Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
20 Apr, 2018

Spies, espionage and state secrets seem to be prominent in the news once more. China is so exercised about foreign espionage that this week it launched a website encouraging people to report national security threats. Sometimes we get a glimpse of the extent of the hidden world of intelligence agencies in gathering information about foreign countries. The controversy surrounding Facebook and the covert use of data is another dimension of how far attempts to obtain prized information may go. What do we know of the secrets of Christ’s kingdom? It’s a different matter altogether of course. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and therefore those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. But are governments and organisations more diligent in gathering their secret information than we are in searching into the mysteries of Christ’s kingdom?

Alexander Henderson says it is our necessary duty to make this our study. If this sounds a little strange, consider that Christ says that the secrets or mysteries of His kingdom are given to His disciples to know (Matthew 13:11). The matters of the kingdom of heaven are mysteries which none can understand until this is given to them from God. There are also those to whom God does not purpose to give understanding of His mysteries. Henderson opens this up in a sermon which he preached before the House of Lords in 1645 on John 18:36-37.

 

1. Understanding Christ’s Kingdom

(a) The Greater Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world but is a spiritual kingdom, it is a necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom. The kingdom of Satan and sin have many depths and secrets. The kingdoms of the world have their secrets of politics and government. The kingdom of Christ has greater secrets and more hidden mysteries.

Those who are great in the world know many things about the mystery of iniquity and the secrets of the kingdoms and states of the world. Yet, the truth is that many of them are ignorant of the mysteries of the kingdom of Christ. The princes of this world (whether princes in knowledge or in power and greatness) do not know those mysteries. Had they known them they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). When the apostle Paul says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man understood the things that God has prepared for them that love Him, he is speaking of the kingdom of grace in this world (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

(b) The Secret Means Used in Christ’s Kingdom

Natural reason requires the right means and well-prepared materials for every work. But the apostles were neither noble nor learned, but poor and simple.  The world altogether unprepared to receive them, it was at that time (as much as at any time before or since) full of learning, power, and politics. Yet they went on, subduing, conquering and bringing everything to the obedience of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(c) The Secret Laws of Christ’s Kingdom

The laws of this kingdom were:

  • instead of revenge – love your enemies;
  • instead of lust – do not look on a woman to lust after her;
  • instead of covetousness – forsake all;
  • instead of ambition – deny yourselves.

Yet these supernatural laws, by the Spirit and power of the great law-giver, were established and written in the tables of men’s hearts. The promises of reward were not worldly pleasures or ease, but let everyone take up their cross and follow me.

(d) The Secret Wisdom of Christ’s Kingdom

Everything in this kingdom is above the reach of natural reason. The spiritual man, however, by a new faculty created by God, knows the deep things of God and judges all things (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Some theologians have observed seven things in the sufferings of Christ that are altogether contrary to the reason of the natural man:

  • the greatest impotence and weakness in Him who was omnipotent;
  • the greatest suffering in Him that was impassible [incapable of suffering]
  • the greatest foolishness (according to the judgement of men) in the deepest wisdom;
  • the greatest poverty in the God of all riches;
  • the greatest shame in the greatest glory and majesty;
  • the greatest forsaking in the most perfect union;
  • the greatest severity of the Father against His Son in the greatest love of the Father to the Son, in the very time of His suffering.

Many more things might be added in the administration of the kingdom of Christ after His ascension into heaven. This might be observed both at the first planting of the gospel in the earliest times and in the time of the Reformation of religion in various kingdoms and nations.

If we will acquaint ourselves with the secrets of the gospel and the way the kingdom of Christ progresses, we seem to be transported and carried to another world.  We are forced to acknowledge and confess to the glory of God, that flesh and blood cannot reveal these things to us.

 

2. Join Christ’s Kingdom

When the Lord has opened the eyes of our understanding to behold something of the secrets of this spiritual kingdom, we are to join ourselves to it and become the subjects of Jesus Christ.

(a) Acknowledge Your Natural State

We must first know our condition by nature, we are all by nature subjects (slaves indeed) to the kingdom of sin and Satan.

(b) Acknowledge Christ as King

Acknowledge Christ to be king and Lord of His people, putting our confidence in Him because He has all sufficiency for life, liberty, salvation and every good thing. We ought to seek to feel the kingdom of God within us and His sceptre set up in our souls which were formerly tyrannised over by strange lords.

(c) Submit to Christ’s Will

We must submit ourselves in all humility and obedience to do His will. His subjects are a willing people or a people of willingness (Psalm 110:3). If every one of us had many wills, we ought to sacrifice them all in a willingness to serve Him. If we would consider what we are without Him, what we may be through Him we would willingly offer ourselves in this day of His power.

 

3. Advance Christ’s Kingdom

We must all be zealous in using all good means (according to our abilities) to advance and establish the kingdom of Christ. Beware of selfishness, indifference, division, procrastination, discouragements, imprudence, and inconstancy. Give yourselves to sincerity, zeal, unity, diligence, selflessness, prudence, and perseverance. Thus you may be the choice and blessed means used by God to establish the kingdom of His Son, our Saviour in the land.

 

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The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
27 Jan, 2017

This is the most rare and excellent jewel and the richest treasure ever yet heard of. It surpasses our capacity and understanding more than anything. If we had it, we would be guarded and kept by it in our hearts and minds. We would be guarded against all the fears and discouragements that encompass our souls like many enemies. Of all things, this is the very thing of which we have greatest need at such a time as this. It is the thing that can keep us best in all troubles. This treasure is a unique God-given peace that passes “all understanding”.

This is how Alexander Henderson describes the peace of God in a sermon on Philippians 4:6-7. While we may gain a full knowledge of the world with our intellect and understanding, we cannot do so with this peace of God, for it passes all understanding. If we get this peace of God, it will be a strong guard against all our enemies, both outward and inward. We have all this through Jesus Christ.

1. What Robs Us Of the Richest Treasure?

Henderson observes that Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we may obtain this peace. First, Paul tells us what we should not do: be anxious or “careful”. Anxiety is forbidden. He also makes clear what we should do, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. Finally, we have the promise the result of this (if we do it in the right way) will be that this all-surpassing peace of God will “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

Henderson makes it clear that when anxiety robs us of this richest treasure when we fail to commit the outcome of all events to the Lord. This doesn’t mean we should be careless about everything. We should rest in doing our duty. We must make careful plans and think carefully about what we ought to do. Yet we must not to be overwhelmed with worries and cares about the outcome of events. Rather, we must let our requests be made known to God by supplications with thanksgiving. When we do this, we may be secure, having this peace of God through Jesus Christ.

Henderson indicates that some of the main worries that concern us are regarding our nation: what will become of it? Others are concerned for their families and livelihoods. We may also have personal concerns for our own spiritual wellbeing.

2. What Helps Us Gain the Richest Treasure?

Prayer is also commanded. The best way for us to unburden ourselves of our anxiety about the success of anything and to commit the matter to God is to pray to God and join thanksgiving with prayer. Those who cannot unburden their anxieties on God are most unhappy.

(a) Pray

When God is beginning to do anything about which you ought to have concern then He is calling you to pray to Him and cast the burden off ourselves onto Himself. If we could learn to do so it would bring comfort. It is a pitiful thing to see men worn out in sorrow and in the depths of affliction and not to know so much as that there is a God to pray to, or that He is thus calling them to pray to Him. The natural man has no mind at all to pray; but the child of God should not do so.

Let us learn always to come to God and to make Him our resting-place. Let us always lift up our faces toward heaven to Him; for He is our King, our Lord, and our Husband. If we cast our care upon Him, He will care for us. Indeed, He must care for us if we rely on Him, for He is obliged to do so.

Surely, when we do not know what course to take or what to do but we see everything to be against us, then let us send up that winged messenger of prayer to heaven. It will not fail to bring help to us.

(b) Pray with Thanksgiving

There are three ways in which thanksgiving must be joined with prayer.

1. Thanksgiving for favours in the past. Everyone knows they are bound to thank Him for these. Otherwise it is evidence that we are altogether unfit and unprepared for prayer.

2. Thanksgiving for favours in the present. He who sets himself to pray in the Spirit, before
he has finished praying will find reasons for thanksgiving to God for some favour received at that time received. David begins many Psalms with many heavy and sad complaints but he ends many of them with joy, praises, and thanksgiving to God. This was not for things received in the past but for something received by him at that time.  Thanksgiving for present favour shows that our prayers are not mere lip-labour.

3. Thanksgiving for favours in the future. We should at least promise thanksgiving to Him for the benefits that we are to receive. If not it is evidence that our prayers are nothing else but hypocrisy.

Therefore, if you are praying to God for good success in your own particular concerns (including in the matter of your salvation or benefiting from the means of grace) or are praying for a blessing on Church and nation, let it still be joined with thanksgiving.

(c) Pray in Everything

Before, he said “be careful for nothing.” Now, he says, ” In everything let your requests be made known to God.” One is contrary to the other; one speaks of nothing, the other of everything. One is of the same extent as the other. Christ will have us to be concerned about the smallest thing but to know that it is He principally who cares for it, for us. He will have us show our care by praying to Him for it. If it is a great matter that you stand in need of, then recommend the matter to God, and resolve that you will wait on Him for the success. I will only do the duty that the Lord requires of me, indeed, I will not leave off doing my duty until it is done, even in the smallest matters.

Luther would never have achieved the Reformation he did, if he had not laid this foundation. He uttered speeches to that same purpose. Some thought that they were uttered rashly and unadvisedly, but he spoke them in confidence and boldly. On one occasion he said: ‘The Pope will sooner be converted, and turn from his ways than I will quit this’.

If you are troubled about the success of small matters, consider that God is directly calling on you to recommend the matter to Him by prayer. Do your duty in it, and recommend the success of it to God. Thus you will find the peace of God possessing your soul.

O if we knew this, what a communion there is between God and the Christian soul! They cry to him, ‘Abba, father, my father’. The child will not cry more to the father or mother than when it wants to have anything from them or when anything troubles them. We should see a continual necessity laid on us of elevating our souls to God in prayer.

(d) Pray, Making Your Requests Known to God

We cannot inform Him any better concerning our condition than He knows already. Neither can we move Him to grant us anything which he did not intend to give us before. But Scripture speaks about God in this way because the Lord has ordained us to use this means of prayer as though we were to inform Him of our case, or move Him to grant anything to us. We should be as diligent in prayer as if it were so. God’s promise and decree that He will do us good should not discourage but rather encourage us to pray.

Some object that if the Lord has resolved to do anything He will do it whether I pray to Him or not. That is true, so He will. But when we see the Lord working for us, we must go out and meet Him. If He has ordained any good thing for you, He will likely stir you up to cry to Him for it.

3. Can We Estimate the Value of the Richest Treasure?

This peace of God transcends the ability of the mind, judgment and understanding of all men to comprehend it. It is the most excellent thing possible. None can trouble those with whom the Lord is at peace. We may say that we will have peace, but unless the Lord grant it unto us, we will not get it ; and therefore we may not trust in man, nor in the arm of flesh, to get peace by them; but we must only trust in God for it.

The natural man knows nothing at all of this peace. If you speak about this peace, faith (the mother of this peace) and joy (its companion), it is a foreign language to him. He cannot conceive of what it means. This peace also passes the understanding of the regenerate man and the child of God even after his new birth. He comprehends something of this peace and it brings him to consider what it is, but yet he cannot tell what it is, for all that.

When a man comes to the sea, he knows that what he sees it is the sea even though he cannot see the whole sea from the one side to the other. This is like God Himself, it may be seen that He is great, glorious, wise, powerful etc. but none can tell how much He has of every one of these attributes. When the child of God gets any measure of this peace, he cannot imagine what he has got of it, it is so far beyond his expectation. No one understands this peace of God, not even those who have it.

They cannot express it, but they know well enough when they have this peace. If you ask anyone what bodily health is, perhaps he cannot tell you what it is or how great a benefit it is. He knows well enough when he lacks it, however, and then he knows its worth best. It is the same with the peace of God in the soul.

Peace of Conscience

There is also a peace that comes through the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. We get this also through Jesus Christ. There is a peace also when all the powers of our soul are in harmony to serve God. We have this through Jesus Christ also. We must therefore first of all be partakers of Christ, and then we will assuredly be partakers of this peace.

Something of this peace is to be had even here in this life. Seek after it and never content or at rest until you get it in some good measure. If this peace had not begun in your soul, still seek after it through Christ and you will find that it comes in to take possession of your souls.

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What’s Missing from Your Home?

What’s Missing from Your Home?

What’s Missing from Your Home?
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
5 Nov, 2015

What’s missing from this photograph?

The answer is of course – handheld technology. Eric Pickersgill has deliberately removed smart phones from a series of photographs. Meanwhile, those in the photographs are posed as though still using them. The intention is to demonstrate visually how unreal our lives can look when we are joined to these devices.

It arose from the experience of being near a family in a café who were disconnected from interacting due to their devices. He says: “I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience”. There are of course benefits to technology. Perhaps it helps to connect and coordinate family members and their activities. In some cases, parents may read together with their children in a new way and share other interests together. Parents may have more time for their family if technology can be used to work in a more flexible way. These positives can also turn into opposite negatives, however. It is not the technology but rather how we choose to use it.

 

1. Missing the Main Thing

What is missing in the photograph? More than devices. Conversation, full attention, personal interest, family interaction etc. The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes. That is interacting about spiritual things. In the past, this was called family religion. It didn’t just mean saying grace before meals and going to Church. It meant the type of interaction that we read of in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. This is clearly natural interaction as part of family life. Spiritual realities are to have a powerful impact in our homes. This can only happen as it is made clear that technology and all other things must take a second place to the things of God.

 

2. God-centred Homes

Perhaps we should speak about a God-centred family more than family religion. This is what Joshua meant when he said “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It should become natural that questions are asked and answered and discussion takes place. This can arise informally because it takes place regularly when the family worships God together. In these activities, we have a golden opportunity to communicate together in a meaningful way about the most important matters.

Why is family religion important? Because it shapes the lifelong attitude that children will have in relation to spiritual things. They take this with them where they go, whether in the life of the Church or of society. It brings the whole of life into an eternal and Godward perspective. George Whitefield believed that the spirituality of the early church could never be revived unless there was a revival of family religion. No wonder the Puritan Richard Baxter strongly exhorted ministers on this subject. He said: “if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion”.

 

3. Authentic Religion

Family Religion is our faith made real. It is easy to attend Church and engage in public and outward acts. Living out our faith in the everyday warp and woof of life is more challenging. Spiritual realities are made a vital part of life by family religion.

Family religion was one of the foundations laid by the Second Reformation in Scotland. Everything possible was done to encourage it. Family Worship draws on a guide produced by Alexander Henderson. In it he outlines what family religion should look like. Many writers describe it in terms of family instruction, worship and discipline (where required). Henderson’s definition goes wider.

The main matter he emphasises more than others is providence. In other words, teaching children how to understand and respond to the events of life. These may be blessings or difficulties requiring thanksgiving or earnest prayer. Our world is full of sad calamities personal and public. Our society does not know how best to deal with them. Certainly not in a way that is God-centred. There can be great outpourings of grief which people try to express in any way they think best. Children should be given an example of how to respond to these things in a God-honouring way.

1. Teaching or Catechising.

It is not enough that members of the family are catechised at Church. They must also be instructed in a plain and simple way at home. This will include the basic principles of Christianity and the doctrine which is according to godliness.

 

2. Prayer and thanksgiving

Morning and evening, before and after meals together with psalm-singing where possible.

 

3. Discipline exercised with wisdom and patience.

This is necessary for practising godliness. There must be warning, reproof and correction for faults that are appropriately dealt with in the family. For this reason the head ought to observe diligently the ways of all within the family.

 

4. Observing the providence of God.

We must learn about God from His works of justice and mercy both past and present.

 

5. Private fasting and humbling ourselves in response to God’s call in providence.

This may arise from public calamities or the private distress of the family.  The Scriptures read and the prayers poured out at this time must be relevant to the situation. Such duties help in abasing ourselves and strengthening our faith.

 

Whatever else may be missing from you home, it is vital for the glory of God and the good of your children that family religion prevails.

RELATED ARTICLE

This is the spirit of prayer that animated those who prayed for the Second Reformation to come in Scotland as a spiritual revival (read more about Scotland’s Greatest Revival).

How does it compare to prayer as we know it? As Thomas Watson put it: our prayers do not need eloquence but violence.

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