How to Recover Our Souls When they are Withering

How to Recover Our Souls When they are Withering

How to Recover Our Souls When they are Withering
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.
10 May, 2019

​We’ve heard about the decline of Christianity, church attendance and Christian influence. Aspects of this are matters of discussion and debate. Yet decline and increased pressure on the Church are certainly evident. Social and cultural pressures and a moral revolution that sets the agenda and seems to place the church continually on the back foot. Or the challenge of how to communicate the gospel in a world where people mistakenly think it no longer makes sense. There’s a danger that when we’re focussed on issues, pressures and commendable activity–the potential for inward decline. Has there been a decline of living Christianity in your heart and mine? It’s easy to fall into the temptation of becoming consumed by outward activity rather than motivated by inward love and grace. What if our souls have begun to wither and we’ve scarcely noticed. How would we know? More importantly, how can we recover a declining condition?

Christ tells His people who are withering in their souls to be watchful or awake (Revelation 3:2). This is the first step towards reviving a withered soul. As Obadiah Sedgewick puts it there can be “no reformation without diligent and serious consideration”. Those in Sardis were in a dying condition. The powers of truth and grace were extremely faint and seemed to be expiring. There were things “that were ready to die”. Spiritual life needs to be strengthened in such a dying condition. Outwardly things may have looked good to the eyes of others. But it was imperfect and incomplete before God. Their condition required remembering and repenting. Obadiah Sedgewick (a member of the Westminster Assembly) explains the implications of Christ’s exhortations in this updated extract.

 

1. How Do Our Souls Wither?

(a) In Our Profession. The leaves of our profession may wither when we do not have even the previous zeal and diligence for being at services. We may become so remiss in these things as to become something of a stranger to God.

(b) In Our Conversation. We may no longer delight to be with the people of God. When we are with them we avoid profitable conversation about heaven and holiness.

(c) In Our Affections. Christ tells the Ephesians that they had left their first love (Revelation 2:4). There was a cooling in the degree of love similar to the decline in the Galatians that Paul speaks of (Galatians 4:15).

(d) In Our Obedience. We obey God occasionally or in a distracted way or with a kind of cold, careless formalism. Before no time was too long and no excuse was sufficient to neglect serving God. Praying did not satisfy without lamenting groanings of spirit or more fervent wrestling with God. But now prayer and other spiritual activities are like a pulse hardly felt. Mere words and just doing the activity is enough.

(e) In Our Understanding. Previously our mind was taken up with delight in meditating on God and Christ, divine truths and ways. Now we are taken up with things that are empty and transitory. These so fill the soul that it becomes almost a stranger to holy meditations. It has almost lost its relish for deep thoughts of God, Christ, or salvation.

(f) In Our Gifts and Abilities. These become rusty and blunt because we want to be comfortable and do not use them aright or else focus them on worldly things.

(g) In Our Graces.  It is worst of all when we are dying in our graces. Physical health may go up and down and so it may be with a Christian’s graces. Perhaps they are not being kept active or being strengthened by spiritual activity.

 

2. Why Do Our Souls Wither?

(a) Error.  If poison gets into the body it weakens and endangers life. Unsound doctrine can do this as it did to the churches of Galatia. When the understanding is corrupted with any error, truth does not have the same power in the soul. Where truth loses its authority, grace will lose its strength.

(b) Sinning. Just as a wound in the body makes us lose blood and endangers our life, so there are things which fight against the soul and wound it (1 Peter 2:11). Sinning not only wounds the conscience but also our graces. Sinning is to graces as water is to fire, nothing is more opposite to grace than sin. When sin gets into the affections it is like a disease which will inevitably be a deadly wound to our graces.

(c) Neglect. Neglecting food makes the body decline. So the people of God may become careless through spiritual pride. They do not keep so close to the Word of life or to the Life itself by earnest and constant communion in prayer. It is no wonder that they become dying people. Just as plants live or die, flourish or decay in relation to how they benefit from the sun, so it is with us and God.

(d) Allowing Spiritual Disease. If ill health in the body is not treated it can become deadly. Unless sin is dealt with it will do the same to the soul. One sin may lead to another. Or the same sin may become stronger. This makes grace wither.

(e) Lack of Self-Examination. Previously we kept a careful watch over ourselves but then we began to think it was not so necessary. We therefore fail to see how either sin or grace is operating. The soul becomes weak. We cannot pray as before, we do not have the love to God and Christ we had before. We do not delight in the means of grace nor mourn over sin as before. We do not do the same good to others as before. Why is this? It is always true that the less searching of heart there is, the less strength of grace there is.

(d) Lack of Humbling Ourselves. Fasting and prayer have been ordained to help preserve our graces. When we neglect them or are careless in them we cannot have the same strength against spiritual corruptions. We therefore fall into spiritual decay.

(e) Laziness. A lazy Christian will quickly prove to be a dying Christian. Grace not exercised will quickly become weak and dying. It is put into the soul by God’s Spirit but there are means to sustain and strengthen it. Grace is like a fire that must be stirred up. He who will not use grace, will quickly lose it or decay in it.  Many Christians do not stir their hearts to believe, lay hold on God, or call upon Him, or to walk before Him. They do not use their knowledge, zeal and love for the good of those around them, including those they live with. They meet together but don’t stir one another up to greater holiness.

(f) Excessive emotion. Excessive fear, grief, anger, joy, agony, desire or worry can all impair grace. Desire for the world, or delight in it, fear of man, or grief for things we have lost can all damage grace.

 

3. Are Our Souls Withering?

(a) Examine Your Understanding. Previously there were strong endeavours to know the truths of God and search out the mysteries of salvation. There was an admiration of holiness and God’s favour. There were sweet meditations on the will of God; the mind was pre-eminently taken up with God and Christ, grace, obedience and heaven. Is it so now? Or do worldly things seem great in your eyes? Are we more concerned for our temporal than for our spiritual good? Are our thoughts of God fleeting and short? Do you desire to know God or see His favour in Christ to you? Where is that high regard for the truths of God? Where is that diligence to know the condition of your soul? Where is that sweet delight you once had to know Jesus Christ as your own?

(b) Examine Your Will and Affections. Time was that your will was flexible and found obedience easy. It was submissive to the divine will and cheerful in the duties of godliness. Your affections were delighted with God’s promises and ravished with love to Christ. You were concerned to please and to avoid offending.  You desired nothing more than God’s lovingkindness and hated all evil. But now your will grows weary and is reluctant to be persuaded. It often conflicts with God’s will. You are slow to pay heed to God’s counsels. Neither God’s mercies nor His warnings have the same effect on you.  You delight less in heavenly things and sin is not hated as it was.

(c) Examine Your Heart and Conscience. In the past conscience was quick to direct and restrain. It sought exact obedience. It was sensitive against doing wrong. It could not rest till peace was found. Is it so now? Can you sin and conscience does not strike you? Has your conscience become sleepy and almost dead?  Can you omit duties or do them carelessly or can you sin and either conscience says nothing or you do nothing?

(d) Examine Your Worship. How precious and delightful the means of grace once were to you. You would rather have spent a day in them than a hundred in other things. They brought powerful impressions on your heart; grief, joy and hope. They helped you conquer sin and temptation and have a more serious diligence in your walk with God. Is it so now? Does the Word warn and you do not tremble? Does it promise good and you do not love it? If your heart seems to be dead it indicates that you are a dying soul.

(e) Examine Your Conversation. Has our religion become just talk, criticism and debate?

(f) Examine Your Graces. When graces are scarcely active or are generally inconstant there is spiritual decline. Your faith does not commit things to God as before, your love is not so settled on Christ as before. Your patience cannot endure, your sorrow is dry and your zeal has become cool. If our physical capacities have become weaker it is an indication of declining strength in the body. The same may be said for our spiritual condition, if our graces are not as vigorous as they were.

 

4. How to Recover Our Withering Souls

God puts grace within the soul and also increases and perfects it. Strengthening grace means recovering the health of the soul. Christ also does this work, it is He who must make our withered branches to flourish again. He does this by awakening us through the Word and not leaving us to continue as we are. Ministers are also appointed to watch for the flock and exhort those who are going astray. Christ supplies strength and grace that enables us to repent and pray. There is renewed grace to go on in holiness and regain our former strength of holy understanding, faith, will, love, desire, fear, and obedience. But there are also means for Christians themselves to use to strengthen grace within.

(a) Serious Consideration. Seriously consider and take to heart your condition. Think about what it was formerly and what it is now; what strength there was then, what weakness there is now (Psalm 119:59). Consider how much glory God had then, what dishonour God has now. Consider what peace of conscience you had then, what wounds in conscience now.

(b) Confession. Go before the Lord and fall down before His footstool with shame, bitter weeping and lamentations. Confess your condition.

(c) Resolve. Resolve that you will not continue in your decayed condition but rather shake off all the causes of having decayed. Put away sin. Turn away from carelessness and slothfulness. If the world has caused your decay, resolve to turn from its allurements.

(d) Reform. Remember where you have fallen from and do the first works again (Revelation 2:4). Go to prayer, reading, holy meditation, spiritual conversation and hearing again.  Stir up those coals and embers of grace. There is life in you yet, exercise faith and repentance.

(e) Fervent Prayer.  The Lord can give the strength you need (Psalm 86:16). Implore Him to pity and help you, to be your strength and salvation. Seek that He would weaken the sins which have so much weakened you. Ask that He would crucify your heart to the world, which has so much crucified your heart to your God. He can increase strength to those who are faint (Isaiah 40:29). He is able to revive and strengthen the holiness that He himself planted in your heart.

(f) Submit to the Word.  Strive for a pliable heart submissive to whatever the Lord will direct you to by His word. Desire to do God’s will. Co-operate with the Word received when it has got into your soul and stirred you in any way. Take note of what impressions the Lord makes on your spirit by His Word. Stir up your heart to embrace them and apply them again and again to your conscience. This is the way to make your weak spark grow into a flame.

(g) Find Strong Christians. Seek out strong and lively Christians who walk in the ways of grace. If they are good and know how to do good they will have hearts to pity you, heads to direct you and arms to bear you up. Listen to their heavenly wisdom in counselling you and their exhortations to you. Follow their examples in careful communion with God. You will be helped by their prayers for you.

 

Conclusion

It is a serious matter when our souls are in a withering condition. We cannot just accept it, we need to address it. It is a matter that Christ takes extremely seriously in the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3). This is one of the various themes of our new forthcoming study course called Outside In. It helps to identify the problem of declining in love and grace and what we can do by God’s grace to return from that condition.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress

27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress

27 Things that Help Spiritual Progress
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
29 Sep, 2017

No doubt none of us are where we would be or even perhaps should be spiritually. That was certainly Paul’s confession (Philippians 3:12-13). We need to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18) not just have it. But how do we go from merely desiring to make progress to actually getting moving? What can help us along the way? Sometimes it’s not always the things that we would expect. When experiences make us more humble we may go forward more discerning and less self-reliant. Maturing in patience as we grow slowly is also steady progress.

James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) endured imprisonment on the Bass Rock for “illegal” preaching. This very high rock in the sea off the Scottish coast was purchased by the government expressly for imprisoning presbyterian ministers. Along with many others he suffered much in those fearful conditions. He was also imprisoned at a later period in Blackness Castle but survived the times of persecution. During many varied experiences the Lord taught him greatly.

Fraser records the things, through the Lord’s blessing, did him good spiritually. He says: “I cannot deny but the Lord has shown me kindness and done me good, and that a little one has become a great nation”. Although “I am poor and needy,” yet the Lord remembers me (Psalm 40:17). Despite the fact that “I came over this Jordan with my staff,” now I am by the Lord’s blessing, “become two bands” (Genesis 32:10). I have thought it fitting to declare the things which in my experience, through the  Lord’s blessing, I have found to be most helpful in furthering me in the ways of holiness, peace and fellowship with God. And I have found these twenty-seven things especially blessed for doing me good.

 

1. The Company of Believers

When they have been full in communicating their condition, believers have encouraged me and eased my griefs. By their godly life I have been provoked to good works. I have been kept in life, recovered out of decline, enlightened and edified by them (Ecclesiastes 4:4, 9-10, n; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Hebrews 10:24, 25). Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

 

2. Observing Providence

I have found great profit by observing the Lord’s providences and searching into God’s purpose in good or bad events. This has made me see much love in things, freed my understanding from confusion and made me know my duty (Micah 7:9; Hosea 14:9; Psalm 107:43; Jeremiah 8:7; Genesis 25:22; Exodus 3:3-4).

 

3. Meditating on God

I have found that meditating on God’s attributes has done me much good: especially His love, power, sovereignty, and holiness (Job 22:21; John 17:3). By this means I have been conformed to His image, and my love, fear, and faith have been produced and increased (Psalm 9:10; Ephesians 3:18-19).

 

4. Meditating on the Gospel

I have found great good by long and serious study of the covenant of grace. I have pondered its nature, freedom, fulness and unchangeableness and how faith secures its blessings. Meditating on the gospel, gospel promises, offers, and invitations has strengthened and sanctified me. It has given me more knowledge of Christ and His ways than anything else that I exercised myself in. I have found it indeed the “ministrations of life,” (Galatians 3:2: Hebrews 11; Romans 1:16-17).

 

5. Solitude

Sometimes the Lord has confined me at home in not calling me elsewhere. Ordinarily this has been a gathering time and I have never ordinarily been better than when alone. Solitude has done me good, Proverbs 18:1; Numbers 6:2-3; Hosea 2:14). God has often visited me in a solitary wilderness.

 

6. Outward Afflictions

I have found outward afflictions and hard measures from the world doing me good, humbling my soul, mortifying me to the world. They have made Christ and His consolations sweet, whom I did not care much for before. I found it good to bear the yoke in my youth. I have learned dependence on God and have had much experience of His love supporting me under afflictions, sanctifying them to me, and delivering me out of them, (Lamentations 3:27; Psalm 94:12; Hebrews 12:11; Psalm 119:67, 71; Proverbs 29:15; Hosea 5:15).

 

7. Waiting on God

I have found quietness in spirit, moderation and calmness in speaking, and advisedness doing me good; and while I have waited on God in silence, His spirit has breathed (Isaiah 7:4 and 9:15; Exodus 14:13; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Philippians 4:7; Lamentations 3:26; 1 Peter 5:7).

 

8. Private Devotions

I have found much good by the diligent practice of private duties, such as prayer, meditation, reading, self-examination, and such like. I have thereby been strengthened, quickened, and drawn near to God; they have been as food and drink (Matthew 6:6; Luke 22:46; Psalm 1:2-3; Job 8:5; Proverbs 18:1).

 

9. Fasting

I have found extraordinary duties (e.g. fasting) and making best use of other opportunities over and above the morning and evening sacrifice [devotions], do me much good. Much of the Lord’s mind has been revealed by these (Daniel 10:12) and strong lusts have received a dead stroke. I have been consciously comforted at these occasions. After long sickness, these have given me health (Psalm 126:6; Jeremiah 1: 5-6; Isaiah 58:7-8; Mark 9:29).

 

10. Hearing Faithful Preaching

I have found the Lord kind to me since I stopped hearing the sermons of the conformists [i.e. the ministers that conformed to the state domination of the Church]. Since that day the scales have been falling from my eyes. While I was listening to those ministers I was still kept in bondage (2 Corinthians 6:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

 

11. Others Praying for Me

I have found much good from and by the prayers of others; for since I made use of some for that purpose, I have found much good. I have observed, that those of us who seek the benefit of other’s prayers were the most thriving Christians and those who neglect this decay and wither (Job 42:8; James 5:16; Ephesians 6:19; Romans 15:30; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

 

12. Seeking the Spiritual Good of Others

I have found very much good by doing good to others, by instructing, exhorting, and teaching them, and praying for them, especially poor ignorant people. At the very time I have been speaking to them, a glorious light shined on my soul, and made me apprehend those things I have been declaring to them more clearly. When full of confusions and sorrows going about this duty, my heart has been lightened and my talents improved (Isaiah 32:20; Ecclesiastes 11:1; Proverbs 11:25).

 

13. Understanding True Christian Liberty Properly

I have found the serious consideration of true Christian liberty, and of the easiness of Christ’s yoke, and Christ’s love in commands, in opposition to a slavish spirit and scrupulous fearful conscience, do me very much good, and make my heart engage in the service of God (1 Kings 12:4; Luke 1:74; Romans 7:1, 4, 6, and 6:14; Nehemiah 9:35; Deuteronomy 28:48). Likewise, making use of considerations against discouragements (1 Samuel 12:19-20).

 

14. Meditating on Baptism

I have found much profit and strength by considering baptism and what it seals. Scruples and difficult have been cleared up and removed by this. Assurance has been strengthened and I have been emboldened to draw near to God (Romans 6:1-12).

 

15. Reading Spiritual Books

The Lord has blessed to me the reading of practical writings. By this means my heart has been put into a good condition and received much strength and light. The writers most blessed to me have been Isaac Ambrose, Thomas Goodwin, Andrew  Gray and especially Samuel Rutherford. I have been blessed most of all by Thomas Shepherd of New England’s works. The Lord has made him the ”interpreter, one of a thousand” to me. Under Christ I have been more obliged to his writings than to any other means for wakening, strengthening, and enlightening my soul. The Lord made him a well of water to me in all my wilderness difficulties.

 

16. Thinking the Best of God’s Dealings

I have found it good to put a good construction on the Lord’s ways, when they have been outwardly very sad (Exodus 20:19).

 

17. Commending God to Others

I have found much good by speaking to the praise and commendation of God. When many times not so affectionately, yet sincerely out of the sense of duty, I have begun to praise Him to others, I have found my tongue to have affected my heart (James 3:2; Psalm 105:3 and 145:5-6). The Lord has rewarded me consciously for this.

 

18. Inward Trials

I have found much good by sore and long inward trials, being “poured from vessel to vessel,” changing and being changed, lifted up, and cast down.  The greatest way of being settled is by these. “By these” (Hezekiah says) “shall men live” (Isaiah 38:16). These humbled me, kept me awake, and ever crying to the Lord. They have given me much experience of the Lord’s kindness, and acquainted me with the exercise of saints in Scripture (James 1:2).

 

19. Overcoming Difficulties

The Lord has uniquely owned me in resisting strong temptations, engaging with difficult duties, and slaying inward indisposition. Also in loss and contempt from the world outwardly. The fruit of this has been very great. Such fruit has included praying under indisposition, reproving acquaintances and forsaking ways and thoughts very pleasing to the flesh (Jeremiah 2:1-2; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 2:7; Matthew 5:10 and 16:24).

 

20. Humble Submission

I have found much good by studying and exercising the duty of humility and submission (James 4:7). Duties are easy to a humble spirit. It eases the soul of disquiet and makes burdens easy. “Hell is not hell to a humble soul” (Thomas Shepherd). I have always found help when humbled.

 

21. Meditating on the Lord’s Dealings with Me

Seriously meditating on the Lord’s dealings with me as to soul and body and calling to mind His manifold mercies has done me very much good. It has cleared my case, confirmed my soul concerning God’s love, and my interest in Him, and made me love Him. What good writing in this journal has done me! What previously hidden wells of water my eyes have been opened to see! (Psalm 107:4 and 18: 1-2). Scarcely anything has done me more good.

 

22. Making Vows to God

Making and renewing vows to and covenants with God (although weakly engaged in and performed) has produced life and kind thoughts of God. It has been a means to recover me out of spiritual decline and keep me from further backsliding (Deuteronomy 29:12-13).

 

23. Meditating on the Main Things

Meditation on the most common general truths has done me good e.g. death, heaven, judgment, sin, God’s being and providence, man’s fall, and Christ’s death, etc.

 

24. Not Delaying Duties

Speedily going about duties without trifling or delaying. A duty done in time is worth twice as much as delayed duty.

 

25. Writing on Doctrine

By writing on points of doctrine e.g. Scripture, God’s attributes, Christian duties, sermons, experiences etc. These have kept my heart like fresh water.

 

26. Self-examination

Serious and deliberate self-examination has greatly helped to establish me. I have been testing myself, looking at the qualifications of saints and hypocrites in Scripture and their sins and failings. I have studied the nature of true saving grace and the difference (according to Scripture) between false and true grace.

 

27. Avoiding Unnecessary Temporal Concerns

I have found much good by being kept from too much temporal or secular business. For various reasons I did not have this at the beginning of my Christian life. Although my concerns called for diligence,  I do not regret this because it meant that my heart was wholly taken up with my soul’s condition and not diverted from this (Proverbs 18:1).

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.

What Spiritual Fruit Have You Produced This Year?

What Spiritual Fruit Have You Produced This Year?

What Spiritual Fruit Have You Produced This Year?
Matthew Vogan
Matthew Vogan is the General Manager at Reformation Scotland Trust. He has written various books including volumes about Samuel Rutherford and Alexander Shields.
25 Dec, 2015

We need to be challenged by this type of question. Spiritual fruit ought to be visible. Sometimes we need to be unsettled from our complacency. But it is easy to be cast down when we take an all-too-realistic view of our spiritual progress. It can even make us question the reality of our profession. Encouragement follows for any who take this question seriously.

What sort of fruit should we expect? The Shorter Catechism describes some of the fruit that should be evident. If we have been justified, adopted, and are being sanctified there are certain benefits. There is “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end”.  Increase of grace includes growth in holiness. It also includes the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice that it does not speak of intellectual knowledge or outward activity. These have their place but are not spiritual fruit. If this is the true fruit then has this year been a fruitful year for your soul?

There is a common caricature that self-examination is like uprooting a plant all the time to see if it is growing. Spiritual self-examination does not dissect the roots but discerns the fruits. If there is fruit then there is evidence of growth and reality. This is how we are to obey Scripture’s command to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).  This is how we recognise and avoid a mere “form of godliness” which denies its “power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

 

1. Where Does Spiritual Fruit Come From?

William Guthrie touches on some of these points towards the end of his classic book The Christian’s Great Interest.  Guthrie’s book was highly commended by John Owen. He said that it contained more theology than everything he himself had written. Thomas Chalmers said it was the best book he had ever read. It was the favourite book of Scottish homes for many generations.

“Great Interest” doesn’t just mean that the book deals with the matter of greatest importance to a Christian and his chief concern. It is a legal term and means to have a valid stake or share in something to our benefit. Guthrie’s book deals with how the Christian may know whether he has a valid legal claim. The claim that matters is one within the Will and Testament or Covenant that the Lord Jesus Christ graciously makes with His people. Guthrie helps us to put ourselves in a courtroom trial where we are under Scripture as a judge to determine if our claim is true.

As he concludes this book, Guthrie deals with various objections relating to lack of assurance. One of these is the lack of fruitfulness. We are to expect sincerity but not perfection. He says that “these things will keep a man in work all his days”. God’s people have all “had their failings and shortcomings”. Their  “backslidings” and “dangerous unbelief” are evident. Even after they had sincerely trusted God in Christ. In the following updated extract he deals with common mistakes in relation to spiritual fruitfulness.

Many look for fruitfulness from themselves. They seek it in their own Christian walk, strength of faith and sincerity in dealing with God. They seek it from themselves rather than from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. They fix their hearts on their own honesty and resolutions, and not in the blessed root, Christ Jesus. Without Him, we can do nothing, and are entirely vanity in our best condition.

People should remember, that one piece of grace cannot produce any degree of grace. Furthermore, nothing can work grace but the arm of Jehovah. It would fare better with them if they were to lean on Christ alone… If, at least, they would look to Him alone for the suitable fruit.

Blame your unfruitfulness on your unwatchfulness and your unbelief. Blame your lack full assurance on an evil heart of unbelief, helped by Satan to act against the glorious free grace of God…Resolve from now on to abide close by the root and you will bring forth much fruit. And by much fruit, you open yourself to the witness of God’s Spirit. He will testify with your spirit that you have sincerely and honestly embraced God’s offer. Also that the rest of your works are wrought in God and approved by Him.

 

2. Much Fruit by Abiding in Christ

Further encouragement is available from another great classic on assurance. The Sum of Saving Knowledge by David Dickson and James Durham offers concise counsel. This is drawn from John 15:5 where the Lord Jesus Christ says “I am the vine”. They show that we must abide in Christ and He in us in order for us to bear “much fruit”.  What does abiding in Christ involve? The following updated extract answers this question. Abiding in Christ presupposes three things:

  1. That we have heard the joyful sound of the gospel offering Christ to us as lost sinners by the law;
  2. That we have heartily embraced the gracious offer of Christ;
  3. That by receiving Him we have become the sons of God (John 1:12). We are incorporated into His spiritual body. This is so that He may dwell in us, as His temple, and we may dwell in Him as the residence of righteousness and life.

Abiding in Christ also means three further things.

  1. Making use of Christ in all our dealings with God and in all service and worship to God.
  2. Being content with His sufficiency. Not seeking righteousness, life, or spiritual resources outside of Christ. Not seeking this in any way or at any time in our own worthiness or anyone else’s.
  3. Steadfastly believing in Him. Steadfastly making use of Christ. Being steadfastly content in Him, and cleaving to Him. In such a way that no allurement, no temptation from Satan or the world, no terror nor trouble, may be able to drive our spirits from firm adherence to Him. So that nothing may drive us from constantly avowing His truth and obeying His commands. He has loved us and given himself for us. Not only is our life in Him, but also the fulness of the Godhead bodily through the union of His divine and human natures.

Thus, every watchful believer should reason in the following way to strengthen themselves in faith and obedience:

“Whoever makes daily use of Christ Jesus to cleanse his conscience and affections from the guilt and filthiness of sins against the law and enable him to obey the law in love,  has evidence of true faith within himself”

“But I do make daily use of Christ Jesus to cleanse my conscience and affections from the guilt and filthiness of sins against the law and enable me to obey the law in love”

“Therefore, I have the evidence of true faith within myself.”

The slothful and negligent believer may also reason in the following way to stir himself up:

“I must be diligent to do whatever is necessary to show evidence of true faith. Unless I wish to deceive myself and perish”.

“But to make daily use of Christ Jesus to cleanse my conscience and affections from the guilt and filthiness of sins against the law and enable me to obey the law in love is necessary to show evidence of true faith”

“Therefore, I must be diligent to do this unless I wish to deceive myself and perish”.

God willing, we have the prospect of another year before us. Here is how it can be a spiritually fruitful year.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the Matthew Vogan blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.