You Need the Vital Impact of Spiritual Joy

You Need the Vital Impact of Spiritual Joy

You Need the Vital Impact of Spiritual Joy
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.
24 Dec, 2020

We seem to have an in-built need for joy. Many direct us to look within us to find joy. We are told to navigate our lives by asking whether things will bring us joy. But Christian joy is not a self-centred principle offering false, short-term happiness that leaves us empty and frustrated. It comes from outside of themselves, from Christ Himself and He does not give it as the world gives. Because it is His joy it is true and lasting and has a vital impact. It has an altogether different quality, because it is heavenly. It is vital for living the Christian life in this world with all that this means.

Christ’s great prayer for His people was “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). What is the nature of this joy? Anthony Burgess says that it comes from God only as part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is centred on God through knowledge of Him and faith in Him as He is revealed in His Word.

As a person is so is their joy. We must be spiritual and heavenly people to have spiritual joy. The heavenly heart delights in heavenly things. The soul must be renewed and sanctified before it can delight in that which is good. The people of God being made new creatures and made partakers of the divine nature, they now come to love and delight in the things they once hated. God is now their delight (Psalm 16:5; Psalm 73:25). They already possess something of this joy. Even in this life, God is the God of His people. They are said to have Him and enjoy Him. Christ is said to dwell in their hearts; the Father and the Son are said to be in them and dwell amongst them. Thus, even in this life they may have unspeakable joy.

But Christians often experience sad trials, it cannot be their duty to be always rejoicing can it? There are particular times when God calls us to mourn (Isaiah 21:12; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Psalm 126:5). In such cases it is our duty to be humbled and to mourn under His hand. They may make us abstain from the natural and lawful joy we might take in created things (such as in fasting), but not to abstain from spiritual joy. In days of humbling ourselves it is a duty to rejoice in the Lord, and such joy will like fire melt and thaw the heart. This joy is so useful that it must not be laid aside. Spiritual joy may abound most when the soul is humbled and there is godly mourning. No grace of God’s Spirit is contrary to another. The same Spirit that works joy is also the Spirit of supplication and mourning. Joy and trembling can go together (Psalm 2:11) as can joy and fear (Acts 9:31). So godly sorrow and joy are also consistent with each other. It is never unlawful to rejoice in God any more than it is to love or to believe in Him.

In this updated extract, Anthony Burgess shows the remarkable effects of Christian joy.

1. It enlarges the heart

The saints glorified in heaven enjoy more of God than ever they could here because their hearts are widened and prepared. Our souls are narrow until joy expands them. A person of a joyful spirit is like a vessel with a large opening. They receive far more of God and Christ than someone who is dejected and unbelieving. We are commanded to open the doors of our heart that the Prince of glory may enter into us. Joy will prepare us. Many of God’s children complain of their narrowness of heart. Fears and worldly cares fill the heart so that they have no room for Christ. They have great difficulty in praying or doing any heavenly duty. Joy is excellent at opening and removing these sinful obstructions. This should make you endeavour after a joyful life; it will make you increase in all dimensions of grace. You will be a Christian in a higher degree.

2. It makes us useful to God

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Weak hands and feeble knees (by which we act and move) are caused by fear. On the contrary, joy makes strong hands and firm knees. Any service done to God which is accompanied with dejections and sorrow has a kind of uncleanness in it, as it was with mourning in the Old Testament (Hosea 9:4). All sinful sorrow and dejection, makes your duty unclean, it pollutes you. God not only loves a cheerful giver but cheerfulness in all duties (Deuteronomy 28:47). You may say, “God is of such infinite purity and holiness that because I am full of infirmities I have reason to tremble before Him”. Granted, but remember the psalmist’s advice, “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). You complain of your lukewarmness and lack of liveliness in God’s service. Consider whether your lack of heavenly joy is the cause of this. Consider whether you might have fulfilled all relations and opportunities more fruitfully, if this joy had been fulfilled in you.

3. It weans our heart from the world

It will make you undervalue all those earthly things which the world admires so much (Psalm 4:7). If then the soul has more joy and gladness in God’s presence and favour than in all earthly contentment whatever, no wonder if the heart sits loose to the one and is fixed on the other. The heart that has been ravished with the sweetness and glory that is in God and Christ, does not know how to stoop to these inferior fading joys. No one sits so loose in their heart from earthly comforts as those who have this heavenly joy.

4. It expels sinful joys

Those that rejoice in the Lord cannot rejoice in sin, because they are so contrary to each other. If you complain of the proneness of your heart to rejoice in earthly and worldly things; there is no medicine like heavenly joy to cure that. What made David express so much joy in God except the heavenliness of his heart. This greater joy must put out the lesser. Pray and endeavour that the joy of the Lord may take up your heart, when this sun is in your soul, the stars cannot be seen. Those who have this heavenly joy may be said to be in heaven while here on earth. No life comes so near to that of the glorified saints in heaven as a holy life accompanied with this joy.

5. It facilitates holy activities

Heavenly joys make us think that the time serving God is short, and to grudge that the work of God is over so soon. The sabbath is their delight (Isaiah 58:13), they are not like worldly people who ask when it will be over so they can go back to the world (Amos 8:5). Nothing makes the duties of holiness so burdensome as lack of joy. If they were your delight you would with joy wish that the sun would stand still and be grieved to stop. The worldly man thinks the day or week is not long enough to enjoy his delights, the godly man thinks the time for enjoying God is too short. Eternity will not make the saints in heaven weary of God.

6. It will sustain us through all afflictions

They are to account it all joy when they fall into trials (James 1:2). It is possible to greatly rejoice in manifold trials with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). How happy it is when your trials do not devour your joy, but your joy takes away the sting of your trials. If we had the joy the martyrs had it would be no more for us to endure their sufferings than it was for them.

7. It increases our desires for heaven

If we have not been able to completely enjoy anything in which we delight our appetite is stirred up to have more of it. David’s incomplete enjoyments of God made him restless and impatient for further communion with Him. Thus, David exhorts us to taste how good God is, if we tasted by experience the sweetness of the excellency of His love, we would still be breathing after Him like David (Psalm 119:20). Heavenly joy makes us look for the coming of Christ and seek to hasten it by our prayers and desires. This is because it is that which will complete our joy. Here sorrow and joy will always be mixed together, but there there is pure and unmixed joy to all eternity.

Conclusion

Spiritual joy is the life and marrow of religion, it is the spur and goad to all holiness. How deceived the world is in looking for joy and consolation any other way whether through reputation and honour, wealth or greatness. These will not give you true solid joy, all these things will become bitter. Whatever joy is treasured up in reference to heaven will always abide, it will never forsake you. But joy that only has reference to earthly things will vanish.

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How We Can Perfect Patience in a Disordered World

How We Can Perfect Patience in a Disordered World

How We Can Perfect Patience in a Disordered World
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.
11 Dec, 2020

Politicians, medics and scientists constantly appeal for our patience in the midst of a challenging pandemic. We are encouraged to “look to the future with a mixture of optimism, determination and patience.”  Even with hopeful developments such as vaccines, patience is required since it will take time to roll-out. But in a high-speed instant culture, patience has been in short supply. Patience is not simply about waiting, it is about enduring with perseverance and actively trusting. True patience is more than a virtue; it is a grace that cannot truly be exercised unless we are united to Christ by saving faith.

In 1665 the great plague of London swept away over 68,000 of the inhabitants. Certain godly ministers remained to minister to the sick, dying and the all-too-terrified healthy. Among them was Thomas Goodwin. The plague had not yet run its course when the Great Fire broke out in 1666. The wind carried the flames to the destruction of more than 13,000 homes and nearly ninety churches. As the fire neared Goodwin’s home, he wanted to save his priceless library and moved half of it to a friend’s house. But the wind changed so that this house was burned and not Goodwin’s own dwelling. His response was to write a book expounding James 1:1-5, published as Patience and its Perfect Work under Sudden and Sore Trials. Out of the ashes of all those valuable books arose a much more valuable one which we will seek to summarise in the following updated abridgement. We can still benefit from it. How does patience have its perfect work in us? Goodwin helps us to understand that it is not through our own resources but through the work of God’s grace within us.

1. How Does Faith Work Patience?

The testing of our faith works patience (James 1:3). All that the soul needs to support it in trials is brought into it by faith.

(a) Faith empties the soul of all its own worth, and righteousness, and excellence in its own eyes.
It gives the soul a thorough sight of the sinfulness of sin and its spiritual sins. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).

(b) Faith brings home to the soul God’s sovereignty and dominion.
David was greatly distressed, he had lost everything and the people spoke of stoning him, but he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). This strengthened him against everything. All the means to support life and nature (such as food and clothing, possessions and livelihoods) may be lacking. Yet it is still possible to say “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). First rejoice in the Lord, what the Lord is in himself: a God blessed for ever. “If God is blessed for evermore, I cannot be miserable”, says the soul. Secondly, he is my God, the God of my salvation.

(c) Faith brings love into the soul.
The love of God brought into the soul by faith will help it bear any condition (Romans 8:31). As faith has everything in God to rejoice in which helps the soul to patience; so especially it has love, in all sorts of distresses.

(d) Faith tells us of a good outcome.
Christ spoke of some of the worst calamities but encouraged them that not a hair of their head would perish (Luke 21:18-19). The outcome would be such as would make amends for every hair. Faith looking at these things, brings relief to the soul. You may well possess your souls in patience, because the outcome will be most blessed and glorious.

(e) Faith shows heaven as the reward of patient enduring (James 1:12; Romans 5:2).
Those believing Hebrews might well suffer the spoiling of their goods with joy when they found in their hearts a credit note to receive it all again in eternal treasures in heaven (Hebrews 10:34). This will be your experience to if you exercise faith and patience in relation to your losses. The following verses speak of the reward of patience (Hebrews 10:35-36).

2. How Does Love Work Patience?

Because faith works by love (Galatians 5:6) it is clear that love also works patience as we see in James 1:12. Love to God makes us cleave to God, and so follow Him through all weathers and endurances. The apostles rejoiced to suffer for Christ’s name (Acts 5:41). If love for others makes us endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), how much more will love to God? It is for His sake also that we bear so much with our brethren. He can do us no wrong nor hurt but is holy and righteous in all His works. All His ways to us are mercy and truth. He has loved and given His Son for us.

3. How Does Patience Help Compose Us?

Patience works a holy contentment (Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:6). It also produces joy (Colossians 1:11; Romans 5:3; James 1:2-4). Faith by patience helps us remove the turbulent emotions that are its opposites. It expels excessive poring over our misery and trials by which our minds are chained and tied to those things (Luke 24:38). When troubles sink deep, they send thoughts up fast. Patience helps us possess our own souls (Luke 21:19).

(a) It expels excessive grief.
Job’s response to all that he lost is complete patience and submission to God (Job 1:21).

(b) It expels envy and anger.
Envy is apt to rise when we compare ourselves with others who have no such afflictions.

(c) It expels excessive fear.
When too much trouble comes on us, we tend to fear too much because we do not know the worst, nor when or where it will end. But Christ says we should not fear (Revelation 2:10). He says that faith and faithfulness unto God, or constancy in enduring unto death are opposed to fear. Faith works patience, and patience eats out fear.

(d) It expels complaining against God.
Job would not charge God foolishly (Job 1:22); this was the patience of Job. It was the patient frame of spirit that God had wrought in him, which the Scripture so extols, that enabled him to do this (James 5:11).

(e) It expels excessive anxiety.
Anxieties distract the soul and scatter it into wild thoughts. Christ in exhorting us to patience warns against this also (Luke 21:19).

4. What is Patience?

(a) It is doing the will of God (Romans 2:7).
There is a difficulty that accompanies every duty and grace, so that we need patience to perform the duty constantly. The difficulty is not only from our own corruption but from the times, places, and we people live in and among. We need patience for every step of Christ’s way in doing as well as in suffering (Hebrews 12:1 and 11). But patience is not only such difficulties, it is also enduring affliction in any way.

(b) It is waiting on God and His will.
Waiting is an act of faith continued or lengthened out (James 5:7; Micah 7:7- 9).

(c) It is waiting with quietness (Lamentations 3:26-27).
Faith quietens the heart in God (Isaiah 26:3; 30:15, Colossians 1:11). As far as faith and patience strengthen the heart,  we are able to bear everything with quietness (John 14:1) Faith will cause trouble to fly away.

(d) It is bearing up without discouragement (2 Cor 4:16).

(e) It submits to God and His will (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19; 1:6).
Patience in the soul brings the heart to submission to God’s will (Psalm 39:9). Even before there is hope (Lamentations 3:26 and 29).

(f) It endures the absence of hope as to the things of this life.
The apostle gives no specific hopes for this life when he urges patience to the end of our lives (Hebrews 10:36-37).

(g) It makes us sanctify God in our hearts.
Job “fell down on the ground, and worshipped” (Job 1:20). When all he has is gone, the first thing he does is to fall down and worship.

5. How Does Patience Have Its Perfect Work?

(a) When we do not have to force ourselves to do these things
When we do not have to chide or force ourselves to be patient it has a readiness for it. Paul’s heart was so fully prepared to suffer that it was a heart-breaking to him that his friends should seek to dissuade him. He was so used to endurance and patience it was not difficult for him (Acts 21:13).

(b) When we are consistent in doing these things
Patience had its perfect work in Moses. He exercised that grace constantly and was therefore the meekest man on earth. This was not his natural temperament or even virtue but a spiritual grace of meekness and patience produced by the Holy Spirit. He learned this by suffering. He points to Christ who says, “Learn of me, for I am meek” (Matthew 11:29). How constantly Moses bore with that rebellious nation with an invincible patience and still interceded for them. This is what Christ is toward us. Only once we read of the impatience of Moses (Numbers 20:10-11 compared with Psalm 106:32-33).

Patience is perfect when it continues to the end (Matthew 24:13). “Strengthened unto all patience and long-suffering” (Colossians 1:11). Patience relates to the weight, grievousness and heaviness of the affliction we are under. Long-suffering refers to the duration and time (1 Timothy 2:10). To carry a great burden for a quarter of an hour requires patience, but to carry it for a day or more, or for a week requires long-suffering. When you have done the will of God, you have need of patience (Hebrews 10:36). This is because still, in the last part of your life, after an active life for a long while, even then when you are near the promise, your patience may be required most.

(c) When we do them in all kinds of circumstances
When a person has been tested in every way and has passed through all sorts of trials and still have patience in a good measure it is perfect. A person’s natural spirit will help them to be patient in some things, but in other things their heart is weak, and cannot bear it. As God tried Abraham in his Isaac, so God will try the sons of Abraham in what is dearest to them, and yet enable them to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

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Why We Must Avoid Causing Spiritual Harm

Why We Must Avoid Causing Spiritual Harm

Why We Must Avoid Causing Spiritual Harm
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.
11 Nov, 2020

Politicians continue to wrestle with how to deal with the “four harms” caused by COVID-19. These are: the direct health impact of the virus, impact on other health areas, impact on society and on the economy. They are profound issues, but spiritual harm does not register in public policy, except as a tiny aspect of society. Spiritual harm is not irrelevant to Christians, however. We need to think about it in general as well as the impact of COVID interventions. We need to think of it in the same terms as we do harms to physical health. Harming spiritual life is more serious but much more common than we have realised. In fact we do it all the time in ways that we barely acknowledge.

It is frighteningly possible to commit acts of spiritual destruction and harm. The apostle Paul tells us that it is possible to destroy the work of God and a fellow believer with something that is not in itself sinful. It may be something as straightforward as what we feel free to eat, if that could be a stumbling block to someone (Romans 14:15 & 20). Their conscience may be in error but if they believe it is sinful then they are spiritually harmed by our example. Our failure to deny ourselves in something indifferent is a breach of charity towards them. We are being spiritually destructive in doing something that would tend to undermine the work of Christ, which is to save and build up souls not destroy them. It puts a stumbling block in their way which would result in their spiritual harm.

In the following updated extract, John Brown of Wamphray summarises the powerful implications of the teaching that the apostle Paul presses home in these verses. Paul says that the work of grace and sanctification, of holiness and comfort in your brother, is the work of God. By stumbling him with your eating you are doing what you can to hinder the progress of that work (Romans 14:20). And so you do that which tends to harm and utterly destroy that work. You destroy the work of God, for a very small and inconsiderable matter. Your food, though useful, is small in comparison of this work of God. And for so small a matter will you endanger the everlasting good of your brother? It is true that all foods are now pure and clean since Christ has come. But it is evil to the person who eats with offence. Although those foods are morally pure and free of any ceremonial uncleanness, yet it is sinful and unlawful to be a stumbling block to your brother in eating those foods.

We are often careless about the impact of our words and actions on others. As long as our conscience is not ringing alarm bells, perhaps we fail to take the conscience of others into consideration. What we do or say may not be sinful in itself but that does not mean it cannot cause spiritual harm to others, depending on the circumstances involved. 

1. Spiritual Harm Happens Even When We Don’t Mean It

It often never occurs to us that we may be doing spiritual harm to our brothers and sisters when what we do isn’t really wrong. Mostly, we try to obey God’s commands and avoid what God forbids. Yet there are ‘indifferent’ things, neither right nor wrong in themselves, which we can do – either with a wrong motivation or wrong attitude – which brings spiritual harm to our neighbour. If we even do something that saddens our brother or sister, making them disappointed that we are not so spiritually mature or spiritually sensitive as they thought we were (for example), then we’ve done something that hurts them spiritually. Through the sadness of heart this causes them, we have made them slow down or falter in the way of godliness. This is so even though we never intended this at all, and even though they will never ultimately be turned out of the way.

2. Spiritual Harm Undermines Christ’s Work

Although it is impossible that anyone for whom Christ died and who is redeemed by His blood will actually perish, yet we may be guilty before God of doing that which (in itself) would tend to murder their souls. By doing that which may lead, provoke, or stir someone up to sin, we are doing what would in its own nature and tendency bring them to ruin and death, if it was not for divine mercy preventing it.

So the sin of stumbling the weak brings deeper guilt than many are aware. It is nothing less than working against Christ, labouring to rob him of what he has purchased, even with the costly price of his blood, and to deprive Him of those for whom He laid down His life. The one we stumble is or may be (for all we know) someone “for whom Christ died.”

3. Spiritual Harm Undermines Brotherly Love

If only we paid more attention to the law of love, and considered more carefully the awful nature of the deed of making our brother stumble, for it is ultimately a form of soul-murder, of destroying the souls purchased by Christ at the dearest rate!

Then we would never dare to take the risk of causing spiritual harm to anyone. We would never dare to be so addicted to our own pleasures, or wishes, or advantages, or convenience, on any excuse whatsoever, that we would continue to do things that are at best only neutral, when it endangers the spiritual welfare of our neighbour.

The smaller and more trivial the thing that endangers the spiritual happiness and welfare of the soul of our brother, the greater is our guilt if we do it. We should instead have such a hearty love to the spiritual benefit and progress of our brother that we would immediately discount whatever good we think we can reap to ourselves by that little thing, as soon as we weigh it in the balance alongside the inevitable hurt which it will bring his soul.

4. Spiritual Harm Attacks God’s Work

The work of grace in a soul, and that soul’s spiritual comfort, is a work which God claims as his own. It is God who gives faith in the first place, as well as all the other graces, and it is God who gives believers all the comfort and joy they have. He is the one who daily nurtures and continues the work of grace by his own constant influences on their souls, and he is the one who brings this work to completion and glory in his own time. This is why it is called God’s work.
And although this work is in God’s hand, and he will certainly bring it on to a perfect conclusion, and never permit it to fail, yet it is liable to many obstacles and obstructions, arising from all sorts of casual occurrences. But we can only interpret these events as things which are means of destroying this work. Although they will never successfully destroy God’s work, they are genuine attacks on God’s work which can bring genuine harm.

5. Spiritual Harm Happens Easily

Just as this work is hindered by many obstructions which it meets with from corruptions within our brother’s soul, so it also meets with impediments from others around us. These impediments come not only by people doing what may foster or stir up corruption in us, or by doing something actually sinful, or even by doing what is lawful and necessary in a carnal, sinful manner. They also even come by people’s ordinary activities and behaviour.

6. Spiritual Harm Can Happen Even Through Indifferent Things

Not only are we causing real spiritual harm when we do things that are actually sinful and prohibited by God, but we can also do spiritual harm when we do something that is compatible with God’s law, and ‘indifferent’ (neither morally right or wrong in itself).

If something is ‘indifferent,’ we are free to do it or not, according to our own pleasure – but only as long as it does not cause anyone any spiritual harm. What is indifferent becomes sinful as soon as our brother sustains spiritual harm by what we’ve done, and when the work of God in our brother’s soul is marred.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

A new book helps you avoid causing spiritual harm through the application of  biblical counsel. In The Scandal of Stumbling Blocks, James Durham helps us to consider the matter deeply by defining the nature of stumbling as well as showing its serious consequences. He looks in considerable detail at different kinds of stumbling and identifies the ways that people can stumble and be stumbled. Durham provides practical advice for avoiding and preventing offense.

Now edited in modern English, Durham’s classic treatment on considerate Christianity can be used to edify a new generation.

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Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity

Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity

Comprehensively Loving the Truth: Our Urgent Necessity
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.
15 Oct, 2020

In this postmodern age, there is a desperate need for churches to state unequivocally what they believe the Bible teaches. We live in a truth-starved post-truth world. The Church is the one place where truth should be true – true for everyone not just for you. It should be counter-cultural rather than blending in with the norm. If we give the impression that truth is changeable, elastic and customised to our needs we are robbing our culture of what it needs. We fail to be salt and light and a city set on a hill. It’s possible to do this by omission, simply failing to articulate and teach the truth clearly and unambiguously. We can still believe the truth and have it written down somewhere. Yet by not actively holding it forth but giving all our emphasis to the practical, we don’t display a full-orbed love for the truth. But this is a biblical priority as well as an urgent necessity as we will find it out in this article.

In 2 Timothy 1:13 Paul instructs us to “hold fast the form of sound words”, he even tells us how to do this (“in faith and love”). As Carl Trueman points out, the word for form or pattern “describes a model, form, or standard that is intended to function as a trustworthy or reliable guide.” It is not simply the content of the message but the actual form of words the particular precise vocabulary by which the truth is defined. We have benefited from vocabulary over the years that help us define the truth, words such as trinity and infallibility. Thomas Case was a member of the Westminster Assembly who spent many years helping define the truth in precise language. In this updated extract he shows why comprehensively loving and embracing the truth means comprehensively defining it.

1. The Importance of a Comprehensive statement of truth

In the Greek “form” means a frame of words or things, methodically arranged. Just as printers set and compose their “types” or letters, in a table. By “words” we are to understand “doctrine, evangelical truths, the principles of the Christian religion.” They are called “sound words,” from their intrinsic nature when they are purely taught without mixture. They are then the principles of religion in their purity and simplicity; the truth and nothing but the truth.

Timothy heard this from Paul, probably a collection of some principal points of religion, which the apostle had methodically summarised and either preached in Timothy’s hearing or drawn up in writing. It was committed to Timothy as a trust and treasure, not only for his own help and direction in preaching, but to transmit to others. It was for the use and benefit of succeeding generations in the church of Christ. In the next verse it is called “that good thing which was committed” to Timothy (verse 14; 1 Timothy 6:20). He was to commit this form of sound words to faithful men who would be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

To hold fast means both to have and to hold. He must have this form of sound words and also hold it fast. He must not swerve from it in the course of his ministry; but tenaciously adhere to it. He must no allow it to be corrupted by men who believe error. He must not part with it for anything but stand by it, and own it, against all opposition and persecution of any kind. The word “keep” in the next verse explains it. Keep the form of sound words as in safe custody, as under lock and key. The purpose of having is keeping, and the purpose of keeping is using. We cannot use, unless we keep ; and we cannot keep, unless we have.

It is of great use and advantage therefore both for ministers and individual Christians to have the main, fundamental truths of the gospel collected and summarised into certain forms of words. Such forms are very carefully and faithfully to be kept. Faith and love are, as it were, the two hands by which we may “hold fast” gospel truth.

2. The Benefit of a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

(a) It beautifies the truth

Every truth single is very precious, and indeed of infinite value, as purchased with, and ratified in, the blood of Christ ; but to see the truths of the gospel linked together in their proper union, is very glorious. In the creation of the world, it is said of every single day’s work, “God saw that it was good”. But when the whole structure of heaven and earth was set together into one entire fabric and creation, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Thus gospel-truths have a rare beauty in their variety and uniformity when seen together. They are no less glorious and admirable than heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, in all their order and ornament.

(b) It helps the understanding

As a constellation of stars gives greater light, so it is in the understanding. A constellation of gospel-principles shining together into the understanding, fills it with distinct and excellent knowledge. It “gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). One truth irradiates and expounds another.

We know redemption by Jesus Christ aright, when we know the guilt and power of sin, and man’s total inability to save himself from either. We know salvation aright, when we know it in the extent and power of all Christ’s offices: king, priest, and prophet. Saving us from the reign of sin as a king, from our ignorance and blindness as a prophet and from hell and wrath as a priest.

(c) It helps the memory

It is easier to remember things when they are summarised in a more orderly way. The reason why people do not generally remember more of the sermons they hear, is for lack of catechising. Order is the very glue of memory.

(d) It defends against error

People would not be so easily drawn into heresy, if they were acquainted with how the chain of gospel-doctrines interconnects. When a chain of pearls is broken, a single jewel is easily lost; divine truths mutually preserve one another.

(e) It helps us grow in grace

Lack of distinct knowledge in the mysteries of religion is a great obstruction to growth in grace. The great cause of the believing Hebrews lack of proficiency was their defect in the foundation, the “first principles of the oracles of God” (Hebrews 5:12). “Unskilfulness in the word of righteousness” made them mere “babes in grace.” (Hebrews 5:12)

3. Holding Fast a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

(a) Ministers

Ministers are to “hold fast this form of sound words;” for they are God’s witnesses to the present age, and trustees for the future (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:20). They are to keep it, by catechising and instilling these principles into the hearts of young ones. They also keep it by assiduous preaching. They explain and apply these principles and maintain the remembrance of them in the church. God has appointed pastors and teachers to explain and apply the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:2). They do this by solid explanation without novel content and expressions; strange words make way for strange doctrines. They also counter false teaching (Philippians 1:17; Titus 1:9).

(b) Believers

Christians of all kinds are to hold fast the form of sound words in their understanding, memory, practice, and in contending for the truth.

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In the Understanding.
Every Christian should have a firm basis of sound doctrine; not only some scraps and fragments of knowledge, but a distinct and clear delineation of gospel-truth. This will mean that they may know things, not merely randomly, but in an orderly way; how they depend on and relate to one another. Too often Christians are content with warm affections without knowledge. So they are like a blind horse, full of energy, but always stumbling. Or they may be content with loose notions, without seeing the truths of God in an orderly and accurate way. They are never stable and rooted in the faith. Christians should seek to have the “riches of the full assurance of understanding” in the mysteries of godliness. (Colossians 2:2)

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In the Memory.
Christians are also to remember the form of sound words. The Spirit of Christ Jesus is given, not only to “teach us all things,” but to “bring all things to our remembrance: ” (John 14:26). Scripture is written to maintain old truths in our memory (2 Peter 3:1; Philippians 3:1). We are slow to understand and believe and apt to forget so we must take extra effort to retain these things (Hebrews 2:1; 2 John 8).

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words In Practice.
We are also to hold fast the form of sound words in practice. To live the truths which we know, is the best way to hold them fast. Unholy Christians live against the faith, whilst heretical Christians dispute against the faith. Whilst others live error, you must live the truth; whilst others deny the gospel, you must live the gospel (Colossians 2:6; 1:10.) Without this, a man forsakes the truth, while he professes it (Titus 1:16).

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words To Others.
“Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:16; see Matthew 5:14) like a lighthouse in the dark. It is a blessed thing, when the lives of Christians are practical models of gospel truths, walking Bibles (1 Peter 2:9)

Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words By Contending for It.
Contend for and publicly own the truth, whatever it costs you. By the flames of the martyrs, future generations were able to see the truths of the gospel more clearly.

4. Believing a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

Faith gives reality to spiritual things. Knowledge gives lustre, but faith gives being; knowledge irradiates, but faith makes real. Knowledge gives light, but faith adds life and power (2 Timothy 1:12). Faith obtains strength from Jesus Christ, to do, to suffer, to live, to die for Jesus Christ, and the truths which He has purchased and ratified by his own blood. Faith “can do all things through Christ” and His strength (Philippians 4:13). The verse says hold fast “in faith and love” and “in Christ Jesus”. Jesus Christ is a fountain of strength and that strength is drawn out by faith (Psalm 71:16).

5. Loving a Comprehensive Statement of Truth

If you desire to hold fast the truth, love it. Those who did not receive the love of the truth were ready to believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:10 and 11-12). Receive the truth in the power of the truth, in the impressions of the truth on your hearts, in the love of the truth. Love the truth, even when the truth does not seem to love you, when it is against your interests.

CONCLUSION

We live in a frozen age, in which men have learned to hold fast everything (possessions, superstitions, errors). Everything except the truth. No doubt this is true as much now as when Thomas Case made that observation. He spent much time along with others to produce in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms a form of sound words that was accurate to Scripture. They did the heavy lifting. But unless we take up a form of sound words and make use of it, we will not hold it fast for ourselves or for others. Transmitting the truth to future generations requires holding it fast in order to hold it for them. We have produced two volumes Our Faith and Bible Truth Explored to make it as simple as possible to hold fast the form of sound words today in the current generation.

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Have You Buried Christ’s Gifts?

Have You Buried Christ’s Gifts?

Have You Buried Christ’s Gifts?
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.
8 Oct, 2020

Our culture thinks of our gifts as certain personal qualities and attributes. But Scripture speaks of gifts as freely received by God’s providence or grace. We have nothing that is our own, we have freely received it. Gifts have not been given to make us feel good about ourselves or for our own glory. They are to be used for God’s glory and the good of others. Everyone has them. They include our opportunities, privileges, abilities, advantages, benefits – spiritual and otherwise. This should be a great encouragement to us but sometimes we are tempted to disregard them. We may not consider ourselves to have much at all because we compare ourselves with others who we think have more. But it is dangerous to do nothing simply because we only have a little. What gifts can we use for Christ’s glory and what are we to do with them?

Christ says that His kingdom requires diligent work, He expects us to work for God’s glory and the good of others (Matthew 25). This parable uses the comparison of a master giving his servants money to trade with for him. The purpose of this parable is to set everyone. Everyone is to work in advancing Christ’s glory and kingdom, according to their ability and calling.
One servant in the parable had received less than others and simply buried it and neglected it He excused this neglect with the argument that he did not have as much and did not think he could do enough to meet expectations. But this is no excuse, the less gifts we have, the less reason we have for neglecting them. Yet as Matthew Henry observes “those who have least to do for God, frequently do least of what they have to do”. The reality is that one talent was worth twenty years wages and so the very gifts that seem to have less comparative value have great intrinsic worth.

The slothful servant received everlasting punishment. But this not teach salvation by works. Everything is freely received, including the outward spiritual blessings of God’s Word and the gospel. Trusting Christ alone for salvation is to make the right us of such things. Perhaps we have not buried those gifts but are there others that we have not made full use of but rather neglected? We are also to demonstrate the reality of our faith and devotion by seeking to do all we can for Christ’s glory (James 2:18; James 3:13). We need to ready to be careful stewards of the grace we have received (1 Peter 4:10) as well as our time, abilities and other gifts. In this updated extract, David Dickson expounds the parable of the talents to show us how we may do this.

1. Christ Has Told Us How to Serve Him

The man in the parable travelling into a far country, disposed of his affairs and ordered all matters until his return. So, our Lord Jesus has given exact orders in His Word to all (especially His ministers), how His house should be governed, and how everyone should serve Him until His second coming again.

2. Christ Has Given Us Different Gifts

The master in the parable does not give the same number of talents to each servant. So, the Lord does not give the same measure of gifts to everyone. Rather He gives more to some and less to others as His heavenly wisdom thinks expedient.

3. Christ Expects Us to Make Best Use of Our Gifts

In the parable, some made use of their talents, some did not. So, in the visible church, some employ the gifts they have according to their calling so as to edify others and advance the kingdom of Christ. Others disregard the kingdom of Christ and do not care how it goes with Christ’s matters so long as their own particular concerns go right. Therefore, they make no conscience of advancing Christ’s kingdom in their calling although this duty is required of them and clearly set down in His Word.

4. Christ Will Take Account of Our Use of Gifts

The master in the parable had a reckoning with his servants. He took account of each man’s faithfulness. So, Christ will call all (especially ministers) to account one day. He will search into how faithful everyone has been in His service.

5. Christ Honours the Faithful Use of Gifts

In the parable the faithful servant (whether he had fewer or more talents) was accepted of his master and made partaker of his joy. So, everyone who in discharging their calling faithfully seeks the glory of Christ and increase of His kingdom) shall be accepted in the day of judgement and put in full possession of eternal life.

6. Christ Condemns Unfaithful Neglect of Gifts

In the parable no excuse would serve to save the slothful and unfaithful servant before his master. So, it will be with Christ in the day of judgment (no matter how much anyone deceives themselves and pretends what they like). All excuses will only serve to show their own condemnation and the unfaithful servant will be cast into hell.

In the parable, he that had one talent but did not use it for his master, is counted as if he had none and deprived of possessing what he possessed. So, any gifts anyone has that do not profit others or advance Christ’s kingdom are counted as if they did not have them (as if lost or taken away). Just as others were not profited by the gift, so they themselves will not be benefited by. But those who use their gifts well for the glory of Christ will be amply rewarded. Every one that has gifts and uses them for their Master (which is in effect to have them) will be given more. They will have increased gifts, graces, and rewards. But those who do not have what they have (do not use it for the Lord’s service) will be deprived of all good which they themselves might have of such gifts. They will be utterly deprived of whatever good they seem to have, and they themselves will also perish.

Conclusion

We may not have buried all of Christ’s gifts but are there some we have hidden and neglected? Christ has not given us our privileges and spiritual blessings as well as outward benefits for us to be comfortable and neglect the needs of others. Everything a Christian has received is for the good of others and the glory of Christ. They are not our own. Christians are to have communion in each other’s gifts and graces. To whom much has been given, much shall be required. How can we best make use of what we have received for Christ’s glory and kingdom? We might start by identifying the “one another” requirements of the New Testament; the various duties we can do for others. There are some challenges in the current climate where opportunities have been restricted. But perhaps other opportunities are now open also. We must not make the mistake of belittling limited ways and means. We need to pray for wisdom and grace to identify how we can advance Christ’s glory and kingdom in whatever way possible.

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4 Ways Sovereign Grace Must Impact Us

4 Ways Sovereign Grace Must Impact Us

4 Ways Sovereign Grace Must Impact Us
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.
30 Sep, 2020

Sadly, it’s all too possible for people to be so opinionated about theological matters that they can even become obnoxious. They can become ungracious even when speaking about grace itself and somehow proud of the deeper understanding they have gained. Those who are new to any kind of convictions can be especially prone to this. This is not to minimise the truths themselves. It does not undermine the importance of having an accurate understanding of the Bible and a concern that others would share in it. It is rather about the spirit and manner in which this is done. Scriptural teaching is intended to humble us and increase our love for God, not merely puff us up with knowledge. What impact then ought sovereign grace to have on our hearts and lives?

What do we mean by sovereign grace? It is the powerful work of God on the heart to transform it by grace and raise it from death to life spiritually. This is described in different ways (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 32:40; John 6:44; Ephesians 1:19). These verses, amongst others, describe the work of conversion and the new birth. As James Durham puts it; this is a distinct, inward, special, real, immediate, efficacious and powerful work of the Spirit of the Lord. It is the work of sovereign grace that is necessary for conversion. The soul is convinced of sin and humbled for it; the mind is enlightened in the knowledge of Christ. The will and affections are renewed and persuaded to embrace and receive Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel.

This is best illustrated in Lydia (Acts 16:14), it is said of her “whose heart the Lord opened, that she might attend to the things that were spoken of Paul”. Here we find:

(a) It is a distinct work

The Lord’s powerful work on her heart is distinguished from Paul’s preaching to her ear; the Lord opened her heart. It is not as if there were some power infused into the Word. Although it accompanies the Word, it is a distinct person working a distinct work. Thus it is separable from the Word, though it is done in the heart of the same sinner to whose ear the Word is preached.

(b) It is an inward work

It is on the heart. Besides the outward preaching and calling of the Word, there is an inward, powerful, effectual work and calling by the Spirit in the conversion of a sinner. This speaks to the heart as the Word speaks to the ear. This work of the Spirit as part of conversion is much more than any external persuasion or the preached Word can produce.

(c) It is a special work

It is not all who hear Paul preach whose hearts are opened, but it is the heart of one Lydia. It is peculiar to those whom the Lord converts and is applied to none others except those in whom He works faith and whom He effectually calls by His grace. It is a special work and not common to all who hear the gospel otherwise it could not be said that this report had not been believed and the arm of the Lord not revealed (Isaiah 53:1)

(d) It is a real work

It makes a real inward change on her. It is real and powerful in producing and bringing about the renewing of the will and faith in the soul. It is a real, powerful work of the Spirit, bringing about the conversion of the sinner.

(e) It is a direct work

For the Lord not only enlightens her understanding, but goes down to the heart and opens it, and works a change in it directly or immediately. Paul indeed, by his preaching, opens the way of salvation to all that heard him; from which, though many go away with their hearts unopened, yet the Lord has a secret mysterious, real, inward work on her heart, which is evidenced by the effect. He not only enlightens her mind but makes her willingly yield to the call of the gospel, by opening her heart. It is not simply a moral persuasion; it is God’s enlightening the mind, and by that persuading the will to be united with Christ.

How then should such sovereign grace impact us?

1. Be Humble

Learn from this to be humble. What do you have that you have not received? And if you have received it, why boast as if you had not received it (see 1 Corinthians 4:7). It is unsuitable for believers (who are unashamedly free grace’s debtors and beggars) to be proud and forget themselves. You have nothing, believer, to boast of, except that God has humbled you with his grace and should you be proud of that as if you had made yourself thus? Therefore guard watchfully against all puffing-up, self-conceit, and high-mindedness. Strive to be humble and to keep a low sail, or else you may break out into some scandalous offence and become a shame and reproach to the gospel.

We commend humility to you above many things; for we think that in these days, folks’ pride is likely to break their necks. When conceit first creeps in, they begin to think they are so far advanced in holiness, that they must not keep company with others, nor join in worship with them. From that, they go to another thing, and from that to a third so that it is hard to tell where they will stop or end. They become so giddy, that they are scarcely likely to leave themselves enough ground to stand on. Be ashamed of pride; it is a most intolerable thing to be proud of that which God has given, for which you had no responsibility of which you can no more boast than those who never had it. 

2. Be thankful

Give God the praise for what you have received. It is becoming for the upright to be thankful (Psalm 33:1). It is no small thing, to have God’s power manifested in producing faith and conferring grace. The thrones, kingdoms and great things of this world are nothing to this. It is peculiar to the Lord’s own and not common. Many get their fill of the world who never got nor will get this. The world is of so little value with the Lord, that (so to speak) He does not much regard who gets it, though it is exactly distributed by His providence. But converting and upholding grace is peculiar to His favourites. If you are clear that He has bestowed grace on you, how you should exult in blessing God (as David did) for giving counsel to choose such a portion and for His powerful determining of your heart by His grace to embrace it. You do not have yourselves to thank for this, but God.

3 . Be compassionate

Be tender towards others, considering that it is only grace that has made the difference between you and them and not any good nature in you which was not in them (as some foolishly imagine). Do not be puffed up at the faults and falls of any, but rather mourn for them as well as for your own. Be the more humble when you think of the difference that grace has made, left you fall. Since you stand by grace lone, do not be high-minded, but fear. Of all persons, it befits you worst of all you to regard lightly never mind mock at the falls of others, considering who and what has made the difference.

4. Be Holy

If it is so special a privilege to be partakers of this powerful and special grace of God exerted in the great work of conversion, there is surely something special called for in your conduct. It must be worthy of the gospel in all things and correspond to this grace bestowed on you. What kind of person ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness (see 2 Peter 3:11)?

 

 

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The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need

The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need

The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need
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.
2 Jul, 2020

If we are discouraged with ourselves it is often because of sin. Here are the great encouragements you need if you are inwardly burdened with the weight of your own guiltiness. They are found in Christ and the promises that are secure in Him for those that lay hold of them in faith, humbly confessing their sin. Hugh Binning explains.

You have two desires for Christ—(1) that your sins may be forgiven and (2) that they may be subdued. He has two solemn obligations to satisfy you—(1) to forgive your sins, and (2) to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The soul that is truly penitent does not desire pardon of sin alone. That is not the chief or only aim of such a soul in going to Christ. It also seeks to be purified from sin and all unrighteousness; to have ungodly lusts cleansed away. They do not only want to be assured of being delivered from wrath and condemnation. They want also to be redeemed from sin, so that it has no dominion over them. They desire to be freed from death and have the conscience purged “from dead works to serve the living God,” (Hebrews 9:14). They want to have sin blotted out of an accusing conscience and purged out of the affections of the heart.  They want their sins washed away so that they may be washed from their sins (Revelations 1:5).

Now, as the great desire and aim of such a sincere heart is to have sin purified and purged out of us as well as pardoned, so there is a special obligation on God our Father. He promises, not only to pardon sin, but to purge from sin; not only to cover it with the garment of Christ’s righteousness, and the breadth of His infinite love but also to cleanse it by His Spirit effectually applying that blood to purify the heart.

Now, where God has voluntarily bound Himself voluntarily out of love, do not loose Him by unbelief. Strive to receive those gracious promises, and to take Him as He has bound Himself and as He offers. Believe, I say that He will both forgive you, and in due time will cleanse your heart from the love and delight of sin. Believe His promise and this will set a seal to his truth and faithfulness. There is nothing in God to frighten a sinner except His justice, holiness, and righteousness. But if you in humbly confessing your sins flee to Jesus Christ, the very thing which discouraged you, may now encourage and embolden you to come. Because “he is just and faithful to forgive sins.” His justice being now satisfied, is engaged to forgive, not to punish.

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Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning

Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning

Following the Rainbow Trail to its Original Meaning
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.
22 Apr, 2020

Over recent weeks rainbows have been appearing all around the world. It was first started in Italy and Spain as a sign of hope and solidarity, and has spread to other countries. Children have been encouraged to paint rainbows and put them in their windows. They can then follow “The Rainbow Trail” as they go out on walks. The purpose is to hold out bright hope in the darkest of times. It is very welcome to see rainbows better connected with their original meaning rather than made a political symbol of an unbiblical lifestyle. There is much more to the rainbow, however, than a general symbol of hope in stormy times. God made it for a purpose and gave it a particular significance. It has a lot to teach us when we reflect carefully on its meaning as given in Scripture.

The rainbow is not just mentioned in Genesis 9 after the flood, it is also in the symbolic visions of Christ in Ezekiel and Revelation. William Greenhill draws out the fuller significance of the rainbow as it appears in the vision given to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28. There is a description of that brightness or glory surround the One that sat on the throne (v26-27). When we compare it with a similar description in Revelation 4:3, it seems clear that this is a vision of Christ Himself. He Himself is glorious, robed with the brightness of glory and has a brightness surrounding Him that resembled the bow in the cloud, or as we call it the rainbow. The following is an updated extract. Perhaps there is much that we can encourage ourselves with here as we apply it to our present circumstances.

1. The Rainbow Speaks of God’s Faithfulness

The first mention of the rainbow is in the ninth chapter of Genesis (Genesis 9:13). Here God puts a double honour on it: (a) He says it is His, “my bow”; and (b) He makes it a token of the covenant between Him and the earth.

The rainbow is meant to remind us of the great flood that drowned the world, and to assure us that God will never do so again (Genesis 9:14-15). When we see the bow therefore in the heavens, we should: (a) be led to consider divine justice against the iniquities of the world, which He punished most severely, so as to destroy all people. (b) to remember the rich mercy of God to our forefathers and ourselves. He has bound Himself to us by covenant. This bow is the sign of that promise that He will never destroy the world again in that way.

2. The Rainbow Speaks of God’s Glory

The brightness that Ezekiel saw seems to surround the whole throne and person of Christ. We read in Revelation 4:3, where Christ is on the throne, that there is a rainbow round about it. This suggests that the rainbow mentioned here was also round about the throne.

God’s glory is always greatly evident in creation but when the rainbow is in the cloud something is added which is not to be neglected. God has added something glorious with various glorious colours in it. It is beautiful and attracts the eye at that moment more than all the other glory of the skies.

(a) God’s glory in creation

The glory of God shines in the heavens. The rainbow, as you know, has its origin and being from the beams of the sun. Although it is glorious, yet it is a borrowed glory. Thus, it teaches us that the glory in all created things is from another, from Christ. By Him kings reign. He gives gifts to the sons of men. He enlightens every man that comes into the world (see Proverbs 8:15; Psalm 107:8; John 1:9).

(b) God’s glory in providence

It speaks also of the glory and beauty of Divine Providence in its various dealings with the wicked and the godly, (as in the flood). It punishes one and rewards the other. When this is done there is so much glory in it that angels and men are deeply affected by it.

3. The Rainbow Speaks of Mercy

It is a token of mercy and favour. It is a bow without arrows and the back of it points towards the heavens and ends downward. Thus, it is a sign of mercy. When someone shoots arrows, he holds the back away from him (but here it is not directed towards the earth but rather upwards).

Scripture shows how it is a sign of grace and mercy. In Isaiah 54:8-10 the covenant made with Noah is applied to the covenant of grace made in Christ. In Revelation the rainbow is also a sign of grace. Christ sits on the throne with a rainbow round about it (Revelation 4:3). This shows that the throne of Christ is surrounded with mercy.

In Revelation 10:1 Christ is presented in a vision, crowned with the rainbow. There He is presented as a messenger of grace and peace. He is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and His crown is the rainbow, an emblem of peace (Genesis 9:13-14). The rainbow has a variety of colours and is all glorious. Thus, it can appropriately represent the mercies of Christ which are various and glorious.
This symbol therefore signifies grace and mercy offered to those that were godly or who would repent of their wickedness. The glory of His justice formed into a bow is a token of mercy.

4. The Rainbow Speaks of Grace in Christ

Mercy and grace come to us through the human nature of Christ. In Ezekiel’s vision the brightness and the beams that make the bow come out from Him and surround Him (v26-27). When the Word was made flesh, glory and grace emanated (John 1:10 and 14). That was the most glorious rainbow that ever was or shall be in the world. He was not merely a sign of peace but is Himself our peace (Ephesians 2:14) because by His blood we are brought near.

5. The Rainbow Speaks of Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

The Lord Jesus Christ in wrath remembers mercy, He mingles mercy with judgment. He sits as Judge upon the throne, pronouncing His sentence against a sinful kingdom, executing the vengeance written against sinners. Yet here He is surrounded with the rainbow. This was to show the people of Ezekiel’s time that He would not utterly destroy the Jews, a remnant would be spared. When the great flood was drowning the world Noah and his family were saved; there was mercy in the midst of judgment. Here is a Judge with a rainbow over His head, to assure the godly they would not perish in this flood of wrath being poured out on the Jews at this time.

When Christ sits in judgment with the rainbow round about him, the godly may know that they will not perish by the wrath of God. If the glory of His majesty, stateliness of his throne, terror of His
justice and the greatness of His power ever discourage us, we must look at the rainbow round about Him and remember His throne is surrounded with mercy.

It was said of the Jews in the past that when they saw the rainbow, they went out to confess their sins but would not look at the rainbow itself. Confession of sin, or indeed any other duty, will do us no good unless we look at the rainbow, the mercy of Christ. Justice and mercy surround the throne of Christ. There was brightness round about, and the rainbow was round about. Go to Christ’s throne, there is nothing but justice there for the sinner unless they are repentant and believing, yet if they are such, there is then nothing but mercy there for them.

There was a storm at this time yet in it there was also a rainbow for the prophet and godly to look at. It is “the bow in the cloud in the day of rain.” God rains snares, fire and brimstone, and horrible tempest on the wicked but even then the rainbow is in the cloud and the righteous should look for it and look at it. They should remember the covenant and its mercy. Is the present time not a rainy and stormy time, is this great Prince not angry with the kings and kingdoms of the earth ? Does He not frown, chide and smite in many places? Let us look at the rainbow now and know that if a deluge of wrath comes on the world, yet God’s Noahs will be safe in the ark. The righteous will be hidden, Christ will manifest mercy to them.

John says that it was when he was in the Spirit that he saw the throne and the rainbow (Revelation 4:2). Let us be in the Spirit and look with eyes of faith, we shall see the throne and He that sits on it with the rainbow round about Him. Even though kingdoms are swamped by floods of errors, superstition, and ungodliness, even though they are drowned in troubles and blood we will still be able to see God and Christ with love and mercy towards us.

Conclusion

When we consider the original meaning of this symbol in Scripture it is bright with even greater, more enduring and more certain hope than most people appreciate. The rainbow reminds us of God’s faithfulness and mercy, and it reveals much to us of His grace in Christ. Though the skies may be dark in many ways under present troubles yet there is a bright expectation of God’s mercy and faithfulness being fulfilled towards His people. He is working for His glory and the good of His people. He refines them in their faith during times of affliction. There are also many ways in which those who do not believe are no doubt being brought into contact with God’s Word and gospel. They have this mercy of God in Christ and an eternal hope revealed to them. God reigns and we may see by faith a rainbow of mercy surrounding His throne.

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Spiritual Depression and Your Soul’s Recovery From it

Spiritual Depression and Your Soul’s Recovery From it

Spiritual Depression and Your Soul’s Recovery From it
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.
7 Feb, 2020

Many believers have at times experienced a prolonged period of being spiritually cast down. It’s different from depression in a medical sense. It has mainly spiritual causes and relates to spiritual things. The delight and joy that they experienced in spiritual things seems almost a distant memory or at best an infrequent reality. Perhaps it is due to the inroads of sin and guilt or a weakened sense of assurance. Or it may be in relation to afflictions and sorrows that we or the Church experience. Elijah and David are prominent examples of this in Scripture. We need to understand why it takes hold and how, by God’s grace, the cast down can be lifted up again.

Perhaps the most well known statement of spiritual depression in Scripture is David’s cry of dejection in Psalm 42:11. David was mourning his enforced absence from God’s public worship (Psalm 42:2-4). He was cast down with a sense of the sin he had committed against God its effects. He felt a sense of an absence of God’s love and favour (Psalm 42:9). He also laments oppression by the enemies of God’s people (Psalm 42:4). He was more grieved by sin and the blasphemies against God (Psalm 42: 3 and 10). No doubt the activity of the evil one was in it too.

Christopher Love notes that in speaking to his soul David is reproving himself (Psalm 42:11). In asking the question he finds the reasons for being cast down in himself rather than elsewhere. He was in trouble because of persecution from wicked men and sorrows about the state of the Church of God. But he says to his soul, why are you casting yourself down? He is speaking to his soul about its troubling thoughts rather than listening to them. There may be many other factors in being spiritually cast down but sometimes we ourselves are part of the causes.

Spiritual depression is not the same as clinical depression and other related illnesses. It is related to spiritual things and has spiritual causes. Some connection where people are prone to clinical depression or similar ailments is, however, possible.

Like other puritans Love understands the physical factors that accompany spiritual depression. There can be physical causes that are companions of troubles of conscience, doubts, and spiritual distress. There is such a natural connection between the soul and the body, that lack of health in the one, causes trouble in the other. If there is a natural tendency to despondency, there will be trouble in the soul that is experiencing trouble of mind.

Love preached seventeen spiritually beneficial sermons on Psalm 42:11. In this updated extract, we can draw from this rich biblical counsel. He addresses the helpless condition that those in a state of spiritual depression often find themselves.

In emphasising that there are things that we can actively address, he is not promoting an unspiritual and legalistic dependence on our own works. Everything depends on grace and the working of the Holy Spirit but there are means that God has appointed for us to use in seeking more grace and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

1. Causes of Spiritual Depression

(a) Cherishing sin in the heart. Nothing in the world will keep the soul from the assurance of God’s favour more than indulging the soul in any known sin (Psalm 66:18). While David harboured sin in his heart and hid his sin from God, he lost the shining of Gods’ face on his soul. He prays to God to restore to him the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51:12). Righteousness and peace belong together (Isaiah 48:18; Ezekiel 14:4-5). Those who indulge sin in their heart will have no peace in their conscience. They will not enjoy the smiles and light of God’s face, but the sense of his wrath, much anguish, and sorrow, and perplexity of mind for sin.

(b) Failure to exercise grace. Little activity in grace will produce little evidence of grace. Strong comfort of God’s love goes along with exercising grace (John 14:21). Peace be multiplied If you do not multiply your graces, God will not multiply your peace. if you do withdraw the exercise of your grace, God will withdraw the comforts of your grace.

(c) Laziness in holy duties. If you are a spiritual sluggard who is not willingly performing your duties towards God, (Proverbs 18:9) you can be assured of having enough spiritual poverty in your soul to produce a lack of comfort. When you deny God your obedience, God is perfectly just to deny you the peace and comfort of His grace towards you. Grace is most noticeable in the soul when it is living and active.

(d) Looking for comfort more than grace. Some lack more comfort then they need to. They look more for marks of grace that may tell them what they are, than for commandments which tell them what they should do. When Christians seek privileges more than duty, it is just with God to keep their comfort from them. When Christians seek more to know that they are in a state of grace, rather than to use those means that are prescribed to get grace it may be why God keeps the comforts of the Spirit from them. (The means of grace are the Word, prayer, hearing the Word preached and other ways in which graces like faith, love and hope are strengthened).

2. Causes of Spiritual Depression We Can Remove

(a) Spiritual pride. Pride is the bane of grace and comfort. God resists the proud (James 4:6). The Greek word literally means that He sets Himself in battle array against it. If ever you would regain the certainty and assurance of God’s love, remove pride (Job. 33:17).

(b) Deadness of heart in holy duties. Comfort is diminished when we are less spiritually vigorous and lively in spiritual duties. Little duty, and small comfort go hand in hand. When the affections are dead, the heart constrained in duties, evidences and comfort of grace will be eclipsed. Careless spiritual activities are rewarded by God’s frowns, not His smiles.

(c) Worldly delights. Worldly joys debilitate spiritual joy. They take away the heart (Hosea 4:11). Those who are overwhelmed with worldly delights will never have joy in the Holy Spirit.

(e) Things that grieve the Spirit. Take heed of grieving the Spirit if you wish to have the comfort of the assurance of God’s love (Isaiah 63:10). If you grieve God’s Spirit, He will grieve yours. If you grieve the Spirit, by resisting the way He moves you towards holiness you will never regain the comforting work of the Spirit.

(f) Lack of compassion to others who are troubled in mind. A herd of deer abandon the wounded deer to fend for itself alone. Christians often abandon troubled souls to themselves in this way. They lack compassion and tenderness towards them. Pitying such will help you regain comfort for your own soul.

(g) Lack of fear towards God. If God always displayed smiles, it would breed contempt. God’s majestic sovereignty shows displeasure so as to correct the spirit of carelessness in His people.

(h) Worldly-mindedness. If your hearts are filled with the world you will never enjoy the comfort and assurance of God’s love. A worldly-minded man, can never be strong in assurance.

3. Recovering From Spiritual Depression

(a) Exercise grace constantly. Exercise grace, and it is then with God to give you comfort (2 Peter 1:5). God promises that He will multiply your peace if you increase your grace (Isaiah 32:17; Psalm 119:165; Psalm 50:23). Some Christians who lack assurance spend more time in complaining they lack comfort than they spend in exercising grace (e.g. faith, hope, love, repentance etc).

(b) Keep a clear conscience. This is the way to quieten the guilt of conscience (Job 11:15). Do not indulge the guilt of any known sin.

(c) Remember past experiences of God’s love. This is what David does (Psalm 42:6). Think of old mercies and loving kindnesses. This is the way encourage the heart (Psalm 77: 10-11).

(d) Argue by faith against your feelings. Abraham would never have believed God’s promise, if He had not used arguments of faith against what he felt and saw.

(e) Base your comfort on the unchangeable Covenant. If Christians build their eternal comforts on their changing feelings, their comforts will be up and down, ebbing and flowing; Sometimes their feelings are hot as fire, other times cold as frost. Base comforts on an unchangeable Covenant to regain and attain everlasting comforts.

(f) Seek counsel from others. Ask experienced Christians about your condition. Sometimes it is better to trust the opinions of others than our own.

(g) Never use wrong ways of pacifying the troubles of your mind. Some immerse themselves in wordly delights and affairs. If we are inflamed with a sense of God’s wrath and run to sin, it only increases the heat. It is like someone rubbing themselves with nettles to deal with a bee sting.

(h) Pursue duty more than comfort. Many Christians spend more time in fruitless complaints, that they lack comfort, then in holy endeavours to perform duties. If we spent more time in performing duties than in pursuing comfort, comfort would sooner be gained. When a house is on fire, the urgent work is to put out the fire not enquire how it happened. We are to engage with God not merely complain of a loss of comfort. David cried to God in prayer when He hid His face from him (Psalm 30:7-8).

(i) Spend more time strengthening than doubting grace. Focussing on the threatenings rather than the promises of Scripture will only weaken your comforts than strengthen them. If you cannot find comfort from acting grace, consider your general inclination. Perhaps you cannot pray well, but why are your praying? Is not to get more communion with God and more power against sin?

 

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How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Weep

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

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

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

7. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Be Sincere

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

8. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Experience Enlargement

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

Encouragements

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

 

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How Are You Learning Christ?

How Are You Learning Christ?

How Are You Learning Christ?
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.
19 Dec, 2019

Anyone who is one of Christ’s disciples must be learning from Him. We understand more about Christ and what it means to be His people. This includes what He expects from us and His purpose for us. It is not just being united to Christ but becoming more like Him. As our likeness to Christ increases, so will the real spiritual unity we have with His people. But we’re not left to ourselves to define what learning Christ means or even how we do it. Are you learning Christ in the right way? Are you using the right ways to learn Christ? If we are, it results in a transformed walk. We haven’t truly learned Christ if it does not have that impact on our lives.

Greater maturity in the faith involves being instructed in the responsibilities consistent with being born again. In Ephesians 4:20-21 Paul emphasises that to be a true believer is to have learned Christ. It implies that we need to be taught and to be willing to learn. But he emphasises that we must learn Christ in a particular way. He also underlines the contrast with the world in the context of this verse. Learning Christ is entirely contrary to and inconsistent with the sinful life of unbelievers (Ephesians 4:17). James Fergusson explains more of what learning Christ means.

1. LEARNING CHRIST IS EVERYTHING

True believers must be scholars, learning something daily. The sum of everything they have to learn and know, is Christ. He is the end of the law (Romans10:4) and the great subject of the gospel (Colossians 1:27) and all the promises are fulfilled in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

2. LEARNING CHRIST IS PRACTICAL

We learn truth properly and savingly when the knowledge of truth we attain is as Christ’s knowledge was. His knowledge of truth was not merely theoretical and speculative but practical (Psalm 40:8). The Ephesians were to be taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus, or else they had not so learned Christ.

We ought to walk in accordance with how we are instructed and learned by Christ. The knowledge which we have of Him and from Him, must be put into practice in our walk. Paul’s goal is to prove they should not walk as unbelievers, because they had not learned Christ in that way.

3. LEARNING CHRIST IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH SIN

Not every sort of learning Christ or knowledge of Him excludes ungodliness. Some do not see such knowledge as inconsistent with a sinful life. Many learn and know Him in one sense. But the abuse the knowledge they have of Him so as to make them sin with less restraint (Romans 6:1). They turn the grace of God into immorality (Jude 1:4). He shows this inconsistency between learning Christ and practising ungodliness by using the qualification “if so be” (or if indeed) they have heard Christ (Ephesians 4:21).

Giving free rein to sin is inconsistent with being in a state of grace and having saving knowledge of Christ. No argument prevails more with a heart transformed by grace to restrain them from indulging sin than having this truth thoroughly impressed on them. Paul chooses to use this particular line of reasoning out of many other possible arguments.

In verses 17-19 he has shown the vileness of sin in its blackest colours, but this is not sufficient to scare the Lord’s people from it. Sin has such an advantage even over the best, and such is their proneness to it, that other strong arguments must be used to keep them from falling into it. After showing the vileness of sin at length, the apostle sees it necessary here to add another argument to enforce the dissuasive arguments previously used. This further argument is that they have not “so” (in that way) learned Christ.

4. LEARNING CHRIST IS THE ONLY REMEDY FOR DEALING WITH SIN

There is no remedy or cure for our natural corruption and the festering wounds and sores it produces except in Christ Jesus. Christ must be truly known, embraced and made use of as He is declared in the doctrine of the gospel. No moral precepts, even though they may be enforced by the strongest and most moving considerations reach the root of this awful disease. He contrasts learning Christ as the only antidote against the dark futility of mind and what it produces.

Paul goes on in verse 21 to qualify what he said about learning Christ. If in learning Christ through hearing Him preached they had been inwardly taught and instructed in the truth by Christ Himself, they would know it was inconsistent with a sinful life. Then they would have been taught as the truth was in Him not only knew the truth, but also practised what He knew. He practised the truth in such a way that His life was a true replica of the holiness which is taught in the gospel (Matthew 11:29).

5. LEARNING CHRIST IS NOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION

A minister may have various reasons for charitably regarding all, or any of the Lord’s people committed to his charge, as truly transformed by grace. Yet he ought to express this opinion cautiously. There may be reasons for them to search and enquire into their own state as to whether this is indeed the case. Although Paul expresses the charitable assessment in verse 20 that they had not so learned Christ, he qualifies it in verse 21. This is so that they test and examine themselves whether indeed they have heard Christ.

6. LEARNING CHRIST MEANS BENEFITING FROM PREACHING

The only knowledge of Christ which provides the true remedy against the power of indwelling sin comes through preaching. It is produced in us by the ordinary means of hearing Him preached and declared in the public ministry of the gospel (Romans 10:14-15). This is a condition required in truly learning Christ, whether we have heard Him.

7. LEARNING CHRIST IS THE SPIRIT’S WORK

Hearing Christ preached by sent ministers, is not enough in itself to learn Christ effectually. Christ Himself must teach us inwardly and effectually by His Spirit. Otherwise, we cannot learn Him in this way. This is another aspect and a main way in which this statement is qualified. Paul says, if indeed they have been taught by Christ.

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Valuing the Deepest Possible Friendship

Valuing the Deepest Possible Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

1. CHRIST’S FRIENDS ARE TRUE FRIENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. CHRIST’S FRIENDS FEAST WITH HIM

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

3. CHRIST’S FRIENDS LEARN HIS SECRETS

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

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

4. CHRIST’S FRIENDS CAN PRAY WITH BOLDNESS

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

5. CHRIST’S FRIENDS CAN PRAY CONFIDENTLY

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

6. CHRIST’S FRIENDS ARE STRENGTHENED IN DUTY

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

7. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD

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

8. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE COUNSEL IN DIFFICULTY

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

9. CHRIST’S FRIENDS HAVE SYMPATHY

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

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

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