What to Do With the Worries of 2019

What to Do With the Worries of 2019

What to Do With the Worries of 2019
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
26 Dec, 2019

​According to the Bible App, the Bible verse most engaged with around the world and throughout the year was Philippians 4:6. It seems to indicate an uptick in concerns and anxieties in the midst of a year of tension. This has been a trend across recent years. It’s said that 14,000 google searches a month look for bible verses to address anxiety. But this verse also speaks about what to do with such concerns. Philippians 4:6 is commonly summarised like this: worry about nothing, pray about everything and be thankful for anything. But how can we make best use of the spiritual wisdom of this verse?

James Fergusson points to the fact that the reference to worry and anxiety in Philippians 4:6 literally speaks of heart-cutting concerns. These may be about the things of this world and the success of what we do in our work or other aspects of life. In seeking to serve God conscientiously in our daily concerns we need go to God in prayer. We are to pour out our hearts before God in thankfulness and confession as well as asking for the things we need. In this way we commit all things to His will. In the following updated extract, Fergusson helps us to grasp the full extent of this verse so that it exhorts as well as encourages us. 

1. We Need to Avoid Excessive Concern

There is a lawful concern about the things of this world. In fact, this kind of carefulness is frequently commanded in Scripture (Romans 12:11). Yet such concern is unlawful when it is excessive. This is especially the case when we care about nothing except the world (Psalm 49:11). This kind of concern keeps us on the rack continually, in fearing lack of success in the things we engage in (Psalm 37:5). It can tempt us to make use of anything (however sinful it may be) that will preserve or bring about the thing for which we are anxious (1 Timothy 6:9). This excessive anxiety is sinful and forbidden in this verse.

2. We Need to Have Moderation in Our Outward Dealings

This excessive concern hinders us from displaying the moderation we ought to have. Philippians 4:5 speaks of the moderation or gracious gentleness we ought to show. But anxious concern can drive us to be inflexible and harsh in all our dealings with others. This is because we fear that by giving way in the smallest way we undermine our own interests. Nothing contributes more to make us merciful and gentle than keeping the heart above anxious, heart-cutting worry. It will help us in accommodating to the needs and good of others, even though it may seem to harm our own interests. Previously, Paul exhorted them to make their moderation known to all. He now adds the counsel to worry about nothing as something that will help.

3. We Need to Take Our Burdens to God

The best remedy against excessive concern is not to go to the extreme of abandoning all lawful careful diligence in the things of this world (Matthew 4:7). We are rather to be conscientious in our duty but in the midst of this to pray to God. We should ask Him for the success we desire and thank Him for favours already received. In this way we leave the burden of all our concerns on Him. This is what the apostle prescribes here for us to do “in everything”.

4. We Need to Pray According to God’s Will

All our prayers should be composed in such a way as that they may be “known to God”, that is, approved of Him. They must come from the sense of our need, (1 Kings 8:38), be offered in Christ’s name (John 16:23) and be for things that are according to His will (1 John 5:14).

5. We Need to Use All Kinds of Prayer

Various kinds of prayer are mentioned here in three distinct terms. The word “requests” is a general term that relates to all kinds of prayer. The other words used for prayer are:
(a) Prayer, where we seek from God the things which we lack, acknowledging how unworthy we are of them.
(b) Supplication, where we pray about afflictions and chastisements that we either feel or fear. We also acknowledge our sins which bring these things on us.
(c) Thanksgiving, where we thank God for favours already bestowed

6. We Need to Be Thankful Not Just Wishful

It is necessary to combine thanking God for favours received with prayer and supplication. This is because there are constant reasons for thanksgiving in every condition we experience (Philippians 4:11). Thanksgiving suppresses the discontented, fretting and complaining spirit which often vents itself against God in our prayers and supplications. This can happen if we neglect to combine with such prayers thanksgiving to God for favours received (compare Psalm 77:7 with verses 10-11). This is why the apostle commands “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God”.

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Why We Need to Keep Exercising and Strengthening Faith

Why We Need to Keep Exercising and Strengthening Faith

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

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

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

1. FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

2. CHRIST’S PRECIOUSNESS INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

3. HUMILITY INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

4. SIN DECREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

5. PATIENCE INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

6. SPIRITUAL FRUITFULNESS INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

7. UNDERSTANDING INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

8. PEACE INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

9. SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS INCREASE AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

10. PURITY OF HEART INCREASES AS WE STRENGTHEN FAITH

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

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How Does Faith Help Love?

How Does Faith Help Love?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Faith Reveals the Object of Love

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

2. Faith Helps Love to Trust

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

3. Faith Feeds on the Promises

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

 

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

4. Faith Draws Strength from Christ

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

 

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Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
5 Apr, 2019

Events, strategies, commitments, principles. Everything seems to be subject to change in human affairs, especially politics. An even more changeable future seems inevitable as uncertainty increases. It’s a world of tumultuous, relentless and constant change. Technological, social and moral change in particular, seem to be speeding up. Things we never expected to see are now considered normal. Some change is deeply troubling and other change is good. All this makes us less confident and optimistic in predicting the future. But there is no real reason to fear if we are connected to the unchanging reality of the eternal God.

Hugh Binning points out that the most profound thing that we can say about God is also the simplest. “The Lord gives a definition of Himself”. It is short and we may not think it says much—”I AM” (Exodus 3:14). When people seek to exalt themselves they want to be described in grand and majestic ways to flatter themselves. But there is more majesty in this simple title “I AM” than in all others. This is spiritually discerned.

To compare God with others and say that He is best gives too great significance to the things which we use for comparison. Thus, the Lord calls Himself “I AM”, meaning “I am as if nothing else were”. Not, “I am the highest, the best and most glorious that is”. This assumes other things have some being and glory that is worth taking account of. Rather it is “I am, and there is none else; I am alone”. Nothing else can say, “I am, I live, and there is nothing else”. Everything else is dependent on God. Thus, nothing besides God, can say, “I am”. All things are only borrowed drops of this self-sufficient fountain. If anything comes between the stream and the fountain it is cut off and dried up.

See the profound mystery of God’s absolute self-sufficient perfection enfolded in these three letters, I AM. If you ask what is God? There is nothing better than this, “I AM,” or, He that is. If I would say He is the almighty, the only wise, the most perfect, the most glorious, it is all contained in this, “I am that I am”. He is all those perfections simply, absolutely, and solely.

 

1. Our God is Eternally Unchanging

He never was nothing and never will be nothing and may always say, “I am.”  God is eternally unchanging (Psalm 90:2). Now this is properly to be; and this only deserves the name of being. All the generations past; where are they now? They were, but they are not. And we then were not, and now are; for we have come in their place and in a little time, which of us can say, “I am.” No, we “fly away as a dream” (Job 20:8). We “are like a tale that is told,” (Psalm 90:9) that makes a noise in the present and then it is past. Within a few years this generation will pass, and no one will make mention of us. Our place will not know us, no more than we do now remember those who have been before (Psalm 103:16).

Christ said of John the Baptist, “he was a burning and shining light” (John 5:35); “he was,” but now he is not. But Christ may always say, “I am the light and life of men” (see John 1:4). Man is; but look backwards a little, and he was not; you will find his origin. Go forwards a little and he will not be, you will find his end. But God is “Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). Who can find the beginning and end in such a being who is the beginning and end of all things, yet without all beginning and end? The soul is enclosed between infiniteness before and infiniteness behind. It is between two everlastings; whichever way it turns, there is no way out. Whichever way it looks, it must lose itself in an infiniteness round about it.

We change in our days and are not today what we were yesterday. But “he is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Every day we are dying, some part of our life is taken away. We leave one more day behind us, it is gone and cannot be recovered. Though we vainly please ourselves in the number of our years and the extent of our life, the truth is that we are losing much of our being and time as it passes. First, we lose our childhood, then we lose our adulthood. Then we leave our old age behind us also and there is no more before us.

But when God moves all things, He remains immoveable. Though days and years are in a continual flux and motion around Him and they carry us down with their force yet He abides the same forever. Even the earth and heavens that are established so sure grow old but He is the same, and “his years have no end” (Psalm 102:26-27). He is the beginning without any beginning; the end without an end: there is nothing past to Him, and nothing to come. He is all, before all, after all, and in all. He beholds all the changes of the creatures out of eternity. There is no change in His knowledge, as there is in ours (Acts 15:18). He can declare the end before the beginning; for He knows the end of all things, before He gives them beginning. He is never driven to make consultations in any emergency as the wisest of men are, who could not foresee all events. “He is in one mind”; He had it from everlasting and “who can turn Him?” (Job 23:13).

 

2. Our Response to the Unchanging God

Job’s response to knowing God as He is was to humble himself and repent (Job 42:5-6).  Here is the true knowledge of God’s majesty, which uncovers within you a mystery of iniquity. Here is the knowledge of God indeed, which abases all things besides God, not only in opinion but in affection. It attracts and unites your soul to God, and draws it from yourself and all created things. This is a right revelation of divine purity and glory, that stains the pride of all glory. True knowledge empties a soul of itself and humbles a soul in itself, that it may be full of God. He that thinks he knows any thing, knows nothing as he ought to know.

This then is the first evidence of the saving knowledge of God. It removes all grounds for empty confidence so that a soul cannot trust in itself. The purpose of this is that a soul may trust in God and depend on Him in all things. For this purpose the Lord has called Himself by many names in Scripture which correspond to our various needs and difficulties. This is so that He might make known to us how all-sufficient He is, so that we may turn our eyes and hearts towards Him. This was the purpose of this name, I AM; that Moses might have support for his faith (Exodus 3:14). “I AM;” I, who give all things a being, will give a being to my promise. I will make Pharaoh listen and the people obey.

What is there that this name of God will not answer? It is a creating name—a name that can bring all things out of nothing by a word. If He is what He is, then He can make what He wishes from us. It is a name that brings us comfort (Isaiah 41:12). If we believed this how we would submit to His blessed will. If we believed this would we not make Him our dwelling-place?  Would we not be assured of our own stability and the stability of His church because of His unchangeable eternity? (Psalm 89:1; Psalm 102:27-28). How can we think of such a fountain-Being without acknowledging ourselves to be shadows of His goodness? We owe to Him what we are, and so must dedicate ourselves to His glory. How can we consider such a self-Being, independent and creating Goodness without a desire to cleave to Him and confidence to trust in Him? This is to know Him.

 

3. Ourselves Compared to the Unchanging God

When we think on His unchangeableness let us consider our own vanity. Our glory and perfection is like a summer flower, or like a vapour ascending for a little time, our best estate is altogether vanity. Our plans are soon broken off and made of no effect, our resolutions change. This is mortality, we are not always the same. To be one thing now and then another thing is a characteristic of sinful and wretched man. Therefore let us “cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22).  Do not trust in princes who will die, far less in ourselves who are less than the least of men (Psalm 146:3). Let us put our trust in God who does not change and we will not be consumed (Malachi 3:6).

We will never be ashamed of any hope we have in Him. There is nothing else you trust in which will not, without doubt disappoint you. Whatever you hear or know of God is vain and empty, unless it descends into the heart to shape it with fear and love to Him. It must extend into the outward actions and conform it to obedience. Otherwise when you “know God” you “do not glorify Him as God” and that knowledge will be worse to you than ignorance. It will only harden you and ultimately be your solemn accuser and witness (Romans 1: 21-24). The true knowledge of Jesus Christ is never unfruitful. The things that spring from its root are humility, self-abasing confidence in God, patience in tribulations, meekness in provocations, temperance and sobriety in lawful things (2 Peter 1:5-8).

 

Conclusion

It is a source of wonder as well as comfort to contemplate a God whose being, plans and promises never change. This should draw us to God again and again. He can keep our hearts steadfast. Whatever else and whoever else may change, let us seek to have an unwavering devotion, obedience and love to Him by His grace.

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Does it Matter What We Believe About the Holy Spirit?

Does it Matter What We Believe About the Holy Spirit?

Does it Matter What We Believe About the Holy Spirit?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
2 Nov, 2018

It used to be said that the Holy Spirit was the forgotten person of the Godhead. Now, it seems, the majority of evangelicals aren’t even sure if He is a person. The State of Theology survey on both sides of the Atlantic shows that most think the Holy Spirit is a force but not a personal being (55% UK, 56% USA). Is that a problem? Yes, Scripture makes it clear that the Spirit is a person. The belief that He is just a force (as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses) was condemned as heresy at the Council of Constantinople in 381. But this is not only about a core article of faith, it has deep practical implications for our everyday spiritual life.

There are many ways in which the Bible teaches that the Spirit is a person and they all relate to His ministry to believers. So it matters a great deal that He is indeed a person. There is such a thing as the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit and you can only commune with a person (2 Corinthians 13:14). In His activity within believers it is clear that He has a mind (Romans 8:27), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11; Acts 15:28) and emotions (Ephesians 4:30). Not only can He be grieved but He can be vexed or angered and insulted (Isaiah 63:10; Hebrews 10:29). He can also be lied to (Acts 5:3-4).

As someone who speaks, the Spirit personally teaches, convinces and reminds (Acts 8:29; Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 2:13; John 16:8; John 16:13-14). He empowers (Zechariah 4:6) and guides believers (Isaiah 48:16; Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7). He witnesses with them (Romans 8:16), comforts them (John 14:26) and intercedes for them (Romans 8:26). He commands (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 16:7) and must be obeyed (Acts 10:19-21).

Can we do without the personal activity of the Spirit? That would be an impossible thought. The confused opinions about the Holy Spirit revealed in the recent survey show the need for clear teaching in the truths of Scripture. We have tools for this purpose in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. One of those who helped compile these documents was Francis Cheynell (1608–1665) who also wrote about the trinity and the practical necessity of believing in One God in Three Persons.

 

Obeying the Spirit is For Our Comfort

In hearing the Word we must give the same attention and devotion to the Spirit as we do to the Father and the Son (Hebrews 3:7-8 compared with Psalm 95:8). The Holy Spirit forbids us to harden our hearts against Him speaking in the Word (Acts 7:51). We grieve the Spirit when we resist the Spirit and will not give our spiritual assent and consent to the Word.

God the Holy Spirit is to be obeyed. We are devoted to His service in baptism. Our bodies and souls are temples consecrated to His honour and service. The Spirit conquers our carnal reason, puts to death our corruptions and subdues our hearts to obey Him as well as the Father and the Lord Jesus.

The Spirit is the spirit of conviction, regeneration, conversion, sanctification, edification and consolation (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 12:8-9). The Spirit is the God of all comfort, it is His special function to comfort mourners.

It highly concerns us to obey the Holy Spirit and answer the many calls and motions of the Spirit with sincere obedience. Thus, our effectual calling may provide evidence of our election. This Spirit is the spirit of sanctification and adoption, the spirit of revelation and comfort, putting sin to death, making us live to righteousness. The Spirit quickens, moves, enables, inclines, persuades us to beleive in Christ, to love one another and to keep all the commandments of God.

This Spirit of faith, love, and obedience is the spirit of sanctification. If you find the spirit of sanctification in you, take good comfort even though the spirit of adoption seems to withdraw from you. He is certainly present and not idle or silent; He speaks by His real works and sweet fruits. The spirit of sanctification is one and the same as the spirit of adoption.

We know from the Spirit that Christ abides in us, that we dwell in Him and He in us (1 John 3:23-24; 4:13). If there is therefore a spirit of faith, love, and obedience in you, rejoice in it, lift up your heart to God in thankfulness for it. Thank God if you have a heart obedience to the doctrine given to you by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:17). If you are much engaged in supplication and thanksgiving, the spirit of supplication will be a spirit of adoption and an oil of gladness (Hebrews 1:9).

The Spirit will teach you to cry “Abba, Father” with comfort (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). The Spirit will fill your souls with all joy, and peace in believing, and in obeying. The joy of the Spirit shall be your strength. The comforts of the Almighty, including all the comforts of the kingdom of God (which consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit) shall be all-sufficient to revive and support your dejected spirit. All your fears and discomforts shall be dispelled, your wants supplied, your wounds, sores and infirmities healed. Ultimately, you will be filled with all the fulness of God (Malachi 4:2; Ephesians 3:19).

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Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope

Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope

Abandoning Optimism for Real Hope
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
23 Aug, 2018

Hope is essential. But hope is not a gut reaction, mere wishful thinking or putting a positive spin on events that seem negative. Hope and optimism are positive about the future but for different reasons. Abraham had a spiritual hope that was certain, when a hope that is of the flesh would have evaporated. Abraham “against hope believed in hope” based on God’s promise (Romans 4:18). The secular idea of hope involves people planning ways to achieve their chosen goal. But Abraham couldn’t do this. Optimism ignores negative circumstances but hope takes full account of it. Hope has a reason to depend on God working out the future, that reason is His promise.

It’s been said that we “can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”. Hope is the oxygen of life. John Nevay (d. 1672) observes that “it is as necessary as breath: we cannot live or work without it”. Nevay was minister of Newmilns in Ayrshire. Along with hundreds of other ministers he was forced out of his charge by the government in 1662. Never was also cited before the Privy Council and then banished from the kingdom for refusing to own Charles II as head over the Church. He went on to minister to Scots exiles in Rotterdam, Holland. Even there, Charles’ government used their influence to try to get him expelled from Holland along with other Scottish ministers.

 

1. What is Hope?

Hope is a certain and patient expectation of things not seen which are from God and promised by Him (Romans 8:24). Hope, like faith, looks to the promise (Galatians 5:5). Whatever may appear to the contrary, it hopes against hope (Romans 4:18).

Hope rides out all storms. It is the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast. Its object is God in Christ (Jeremiah 4:8; 1 Timothy 1:1). Its operation is an earnest and patient expectation (Philippians 1:20; Romans 8:25). Its means of strength are the promise and Christ (Acts 26:6; Colossians 1:27). Its effects are establishing and quieting the soul (Psalm 42:5,11). It also purifies the heart (1 John 3:3).

 

2. What Makes Hope Attractive?

(a) It is an excellent grace. Scripture commends hope as good (2 Thessalonians 2:16); better (Hebrews 7:19); blessed (Titus 2:13); living (1 Peter 1:3); sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19). It is a sure possession of things not seen.

(b) It is focussed on excellent things. It is focussed on God Himself (Psalm 33:22); His mercy (Psalm 147:11); God’s Word, especially the promises (Psalm 130:4). It is also focussed on Christ and the gospel (Colossians 1:23).

 

3. How Does Hope Help Us?

(a) It Helps When No Other Grace Can. When God has withdrawn His presence, David can still hope in God and praise Him (Psalm 42).

(b) It Helps Us Joy and Delight in God. There is a rejoicing in hope (Romans 12:12 and Hebrews 3:6).

(c) It Helps Us Be Encouraged. It does not disappoint or put us to shame (Romans 5:5).

(d) It Helps Us Have Courage and Strength in God’s Work. The knowledge that labouring in the Lord’s work is not in vain is the knowledge of hope, which gives steadfastness (1 Corinthians 15:58).

(e) It Helps us Have Patience. There is a patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Patience makes us rest quietly on God (Psalm 37:7).

(f) It Helps Us Endure All Spiritual Warfare. It is the helmet of salvation which guards and raises the head (Ephesians 6:17).

(g) It Helps Us Find Help in God. Hope makes us take refuge in God. Hope and help in God go together (Psalm 146:5).

(h) It Helps Us Hope for Heaven. Salvation and eternal life come to us by the hope of salvation and eternal life (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It is the hope laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:5).

(i)It Helps Us in Life and Death. We can see the excellence and blessedness of this hope when we consider the misery of those who live and die without it. To be without God is to be without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12).

 

3. Where Does Hope Come From?

(a) It Comes From God. David credits God for his hope (Psalm 22:9).

(b) It Comes From God by Grace. Hope is from and through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16). That which is of grace is by the promise (Romans 4:16; Titus 1:2). Our God is the God of Hope because He is the giver of Hope (Romans 15:13). Hope is amongst the gifts of the Holy Spirit (compare l Corinthians 12:31 with 13:13).

(c) It Comes From Christ. Christ is our Hope and the Author of Hope as well as Faith (Galatians 5:5; Hebrews 12:2). Christ was raised from the dead and exalted that we might have hope (1 Peter 1:21).

(d) It Comes From the Gospel. The gospel as the grace of God brings a better hope (Hebrews 7:19; Titus 2:11).

 

4. What Distinguishes True Hope?

(a) It Looks to God Alone. God alone is our hope and portion (Lamentations 3:24).

(b) It Trusts in Christ Alone. It places no confidence in the flesh but rejoices in
Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:3). Its expectation is only in free mercy.

(c) It is Certain. It leans on the undoubted truths of God revealed in the Scriptures. These bring comforts and are the grounds for the Christian’s hope (Romans 15:4). It is true that the believer’s hope may be shaken (as anchors often are) but the result is that it is fastening more securely than before.

(d) It Keeps the Soul Close to the Truth. This is so even during great opposition by others (Psalm 119:23, 81-82, 161; Isaiah 8:17).

(e) It Expels Vain Hopes. It presents the things it hopes for as so great that it makes all other hopes seem an empty thing. It purges the heart from all its love and desire for vain hopes.

(f) It Revives the Soul. It revives the soul with fresh strength in God when other things fail (Psalm 73:26).

(g) It is Lasting. It is sober and hopes to the end (1 Peter 1:13). Thus, the righteous has hope in his death (Proverbs 14:32).

(h) It Arises from Spiritual Experience. A rooted and well-grounded hope is the daughter of many different spiritual experiences (Romans 5:4).

FURTHER READING

Nevay’s 52 sermons on the Covenant of Grace are well summarised by Edwin Nisbet Moore in the book Our Covenant Heritage: the Covenanters’ Struggle for Unity in Truth. It also summarises a memoir of the Covenanter James Nisbet of Hardhill and draws lessons from the historical experiences for today. For more information and to purchase see here.

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You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
20 Jul, 2018

We all long for a genuinely peaceful satisfaction in life. Yet in our society of conspicuous consumption, discontent and wanting more and better seem to be valued more. Lifestyle gurus know this and they urge people to be content with who they are and what they have whilst still striving for their goals. Think positively they say, practice gratitude (to no one in particular) be proud of what you have achieved. But this isn’t real contentment because it depends on ourselves and our feelings. It’s a temporary and often imagined state. We need something that transcends not only our immediate circumstances but also ourselves and this brief changeable life. We were not made to live for ourselves or the things of time. We were made for God and for eternity. That’s why we will never be truly content without godliness.

This is what the Apostle Paul says. People make the great mistake of “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5). Some think that personal gain is highest achievement of this life. Even in spiritual things as well as the things of this life we can be entirely focussed on personal gain. They are using spiritual things to advance self. We can think that we are advancing in godliness but actually the whole activity is all about ourselves. Paul says that we need to know that gain is not godliness but rather “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). These two things go together and cannot be separated. Godliness is profitable for all things both in this life and the life which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). James Durham explains these points further in a series of sermons from which the following is extracted and updated.

 

1. What is True Contentment?

It leaves a person in quietness, calmness and composure of mind. They are so satisfied with God’s dealings that they think whatever they experience is best.

(a) It Involves Moderate Desires

Our inclinations, desires and plans in relation to ourselves and all the things of this world are moderated. This is the opposite of all inordinate desires for a change in our present lot. It keeps us from seeking “great things” for ourselves (Jeremiah 45:5). One who wants to be rich (1 Timothy 6:9) is the opposite of one who is content. This is because covetousness and contentment are opposed to each other (Hebrew 13:5).

Contentment is silent reverence for God’s way towards us. It restrains us from pressing inordinately after what we have or are able to acquire lawfully. Honest lawful labour is of course not opposed to contentment. We follow our calling as our duty rather than mainly to further our advantage or gain.

(b) It Involves Calm Submission to God’s Providence

It is opposed to fretful anxiety (Philippians 4:6 and Matthew 6:25). We are to follow the duties of our calling without being vexed or anxious about their success.

(c) It Involves Reverent Adoration of God’s Provision

Whether God provides little or much we are to be content with the things that we have (1 Timothy 6:8 and Hebrews 13:5).

(d) It Involves Tranquility of Mind Which Is Satisfied With God’s Dealings

Not only does it not fret against God’s dealings, it gives positive assent to them as being well satisfied with them. It is a sweetly serene frame of soul that makes a Christian say with the apostle, “I have all, I abound, I am full” (see Philippians 4:11-12 and 18; 2 Corinthians 6:8-10). Paul had as much contentment whether he had less or more of the things of the world.

 

2. How is Godliness Gain?

(a) It Extends to All Kinds of People

Its gain extends to individuals of every sex, age, rank, class, calling position and relationship.

(b) It Extends to All Kinds of Conditions

It is profitable in prosperity and in lack, making us always content in every condition. It is soundness to the bones in health and has an inward life and cheerfulness. In sickness and death it is eminently profitable. Its great gain and advantage beautifully blossom forth then, when all earthly comforts wither.

(c) It Extends to All Kinds of Activities

It is profitable in worship and the duties of our ordinary callings (Psalm 1:3).

(d) It Extends to This Life and Eternity

It has outward gain (so far as is fitting for themselves and those of their company). It always has inward gain through their secret converse with and walk before God (1 Timothy 4:8).

 

3. Why is There no Contentment Without Godliness?

If we look through the Scriptures, we will always find that it is the godly man that is the contented man. Godly Paul learned this great lesson and was taught this divine art. You can see from Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 6:3-4 how he arrived at this height. He could say “having nothing, yet possessing all things”. This is because contentment does not consist in the things we possess but in the right frame of mind. There is nothing that can put and keep us in such a right frame of mind except godliness.

(a) Godliness Shows Us the Emptiness of All Creature-Comforts

It sobers our spirit in pursuing creature-comforts saying to us to be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:9). It limits our desires and intentions that we may be content even though we do not have many thousands or this or that among the fine things in the world.

(b) Godliness Moderates Our Affections in Using the Things of This World

It keeps us from being anxious in seeking and pursuing after the things of the world. It makes us quiet and satisfied in using and enjoying them. Without contentment through godliness a person is both vexed and perplexed in seeking and enjoying without satisfaction. This is because they seek and expect more from these things than they find.

But the godly man weeps as though he did not weep, rejoices as though he did not rejoice. He buys as though he did not possess and uses this world without abusing it (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Godliness is the living water spoken of by our Lord (John 4:13) which when someone drinks they do not thirst again. It quenches those disquieting, gasping desires after the things of the world which all naturally have.

(c) Godliness Sets Our Affections on More Excellent Things

It takes our affections off these things and sets them on another more noble, excellent and durable object which alone can satisfy. There is no true contentment nor solid soul-satisfaction to be had except in God and looking to Him aright. Godliness takes us away from the empty and broken cisterns that can hold no water and leads us to the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2).

It makes us consider that the Lord has a holy sovereign hand in everything and teaches us to be quiet and content. It teaches us to pray, praise, believe, rest on God and trust in Him for deliverances from all difficulties. Now and then the godly have some sweet manifestations of God to their soul. These mightily and marvellously outlast the impressions that the lack of outward things make on their spirits (see Psalm 4:6-7). It is impossible for the mind to be quiet and content without having some satisfying object effectually offered to it. Only godliness does this. Even heaven could not make us content unless we had godliness (if it were possible for someone to be there without it). This is because without it the mind would not be adapted to the place.

(d) Godliness Gives Us Access to All the Promises

Access to all the exceeding great and precious promises makes us content. “Godliness” (says the apostle) “is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7). Suppose a godly man in difficulty to get his dinner or supper and how to get his family provided for and sustained. When the children begin to weep for bread in beginning to hunger, he has a sweet word of promise to support his mind. God has said that He will never leave nor forsake him in Hebrews 13:5-6. This verse contains five negatives in the original language to maximise assurance.

The words that follow are: “we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me”. Godliness looks to what God has said and no one except the godly can say that God has said such things to them. The promise is in some ways as meaningful and satisfying (perhaps more) as if they had the rhing itself in their hand. They can say boldly “the Lord is my helper” and “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and so quiet and content themselves. There is no condition the godly may be in without a promise for it.

Godliness gives access and right to the promise. Exercising godliness gives the promise (as it were) a new and fresh lustre. The godly rest satisfied in the promise and neither having nor not having disturb their peace and contentment. They know that if necessary this pain and sickness and this affliction or other will be removed and this or that need supplied. If it continues it will be for their best. This is in accordance with Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose”. What more is needed? The godly may take hold of the promise boldly, no one else has the right to do this. Godliness does not meri the promise but God has made it the way by which we receive it. If you love and desire contentment, love godliness and exercise yourselves to it in a serious way.

(e) Godliness Helps Us Put Sin to Death

Lack of contentment of mind arises from some sin within which has not been put to death, as James tells us (James 4:1). Where godliness is in exercise, it keeps down and subdues pride and restrains lust. When corruption is ready to rise and fretting, impatience and discontent break out, godliness makes us say with Eli “It is the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:18). It makes us dare not give way to our corruption. The great thing that disquiets us is always something that is sinful. Godliness prevents or restrains that which leads to discontentment. It helps put sin to death and keep the mind calm.

 

4. Why is Contentment Necessary for Making Progress in Godliness?

The Holy Spirit joins these two things together to show that one helps and advances the other. A defect in either one is obstructive to the other. Those who are not exercised to godliness cannot have true contentment. Those who do not have contentment cannot advance in godliness. Will or can someone who is discontent pray effectually? It is impossible. It mars his liberty and boldness in prayer.

The discontented man cannot praise because praise flows from a satisfied mind and he lacks this. The discontented man cannot properly read, listen to sermons, or meditate because his mind is confused. Discontentment weakens the mind and makes us disinclined to and indisposed for godly exercise.

 

Conclusion

Look on and accept these two things as motives and helps to each other. Let them go hand in hand together. Neither of them will go alone, they must go together. Will I not then strive for contentment with my lot, whatever it may be? Will I not more than ever love and prize the connection between contement and godliness? Will I not through grace believe more thoroughly this great truth, that godliness with contentment is great gain? Let it stand as an eternal and unchangeable verity. Let it stand like a great and immovable rock in the midst of the sea against which the waves of the world’s contradictory, false and foolish notions beat and break themselves.

Special Offer on James Durham’s Collected Sermons

Durham’s sermons on The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness are included in a volume of his collected sermons. These have been published recently and are highly recommended. In an early sermon CH Spurgeon said, “If I had lived in his [Durham’s] time, I should never, I think, have wanted to hear any other preacher; I would have sat, both by night and day, to receive the sweet droppings of his honeyed lips” There are 61 sermons in this attractively produced volume and it runs to nearly 1,000 pages.  The usual price is £29.95 which already represents a discount but a further 10% is possible when purchasing using a code unique for readers of this blog. This makes the price £26.95 and the code is RST 18 when purchasing from James Dickson Books at this link.

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Why Doesn’t God Show Himself More?

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself More?

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself More?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
6 Jul, 2018

Sometimes in our personal experience and in the world around us we are tempted with the feeling that God is absent. Why doesn’t God show Himself more? Are our prayers being heard? Why doesn’t God step in and arrest the moral rebellion that is destroying western societies? These concerns are not new in one sense. The Psalms and other books of Scripture wrestle with such thoughts. Yet it can seem different in a society where God is excluded to such a great extent.

Sometimes we treat the temptation and pressure to unbelief as an intellectual matter. So we seek more and more rational proofs of God’s existence. But the root cause of the temptation may lie deeper in the social realities of a secular age. The felt absence of God is something we grapple with in a particular way in such an age.

This is addressed in a recent book by Joseph Minich Enduring Divine Absence: The Challenge of Modern Atheism (The Davenant Institute, 2018). He seeks to explain how this situation has come about historically and philosophically and then how we can sustain and strengthen our faith in the face of the challenge. A sense of God’s absence helps us to place greater value on God’s presence. Trusting God is not avoiding the problems and challenges we face but fully confronting them holding on to the God that is greater than them all. Minich says the following:

Can it be that we are brave enough to say that in spite of evil…God is here and that He is good? Not as wishful thinking, not as calling evil “good,” but as receiving reality just as it is and as it must be-despite what the world often feels like? Perhaps, indeed atheism is not bravery after all, but capitulation. Perhaps it is an intellectual, spiritual, and psychological failure to endure. It is a failure to say that God, that the Good, is greater and denser and more fundamental and deeper and wider, that love is higher, that all is grounded in the infinite plenitude of a pure actuality which is love Himself-who is God “for us”…God is ultimate and His goodness and eternal being are still greater realities and contain a greater gravity than death and pain

Minich confronts the personal challenge of this:

what does it mean when we find ourselves begging to see God and He does not show up? When He effectively and providentially says “no”. It means, “My grace is sufficient for you. I’ve already shown up. I’ve already raised from the dead. I’ve already forgiven your sins. And just as I’ve done all this for your good, so for your good I want you to grow up. I want you to be strong. Trust me. I’ll carry you. I will allow you to suffer. But I will carry you through. I will allow you to hit the bottom, but there you will find the eternal living and true God-and you will say with joy, ‘This is enough'”. Like Job, you will be reoriented in the gravity of God.

In Psalm 10 there is a lament that God seems to stand afar off. He seems to be hidden in times of trouble and the wicked just seem to be able to do what they want. David Dickson helpfully draws out some further thoughts and implications from the Psalmist’s words. He notes that in the Psalmist’s complaint he is speaking to God according to his feelings and as he sees things in human terms and in an outward way.

1. God’s Word and Providence Can Seem to be Saying Different Things

God’s work in providence may seem to speak in a contrary way to the word of promise. God’s Word says that  He will always be with His own and not forsake them. But here the way He deals with them seems to say that He stands afar off and hides himself in times of trouble (Psalm 10:1). Our feelings may sometimes speak contrary to faith.

2. We Should Depend on God’s Word More than Our Feelings

The truth of the word should be relied on rather than accepting what our feelings are saying. When our feelings seem to object to or question the Word we must bring this before the Lord in prayer. We may discuss it with Him there. This is what the Psalmist does in asking God why He stands afar off (Psalm 10:1).

3. A Humbled Soul Can Speak with God in a Familiar Way

See how a humbled soul may speak with God in a familiar way.  The Lord will not mistake what His people are meaning when faith borrows the language of feeling. The Lord will permit such speech and not take it in the wrong way since He knows it proceeds from faith and love wrestling with our feelings. He will even allow such language to be recorded in His Book (as here) for others to make prudent use of it. He records it even though they appear to challenge Him for standing aloof and hiding Himself.

4. God’s People are Often in a Low Position in this World

It is often the case that the godly are in a low condition in the world while their adversaries are in high places and power. Thus, “the wicked in his pride” is able to “persecute the poor” and oppress them as their underlings (Psalm 10:2).

5. Persecution will Become a Snare to the Persecutors

We may expect that what persecutors devise against God’s people will become a snare for themselves. The Psalmist speaks of this in Psalm 10:2.

6. When the Wicked Seem to Prosper by Casting God Away

Psalm 10:3-11 describes what life is like when the wicked obtain power. They seem to prosper by casting God away. It describes the tendency downward trend of a godless society.

The wicked man has such a high opinion of his own ability it is clear that he scorns the idea of praying to God for anything. In his pride he will not seek God. He does not consider what may please or displease God, what may honour, or dishonour God. He does not trouble himself with such thoughts. “God is not in all his thoughts”. In Hebrew this means that all his thoughts are that there is no God, or none of his thoughts are on God. His ways always vex others, tending especially to hurt the godly.

He does not fear God’s judgements, believing they will never happen. He fears neither God nor man. Prosperity with apparent impunity from God’s judgements persuade him that God will never take notice of him, call him to account, or punish him. He has said in his heart that God has forgotten, hides His face and will never see it.

7. Atheism in Others Should Draw Us Closer to God

The more we see atheism in the wicked, the more we should draw near to. The godly may well feel that God is at a distance when He is not executing justice. Yet when they are tempted with these very temptations to which the wicked have embraced (that God is afar off and will not judge) they must not yield to them. Rather they must pray against the temptation, as the Psalmist does here: “Arise, O Lord” (Psalm 10:12).

8. God will Not Forget His People

The merciful respect and love which the Lord has to His afflicted people will not allow His justice against these persecutors to be quiet for long. He will not forget the humble (Psalm 10:12). He will vindicate His own glory from the way in which the wicked despise His name and expose it to contempt (Psalm 10:13).

9. God’s People are Comforted by Providence though the Godless Deny it

The godless enemies of God’s people deny God’s providence and justice. Yet His people are comforted during their saddest sufferings by the Lord seeing and taking account of them. The godly can say here that God has seen it (Psalm 10:14).

10. God’s Judgements Will Refute the Atheism of the Wicked

God’s judgments on the wicked shall really refute the atheism of the wicked and repay their opposition made to the godly (Psalm 10:14). The power of persecutors cannot be so great that God cannot weaken and break it, so that they will not be able to trouble His people (Psalm 10:15-16). 

Though the Lord does not reckon with His enemies for their sins at first, yet He reckons for all at last. For lesser and for greater, for one and for all: the uttermost farthing will be exacted. He seeks out their sins till He finds none (Psalm 10:15). O how fearful a reckoning the Lord must make with the impenitent, who die unpardoned and unreconciled with God through the Mediator Christ Jesus!

11. We Should Cast Such Burdens on the Lord

When a believer has poured out their heart before God they should cast themselves with their burden on the Lord. When a humble believer has cast their burden on the Lord, the Lord will not fail in taking care of what He is entrusted with. The poor commit themselves to God (Psalm 10:14).

12. Christ’s Kingdom is Everlasting

The prayer of the persecuted will not be rejected because the kingdom of Christ in His Church is perpetual. Earthly rulers cannot keep on living to help their friends, followers or flatterers. Nor can they keep living to persecute and molest God’s Church. Christ is the Lord and King for ever and ever, to defend His people and punish His enemies (Psalm 10:16).

13. These Experiences Humble Us for Our Good

The Lord’s way is to humble His children through troubles and make them conscious of their need of His help. Their sense of need turns into desire for His help. Their desire turns into prayer. He will then in due time answer, so that the Psalmist can say that God has “heard the desire of the humble” (Psalm 10:17).

14. God’s People Have Everlasting Blessings

Even there were no other comfort to the godly when they feel oppressed the expectation of heaven would be sufficient. Their life, inheritance and happinesse is in heaven. Their oppressors are merely men of this earth whose portion is no better than what they have here in this world (Psalm 10:18).

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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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The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements

The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements

The Complete Remedy For Overcoming Spiritual Discouragements
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
25 May, 2018

Many things around us seem to conspire to bring us down to the depths of discouragement. We can see plainly that things are not as they ought to be. Perhaps we look for fruit from our patient efforts to sow seed with others and it doesn’t appear even promising. So we become weary in well-doing. Ministers are easily tempted to discouragement in the midst of their labours. It’s also not difficult to become discouraged due to things within, especially our spiritual state and progress. How do we get out of being sucked into the spiral of despair? The only all-sufficient source of help is in divine grace.

John Welwood (1649-1678) suffered much though he was only in his twenties. The following extract is from one of the many letters he wrote during his trials and persecution. He was moving from place to place all over Scotland, preaching as he could. (More information about his life can be found at the end of this article). He was an especially powerful preacher and his sermons were said to have “a fiery earnestness”.

 

1. Nothing Should Discourage a Christian

I know nothing that should discourage a Christian. There is not one discouragement in all the Word of God, but His encouragements are many. But through our folly and unbelief we lose the comfort of them.

 

2. Our Guilt and Ignorance Should Not Discourage Us

Should guilt discourage us? He has made Him “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God through him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ says to the Father that if the Christian owes anything to Him, “put it on my account”. “The blood of sprinkling speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

Should wrath discourage us? He has “redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Should our ignorance discourage us? Though we are as beasts before Him, yet he is continually with us and leads us like a flock. Our safety lies not in our wisdom and leading, but in His. Though we are foolish, our pilot is skilful and careful.

Does a body of sin and death discourage us? Indeed we have reason to cry out, “O wretched ones that we are!” “Who shall deliver us from it?” (Romans 7:24 and 8:2) It deadens us and deceives us, inclining little to what is good but a lot to what is bad. It makes us disinclined and slow to do our duty, and puts us out of the right condition for it. And if we say, we will be wise, yet it is far from us. Yet His grace is sufficient for us.

 

3. Sufficient Grace for These Discouragements

Our safety does not depend on grace within us, but grace outside us. If He would leave us to ourselves for only a day, how far wrong we would go. He has given us this promise, that his grace shall be sufficient for us. It is by this grace that we stand. It is by this that “we are made more than conquerors” in all the assaults and temptations that come from without, from Satan and from the world. It is He who keeps us from temptations and delivers from evil.

We should not therefore be discouraged by a body of sin and all the enemies that join with it. We should “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”. He is with us as a mighty One.

 

4. Our Poor Growth in Grace Should Not Discourage Us

Does our small growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ discourage us? That is indeed our great complaint “our leanness, our leanness”. It is fitting that folk grow downwards in low thoughts of themselves, for He dwells with the humble.

The more folk have of grace, the more they see of corruption. The more they have of faith, the more they see of unbelief. It is fitting that folk have such workings within them, to keep them watching and wrestling. What an evil condition we find ourselves in when we have no such work to do. Besides, many times we make an idol of grace and prize it more than the Lord Jesus as the author of it. He may say unto us, Am not I worth more to you than however much grace? The God of all grace is ours. The fountain is ours; we are complete in Him.

 

5. Sufficient Grace is in Christ Not Us

It is fitter that He has our treasure than we should have it ourselves. We would desire to have all at one everything we need for the whole journey. This is still the aim of our hearts, and we would have a stock of grace within us so we would not be beholden to Christ for continual supply. We think it a poor life to live like beggars and to be like minors that must have a tutor.

We think that what is in our hand is surer than what is in Christ’s hand. But Adam had his stock in his own hand and he soon played the bankrupt. Though we had as much grace as possible we would undermine ourselves if His grace were not keeping us each day and moment. It is not our grace and worthiness that commends us to God, only the righteousness of Christ. We are obliged to God for the grace we get, not He to us. If He will keep us with little in hand, we ought to be content and not fall out with him because he will not fill oure purses with money, since we have access unto the treasure house.

 

6. Our Lack of God’s Felt Presence Should Not Discourage Us

Does God’s withdrawing discourage us? Sometimes there may be many fogs and clouds in our world below when all is fair weather above. Though our feelings say that His love changes there is “no variablness, nor shadow of turning” with Him. He loves us when He hides His face as well as when He smiles. He has many wise and holy purposes in all the afflictions we meet with. They are to be ballast for us. One would think it strange to see sand bags being cast into a ship but it is necessary for the ship would be blown over without this. We would go wrong if we lacked the ballast of affliction. Our hearts are ready to become unwatchful in a fair day. Afifictions give us the experience of God’s power, love, wisdom, and faithfulness in bearing us up under them, ordering them for our advantage and delivering us out of them.

 

John Welwood

After hiding in Moray and Fife and other parts of the country, Welwood was banished to Perth in 1679. Sadly he only survived in Perth for three months before contracting an illness and dying at the age of thirty. During his short time there he continued to preach, mostly to families who would come to visit him in the place where he was staying.

On his death bed he said that such was his assurance that he had no more doubt of being in Christ “than if I were in heaven already”. At another time he said: “Although I have been for some weeks without sensible [felt], comforting presence, yet I have not the least doubt of my interest [salvation] in Christ”.  

The morning he died, when he observed the light of day, he said: “Now eternal light, and no more night and darkness to me”. His gravestone had the following inscription: “A follower of the Lamb through many tribulations”.

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Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?

Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?

Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
23 Mar, 2018

Perhaps many never ask why, though they always do it. Other people resist any formula that they think reflects unthinking ritual. Yet Christ commands this (John 14:13-14). We ought certainly to think about what words we use in prayer. Praying in Christ’s name is important because our prayers must be distinctly Christian. But praying in Christ’s name means vastly more than merely mentioning His name. It’s even possible to say “Lord, Lord” without the heart being yielded to Christ (Matthew 7:21). This is a question that takes us to the heart of true prayer. We can only come to God through Christ as Mediator. We can only ask anything in prayer for Christ’s sake.

It’s interesting that the Westminster Larger Catechism (Q180) asks the question “What is it to pray in the name of Christ?” The answer given is “To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation”. This is a helpful summary. John Brown of Wamphray further develops these themes with practical help as well as a fully biblical explanation.

 

1. What Praying in Christ’s Name Assumes

(a) A Sense of Our Unworthiness

We are convinced our sinfulness, vileness, and distance from God because of sin, wickedness, and rebellion. We cannot think to approach God with acceptance in ourselves. We have nothing to commend ourselves to God who is a consuming fire to all who are lying in their sins and not yet reconciled to Him through the mediator. Without this we and all our acts of worship must be an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15:8, 29; 21:27; 28:9).  We must renounce everything within ourselves as any grounds of access to God or hope of acceptance.

(b) Faith in Christ as Mediator

We must have knowledge of and faith in Christ as mediator. He alone and none else in heaven or in earth is appointed to this office, or is qualified and equipped for it.

(c) Faith in Christ’s Work

We must know what Christ has done to make peace and to open a door of access to the Father.  We can have boldness and confidence in our access to God and the throne of grace because Christ as a priest has offered a sacrifice of reconciliation to atone and reconcile us to God. He is daily interceding on the satisfaction offered and accepted. He presents Himself in heaven for us to plead and advocate our cause.

(d) Being Reconciled to God through Christ

We must have fled to Him as the only city of refuge and peacemaker and laid hold on Him by faith. We can never make right use of Christ in a particular request if we have not laid the weight of our whole soul on Him.

(e) Asking According to Christ’s Will

Christ will not allow us to take His name in vain but unquestionably we would if we ask anything in His name which He would not approve or is contrary to His law and command.

(e) Believing this is the Only Way of Access

Only through Him and His name will we and our prayers be accepted before God. If our hearts hesitate and doubt concerning this we cannot ask rightly in the name of Christ. This is because we cannot ask with confidence that asking in His name will not be in vain. We must believe firmly that whatever we ask the Father in Christ’s name He will do it (John 14:13 and 16:24).

 

2. What is Involved in Praying in Christ’s Name?

(a) Drawing Encouragement to Pray from Christ

Through Christ the throne of God has become to us a throne of grace and mercy.  We should be encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace for help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14–16). He has reconciled us to the Father by His blood and purchased mercy, pardon, and grace to us by His death and sufferings. He stands before the throne as our intercessor and advocate, there to procure favour for us and to plead our cause and make our prayers acceptable. These things should be our sole ground of encouragement in approaching God.

We see many things, indeed, all things wrong in us, which may discourage or dishearten us from drawing near to God. Yet this glorious name of Christ and His mediatorial office allure and force us forward despite all discouragements.

(b) Drawing Confidence and Boldness in Prayer from Christ

There is a boldness and confidence as opposed to fears, fainting, and doubting. The basis for this is Christ, His name, offices and work. The boldness and confidence with which the apostle would have us approaching (Hebrews 4:16) is the boldness and confidence of a child that comes to the father and tells all that is in his heart, concealing nothing and without fear or shame, whoever be present. And this must be founded on Christ alone and on what He has done to procure this to us. When we base our boldness and confidence in drawing near to God only on Christ, then we ask in the name of Christ.

(c) Drawing Hope of Acceptance from Christ

When we ask in Christ’s name, we must roll ourselves as sinners on Him and come to God in His arms so that He may make us acceptable (for we must be accepted in the beloved). Thus, the enmity and wrath being taken away, our petitions may have free access to the throne of grace.

(d) Drawing Strength in Prayer from Christ

We ask in His name when we draw up our petitions in Him or by His Spirit in us, and when we advance with them in Him, as going to God in the hand of Christ, by the Spirit, and so roll all our difficulties and encumbrances on Him, or whatever stands in our way, either to hinder us from coming or to retard us or discourage us in us going. Then do we pray in His name, when leaning to His promises of strength and through bearing, we adventure over the belly of all discouragements and of felt weakness and unworthiness.

(e) Drawing Our Hope of Acceptance from Christ’s Work

Christ is the one mediator and the only peacemaker. Only He makes us and all our service to be acceptable to the Father. When we ask in His name, we put our petitions in His hand so that He may present them to the Father and offer them up with incense out of His censer (Revelation. 8:3). Our hopes will not fail us, nor will we conclude the matter desperate, even if we discover much guilt and unworthiness in ourselves. These grounds are the same whatever we may be. Christ’s merits abide fresh with the Father, however it may be with us.

(f) Drawing Confidence and Boldness in Prayer from Christ

This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:13–14). When we ask in His name, we rest confident that our prayers will go into the throne of grace through Him who is our advocate with the Father. All our hopes lean on Him and here we rest and are quiet.

 

3. How Do We Pray in Christ’s Name?

(a) Consider Our Unworthiness

We must remember constantly what we are by nature – worthless sinners at a distance from God, having nothing to commend us to God except misery and poverty. Nor do we have any grounds in ourselves to expect admission to God or His favour and acceptance.

(b) Consider that Christ’s Work is to Make Us Accepted

Christ’s office and work is to bring sinners to the Father and make them accepted. He presents their requests and cause in heaven. He is appointed by the Father for this and will be faithful to Him that appointed Him. He is a faithful high priest and will faithfully perform His work.

(c) Consider that Christ Delights to Help Us

Jesus Christ has great delight in this as man with the true and tender affections bowels of a man. During His days on earth He was tempted and experienced in Himself the pain, pressure, grief and powerful necessity that we suffer, though without sin. It is like the mother’s affections which cause her to run to help her beloved child in trouble with delight and readiness.

(d) Consider that the Father is Pleased with Christ

The Father, having appointed Him to be high priest, intercessor, and advocate will certainly be well pleased with Him in discharging these offices. He will accept all such as come to Him thus and make them and their supplications welcome. He will prevail at the court of heaven for all He speaks for, and therefore that all the requests which He presents will be heard in due time.

(e) Consider Christ’s Work as Mediator

We should make use of Christ in all His offices. Particularly, as ushering our way to the Father on the ground of what He has done. He has purchased freedom of access to us to approach with confidence as resting on Him and trusting in His merits.

(f) Consider Christ’s Sympathy Towards Us

That we should eye Him as a tenderhearted, compassionate, sympathizing high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities. And on this ground we should approach with warmed affections, confidence, freedom of spirit, cheerfulness, and alacrity, making all our requests known through Him.

(g) Consider that Christ Will Never Forget to Intercede

Christ will act the part of a tender-hearted, loving, and sympathizing high priest, intercessor, and advocate. He will cheerfully welcome us as though waiting to receive our prayers to put in His censer and to be employed by us in these His offices.

(h) Consider that We Can Always have Confidence in Christ Despite Ourselves

We need not be up or down in our hopes and expectations of acceptance according to our spiritual condition. The ground of our acceptance always remains the same; it is not in ourselves but in Him with whom the Father is well pleased.

(i) Consider Christ Alone

We expect what we desire only on His account who has purchased and procured all to us that we need. We do this despite whatever we may observe in ourselves which would weaken our hope and expectation, or make us despair of receiving a good answer.

(j) Consider the Answer to be Guaranteed

 

Laying our whole weight on Christ and on His merits, we act in faith in the specific matter that we ask. We leave ourselves and our requests wholly on Christ, putting them in His hand and trusting in Him who is a faithful high priest and tender of all the concerns of His people. We wait in confidence and hope for a good return in God’s own time, only in and through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Thus we see that to ask in the name of Christ is something far different that merely to mention His name in prayer, as to say, “Grant us, Lord, this or that for Christ’s sake,”. Many may be satisfied with this and think that when they have barely made mention of His name, they have done enough.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

This blog article is updated and extracted from John Brown of Wamphray’s very full book on prayer called Godly Prayer and its Answers.  The book is available from James Dickson Books in Kilsyth.

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Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
15 Mar, 2018

​In a world constantly seeking the retreating mirage of satisfaction in the things of this life we need to know where to find true spiritual satisfaction. Samuel Rutherford said that seeking such satisfaction in this world is like digging into cold ice expecting to discover warm fire. Spiritual satisfaction is in Christ and what He has done alone. As Calvin put it: “The whole of God is found in him, so that he who is not satisfied with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God.” Not to be satisfied with Christ involves “detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection”. They are “ungrateful” who “seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ”. It is vital therefore to rest in this satisfaction. How can we assure ourselves that we are those who are only satisfied in Christ?

This is a question that Thomas Hog of Kiltearn (1628–1692) sought to answer for the benefit of others. He does not give an exhaustive but rather a helpful and suggestive answer. The eleven observations he makes are worth pondering further and comparing with Scripture and our own experience. Hog was imprisoned several times including on the Bass Rock. Here he had some time for prayerful reflection as he suffered for Christ. These points have been transcribed from a manuscript in the National Library of Scotland with a little updating of the language.

 

Marks of those who, being lost in themselves, are fit for the consolations of Christ

1. They will acknowledge and not extenuate sin.

2. No earthly comforts can satisfy.

3. Searching sermons are most acceptable and searching Scripture texts are most sweet.

4. No creature can satisfy (no not even an angel) until Christ Himself comes.

5. They all think that they themselves are the chief of sinners.

6. They would take peace with God without all external comfort, indeed they would take Christ with all external crosses and troubles.

7. The least relationship to Christ and benefit from Him will be more sweet and acceptable than to be in any relation but His.

8. The least appearance of opening a door of mercy humbles and melts the heart more than any other thing.

9. They do not doubt Christ’s power, but because of their unworthiness as to whether He will have mercy.

10. All earthly contempt and crosses [trials] are thought light and easily borne. The saddest afflictions are thought nothing in comparison of their [formerly] lost condition.

11. They will not be content with peace without grace, with justification without sanctification.

 

About Thomas Hog of Kiltearn

Hog was a Highlander who also ministered in Ross-shire. Forced to leave his congregation in 1662, he moved to Auldearn near Nairn, where he continued to minister in private. In 1668 he was  imprisoned for some time for preaching at “illegal meetings” or conventicles.

After his release he continued to preach but was arrested in 1677 and imprisoned in the Bass Rock. This is a very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast which was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. When he sought release due to his poor health Archbishop Sharp had him put in the lowest and worst dungeon in the place. Yet his health recovered in these circumstances.

After a later release he had further periods of imprisonment until he was banished from Scotland in 1684. In 1691 he was able to return to the parish of Kiltearn but only for one year. He was buried underneath the threshold of the church door. He also requested the following inscription: ‘This stone shall bear witness against the parishioners of Kiltearn if they bring an ungodly minister in here.’

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