whether the fight will go in their favour or not. In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul speaks of fighting in an agony (as the word implies) persuading himself that he will have that crown of righteousness which is the reward of a conquering Christian. I do not know what will afford a Christian greater peace and comfort than to believe that he will put all enemies under his feet and make them his footstool.

 

5. Doubts in Death Come from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

Do you know why some Christians die with so little assurance of faith? They have not been much in  putting sin to death. What comfort Paul had , when he said, “I have fought the good fight of faith”. I doubt if Paul ever sang a song of praise in a higher key than when he sang that song (2 Timothy 4:8). Paul’s heart was half-transported, when reflected on the fact that all his lusts were dying and killed at his feet.

 

6. Withered Grace Comes from Not Warring Constantly Against Sin

A Christian who neglects constant war against sin is withered in other graces and in exercising their gifts. This is one of the sorest afflictions that can befall a Christian. 

War Against Sin

Few other things are more vital for spiritual life and health than putting sin to death. It is as stark a choice as John Owen emphasised: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”.

This free e-book called War Against Sin (PDF) shows the benefits of putting sin to death. Gray stresses how closely it accompanies vigorous spiritual growth, grace and assurance. We cannot call a truce in this warfare.

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