Who Knows What Blessings Repentance May Bring?

Who Knows What Blessings Repentance May Bring?

Who Knows What Blessings Repentance May Bring?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
26 Sep, 2019

​Our troubles just keep increasing as a nation. Conflict is everywhere you look, even between the critical institutions within the fabric of our society. Indeed, that’s true of many other nations too and their political crises. Why is that happening? Could it be that God is leaving us to the consequences of our national sins? If that’s the case then the solution will not be found in anything else except repentance. This is where the hope lies, there is mercy in God exposing our sin. The judgment of God is a call for us to return to Him.

Scripture has a lot to say about nations overcome by sin, error and judgment–other nations as well as Israel. In Joel chapter 2, the Lord calls on Israel to make right use of the warning He gives about the judgment they can expect. He does this with two exhortations. They should engage in sincere repentance and humbled themselves through fasting and unfeigned sorrow (Joel 2:12. They must also strive to have their spirit afflicted for sin more than performing outward actions out of pretence (v. 13). The reason given to encourage them to repentance is that God is merciful and gracious and not easily provoked (Joel 2:13.). He is rich in kindness and ready not to carry out His threatenings when there is repentance.

Since God is gracious in Himself, He may avert the judgement so that the people will survive. Who knows but that He may “leave a blessing behind him” (see Jonah 3:9 and Zephaniah 2:3) if there is repentance? George Hutcheson reflects on the significance of these verses in the following updated extract.

 

1. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE TO LEAD US TO REPENTANCE

No matter how much terror there may be about feared or felt judgements, it is all pointless if it does not stir people up to repentance. Those who are in such a condition and yet do not repent must be mad. After all the warning of judgment on the nation they are called to this as the only remedy and way to be delivered. If they are seriously affected with their condition, they cannot but take this seriously. God calls on them to “turn” (Joel 2:12; see Psalm 106:44 and Jeremiah 31:18- 20).

 

2. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE INVITATIONS

When God threatens most severely, He is still inviting us to repentance by judgements and warnings. He is willing to accept repentance. The same Lord who threatens, exhorts with the word “therefore” to show the connection with the judgment previously warned of (Joel 2:12).

Those who have abused God’s patience for so long that the situation seems without remedy should not think that repentance is now too late. Judgment may be imminent, but it is still good to engage in repentance. It will do good however matters turn out. Even though they were in this sad plight, God calls on them to repent.

Those who take repentance seriously (especially when God declares Himself angry) must not delay engaging in it. This is implied in God emphasising the word “now” in calling them to “turn” (Joel 2:12).

Those who are humbled by God’s judgements may have doubts that their repentance will not be accepted. But God issues an invitation to such in His name, to remove all doubts. He expressly states that this is said by the Lord (Joel 2:12).

 

3. GOD’S JUDGMENTS CALL FOR TRUE REPENTANCE

Repentance for particular sins in response to judgment will not be acceptable as long as there is no conversion to God. There must be a change of state by regeneration.

In turning to God they must beware of being pretended. They must strive to be sincere even though they cannot achieve perfection.  The call to turn with all their heart is a gospel call.

They must seek to be deeply affected for past sin which has brought these judgments. They should prove this by sorrow and humbling themselves (Joel 2:12). Such repentance should not be passed over lightly. The heart should be broken for sin (Psalm 51:17).

We are prone to hypocrisy and ought to beware of playing with God even when we are in greatest distress. They are therefore told to rend their hearts and not their garments (Joel 2:13). God is not pleased with mere outward signs of repentance.

 

4. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE GRACIOUS

God’s graciousness, compassion and readiness to show undeserved mercy assures those who truly repent of acceptance. Seriously reflecting on this may invite sinners to engage in repentance with hope. He “is gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:14). God’s long forbearance, waiting sinners to repent before He judges proves that He is willing to embrace those who repent. He is slow to anger. The Lord’s people are dealing with One who so delights in mercy and is so affected with their distress that He is willing to draw back from judgment if they repent (Joel 2:13).

 

5. GOD’S JUDGMENTS POINT US TO HIMSELF

Those who truly repent have their hope fixed on God alone. They are focussed on God’s turning and change–not their own turning and repentance.

 

6. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE NOT JUDGMENTS TO THOSE WHO TRULY REPENT

God will mitigate His judgments to those who repent, so that at the very least they are turned into fatherly chastisements. Repentance will not always keep away judgment when sin has come to a great height (calling on God to vindicate His glory in punishing it). Neither will it prevent judgment when God wants us to be stirred up to even more repentance. God may increase the concern, diligence and humility of those who repent by keeping them in suspense. This is the reason for the question as to whether He will return and leave a blessing behind Him (Joel 2:14).

7. GOD’S JUDGMENTS DO NOT HINDER HIS BLESSING

No uncertainty about this should discourage us from repentance. However things may go we are in God’s way for attaining blessing for good when we repent. The question as to who knows if God will leave a blessing is therefore an encouragement to repent.

When God is judging a nation, it does not hinder Him blessing those who repent. There may be rich mercies waiting for them, both in the time of affliction to help them survive and afterwards, to rebuild them up. For there is hope that upon repentance, God will leave a blessing behind Him (Joel 2:14).

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Hope During Desperate Times is a book that provides encouragement despite being realistic about the times in which we live. It's spiritual counsel remains as relevant today as ever in our own challenging context.

It is published by Reformation Press and is highly recommended.

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The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
30 Aug, 2019

Two high-profile professing Christians recently announced that they had lost or were losing their faith. As well as great sadness it should prompt serious questions. Some of those questions might be about evangelical celebrity culture and image. Are people sometimes catapulted to a position beyond their spiritual maturity? Are we socialising people into the faith rather than discipling them? Other questions might relate to whether evangelicalism is prioritising feelings over objective truth. What is being taught? Are unsettling and hard questions about truth being passed over in silence? These are all valid questions but first we need to focus on some that are extremely personal to ourselves.

One recent reflection considers not so much what those leaving the faith say as what they don’t say. There is an absence of mention of Jesus Christ in their announcements. This speaks volumes because it is everything in true religion. We read something similar in John 6:66, when many went back and left Christ’s teaching. They were leaving Him and no longer walking with Him. What we think of Christ’s teaching is one test of the reality of our profession. They did not find in Christ what they expected.  In this updated extract from an exposition of John 6:66-69, George Hutcheson draws attention to the questions that arise when others leave the faith. It shows that Scripture tells us to expect times of trial when people abandon the profession they have made.

1. What Does Leaving Christ Imply?

It is the duty of all professing Christians to maintain fellowship with Christ and converse with Him. They must confess Him publicly in the midst of a rebellious generation. Without this, the greatest pretence of secret friendship is of no avail (John 12:42-43). Thus, when people abandon this and do not attend the ordained means as previously, it is an undeniable sign of woeful apostasy, whatever they pretend to be. It was proof of their apostasy who walked no more with Christ that they did not publicly confess Him nor attend His ministry any longer (John 6:66).

2. Would We Leave Christ Too?

When many are defecting from Christ it may shake even the soundest so much that they will need warning and to be strengthened. Therefore, Christ asks if they also would go away (John 6:67). Even the godly have seeds of the same evils which draw others away. An evil example can have very great force, especially when it is widespread. Sin is very infectious, especially when it is maintained with plausible pretexts. It is no wonder therefore if some people are in danger in such a situation. Besides the guilt of their own defection, backsliders are guilty of weakening others.

In one sense Christ does not have an absolute, essential need of any followers, neither does He need to be anxious though everyone would forsake Him. But He still goes to considerable effort to confirm and keep those who are His own. This is why He deals with the twelve disciples in this way, asking a question that will establish them further. However many there may be who defect from Christ and think little of His company, some of a different stamp will still be found. We see this here in Peter (John 6:68).

3. To Whom Else Can We Go?

Since the fall we are so empty and poor that we must have something outside of ourselves to delight and rest in for happiness. If we do not choose Christ, we will put something else in His place. Peter’s question implies that if they went away from Christ, they must go to someone else.

Those who are minded to abandon Christ need to consider first where they will get a better master. If they will change Him, they will surely change for the worse. Nothing better can be found elsewhere. True disciples who know Christ’s unique excellence cannot endure to hear of any separation from Him. Peter’s question implies his abhorrence of going away from such a Lord to any other. All who seek to truly walk with Christ, should strive to learn to know Him to be the best and most excellent of choices.

4. What Do We Believe About Christ?

It is the duty of those who truly profess Christ to stick closely to all truth. In particular they must avow all the truths being opposed in their time; however important they may be. Besides confessing the excellence of Christ’s teaching Peter also confesses His person and office as Messiah. These were the truths being opposed then. They are fundamental truths, but they were reckoned small by those who opposed them.

The more we know of Christ, the more ties we will find binding us to Him which will preserve us from defecting from Him. In particular, the true knowledge of His office and person help us stick fast to Him no matter who may forsake Him.

Christ is the only true Messiah promised to the fathers and appointed by the Father to exercise the office of a king, priest and prophet to His Church. He is anointed with the Spirit without measure for this purpose. His people can expect benefits from all of this, to have fellowship with Him and receive of His fulness. This ought and will make Christ dear to all true disciples.

Christ is the Son of the living God having the same essence by eternal generation. He is therefore able to fulfil all that is required of Him and to give infinite worth to His sufferings. He has received a fountain of life from the Father and can produce and preserve life in His people. All this is implied in His being the Son of the living God.

Mere intellectual knowledge about Christ is not enough in itself to tie our hearts to Him. We must embrace what we know by faith. Peter confesses Christ and this is the reason why he will not go away. When the truth of Christ is confessed on the basis of a resolution to go to no one else it is an act of saving faith. Firm faith in the person and office of Christ, receiving and resting on Him is saving faith in operation. Mere reason does not take to do with the mysteries concerning Christ’s person, incarnation, and offices. Faith must receive them on the basis of divine revelation. Peter therefore says, “we believe and are sure”.

5. Where Else Can We Have Eternal Life?

Those who seek to stand fast in times of defection should have frequent thoughts of eternity. They should think of the life that is stored up there for those who are truly Christ’s. Peter fixes his eye on eternal life, what leads to that and where it may be found.

The doctrine of Christ and of the gospel is the only teaching of eternal life. It not only manifests and brings to light that there is an eternal life. It also offers it and shows the only way to receive it. It is the means of regeneration and producing faith. When embraced it gives a right to eternal life and its first fruits until full possession is reached.

Christ teaching rises above the teaching of all the philosophers as well as the corrupted religious teaching doctrine of the times in which Christ lived. It even rises above the law of Moses when asserted in opposition to Him or without Him.

Those who are seriously about eternal life will cleave to the true doctrine that leads to it. They will not abandon it nor its messengers. Not even in times of greatest defection. The disciples will not leave him, not only because He is the Messiah, but because He has the words of eternal life.

Christ not only the one who taught eternal life with His own authority and power in the days of his flesh. He is the one who has purchased this gospel and gives commission to all that preach it. He makes them effectual as the power of God to salvation.

Conclusion

In contrast to those who leave the faith, our resolve should be to “consider Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). “Looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) is the essence of all of the happiness and duty of the Christian. We should not make it anything less. We should not merely socialise people in Christian things but seek that they would be firmly established in “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). It is evident that we have been savingly united to Christ when we hold fast to Him to the end (Hebrews 3:14). We are to hold fast our profession against the opposition that the world, the flesh and the devil make against Him. Christ gives us no reason to throw away our confidence in Him and receiving eternal life through Him alone (Hebrews 10:35).

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Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
1 Jun, 2019

Happiness research and the science of happiness has apparent growing influence. Behavioral scientist Paul Dolan hit the headlines with controversial pronouncements on whether family and happiness go together. He defines and measures happiness in terms of “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time”. He says this is “the final arbiter of the rightness of what you do” not “moral judgements based on ill-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong”. It’s no great surprise since in a fallen world feeling good is frequently divorced from doing good. Temptation seeks to maximise “the pleasures of sin” which last only for “a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But true happiness is both objective and moral because it is God-centred. This is what makes it so hard to find; we look for it in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

Everyone seeks happiness. But true and objective happiness can only be found in God not subjective pleasure divorced from God. Our purpose is to glorify God in all things and He is also to be our highest enjoyment. Older writers thought a lot about this subject. Thomas Watson says, “It is not every good that makes man blessed, but it must be the supreme good, and that is God”. William Ames also sums up the objective and moral nature of happiness particularly well. “What chiefly and finally ought to be striven for is not happiness which has to do with our own pleasure, but goodness which looks to God’s glory”.

This is obvious when we consider the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 He pronounces many conditions to be happy which are not connected with the sort of pleasure and purpose most people seek. Those 8 rules of happiness go entirely against the grain. In John 13:15-17 Christ is explaining the example He has given in washing the disciples feet. He teaches them about true humility and love in serving one another. The very succinct promise contained in John 13:17 makes obedience fundamental to true happiness. He makes it clear that He is not content with a bare speculative knowledge about humble obedience.  We must “know these things” or be sufficiently informed of our duty in relation to them. But we are only blessed and “happy” if we “do them”. True happiness is hard to find because we look for it in the wrong way. Humbling ourselves and putting what we know into practice is hard. George Hutcheson draws out the implications of John 13:17 in the following updated extract.

 

1. Ignorance is Not Bliss

Christ does not approve of blind ignorance in His people, whatever their practice or life may be. He requires them to base their practice on sound and solid knowledge of His will.  He requires that they know these things, and then do them. People can remain very slow to understand when much effort has been taken to instill knowledge of our duty. This may be through weakness or carelessness or being influenced by sinful inclination and earthly mindedness.

Christ’s emphasis on “if” you know these things, presupposes that knowledge must go before practice. But it may also imply some doubt as to whether they were capable of understanding this teaching. They were so carried away with earthly dreams of the Messiah’s kingdom that they could not understand clear predictions of His sufferings (Luke 18:31-34). It would be no wonder if their sinful rivalry also hid this teaching (about humility and mutual service) from themselves.

 

2. Knowledge Alone Will Not Lead to Happiness

The Lord does not approves of those who are content with mere knowledge and speculation in matters of religion. It is His will that when we know our duty, we put it into practice. Our practice then proves the sincerity and soundness of our knowledge. If we know these things and do them then we prove that we really do know them (see James 1:22-25).

In particular, the Lord requires the practice of humility. This is the test of whether we are genuine. It is not what mere knowledge we have of this teaching–though it may be appealing to contemplate it. The test is how we put it into practice in particular demanding situations. This is because it is more distasteful and trying to do this compared with merely contemplating the truth. Christ requires that practice follows on from knowledge in this particular matter.

This teaching about humility and mutual accommodation is very comprehensive. It contains many duties in itself which are required in a variety of situations and demanding circumstances.· Therefore Christ speak of what is understood by washing one another’s feet (John 13:14) as things (plural). We must know these things, and do them.

 

3. Obedience and Humility Contain Happiness

Although our obedience and practice deserves nothing, it still contains a blessing in itself. It is the way to such rich blessedness, that it compensate for all loss and disadvantage. This is Christ’s encouragement, we are happy if we do these things.

Although the humble person who accommodates themselves to serve others might seem to lose much in the world by doing so; blessedness makes up any loss. Attaining the practice of humility is blessedness in itself. It hides a person from many storms and much discontentment that sweep others away. It is said that we are happy if we do these things.

 

4. Lack of Obedience Leads to Misery

Proud people are so far from blessedness, that they are under a curse; especially if they know their duty and will not do it. This statement necessarily implies the opposite reality. If you know these things and do not do them, you are not blessed but cursed because it is a sinful omission (see James 4:17; Psalm 119:21).

 

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ turns many of our ideas about happiness upside down. Happiness lies more in seeking to please God and others than in pursuing moments of pleasure for ourselves. There is a simplicity in His teaching; it is not so much hard to grasp as hard to practice. The great challenge to us is whether we are prepared to humble and deny ourselves to follow His counsel.

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The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic

The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic

The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
7 Dec, 2018

It’s the Word of the Year–”toxic”. Every year Oxford Dictionaries choose a word or expression to reflect the passing year in language. Their data shows that people used the term to describe a broad range of situations. Things like workplaces, schools, relationships, cultures, and stress. It’s commonly used about political debate and rhetoric, of course. “Reviewing this year in language, we repeatedly encountered the word ‘toxic’ being used to describe an increasing set of conditions that we’re all facing…‘toxic’ seems to reflect a growing sense of how extreme, and at times radioactive, we feel aspects of modern life have become”. Why is this and what is the remedy?

Toxic is defined as “poisonous” and this is the origin of the word. In the Bible it’s often used to describe sin and its effects. In particular tongue operated by sin is untameable and “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 58:4). Poisonous effects are inevitable as sin grows unchecked and dominates the lives of individuals and communities.

It was the same in Israel when it was rebelling against God; the human heart is the same. In the time of Hosea, society had become toxic in the nation of Israel. There were many words but they were empty words. There were promises and agreements but they were deceitful and quickly broken. “They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant”. They had also broken faith with God in their religious profession; their words could not be trusted in this. God was going to judge them in leaving their sins to go unrestrained. Hosea uses a picture to describe the effects of this. It is like poisonous hemlock taking over and springing up in the furrows of the field rather than wheat (Hosea 10:4). They were overrun with the poisonous effects of their sin.

George Hutcheson comments on this. They used empty words and false oaths in their agreements both with God and men. They kept none of them and so judgment was springing up “as hemlock”. Due to their corruption and unfaithfulness the bitter and deadly fruits of unrighteousness rather than justice were springing up throughout the land. It is a sad picture but later in the chapter we have the remedy for it in repentance and faith towards God and His blessing. This is what our toxic world needs.

 

1. Why Things Become Toxic

(a) Empty Words

God cannot endure the empty words and professions of men, whether in religion or in their private dealings. It was said of Israel, they “have spoken words” – mere words.

(b) Trust Has Disappeared

Wicked men’s oaths and covenants with God or men are no more to be trusted than their words. It is the cause of sad dispute when it is so. This charge is added to the previous one: “swearing falsely in making a covenant” (see also Leviticus 26:25; Ezekiel 17:15; Psalm 15:4).

(c) Lack of Trust Leads to All Unrighteousness

When there is such hypocrisy and deception in making no conscience of oaths and covenants a people are ripe for all unrighteousness. They will be given up to produce so much of the fruits of unrighteousness that it will be bitter and deadly to the oppressed. God will also reckon it bitter and intolerable. Judgment springs up like hemlock in its nature and abundance.

(d) God Sees Beyond Outward Appearances

False and pretended professions and appearances cannot hide the true nature of sin from the all-seeing eye of God.   He uses means intended to make a people righteous, but this makes their unrighteousness appear all the more loathsome. Israel may well have seemed to make an outward profession and make efforts to bring forth good and righteous fruit (like a farmer ploughs a field).  God had provided means for this (like a field which is fertilised). But instead judgment was springing up like hemlock in the very furrows of the field and not just the waste ground.

 

2. The Remedy for a Toxic Condition

The remedy for this is mentioned later in the chapter at verse 12. It continues to use the metaphor of sowing a field but this time it holds out the promise of a true yield. They are told: “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you”. This is an exhortation to repentance and reformation. They are to sow the fruits of righteousness with the promise that they will reap the fruits of mercy. They are to break up and fertilise the hard and wild ground of their heart. This would show their true repentance. He promises to forgive their sins and clothe them with Christ’s righteousness.

(a) God’s Most Severe Threats are Calls to Repentance

When the Lord is most severe in threatening we must consider it to be an exhortation to repentance with implied promises. If they were to heed this, who knows what mercy would make of the worst person or people in the world?

(b) The Fruits of Righteousness are Evidence of Repentance

The fruits of righteousness in relation to the second half of the Ten Commandments are the true evidences of repentance and conversion to God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why He requires sowing in righteousness, or the duties of righteousness. It is not as if this righteousness summed up the whole of their conversion, but simply its evidences and fruits.

(c) God Requires Diligence in Repentance

Their duty is expressed using terms taken from the hard labours of farming, particularly sowing.  In sowing famers must wait for the reward of their labour and those who repent must be content to wait on God for the blessing (see Psalm 97:11; James 5:7).

(d) God Requires Repentance for Our Benefit

God does not seek obedience because He needs it. The benefit is for those who repent: “sow to yourselves”, He says.

(e) The Harvest of Righteousness May be Delayed

Righteousness may seem to be long forgotten and lost, lying like seed under the earth. In due time, however, it will bring a blessed harvest of grace. He says, “sow” and “reap” (see Psalm 126:6; Galatians 6:9).

(f) Those Who are Truly Righteous Depend on Mercy Alone

Those who truly walk in righteousness flee to Christ in the Covenant of Grace and draw strength from Him for new obedience. They look only to Gods mercy and not their own worth. They expect to “reap in mercy”.

(g) We Need A New Nature to Produce Righteousness

We can reap no fruit (despite our diligence) until our hard hearts which are unused to any good are changed and put in a new and fruitful condition. It also says, “break up your fallow ground”. This metaphor is taken from ploughing to teach that their hearts are as wild as land like not used to being ploughed is hard to plough. Greater effort must be taken to humble themselves and repent.

(h) We Must Not Neglect Opportunities to Repent

“It is time to seek the Lord” in view of how long they had neglected or refused to seek God in the past (see 1 Peter 4:3). As long as sinners are preserved and invited to repentance it is still an acceptable time. Such opportunities should not be neglected.

(i) We Must Not Give Up Seeking God

Those who seek God sincerely to enjoy Him will not give up until He comes. They “seek the LORD, till he come”.

(j) God Promises to Pour Out His Blessings

Those who seek the Lord sincerely and constantly will not only find Him, but He will come over all obstacles that they could not get over. He comes and rains righteousness, freely pouring out blessings, refresh them after all their labours in pursuing after Him.

(k) Christ’s Righteousness is the Great Blessing

God will freely refresh His people by fulfilling the promises they wait for. He will fulfil many of them in a shower together. This will make up for long delays. He will refresh them under the shadow of Christ’s righteousness (their greatest hope,) and its rich fruits. He “will rain righteousness upon you” means both His righteousness in faithfully keeping His promise and His imputed and freely given righteousness. This is the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is witnessed to by the law and the prophets (Romans 3:21-22).

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Can True Zeal Learn from Blind Zeal?

Can True Zeal Learn from Blind Zeal?

Can True Zeal Learn from Blind Zeal?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
23 Nov, 2018

Blind zeal is not of course a good thing. It’s not informed by knowledge of the truth (Romans 10:2). It can achieve a lot and go a long way but all in entirely the wrong direction (Galatians 1:14). So what can we possibly learn from it? Well, have you never felt rebuked by the dedication and devotion others have to a false religion or sect? It can be a challenge to our self-satisfied complacency and make us think about true zeal. Shouldn’t the truth make us equally if not more passionate and dedicated? It’s true that blind zeal is often self-directed because it’s about earning salvation. But shouldn’t salvation by faith alone produce true zeal in us (Titus 2:14)? Zeal is important (Galatians 4:18). But does the Bible teach that true zeal can learn from false zeal?

Yes, Micah 4:5 says, “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever”.  Micah seems to point forward to a time under the gospel when converts will seek to renounce all heresies and sects. Instead they will adhere constantly and zealously to God and the profession of the Christian religion. As George Hutcheson notes though, it seems that they will provoke themselves to this by the example of idolaters being steadfast in their ways of false religion. This is evidence of the glory of the Church and provides encouragement for the godly. Israel had various periods of apostasy where they adopted the false religious practices of the heathen nations around them. Here is a promise of a better time when the Church will prove to be constant in the true religion. We live in unsettled and changeable times and there is a great need for being constant. There is false religious zeal in New Atheists and other activists as well as those who profess a false religion. Instead of troubling us, their commitment to a bad cause should be a spur to us in devoting ourselves in the cause of truth.

 

1. True Zeal can Learn Constancy

Constancy in adhering to the true religion is the great glory of a Church. It is  an encouragement to the godly, to whom backslidings are a sad affliction.

 

2. True Zeal can Learn Dependence on God

The Christian profession and religion consists in walking in the name of the Lord. This means professing and practicing according to the revealed rule “the name of the Lord our God”. It means not seeking to be wise above what is written or doing these things in our own strength (1 Samuel 17:45; Psalm 118:11). We will have the encouragement we need from God. The phrase “his name is the same as “the light of the Lord” i.e. light for direction and comfort (Isaiah 2:5; Isaiah 2 is a parallel passage).

 

3. True Zeal can Learn Resolution

Those who seek to walk in these paths and adhere to them should make certain their claim to God by covenant. They ought to be filled with great affection toward their covenant God. To our duty in the right way we need to renew our resolutions and motives frequently. This will maintain our sharpness. Thus, they draw reasons for new resolutions from those that serve idols.

 

4. True Zeal can Learn Constant Perseverance

Eternal resolutions, or resolutions of constant perseverance are fitting for so high a duty as walking in God’s name. There can be no reason for us to be weary in this. The benefits of being constant in it will only appear greater as time goes on and comes to an end. It says “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever”.

 

5. True Zeal Must Expect to See Blind Zeal

Even in the days of the gospel, there are still many who are so blindfolded and deluded they do not see the glory of Christ’s kingdom. Instead, they obstinately follow their idols. It says “all people,” that is, many, “will walk in the name of their god”.

 

6. True Zeal can Learn from Blind Zeal

The Lord’s people should (and by grace will) be far from being unsettled or drawn away by the multitude who forsake the true God. Instead, the steadfastness of idolaters is a motive for those who seek God to renew their own resolutions for greater obedience and faithfulness. Their blind zeal towards that which is no god may teach us our duty towards the true God (see Jeremiah 2:10-11).

You might like to read this blog post next –  Why Zeal and Reformation go together

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Can You Get More Than Heaven?

Can You Get More Than Heaven?

Can You Get More Than Heaven?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
29 Jun, 2018

Perhaps this question doesn’t even make sense to you. You couldn’t get anything greater and more desirable than heaven. It is everlasting blessing. But we don’t mean something better than heaven but something in addition to heaven. In fact something before we get there. There is a common assumption amongst believers that if we are saved then we can relax and nothing more is required. It’s sometimes expressed like this. “Why do you need to bother about anything (in spiritual things) unless it contributes to your salvation?” We must never think that we can do additional things that will earn our salvation. But is there something more that God expects from us in our love to Him? Is there something of great significance we can strive for in this world?

The short answer is, “yes”, and of course there is a lot to explain in relation to that. Perhaps a story will explain best to start with. The field preacher Donald Cargill was told of how he had been criticised by another minister. The other minister was a gospel preacher but not so concerned about avoiding any way in which Christ’s sole headship over the Church might be compromised. The criticism was along these lines. “What’s the need of all this concern about these things? We will get heaven and they will get no more”.  It’s something that people may often express. “Do you think that concern about what Scripture says on this or that subject is going to get you to heaven?” When Cargill heard of this remark, he replied, “Yes, we will get more; we will get God glorified on earth, which is more than heaven.”

The true Christian does not seek just to “be saved” but to glorify God to their utmost. They desire that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If we think that any of God’s truth or requirements are dispensable we are displaying our true attitude to God. As the Lord Jesus Christ taught, if we love Him we will keep His commandments. Our greatest reason for being on this earth is to glorify God.

This is a Christ-like attitude. He could say that He had finished the work God gave Him to do, He had glorified God on the earth (John 17:4). When Cargill got to his execution he was still emphasising this point. “Let never one think he is in the right exercise of true religion, that has not a zeal for God’s public glory”. The public glory of Christ was an important theme – glory in the Church and in society. It is possible for us to glorify God in the secrecy of our hearts. But surely we want to bring as much glory to God as we possibly can, in every way and in every area of life that we can. George Hutcheson comments on the practical application of Christ’s words in John 17:4. While Christ’s work was unique (and we are thankful that it is finished), we can still learn from His obedience.

 

1. Everyone Has a Work to Do

No one is sent into the world to be idle. They have a task and service given to them in relation to their general calling and specific place and position. Jesus Christ Himself had work on earth.

 

2. Our Work Must Aim at God’s Glory

We cannot serve our generation acceptably (nor will God accept any work we do) unless His glory is our chief aim in it. Christ says that He has glorified God in this work.

 

3. We Can Glorify God on Earth

Glorifying God is not something that waits until we come to heaven where we can do it without any interruption. It is to be engaged in on earth where so few consider this work and there are so many difficulties and temptations to divert us from it. It especially commends Christ’s service that it was done on earth.

 

4.  We Want to Glorify God as Much as Possible

Those who have been sincerely aiming to glorify God will still be endeavouring to glorify Him more and more. Christ had glorified God but in John 17:1 He still expresses His aim to glorify God.

 

5. God is Glorified Only by the Work that He Assigns to Us

God is glorified by our work and actions for Him and not by mere profession alone. He gives us our tasks and will only be glorified by what He has assigned to us in our place and position. Christ had a work which God gave Him to do and He glorified God in it.

 

6. We Must Complete the Work Given Us to Do

We must not only begin but also complete the work to the end before we receive a full reward. Christ’s example teaches us this; He said “I have finished the work”.

 

7. It Will Give Peace at Death if We Have Completed Our Work

If we hope to have comfort at the end of our lives and desire to give a testimony to such comfort we ought to make it our chief concern to glorify God. We ought to engage incessantly in His service in our own place and position until we finish our course. Christ has left us an example in this. He sought to be glorified with the Father after His death (verse 5) and has this sweet testimony. He had glorified God on the earth and finished the work given Him to do (see also 2 Timothy 4:7-8 and Isaiah 38:1-3).

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Never Lonely?

Never Lonely?

Never Lonely?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
25 Jan, 2018

An estimated 9 million people across the UK are often or always feeling lonely. This includes young people, older people, parents, carers and the middle aged. In the USA it is estimated at 40% of the adult population. Last week the UK government appointed a minister to tackle the silent epidemic. The Prime Minister said, “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life”. It’s a public health problem, a better predictor of early death than obesity and smoking. Why is it increasing? Family breakdown, living further away from friends and family, living alone, passive recreation, lack of meaningful interaction at work–these are just some of the causes. What help can we draw from God’s Word about loneliness?

​The Bible speaks about this problem from the very beginning (Genesis 2:18). Even though Adam had an all-sufficient Creator to delight in, God recognised this need. As soon as sin entered it brought a form of separation into the bond God had formed between Adam and Eve as well as their relationship to God Himself. Sin creates this distance,sanctification ought to include overcoming it by loving our neighbour as ourselves and stirring up others to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). The Christian life is a shared life (Romans 14:7).

Christ Himself speaks of loneliness. He was the only sinless person in a world of sin, would that not be lonely? His family did not believe in Him, His disciples struggled to understand who He was. His message was mostly rejected. In the time of His greatest trial, He was abandoned by His friends, they would not even pray for and with Him. “A man of sorrows”, He had to cry out from unimaginable depths of soul suffering that God had forsaken Him.

There is a difference of course between being alone and being lonely. Christ was able to embrace and use the blessing of solitude for spiritual purposes (Luke 5:16). He could also say that though He was left alone by everyone in this world yet He was not alone. He had the constant presence of the Father (John 16:32). We ought to be able to say that too, resting on God’s unfailing promise (Hebrew 13:5). In one sense we need never be lonely and we are never alone.

George Hutcheson brings out the significance of Christ’s words in John 16:31-32. The disciples were professing their faith loudly but an hour of trial and suffering was coming which would try their faith. The disciples would be scattered and be isolated from each other, Christ Himself would be left alone too but not truly alone for the Father would be with Him.

The disciples abandoned Christ because of their sinful confidence in the flesh. They asserted the strength of their faith but did not consider how it might be tried. They were going to be scattered. Scattering and the disintegration of companies of God’s people, is one of the sad fruits of persecution. There is much we can learn from the Saviour’s words.

 

1. Selfish Isolation in the Time of Trial is Sinful

This “scattering” is our sin and weakness as well as our our affliction. Trouble and danger make us selfish and seek to look after ourselves, little considering the danger of Christ’s cause. This is the effect of their presumptuous  self-confidence. They would be “scattered” each “to his own”. This does not just mean that they would go to their own home as they did afterwards. It also means them looking out for themselves while they “leave” their Master “alone”.

 

2. Those Who Suffer May Need to Do So Alone

Part of the trial of true sufferers may be that they are deserted in their sharpest conflicts. They may be deserted not just by those who make professions, but have real honesty. They may be left in the gap there alone. Christ has paved the way in this, He was left alone. Although no-one could join with Him in enduring the sufferings by which He redeemed His people (indeed He was careful to exempt them John 18:8) yet it was a trial to Him to be left alone in this way.

 

3. Christ Will Stand for the Truth No Matter Who Deserts it

Never mind how many desert Christ and His truth, He will still own and stand for it. He is left alone and yet stands alone in that conflict.

 

4. Those Who Suffer May Not be as Lonely as We Would Assume

The condition of sufferers is not so desolate and solitary as spectators or feelings would judge at first glance. Though they leave Him alone, “yet I am not alone,” He says.

 

5. God May be Graciously Present While He Chastises Us

God may be pursuing his own dear children in great displeasure yet also graciously present with them. He may be upholding them with the one hand as he smites with the other. For “the Father is with me,” Christ says when yet the Father is pursuing him hotly for the sins of the elect and deserting Him (Matthew 27:46).

 

6. God’s Presence is Sufficient to Sustain a Lonely Soul

The presence of God alone is sufficient to sustain a soul, when deserted by all, under the saddest difficulties. Christ said to the disciples that though they would leave Him alone “yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

 

7. If We Want God’s Presence At All Times, We Must Seek to Please Him in All Things

Whoever wants the comfort of God’s presence and company in all conditions, ought to set themselves to please God and observe His will in all things. This is what Christ did “he that sent me is with me” the Father had not left Him alone “for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).

 

Conclusion

Faith should draw strength in considering the aloneness of the Saviour. Having experienced such trials He is able to strengthen us also. He gives an example for us in His rejoicing in God’s presence even when abandoned by others. Isn’t it an inestimable privilege that the Most High values our company, who is infinitely happy in Himself and does not need us? We should not be afraid of solitude if it provides an opportunity to draw nearer to God. Yet we ought also to greatly value the blessing of useful friends that can strengthen our hands in serving God. Speak about the most important things, avoid always interacting at the surface level. Bear one another’s burdens in prayer.

Let us avoid the selfish spirit of the world and have rather the spirit of Christ who denied Himself for the sake of His people (Philippians 2:4-5). Even in the face of His own suffering and when He knew the disciples would forsake Him within hours, He comforted and counselled them and prayed for them.

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Is There a Meaning in the Total Eclipse?

Is There a Meaning in the Total Eclipse?

Is There a Meaning in the Total Eclipse?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
25 Aug, 2017

A total eclipse event has lost none of its power to provoke wonder, fear, and reflection. Totality can have an unusual effect that some people call life-changing. “I’ve seen people get on their knees and pray,” one man says “I’ve seen scientists cry”. Weeping and embracing, people feel overwhelmed about being brought together in the same experience. Everyone wants to find some meaning in it, not just those with a leaning to apocalyptic theory or astrology. “I’m not religious”, said another man, “but I think it’s something very like when God says, ‘let there be light’”. Should we find a meaning in it and what would that be?

A Time magazine article reckoned that the true meaning of the eclipse lay in the momentary unity of a very divided United States. Similar imagery features in Scripture of course, particularly in passages describing future judgment. Some also think it may have been involved in Hezekiah’s sign. One passage that seems to allude to a total eclipse is Amos 8:9 “it shall come to pass in that day…that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day”.

George Hutcheson applies this verse in a way that helps us to use the eclipse to reflect on spiritual priorities. The following is an updated extract from his comments. Amos chapter 8 warns of the approaching final subversion of Israel. Their songs of joy would be turned into laments (v1-3). This was because of their sin, their greed and their being weary of true religion (v4-6).  God would punish their sin (v7-8). In particular it would be through a sudden change of condition, when they least expected (v9). They would be filled with bitter sorrow (v10) but particularly a famine of hearing God’s word because they had despised it (v11-12).   

 

A Sudden Change

The Lord uses the image of an eclipse to threaten a sudden and total change in their condition. They trusted in their prosperous and comfortable condition. The Lord threatens to send a sudden change, like a sunset at noon-day, or some sudden darkening of the earth in daytime. 

 

1. God is Long-suffering While Sinners Abuse Prosperity

Sinners may enjoy a very prosperous and comfortable outward condition by God’s permission and long-suffering. This may get time to continue and increase until it comes to a height and its prime. This is what it means when it says that they had a “noon” and “clear day”.

 

2. The Greatest Prosperity May Suddenly be Changed

Although sinners rest and lean on such a condition, it cannot secure them against God. He is provoked to make the very height of their prosperity the time of the sad change of their condition. He may surprise them with a stroke when they least expect it. For the Lord God “will cause the sun to go down at noon…and darken the earth in the clear day”. (See Jeremiah 15:9 “her sun is gone down while it was yet day”). As Hutcheson says regarding a similar verse (Joel 2:10), all created comforts and what men rest on beside God will fail a sinner when God pleads against him.

 

3. Such Calamity Will be Very Bitter for the Unrepentant

Calamity and real desertions will prove very sad to the unrepentant and wicked. It will be all the more bitter in proportion to the extent to which their condition has been better outwardly. Thus, their condition is compared to a sunset and darkned earth at noon, when the day has been clear.

 

Conclusion

We can and ought to wonder at the power and wisdom of God in spectacular events of nature such as the eclipse (Psalm 19:1). It is laughable that scientists speak of the precise cosmic geometry that makes eclipses happen as “cosmic coincidences”. (The radius of the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon yet the sun is about 400 times further away from the earth than the moon).

There is far much more to learn, however. The same God who is in control of creation is in control of providence. He is able to turn the greatest prosperity of unrepentant sinners into their greatest calamity, as individuals and as nations. One day this will happen in the experience of the impenitent. They may be like the man who was “clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day…[he] died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:19, 22-23). 

We do not have to see the eclipse as an omen or apocalyptic to learn spiritual lessons from reflecting on it. As nations and individuals we place too great importance in material prosperity. In many cases we idolise it. Yet we ought to use it in order to embrace God’s offers of grace and better seek and glorify Him. Secularism gradually pushes God to or beyond the edge of our lives, it makes Him irrelevant. We cannot keep abusing God’s favour with impunity. We cannot ignore and reject God out of hand without consequences.

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The Source of Great Joy

The Source of Great Joy

The Source of Great Joy
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
23 Dec, 2016

The quality of our joy is determined by its source. If the source of our joy is finite and capable of changing and degrading – our joys will be fickle, uncertain and unsatisfying. Many are seeking their joys in an inconstant, fading world and what it offers.  Most often the source of joy relates to self  – what makes us feel good. Yet, it quickly evaporates and we move on. Christ offers great joy–true, enduring and satisfying. Its source is in Himself.

Samuel Rutherford found this “joy unspeakable” in an exalted Redeemer. His great desire was that Christ would be “the morning and evening tide, the top and the root of my joys, and the heart and flower and yolk of all my soul’s delights!” He had discovered what David Dickson describes:

God laid hold upon through Christ provides not only peace, but also unspeakable joy to the believer. God reconciled through Christ is the life of the believer’s gladness…’God, my exceeding joy’.

Rutherford had proved by experience that “our joys here are born weeping, rather than laughing, and they die weeping”. “We buy our own sorrow, and we pay dear for it, when we spend out our love, our joy, our desires, our confidence, upon an handful of snow and ice, that time will melt away to nothing, and go thirsty out of the drunken inn when all is done. Alas! that we inquire not for the clear fountain, but are so foolish as to drink foul, muddy, and rotten waters…I know no wholesome fountain but one. I know not a thing worth the buying but heaven; and my own mind is, if comparison were made between Christ and heaven, I would sell heaven with my blessing, and buy Christ”. It is sin that embitters and poisons our enjoyments and deceives us. Rutherford observed that, “Sin’s joys are but night-dreams, thoughts, vapours, imaginations, and shadows”.

What will help us to “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4)? Rutherford had discovered that spiritual enjoyments, life and enlivening influences come from Christ the resurrection and the life. In other words, the source of spiritual life and great joy is especially comes from a Redeemer who is risen and exalted. The disciples experienced this great joy after the resurrection. “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). They saw with great joy the wounds He retained after His resurrection.

George Hutcheson shows how the crucified, risen and exalted Saviour is the source of great joy. By showing His hands and His side (as they had been pierced) Christ makes it clear that it was truly He who now appeared to them. Even in His exaltation Christ looks upon His sufferings for His people as His crown and glory. He will not forget how dearly His people (though worthless in themselves) cost Him.

 

1. Christ as conqueror is the Church’s great comfort

It is the Church’s great comfort, not simply that Christ is alive, but that he had been dead, and was now alive, having overcome all their enemies. This why He showed them His hands and His side, to show them that He had returned as a conqueror over death and all His sufferings (see Revelation 1:8).
 

2. Christ wounded is necessary in all our views of Him

Whatever sight believers get of Christ, it is still necessary to look on Him as pierced by their sins. This may enliven their other spiritual activity with beneficial tenderness and sorrow. He showed them His hands and His side to keep them in mind, even in His exaltation, how He had been pierced for their sakes.
 

3. Christ is the most joyful sight that disciples ever see

No matter what their condition may be, a sight of Him will make them glad. This is especially so after they have had sad doubts about His absence. Of this sad company it is said therefore, “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”

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Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?

Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?

Can We Still Speak of Truth in the Post-Truth Age?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
9 Dec, 2016

It’s the word on everyone’s lips all of a sudden. “Post-truth” means “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.  It is not just an issue in politics; fake news is part of the problem too. No doubt gut feeling informs opinion more than many care to admit. Yet, when any opinion is cynically viewed as mere manipulative advertising in another dress – the world is undoubtedly in trouble. It is a question of trust and reality and therefore threatens the fabric of society. Where can we still find truth?

A post-truth indicates a step beyond the idea that everyone has their own truth to the notion that truth is irrelevant. In many ways it is a natural step for those who believe that the ultimate reality is random chance. If we truly arrive at a point in our culture where information serves only to reinforce what we feel it would be especially solemn. When the Bible speaks of such trends it calls them “strong delusion” in those who “received not the love of the truth” because they “had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Of course this highlights that what we now call “post-truth” has always had currency.

For Christians, there is a danger that we become subtly influenced by a post-truth outlook. What does this look like? It means that our lifestyle is dictated by what feels best and our worship determined by our taste. Our message and convictions may be more influenced by how they make us feel, or the response of other people.

It’s time to remind ourselves that objective and absolute truth matters. Jesus said that He Himself was the Truth and that God’s Word is Truth (John 14:6; John 17:17). Truth has its source and guarantee in God. Truth is far bigger and more complex than many appreciate.

We still need to confront those to whom truth is an inconvenient irrelevance with reality. In many ways this is what took place when the Lord Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate (John 18). As has been observed by others, Pilate himself was on trial. He dismisses any reference to the truth with “What is truth?” and walks away without requiring an answer (John 18:38). George Hutcheson comments on Christ’s example in opposing a “post-truth” mindset with steadfast declaration of the truth. This is an updated extract from his commentary on the gospel of John.

 

1. Christ Came into the World to Bear Witness to the Truth

Christ’s office at this time was, in part, to preach truth and avow it. He came to prove himself a king by making it successful and to confirm it by His suffering. More particularly, He came into the world to bear witness to the truth that He was a king and so He published the decree of Psalm 2:6- 7 and avowed it to death.

Everyone is sent into the world and employed by God for some purpose and service. They should bear this much in mind and labour to be faithful in their employment and trust despite all threats. Christ, as man and Mediator looks to the purpose for which He was born and the reason for which He “came into the world” (to “bear witness unto the truth”). He will here avow it in spite of all threats, even before Pilate.

 

2. Everyone that is of the Truth Hears Christ’s Voice

Christ prevents an objection against the truth of His doctrine and witness on the grounds that it is not well received. Only a few may receive His teaching in general or the truth that He is a king. He makes it clear that the fewness of those who receive it does not make the truth void. All who are of the truth (or born of God, begotten by the word of truth) and who love the truth and do not delight in lies will hear Him and embrace His doctrine and testimony.

 

3. Truth Must be Boldly Maintained

Truth ought to be boldly maintained and avowed when we are called to this. It does not matter however absurd it may seem to be in itself and how unpleasant it seems to others. Christ answers that Pilate says that He is a king, rightly gathering it from His words. This is a bold confession in what it asserts; yet modest in the way it is expressed. He does not respond with boasting and later makes it clarifies that He did this out of conscience and duty. He showed that courage and modesty must go together with owning the truth.

 

4. Persecution Presents an Opportunity for the Truth

By persecution the Lord gives His servants an opportunity to publish truth and make it known to the greatest of men. Possibly these men would not otherwise ever hear so much of it as is then spoken in their own hearing. Through Christ’s suffering Pilate comes to hear His teaching, especially concerning His kingdom. Besides this also, the very sufferings of Christians invite men to inquire after the doctrine for which they suffer, which probably otherwise they would not have taken any notice of (Philippians 1:12-13).

 

5. All Who Profess Christ Must Witness to the Truth

All professors of religion must bear witness to the truth or give a testimony to its worth. Partly, they do this by openly avowing it and suffering for it when called to do so in times of peril. Partly, they do this in their ordinary conduct by declaring truth in their personal capacities. This is done by subjecting their life, thoughts and reasonings to it. They magnify the truth in the face of their trials and discouragements. If we neglect this we will never prove resolute in suffering for the truth.

They are also bound especially to bear witness to the kingdom of Christ. Christ Himself is the great Captain of these witnesses. He is the great preacher of truth, whose powerful sceptre as a King is the word of truth. He stands for maintaining the truth and particularly this truth, that he is a King over his own Church, to order its affairs thereof. Christ sealed this and all the truths of God by His blood. He declares this to be one of His great purposes and works in the world –  to “bear witness unto the truth”. He gives an example to all others in their personal capacities and an encouragement to all who follow His pattern. They have such a champion of truth, who still maintains it, though He does not come into the world in person any more, nor suffer any more.

 

6. The Truth is Still the Truth No Matter How Many Reject It

Although most of the world has little regard for Christ’s doctrine, it is still the very truth itself. All the lovers and friends of truth will own it. Those who do otherwise, expose their own estrangement from truth, and are indeed delighters in lies.

 

7. Suffering for the Truth is Foolish to the World

Pilate disdainfully enquires, “What is truth?” but abruptly breaks off the conversation with Christ. This teaches us that Christ and his followers may often seem great fools in their sufferings, as suffering for things of no moment in the esteem of men. The Lord often brings the godly to suffer for a very small hair and point of truth. Worldly men account it great folly for men to suffer for any divine truth. Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” implies this. He advances it, not so much to get a satisfactory answer (seeing he went out not waiting for an answer) but as testifying that he looked on truth (and particularly the truth that Christ now avowed) as a very trivial thing on which to endanger so much.

 

8. Pride is a Barrier to Seeking the Truth

A person’s own thinking and knowledge are such a great idol for them that they can hardly bear to be considered ignorant or esteem any truth to be excellent with which they are not acquainted. This also seems to have occasioned Pilate’s disdainful question, to which he will not stay for an answer. He could not endure to hear truth commended of which he and “the wise Romans” lacked knowledge (as he could gather from Christ’s last words).

 

9. God Can Use Those Who Despise the Truth for His Own Glory

The Lord can make use of, not only men’s natural conscience [Pilate’s natural conscience was convinced of Christ’s innocence] but even their atheistic disposition and contempt of truth and religion. He can do this, when it pleases Him, to bring about the good of those who suffer for the truth. He can make such men vindicate the innocence of those who suffer for God’s truth. In this way He teaches us to look much to Him since He can make use of everything as He pleases. It was Pilate’s contempt of what Christ preached of His kingdom and truth (in the beginning of the verse), which combines with his natural conscience to make him think nothing of the accusation and absolve Him of guilt. Paul was released due to the same reasons (Acts 18:12, 16).

 

Conclusion

Hutcheson draws many striking lessons from this passage to show that we must and can testify to the truth, even when it is dismissed and disdained. It is particularly noteworthy that God can even make use of such an attitude to truth for His own glory and to achieve His own purposes. The more that we see others despise the truth, the more we should embrace Christ as the truth. As Hutcheson comments on John 14:6:

Christ also is the truth, not only essentially in Himself and as the One from whom all truth comes, but more especially He is the truth as a way to His people, and a true way…in opposition to all the delusions and vanities of the world by which men think to attain happiness. These all draw people away from Christ, the true way, and they will prove a lie and not the truth.

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What Does the Cross Teach Us?

What Does the Cross Teach Us?

What Does the Cross Teach Us?
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
21 Oct, 2016

The cross of Christ is referred to frequently. Yet it is possible to do this without any deep meditation on what it teaches us. It can also be widely and very seriously misunderstood. Some have claimed that Christ died on the cross only to give us an example of how to live and suffer or to show us the love of God. They fail to reckon with the real infinite guilt of sin as it is emphasised in Scripture.  There is a true sense in which the cross of Christ teaches. It teaches the realities of sin, wrath, justice and grace that false theories ignore.

George Hutcheson draws five main teachings from the cross. He is commenting on John 19:17-18: “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” Golgotha “the place of a skull” was the location appointed for Christ to suffer. “He was brought to this place to suffer…to show how loathsome we and our sins are before God, in that our Surety must suffer in so loathsome a place”.  “By this” He has also shown “how by His death He will be death’s death, in that He suffered and triumphed over death in ‘the place of a skull’, where there were many monuments of death’s triumph over others” (i.e. many criminals had suffered and been buried there).

The following observations focus on many of the outward aspects of Christ’s suffering. This is, of course, only part of what took place at the cross. As someone has well said: “the soul of His sufferings was the sufferings of His soul”. Yet there is much to learn spiritually from the fact of crucifixion. Christ, by His suffering this death of being crucified, has taught us:

 

1. What the Curse of the Cross Teaches

We by nature are under the curse. He has undergone that curse so that all who flee to Him may be freed from it. He underwent this cursed death that all their conditions may be blessed and their very crosses turned into blessings (Galatians 3:13).

 

2. What the Blood of the Cross Teaches

His blood flowed abundantly from His hands and feet (as well as other places, both before being crucified and after His death). By pouring out His blood, even unto death, He has pointed out to us that – as there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22) – He has opened up that fountain for all who come to Him.

 

3. What the Wounds of the Cross Teach

We are taught much by Christ shedding His blood in this way. His hands and feet (sensitive parts) were pierced and being hanged up, nailed to the cross, to continue in pain for a long time. His wounds were continually widened by the weight of His body till He died. We are taught by all this the bitter fruit of sin and how great was His love to submit to endure this sharp and long-continuing pain. We are also instructed by this how we are bound to look on Him whom we have pierced, till our hearts be pierced and bleed again.

 

4. What Being Fastened to the Cross Teaches

Christ was fastened and continuing there upon the cross for a space before He died. This may teach us how resolute He was to endure that assault until justice was satisfied. He kept and stood in the field there, to endure the uttermost that enemies could do against the work of redemption and grapple with all of them till they had no more to say against His people. He also gave proof of the certainty of finding Him at His cross with stretched-out arms, ready to receive all them who seek for life in Him and through His death.

 

5. What Being Lifted Up On the Cross Teaches

His being lifted up thus nailed to the cross, may teach, partly, that we deserved no room, neither in heaven nor earth, and therefore our Surety was lifted up between both. The sun was also darkened (besides other reasons) to show that we do not deserve so much as that the sun should shine upon us. His being lifted up also shows that His suffering was indeed His exaltation. He was lifted up in it by triumphing over His enemies there and He is exalted in the world as crucified.

The image used above is of one of the proposed locations for Golgotha. 

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5 Ways to Know if You are Backsliding

5 Ways to Know if You are Backsliding

5 Ways to Know if You are Backsliding
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
29 Apr, 2016

Many think of backsliding as falling into open sin, a life of unrepentant wordliness or virtually departing from the faith. It may be that such, however, are only backsliding from a false profession and making this more apparent. Backsliding also includes falling back from certain truths, principles and standards. But we must be concerned about spiritual backsliding or backsliding in heart (Proverbs 14:14). It is dangerous because it is far more subtle. Failure to go forward and to grow spiritually means to slide back, because there is no standing still.

George Hutcheson gives practical teaching as to how we can identify spiritual backsliding. We need to test whether we are backslidden from what we have had, or might have had in the past or else from what others have attained. The following are some clear tests:

 

1. Lack of Growth.

Are you growing in grace? You must “beware lest…being led away with the error of the wicked” you “fall from your own stedfastness”. You must rather “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18). There is no standing still in the Christian life. If there is no growth in fruit or in the root, there is no progress in sanctification. Lack of growth in putting sin to death and being humbled for your shortcomings, you are certainly someone who is backsliding.

 

2. Lack of Heart Religion

Many need to test whether religion has transferred from their hearts to their heads. Some who were once full of sap, are now sapless. Those who had powerful impressions on their souls of the life and power of religion now only have bare, tasteless notions and speculations. Those whose progress has halted forget to consider the spiritual condition of their heart and how few close communications they share with God. How tasteless, sapless and lifeless to such are religion and religious duties! They have an understanding of misery and mercy, of sin and a Saviour; but it is like a dream. These are things they can consider without their hearts being moved at all or only very little.

 

3. Lack of Conscience about Sin

Examine what conscience you have about sin. When saints are in the right condition they walk carefully with continual distrust of themselves. They look back many times with sinking hearts and self-reproof for what they find amiss. This is not simply an occasional consideration, it is their constant concern. But if you are a stranger to walking carefully with God and inward self-reproof and rebukes you are backsliding. The throat of your soul grows wide and gets over guilt without reluctance. You have halted in spiritual things if you do what is wrong and your conscience tells you so but your heart is not grieved. A growing spiritual condition is marked by carefulness in relation to sin and guilt.

 

4. Lack of Spiritual Diligence.

If you want to examine your spiritual condition, you must consider your diligence carefully. It is the hand of the diligent that makes rich (Proverbs 10:4) “The soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs 13:4). Some make little effort in the duties of religion for the honour of God and the benefit of their own souls. Instead they spend much of their time in spiritual laziness and worldliness. When these come to do their spiritual accounting they will find they have come to a halt, are withered and in decay.

 

5. Lack of Encouragement

Even though you may be free of guilt in relation to these things hinted at above, if you are under a spirit of discouragement you cannot make progress. Consider your spiritual condition and see what discouragement you find. Once the duties of religion and closely following Christ were your delight, but now your conscience has become your tormenter. You drive heavily in any task to which you are called. You are like Thomas who followed Christ in a discouraged way. “Let us also go”, he says, “that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Though you continue to maintain your full quota of duties ,your discouragement shows that you have left your first love (the love which once you had or might have had).

 

The Dangers of Backsliding

Well then, test yourself by these things. What spiritual growth, heart-work and conscience about sin do you have? What about diligence in duty? Do you have discouragement instead of delight? When you have tested yourself in this way, reflect on the evils and dangers of backsliding.

  • You are hindered in what is good (Galatians 5:7);
  • You lose what you had gained (Galatians 3:4);
  • You dishonour God and slander Him as though there were some fault in Him (Jeremiah 2:5 and 31; Micah 6:3);
  • You lay stumbling blocks before others;
  • You store up sorrows and chastisements for yourself (Proverbs 14:14).

 

The Way Back from Backsliding

I wish that all backslidden professing Christians would meditate on Revelation 2:4-5. Ephesus is a very zealous Church. They cannot bear with those that are evil, have tried those who said they were apostles and found them liars. They had also borne much with patience. For the name of Christ they had laboured and not fainted. Yet, Christ has a charge against her; she had lost her first love. She was to “remember” where she had fallen from and “repent, and do the first works”. Otherwise, Christ would come quickly and remove her candlestick out of its place. A Church which leaves her first love through gradual decay may provoke God to un-Church her, unless she considers where she has fallen from, repents and does her first works.

Spiritual Backsliding

£1.00

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James Durham shows how genuine believers can decline from their first love to Christ, almost without realising it.  Reading and meditating on this pamphlet will not just help Christians to understand how “Love within may be cold when people’s outward practice looks very hot”. Believers will also learn how to apply Christ's remedy for recovering their early love for Him.

Outside In

Four sessions to help you

recover your first love for Christ

New Bible Study

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or small groups

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