The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart

The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart

The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart

We can monitor the pulse of our soul by considering what we long for most frequently and in the strongest way. Our hearts naturally go out to that which we value most.  We may wish for and aspire to many things that are not only worthwhile but necessary. The farmer wishes for the right weather and the businessman favourable market conditions. Yet above all these are the highest wishes of the soul for our eternal good and the good of others. We desire that others would prosper in outward things but the prosperity of their souls comes first (3 John 2). Outward things are limited and finite but spiritual blessings are infinite.  We may desire everyone to be filled with these and the same fulness will remain in God.

Hugh Binning speaks of “the highest wish of a holy heart” for itself and those it loves best. He says it summarised in this: “The God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing” (Romans 15:13).

There is nothing can be spoken which sounds more sweetly in the ears of men than peace and joy. They do not need to be commended, everyone testifies to them in their affections. What does everyone seek after but this? They do not seek any outward earthly thing for itself, but rather for the peace and contentment the mind expects to find in it. Anyone would think themselves happy if they could attain this without having to go through all other things one by one. The believing Christian is merely a wise person, who is instructed where true peace and joy lie. They seek to be filled with these things themselves.

The Soul’s Feast
These are the fruits of the Spirit Paul desires to be filled with and feed on. He desires to feed on peace as an ordinary meal and joy as an extraordinary dessert, or a powerful cordial. The believer would refuse the finest food to sit at this table. It is a full feast which fills the soul with peace, joy and hope, as much as it is capable of in this life.

The Soul’s Fruits
The words of the verse point to both the root that produces these fruits and the branch that bears them. The root is the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. A soul that has been grafted in as a living branch by faith into Christ receives strength to produce such pleasant fruits. They grow on the branch of believing, but the sap and life of both come from the Holy Spirit and the God of hope.

The Soul’s Streams
Think of it in a different way. This is the river which makes glad the city of God with its streams, it waters the garden of the Lord with its threefold stream. It is divided into three streams every one of which is derived from another. The first is peace — a sweet, calm and refreshing river which sometimes overflows like the river Nile. Then it runs in a stream of joy, which is the high spring tide but ordinarily it sends out the comforting stream of hope in abundance. This threefold river has a high source, as high as the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet the channel of the river runs on low ground, this channel is believing in Christ.

 

1. A Wish for Peace

Our Saviour found no better word to express His matchless good-will to the well-being of his disciples than peace. After His resurrection He said “Peace be unto you,” (Luke 24:36). As though He wished them absolute satisfaction and all the contentment and happiness that they themselves would desire.

We must consider this peace in relation to God, to ourselves, and fellow Christians. Brotherly concord and peace are the main subject of Romans chapter 15. This involves bearing with the weaknesses of our neighbour, not pleasing ourselves and similar mutual duties of charity.

But peace in relation to God and ourselves are most essential to happiness. The foundation of all our misery is the enmity between man and God. All our being, all our well-being, hangs on His favour. All our life and happiness is in His favour. But since the fall everyone is contrary to God, and in his affections and actions declares war against heaven.

When a soul sees this enmity and division in sad earnest, there is war in the conscience. The terrors of God raise up a terrible arm within, the bitter remembrance of sins. These are set in battle-array against the soul, and everyone pierces an arrow into his heart. It is the business of the gospel to quell this storm, because it reveals the glad tidings of peace and reconciliation with God. This is the only grounds for perfect calm in the conscience. The atonement which has pacified heaven and appeased justice is declared in this. Only this can pacify the troubled soul and calm the tumultuous waves of the conscience (Ephesians 2:13-20; Colossians 1:19-22).

God in Christ is reconciling sinners to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). He entreats us to lay down our hostile affections and the weapons of our warfare. The love of God carried into the heart with power, gives that sweet calm and pleasant rest to the soul, after all its tumult.  This commands the winds and waves of the conscience, and they obey it.

 

2. A Wish for Joy

Joy is the effect of peace. It flows out of it in the soul laying hold of the love of God and the inestimable benefit of the forgiveness of sins. It is peace in a large measure, running over and resulting in refreshing of all that is in the believer: “My heart and my flesh shall rejoice.” This is the very exuberance and high sailing-tide of the sea of peace that is in a believer’s heart. It swells sometimes on the favour of God beyond its usual bounds to a boasting in God. When a soul is filled with glory by the Holy Spirit in possessing what it hopes for it enlarges itself in joy. In this inward jubilation, the heart leaps for joy.

This is not the ordinary experience of a Christian. It is not even as constant as peace. These ripe fruits are not always on the table of every Christian, and for some not at all. It is sufficient that God keeps the soul in the healthy condition of being neither completely cast down or discouraged through difficulties and weakness. It is sufficient if God speaks peace to the soul, even though it is not acquainted with these raptures of Christianity.

It is not fitting that this would be our ordinary food, lest we mistake our pilgrimage for heaven, and start building tabernacles in this mount. We would not long so earnestly for the city and country of heaven, if we had anything more than tastes of that joy to sharpen our desires after its fulness. It is a fixed and unchangeable statute of heaven, that we should here live by faith, and not by sight.

The fulness of this life is emptiness to the next. But there is still a fulness in comparison with the abundance of the world. Their joys and pleasures, their peace and contentation in the things of this life, are only like “the crackling of thorns under a pot” (Ecclesiastes 7:6). They make a great noise, but vanish quickly. It is like the loudest laughter of fools, which has sorrow in it and ends in heaviness (Proverbs 14:13). It is superficial not solid. It is not heart joy but a picture and shadow of the gladness of the heart in the face outwardly. Whatever it may be, sorrow, grief, and heaviness inevitably follow at its heels.

But certainly the wisest and most learned men cannot have any real understanding of the life of a Christian, until they experience it. It is beyond their comprehension, and therefore called “the peace of God” which passes “all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7). It is a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The natural mind esteems foolishness whatever is spoken of the joy of the Spirit or the peace of conscience and abstaining from worldly pleasures.

 

3. A Wish for Hope

Our peace and joy is often interrupted in this life and very frequently weakened. It is not so full a feast as the Christian’s desire seeks. The enjoyment we have here does not reduce the pain of a Christian’s appetite, or supply their emptiness. Hope must make the feast complete and to moderate the soul’s desire until the fulness of joy and peace come. Though there is less of the other benefits, there is abundance of hope. The Christian can take as much of that as they can hold, it is both refreshing and strengthening. We cannot be pleased with having or enjoying anything without adding hope to it.

Everyone has their eyes on the future. Looking for future benefits can often reduce our current enjoyments. But the Christian’s hope is a very sure anchor within the veil, it is secured on the sure ground of heaven. This keeps the soul firm and steadfast (albeit not unmoved) but protected from tossing or drifting. As a helmet, it protects against the power and force of temptations. It guards the main part of a Christian and keeps resolutions towards God unharmed.

 

Conclusion

The source of these sweet and pleasant streams is the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. There is power in God to make us happy and give us peace. The God of power, as well as hope, both can and will do this. In His promises and acts He given us grounds for hope in Himself. He is the chief object of hope and the chief cause of hope in us too. Everything is to be found in this fountain.

These streams run into the channel of believing, not doing. It is true, that righteousness and a holy life is a notable means to preserve them pure, unmixed and constant. The peace of our God will never live well with sin, the enemy of God. Joy, which is so pure a fountain cannot run in abundance in an impure heart. It will not mix with worldly pleasures. But the only source of true peace and joy is found by believing in Christ.

Whatever else you do to find them you will not find this solid peace and surpassing joy except by looking away from yourselves. You must fix your hearts on another object, Jesus Christ. “Peace and joy in believing”. What is this believing? It is the soul heartily embracing the promises of the gospel. Believing involves meditation on and deep consideration of these truths. Believing brings peace, and peace brings joy.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

Signs of Those Who Are Only Satisfied With Christ

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

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

 

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

1. They will acknowledge and not extenuate sin.

2. No earthly comforts can satisfy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Thomas Hog of Kiltearn

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

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

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

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

13 Things that Keep Us from Prayer

13 Things that Keep Us from Prayer

13 Things that Keep Us from Prayer

More than a quarter of Christians in the UK never pray according to a poll. Of those who do pray: only 19% pray daily, 10% hardly ever and 13% only in times of crisis. The poll was commissioned by Tear Fund. Perhaps the figures are not so surprising given that almost half of those identifying themselves as Christian also say they never attend Church. It seems likely, however, that prayer is in danger of being squeezed to the edges of our lives. What is it that makes us liable to downgrade the importance of prayer in everyday life?

​John Brown of Wamphray wrote a very full book on prayer. It is published as Godly Prayer and its Answers. He deals in a practical way with the nature of prayer, its difficulties and how we are to seek for answers to prayer. In stressing that it is a sin to neglect prayer he gives a full forty biblical reasons as to which this is the case. He even demonstrates that those who are unregenerate are obliged to pray. He makes it unavoidably clear that someone cannot claim to be a Christian if they never pray.

1. If We Are God’s Children We Will Pray. Their adoption and being brought into God’s family as His near children lays this obligation on them to cry to God and to pray to Him as their Father.

2. If We Have a New Nature We Will Pray. Their new nature inclines their hearts Godward. When Saul is made a convert, he is brought to his knees and found a praying man (Acts 9:11). The new converts continued steadfastly in prayers (Acts 2:42).

3. If We Are a Holy Priesthood We Will Pray.  The saints are a holy priesthood and must by office offer up spiritual sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5). Prayer is a chief part of their spiritual sacrifice, together with praises (v. 7).  We read of the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm  116:17) and of the sacrifice of praise (Jer. 33:11).

4. If We Are Not of the Wicked We Will Pray. It is the description of the wicked that they do not call on God (Psalm 5:2, 4; 14:24, 10; 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25; Romans 3:9). And on the other hand, it is the description of God’s children that they call on God (1 Corinthians 1:2). David says, “I am in prayer” (Psalm 109:4), as if he had been wholly devoted to and taken up with that work and duty, and nothing else.

5. If We Are God’s Servants We Will Pray. Their relation to God as His servants carries this with it (see Psalm 116:16, 17).

But if all of this is the case, why do Christians need so many prompts and reasons to urge them to pray? We want to think of the hindrances to prayer as outside of us but the truth is they are mostly within us.

 

1. Cherished Sin

When any sin is yielded to and not resisted, the heart is made more unfit for any Christian work. We are not in the right frame for approaching God in a holy and humble way. He is a holy God and will be sanctified by all that draw near Him. We may keep up the form of the duty, but it is superficially performed without the delight the soul had previously. It becomes a cumbersome burden readily laid aside [see Psalm 66:18 and Psalm 32:3].

 

2. Paralysing Guilt

When the conscience is awakened after committing some sin and its dreadful guilt is presented to us the soul afraid to draw near to God. Guilt stares it in the face, and it is driven back and dare not approach the holy and righteous God. Satan can say it is in vain to seek the Lord, for He has no respect for the sacrifice of fools. He will not hear a sinner.

Thus there can be no hearty and cheerful drawing near to God, as long as guilt is thus charged and the blood of Christ not applied by faith to wash away that iniquity. The soul trembles to think of approaching God, lest it be consumed. The Lord must open the door of grace and show the freedom of the covenant and lead the soul to the fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

 

3. Sense of Unworthiness

There may be a deep sense of unworthiness and inward abominableness of heart by nature. This  may cause some (when not mindful of the richness of free grace in the new covenant through Jesus Christ) to be afraid. They think to themselves, “Shall or dare such a vile wretch as I am presume to open my mouth to God?” Dare such a one draw near to Him who is of purer eyes than that He can behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13)?  Thus, as Peter in the like case said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), so they say, “We must not draw nigh to God, for we are sinful men.” Though the reasoning is bad, yet it may too much prevail with weak souls to keep them from this duty.

 

4. Sense of Distance From God

A deep sense of the greatness, holiness, purity, justice, and glory of God may have the same effect.

 

5. Indulging Neglect

When they on one occasion or other give way to the neglect of this duty, their praying spirit wears off. Their neglect continues. More difficulties stand up in the way. Ultimately their neglect turns to a listlessness and lack of delight in the duty. They have an unwillingness to set about it until the Lord sends some alarm to awaken them. When Peter and the other disciples with Christ in the garden neglected the duty at the first call of Christ when He bid them watch and pray, they became  even more unfit after further calls.

 

6. Superficial Formality

When Christians do not take care to watch over their heart in prayer and to guard against formality, all seriousness wears away.  If it is only done superficially, it soon becomes an unnecessary task. Satan can quickly make it become a heavy burden if it is already an unnecessary task. When the soul judges the duty of prayer a burden, it can very easily be induced to neglect it for some time unless conscience convicts. The longer the duty is neglected, the heart is more and more unwilling and unfit for it.

 

7. Worldly Mindedness

Worldly mindedness is a great enemy to prayer and a praying spirit. The cares of the world choke the word so that it cannot grow up in the soul (Matthew 13). Worldly mindedness takes away watchfulness—and a praying and a watching spirit go together (Luke 21:36). When the heart is taken up with the things of this life (Luke 21:54), the soul cannot watch and pray.

 

8. Excessive Sorrow

Excessive grief and sorrow for any outward reason may prevent the soul from praying or at least with heartiness and cheerfulness. This is one reason why the disciples could not pray in the garden, despite the great urgency of the situation (Matthew 26:43; Luke 22:45). Their eyes were heavy, and they were sleeping for sorrow.

 

9. Neglecting Prompts

The Spirit is provoked to withdraw when we do not respond to His promptings to pray. When He withdraws, deadness follows. Either the duty is laid aside or it becomes an unbearable burden. The apostle joins these two together: “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks…. Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:17–19). If we want to be kept in a praying spirit, we must be careful not to quench the Spirit.

 

10. Dissatisfaction

When someone has been praying some considerable time for some special mercy or other and finds no answer (or answer that satisfies them) corruption may boil up in the heart. Satan may suggest that it is useless to be praying in this way. The soul may listen to this and out of a discontented, displeased attitude, resolve to abandon prayer (Isaiah 43:12).

 

11. False Notions

Errors concerning prayer may have been imbibed e.g. that we are not obliged to pray except when we are conscious of the Spirit’s moving us and setting us going. We may think we are therefore excused from this duty. The Lord may be provoked to let such live many months if not years without the free graces they desire for such a duty. There may then be a long neglect of this duty followed by an inward aversion. If at any time they are moved to the duty, He may allow their own spirit instead of His to set them going. This will never beget a spiritual delight in the duty.

 

12. Spiritual Laziness

A spirit of laziness may seize a person and they may give way to it and not stir themselves up to call on the Lord and take hold of Him (Isaiah 64:7). They become daily more and more unfit for the duty and more unwilling to do it. Those on whom this spiritual sloth seizes find it a grief and a weariness to do that which otherwise was a most easy thing (Proverbs 26:15).

 

13. Self-sufficiency

People may depend more on their gift in prayer than Jesus for fresh influences and supply of grace. The Lord in His righteousness may withdraw the ordinary influences of His Spirit and leave them to wrestle with the duty alone. Not finding the help they once experienced, they see that they cannot pray as formerly. This may cause inward grief (not due to the original cause of the withdrawing) and create dislike for the duty of prayer. Thus, corruption working in the soul and Satan using the situation to his advantage it may bit by bit be laid aside. Inward discontentment and pride may make them reluctant to pray because they see they cannot engage in it as before. They are now ashamed to pray, especially before others.

 

Conclusion

While this may seem all rather negative, we must recognise that prayer can be a struggle at times. We need to identify the things that make it difficult in order to deal with them. Prayerlessness can seriously damage your spiritual health. Brown’s book is overwhelmingly positive in bringing out many encouragements to pray. He shows what an encouraging thing it is to pray in Christ’s name and how God is glorified in Christ in answering our prayers. We “ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

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

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

Should We Pray “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

Should We Pray “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

Should We Pray “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

The Pope says, “no” (as has been widely reported recently). “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” There is nothing ambiguous about the wording of the original. Pope Francis does not suggest that the translation needs to be improved because of language but because of theology.  It is true that God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13-14) and that the word for tempt can also mean to test. But we also read that Jesus was led by God into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1). We have to acknowledge the role of God’s Providence in this. How should we understand this part of the Lord’s Prayer?

​There is a lot more to this phrase than we might first assume. As Samuel Rutherford notes, when we pray “lead us not into temptation” we are acknowledging our dependence on God’s sovereignty. We pray against removal of the spiritual influences that we need to withstand temptation. “We crave the increase of faith and grace, and that we may have strength to stand against the devil, sin and all the troubles and the evil and curse in temptations as being weak of ourselves”.

Rutherford points to similar prayers in the Psalms: “Remove from me the way of lying” (Psalm 119:29). “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work ini­quity” (Psalm 141:4). He notes that “praying to be led of God in His way, not to be led into temptation must include a petition that God would send influences, and not forsake us in the way of His obedience under our defections”.  This is a way for “a child of God submit to His deep sovereignty in withdrawings, and stoop humbly to the Lord’s holy decree”. It would be no comfort to believe that the temptations we face are outside of God’s control. Scripture makes it clear that He is sovereign over all things and has wise purposes in what He permits. It is difficult for us to fathom these mysteries but that does not make them any less real.

We acknowledge that (if left to ourselves) the desires of our hearts would lead us into temptation. We cannot blame God if we fall into temptation. David fell and yet acknowledged the guilt was solely his own (Psalm 51:1).

Rutherford together with the rest of the Westminster Assembly shone the light of Scripture on these great mysteries. They are matters of everyday practical concern to us, despite their difficulty. The Assembly considered it as an aspect of God’s providential dealings with His children. The experience of Job (Job 1:12), Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7) and David (2 Samuel 24:1) prove that this is true.

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends (5:5).

The Westminster Assembly dealt with this matter more fully in expounding the Lord’s Prayer in the Larger Catechism (Q195).

In this petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers [various] holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptation; that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us; and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; and worthy to be left under the power of them: we pray, that God would so over-rule the world and all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin; or, if tempted, that by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation; or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof: that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, Satan trodden under our feet, and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, for ever.

 

1. God Has Holy and Just Purposes in Permitting Temptation

God had a purpose of testing Hezekiah and showing him what was in his heart (2 Chronicles 32:31) and therefore left him to himself for a time. God had a purpose of restraining pride in Paul and showing the all-sufficiency of His grace (2 Corinthians 12:8). God left enemies for Israel to face to test them (Judges 2:21-22).

As the Catechism goes on to show, we need to be shown sometimes how unable and unwilling we are of ourselves to resist temptation (Romans 7:23-24).  We need to be shown the power of the world, the flesh and the devil to draw us away and our weakness against them (James 1:14). Sometimes we are left to temptations to show that we deserve to be left in their power (Psalm 81:11-12). He also purposes to show us our need of watchfulness (Matthew 26:41). 

 

2. We need Grace to Benefit from Temptation

We need to learn lessons from experiencing temptation, particularly to pray for increased grace and watchfulness. If God has wise and holy purposes, we ought to learn what these are as far as possible. This is what the catechism means when it says that we need “to improve them”. Peter had to do this (Luke 22:32).

 

3. God’s Good Providence Can Provide Occasions for Temptation

We need to pray against being led into temptation because our natural corruption can make anything an occasion for temptation. We may not be fully aware of this. The Psalmist was tempted to envy because of the good providence of God towards the wicked (Psalm 73:4). He responded similarly to God’s chastisements designed for his own good (Psalm 73:14).  The good things of this life can be an occasion for temptation (Matthew 22:22; 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 3:4).

It is not God’s providence that needs to change but our sinful response to it (Psalm 62:10). We need to pray, therefore “that God would so over-rule the world and all in it…quicken us to watchfulness…that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin”.

 

4. We Are in Danger of Exposing Ourselves to Temptation

Peter was confident in himself and not being watchful, exposed himself to temptation (Matthew 26:35). He was sure that he was willing even to lay down his life for his Master (John 13:37). Yet, when the trial came he was not willing to be identified with Christ. Thus we need to pray for the flesh to be “subdued” as an enemy within (Psalm 19:13; Psalm 119:133).

 

5. We Need Strength to Withstand Temptation

In praying “lead us not into temptation” we pray to God that “by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation” (Ephesians 3:16). As one older writer puts it, we pray that temptation “may be like a wave dashing against a rock, which remains unmoved thereby, or like a dart shot against a breast-plate of steel, which only blunts the point thereof, and returns it back without doing any execution” (Thomas Ridgeley).

The strength we need is sanctifying grace to keep us from falling (Jude 24). This enables us to hate sin and love holiness and so to resist temptation as Joseph did (Genesis 39:9). We need the mighty strength of God to stand equipped with the spiritual armour of grace (Ephesians 6:13-14). Such testing can have a strengthening effect, even if it does involve resisting a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8-10).

 

6. We Pray to be Delivered from Temptation

We also pray that we would not be left under the power of temptation but delivered from evil even if we have fallen. We pray that we would not be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin but rather restored (Psalm 51:12; Psalm 23:3). We need to pray for grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) and that is why we must pray not to be led into temptation.

 

Conclusion

These are just some of the reasons we must pray “lead us not into temptation”. We certainly do need this prayer in our daily warfare with sin. It is a gross misinterpretation which ignores biblical teaching to say that this is God “pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen”. It is clear from Scripture that “the most wise, righteous, and gracious God” orders things “for just and holy” reasons “so that that “we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptation”.

As one older writer (Thomas Ridgeley) suggests, we would do well to turn this Catechism answer into a prayer. We need to confess our weakness and that we are exposed to many difficulties. We find it hard to pass through the world without being allured and drawn aside or discouraged. We need to confess the deceitfulness and treachery of our own hearts which make us prone to yield ourselves the servants of sin and Satan. Thus, we seek the powerful help of God’s grace, that we may be kept in the hour of temptation. We pray from strength to overcome the world, mortify sin and resist the devil.  Though we are liable in ourselves to remain under temptation, we pray for grace to be recovered and delivered and kept through this life.

You may find further help in reading the following short ebook called War Against Sin by Andrew Gray.

War Against Sin

Few other things are more vital for spiritual life and health than putting sin to death. It is as stark a choice as John Owen emphasised: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”.

This free e-book called War Against Sin (PDF) shows the benefits of putting sin to death. Gray stresses how closely it accompanies vigorous spiritual growth, grace and assurance. We cannot call a truce in this warfare.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

6 Reasons to Delight in God

6 Reasons to Delight in God

6 Reasons to Delight in God

Mostly, we are well aware that we get our life in focus by concentrating on the most important things. But do we live our life in such a way that the things most important to us are obvious to those who observe us? The most important thing is to glorify God and enjoy Him. We can only glorify Him by grace and we can only enjoy Him by glorifying Him. Delighting in God is what makes seeking to glorify Him a pleasure. When we have discovered this, we will know that there is no satisfaction to be found in seeking other things in place of God. True pleasure from created things comes through delighting in God. Even affliction and adversity are sweetened for the soul that seeks its delights in God. Since we are to glorify and enjoy God forever, delighting in God gets our life in eternal focus and prepares us for that unending activity. These are some reasons for delighting in God but there are many more. We also need to know what we mean by making God our delight.

Andrew Gray has a sermon on delighting in God that expounds Psalm 37:4.  It something enters into the deepest parts of the heart mastered by gospel grace. The following is an updated extract from the sermon.

 

What is Delighting in God?

Delighting in God consists of the following things:

(a) Loving God

A soul should be much taken up in exercising the grace of love. To delight in God is to have love smoking in a Christian’s heart towards God. Love is only a bruised reed; but delight is love coming up to perfection.

(b) Esteeming Christ

A soul delighting in God has a high esteem and account of Christ. One whose delight is in God will have a matchless estimation and high considerations of Him.

(c) Thinking on God

The soul that delights in God has all its thoughts running towards God and exercised on Him. His thoughts are only terminated on Him; He is the object of them all. Now, Christians, on what are your thoughts fixed? Is it not certain that they are all confined within this rivulet and span-length of time? Does the world not have your first thoughts in the morning and your last thoughts at night? Then certainly, your delight is not in God.

(d) Desiring Fellowship

One who delights in God is consumed with desire for communion and fellowship with God. Then try yourselves by this test. If your main desire is not fellowship with God, your delight is not in Him. If God is the object of your delight you will strongly desire communion with Him and it will be refreshing to you.

(e) Mourning for the Absence of Christ

Such a soul will often lament and grieve the absence of Christ. Certainly, if your delight is in God, His absence will be your greatest affliction and His presence your main joy and pleasure.

(f) Striving to Please God

The person who delights in God will strive and endeavour in all things to please and give satisfaction to God. If we delight in any person, certainly we will attempt to please Him in all things. We can test whether we delight in God; our main design and endeavour will be to please Him in all things.

 

1. Delighting in God is a Foretaste of Heaven

Dear Christians, do you desire to have the noble activities of those that are above around the throne? Then delight yourselves in God. To delight in God is the only activity of the saints above. I will point out three differences between the saints in heaven and the saints that are below on earth.

(a) The saints above are in the higher room, and we are in the lower room.

(b) The souls of the saints above are in a higher degree of love than we are; their praise is higher than ours. They are delighting themselves in and praising Him through all eternity.

(c) Those above are enjoying Christ by sight and fruition, we on earth enjoy Him through the veil of faith. They have the immediate sight of God, and behold Him face to face. But we behold Him through a glass darkly. Oh, Christians, if you desire to delight yourselves in God, you would bring down heaven upon earth. What is heaven, but a soul’s delighting itself in God, and God delighting Himself in the soul?

 

2. Delighting in God is Incomparable

Be persuaded to delight yourselves in God for it is an exceedingly commendable pursuit. I would commend delight in God in four ways.

(a) It unites us with Christ

What is it to delight in God? It is the soul of a Christian embracing the soul of Christ by the two arms of love and desire. Is not that an excellent thing which may commend it unto you?

(b) It lifts us above ourselves

The soul of a Christian that delights in God is more where it loves than where it lives. It is more where its object is than where its own abode is.

(c) It brings us to adore Christ

By delighting in God, a Christian achieves three acts of admiration.

First, Christian, you will say, “Oh, how far is Christ above the report that I have heard of Him!” You will be constrained to say, “The half was never heard of Him that now I see.”
Second, you will then experience and remark, “Oh, how far is Christ above the love that I have had to Him! He is far above it.”
Third, you will be forced to say, “Oh, how far is Christ above the admiration and amazement that I have had of Him!” Now, if your delight is in God, you will be compelled to such admiration and astonishment.

(d) It helps the soul towards a more spiritual and holy life.

 

3. Delighting in God Makes Duty Pleasant

Delight in God makes all duties pleasant and heart-warming. Without delight in God, all the duties of religion will be most unpleasant and burdensome (Job 22:26-27). There are four advantages in the exercise of duty that waits on delighting in God. These four advantages are as follows:

(a) Increased Boldness in Prayer

He that has his delight fixed on God has boldness to speak to Him (Job 22:26).

(b) Increased Prayer

Delight in God will help a Christian to multiply his prayers (Job 22:27).

(c) Increased Fervency in Prayer

Delight in God will help with great fervency in prayer. The word rendered prayer may also be rendered as “many strong prayers.”

(d) Increased Freedom in Prayer

Delighting in God will help a Christian to tell all his mind to Him (Job 22:27).

 

4. Delighting in God Helps us Bear Affliction

Delighting in God will bring a Christian to bear patiently any cross or affliction that he encounters. This is clear from the scope of the text. It will be an excellent help and guard against fretting at the prosperity of ungodly men.

 

5. Delighting in God is the Most Excellent Delight

Consider the excellence of the object of the Christian’s delight – the Lord. He is the most excellent object of delight. He is the fountain from which all our streams come. Oh, then delight in Him who is excellent and majestic!

 

6. Delighting in God Gives us the Desires of our Hearts

If you delight yourself in God, surely He will give you the desires of your heart. I say, they will lack nothing that is for their own welfare and God’s glory. If you delight yourself in God, you will lack nothing that is fitting for you.

 

Conclusion

Oh then, be persuaded to give obedience to this most soul-concerning commandment of delighting in God. Christians, it is of your everlasting concern. Oh, do it while it is still being offered. Do not neglect this excellent work any longer. Oh, do not delay any longer, for delays are dangerous, especially in the matter of our eternal salvation.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances

14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances

14 Things that May be Spiritual Hindrances

We need to lay aside every weight that hinders us in running the spiritual race. Previously, we considered what things help our spiritual progress. It is just as important to identify what holds us back, otherwise we will not make best use of the helps.

These are personal observations from James Fraser of Brea and reflect his own experience. It is helpful to learn from those that have been many years in the Christian life making particular effort in exercising themselves to godliness. Perhaps some of Fraser’s observations are surprising or disturbing to us – they will certainly make us think. We need to engage in our own self-examination to consider our own ways.

 

1. A legalistic spirit

Satan sometimes urges me violently and boastingly to engage in duties in my own strength, overdriving me with thunder and lightening and laying more upon me than I am able to bear. This is like putting new wine in old bottles, seeking such and such duties, and so much, exacting them by weight and measure. It weakens my hands, irritates me and makes me do nothing, seeing I cannot get what is urged done. It makes me act slavishly (Genesis 33:13; Romans 7:11; Hebrews 10:12-13; Luke 19:21).

 

2. Unspiritual company

The company of carnal, unregenerate people, and graceless, nominal professing Christians has been a hindrance. This has been especially the case if I have been familiar with them, living close to them, or have not challenged or instructed them. When near, they have dispersed their poison and infection and turned my heart carnal. It is like some diseases that are not contracted unless you come near those that have them (1 Corinthians 15:33).

 

3. Godly company with no spiritual benefit

When it has not been used to best spiritual advantage, I have even found godly company damaging, drawing away my heart from God and rendering it carnal. If we have not sought the Lord  through mutual prayer and have had no spiritual conversation or I have stayed too long with them. Hardening takes place when we are not exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13).

 

4. Careless talk

I have had my spirit turned out of frame, and quite distempered by loud, violent, hasty and much talk even in good things. I have found “the talking of the lips tend to penury” (Proverbs 14:23) and a breach made in the spirit by perverse speaking (James 3:5-6; Proverbs 17:27; Matthew 15:8).

 

5. Being out and about too much

I have found going away from home and being in public too much to be damaging. These have been like the devil’s market-days. Let me prepare, pray and watch as much as I will, this still happens. My spirit has been put out of a spiritual condition, especially if I have gone out without great necessity. Going here and there is good for neither soul nor body.

 

6. Overindulging

I have found excess in the use of food, drink, and other recreations, very prejudicial, and to be the ordinary inlet of many evils. This makes the body is not in the right condition and the spirit utterly indisposed to any good exercise (Luke 21:34; Proverbs 25:27 and 23:20-21).

 

7. Carelessness about devotions

Omitting private duties or doing them in a careless way. This includes duties such as prayer, self-examination, meditation, and reading (Matthew 26:41; Proverbs 23:21).

 

8. Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer

Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer when conversing with others; for this is the fountain of waters that drops from heaven, and makes the heart fruitful (Matthew 26:41).

 

9. Vain thoughts

Vain thoughts in the morning, when riding, and in private spiritual exercises. Even though they are not bad thoughts, I have found these to put my spirit wrong as much as anything and to make me utterly unfit for duty (Jeremiah 4:14).

 

10. Not keeping the heart

Unwatchfulness and not keeping the heart while in the world. Not being “in the fear of God all the day long,” not keeping guard, or neglecting the continual oversight of my heart, tongue, and actions, but growing careless. I have found that when my heart is unwatched it runs away and engages in sins and temptations. There are many disorders in a city while there is no government  and this is the state of my heart at such times (Matthew 26:41). This has done extreme evil; through this I lose in public what I gain in private.

 

11. Unbelieving discouragements

Unbelieving discouragements arising from feeling of what I lack, sins and trials. These have weakened my hands (1 Samuel 12:20; Lamentations 1:9; Jeremiah 2:28; Hebrews 12:12-13). It was when Peter started to be afraid that he began to sink.

 

12. Being Too Absorbed in Temporal Things

Being highly engaged in outward affairs and business and eagerly pursuing them. These have distracted me and made me utterly unable to serve God (Luke 10:4 and 21:34).

 

13. Pride

Pride and thinking much of myself, self-boasting of myself, seeking the praise of men and seeking to exalt myself by being careful in duties. Seeking to share the glory with Christ in the matter of salvation. This has made the Lord reject me many times, withdrawing me from my resolution to “hide pride”. This made the Jews not obtain righteousness, because they sought it “as it were by the works of the law” (Romans 9:31-32).

 

14. Slothfulness

Slothfulness in sleeping too long and trifling away the time (especially in company) has “clothed me with rags”.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

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

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.

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life

Help for Stirring Up Your Spiritual Life

Sometimes we pray even though we do not feel like praying. We open our Bibles and our minds and hearts feel as though they are under a dead weight. How should we approach this problem? There is a widespread false assumption that the spiritual life is either all or nothing.  The idea is that things must come spontaneously and effortlessly or it just isn’t real. Yet the Scriptures speak of striving and agonising in prayer and disciplining ourselves in godliness. Exalted joy and love are not the only heavenly inclinations in the soul. There is genuine spiritual life in desiring to be revived. Mourning over our condition, examining and questioning ourselves and other things are also signs of life. Yet what can we do in such a situation? How do we stir up spiritual inclinations?

Such questions can be perplexing but are not always fully discussed; despite being so critical to our daily spiritual life. One person who did seek to tackle them was Samuel Rutherford in his book Influences of the Life of Grace. This deals with the sovereign influences of the Holy Spirit together with our own responsibility to engage in spiritual duties. Both work together in the area of spiritual growth and experience.

What Are Heavenly Inclinations?

Rutherford illustrates what he means by heavenly dispositions or inclinations by pointing to David’s experience in Psalm 57:7-8. David says “My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise. Awake up my glory, awake psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early”. David had “a disposition of fixedness of heart”. His vehement affections are evident in the way he repeats this.  This heavenly inclination produced within him “a fixed resolution to praise”. “Praying begets a holy disposition to pray”.  “One grace brings forth another, and so holy dispositions [bring forth] holy actings; faith and trusting in God brings forth claiming God” as our own. The Lord “bids you pray, that you may pray; believe, that you may believe. So he commands heavenly dispositions, and He only can give them”. Influences of the Spirit generally come in connection with such commanded means.

David says “My heart is fixed, I will sing. Awake up my glory”. See how the touch of the Spirit in His heavenly inclinations sets afloat (a) the tongue; (b) the psaltery and harp; (c) David; (d) David’s heart to sing and praise. Though they were all sleeping, they are all awakened out of their sleep. It is in the same way as a great high spring-tide may set all the ships afloat, even though there were many hundreds of them. Thus:

  • Actions are of the same nature as our inclinations
  • Strong and mighty inclinations have strong and mighty actions
  • Lesser actions arising from inclinations waken up the soul to strong actions

Sinful inclinations to the love of the world, vain-glory and empty pleasures, bring forth sinful actions. The thorn-tree brings forth a thorn-tree and the thistle-seed a thistle. This is clear in Cain and the Pharisees for example. Thus also, gracious inclinations produce acts of love, faith, hope, godly sorrow, works of righteousness and mercy. As wine-grapes grow out of the vine, the Lord fits influences of grace for such inclinations. The harvest will be like the sowing: men do not gather figs from thistles.

How Do We Receive Heavenly Inclinations?

Get heavenly dispositions and God will act on His own work, and bring forth all His own acts out of His own seed. The way to get heavenly dispositions is:

1. Peruse the Word and promises often: (a) Meditate on them; (b) Learn them; (c) Observe and love the testimonies of God. This is proof of heavenly inclination (Psalm 119).

2. Keep communion with God in praying, hearing, reading and spiritual conversation (Luke 24:34; John 7:45-46; Song of Solomon 2:4-7). Someone who spends much time daily among the perfumes of a perfumer will find that smells will cleave to him whether he wants them to or not.

3. Seek and keep much in mind the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3).

4. Cherish the Spirit, obey Him, do not grieve Him and work with Him (See Ephesians 4:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20; Song of Solomon 3:4 and 5:8-12). Be willing to act in response to the breath of the Spirit blowing on you as a wind and when He draws, follow Him sweetly and willingly.

5. Beware of frequently smothering the light of divine knowledge. Deal tenderly with the light of the natural conscience and tenderly with convictions and warnings. If you do this, you will hardly lack divine inclinations and suitable influences (1 Samuel 24:4-6).

How Should We Do When We Lack Heavenly Inclinations?

How should we act when the soul is indisposed like a bird that cannot fly without its wings?

  1. It is possible that in those renewed ones that are in Christ, heavenly inclinations may seem to be a fire that has been extinguished and turned to cold ashes. We are to stir up and awake the principle of grace and act according to it. The instinct and nature of the new man possesses the principle of gracious acts and we are to make best use of the principle of grace.
  2. When one inclination is smothered by unbelief casting us down, there is still half of a contrary spiritual inclination alive which is working contrary to that unbelief. For this reason David chides his own soul in Psalm 42:5 for being cast down and urges it to trust in God. Whether David’s soul pleads against David’s soul by the principle of grace, or by an heavenly inclination or by both, it shows that all spiritual inclinations are never entirely lost, there is a seed of God which may be wakened up.
  3. When the inclination is smothered with heaviness, there is another counteracting heavenly inclination (Psalm 119:28). They have been disposed to deadness but behold there is a disposition to pray for strengthening in counteracting that disposition. In Psalm 119:81 the psalmist is in a fainting condition which indicates some weakness. There is still, however, a disposition to hope in God’s Word, which counteracts fainting. He says “I am become like a bottle in the smoke” (Psalm 119:83) which indicates some disposition to deadness in his spirit. But notice the counteracting disposition, he does not forget God’s statutes. 
  4. The Spirit in the renewed person ultimately prevails over the flesh (Romans 7:23-24). So the gracious disposition is also victorious over, and gets the better of the sinful disposition. David may have been disposed to doubt at the time when he is forced to flee to the cave and part from with his few soldiers. Yet his faith and believing disposition prevails over his fears and doubting. This is clear from Psalm 57:1 and also verse 3 “He shall send from heaven and save me”. In verse 7 he says “My heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise”. He believed in God’s deliverance since a slain man buried in the cave could not sing and give praise? 

When we do not feel spiritually inclined we must do as those who want to cross a river, if one ford is too deep try another and try every ford. There may be an indisposition to believe, but there may also be besides this a spiritual disposition to pray. Set to praying then.  Sometimes there is a deadness that hinders praying, so that we cannot speak (Psalm 77:4) yet there is also a disposition to praise in Psalm 77:14-15. Set about praising then. Perhaps dispositions, motions, experiences are all gone and there is nothing left but the principle of grace. Go over the promises and act on the principle, blow on the glowing coal and strengthen that which remains. When one tool is broken, the tradesman makes use of another.

Though sinful dispositions and the flesh have the better of us for a while, wait on the Lord and trust in His strength and act. The heavenly flamings of God will eventually prevail. The Spouse is drowsy for a while, and refuses to open and refuses Christ lodging in Song of Solomon 5:2. Eventually, however, when Christ puts in His hand by the hole of the door, faith and heavenly inclinations are victorious. She rises and opens; she misses and seeks Him. She prays and becomes sick of love for Him (Song of Solomon 5:6-8). Then she bursts out in a high song extolling her beloved in verses 10-12.

Job is cast down under much sadness of spirit due to unbelief in Job 19:6-7. “Behold I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard; I cry aloud, but there is no judgment” These are hard words indeed! If there is no judgment for an oppressed man crying to God, there is no providence, no God who rules the world. Yet in Job 19:25 he is able to say “I know that my Redeemer lives, I know I shall see him” [Rutherford’s paraphrase]. Get anything of the principle of grace and spiritual inclinations and act with them. You will not lack victorious influences on the basis of this because “greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

i

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article What You Must Do When You Feel Spiritually Dead. John Brown of Wamphray explains how Christ is still the life the believer needs even when we feel dry and barren and wonder if things will ever change. Not only this but he shows how to make use of that life.

 

 

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

Waiting and Longing to Hear God’s Word

Waiting and Longing to Hear God’s Word

Waiting and Longing to Hear God’s Word

We’re so used to hearing sermons that it becomes ordinary and routine for us. Yet it is meant to be a life-changing and world-changing activity. Christ has sent someone to declare His Word to us in a special way. No words outside of Scripture are more significant than those we hear from the pulpit. The Spirit of God makes “the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation” (Shorter Catechism, Q89). We should therefore be longing and waiting for the sermons we hear.

In what follows we will hear the heart-cry of a flock to a shepherd to come and feed them with God’s Word. This was a congregation who would experience one of Scotland’s most richly blessed ministries – ever. The parish of Fenwick, Ayrshire were calling a young man called William Guthrie. Writing a call to a pastor can seem to some like a procedural technicality or in some cases a fairly casual approach but in this case the document breathes spiritual earnestness.

 

1. Longing Expressed

The congregation write to Guthrie as “Reverend and well-beloved” recalling first of all their struggles to get a church building newly erected. They mention “how (after many prayers and difficulties) by the great mercy and good hand of God upon” them, they had a church building “erected to the honour of His name and for [their] edification”. They describe themselves as a “hungry people” full of spiritual needs.

They are “bound in conscience and pressed in spirit to make use of so fair a mercy by begging from God and looking out (in the ordinary way) one who may break the Bread of Life” to them and “watch for [their] souls”.

It has pleased the Lord to incline all our hearts as one man towards you as the man of God sent unto us and kept for us by special providence

They urge Guthrie through the compassion of Jesus (the great and chief shepherd), beseeching and charging him in His name” to accept their call to ministry in that place.

You are the first after whom the eyes and hearts of us all have been carried with a holy violence and this is the first call that ever came from this place, we rest assured that you neither dare nor will refuse the burden

So they seek that he will “refresh the hearts of a waiting longing and languishing people by a ready condescendence”. They close the call describing themselves as those who are resolved to be “your very affectionate friends and flock”. It was dated 27 September 1643. The original call is displayed on the wall of Fenwick Parish Church.

 

2. Longing Fulfilled

These prayers were not just answered in Guthrie accepting the call. It was a ministry that would truly transform the parish. Being the first pastor there, Guthrie found a great spiritual ignorance as well as a general neglect of the house of God and the way of salvation. The Sabbath was profaned and family worship neglected. The young minister’s zeal and desire for the salvation of his flock overcame all discouragement in his way and his preaching was sealed with the genuine conversion of most people in the parish.

Like most Covenanting ministers, Guthrie was very diligent in visiting his people, teaching the young and insisting on family worship. In this way the Word of God had a daily place of honour in the home. One minister said that almost everyone in the Fenwick parish was “brought to make a fair profession of godliness, and had the worship of God in their families”. The parish experienced true revival during that time.

What was Guthrie’s preaching like? It was faithful and fearless. It distinguished between those who really needed comfort and those who needed rebuke. Matthew Crawford, minister at Eastwood, said that William Guthrie “converted and confirmed many thousand souls, and was esteemed the greatest practical preacher in Scotland”.

William Guthrie is most famous for the valuable little book that he wrote called The Christian’s Great Interest. This deals with the way of salvation and how we can be sure we are saved. The word “interest” means a legal claim. The theologian John Owen said that there was more theology in it than in everything he had ever written put together.

 

3. The Close of a Fruitful Ministry

By 1663, more than 400 ministers were forced out of their pulpits for refusing to be re-ordained under episcopal government and for refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of the king over the Church.   They were told they must leave their parishes and not live within 20 miles of them or within 6 miles of Edinburgh. Guthrie was able to stay for a little longer but was finally forced from his pulpit and his physical health collapsed shortly afterwards. He suffered a complication of diseases and returned to the place of his birth never to preach again.

Looking back, he was able to give this testimony to the man who came to remove him from his congregation: “I bless the Lord He has given me some success, and a seal of my ministry upon the souls and consciences of not a few that are gone to heaven, and of some that are yet in the way to it”.

 

Conclusion

Many today see the ordinary means of grace, including preaching, as too ordinary. They are looking for something extraordinary. Yet it was the ordinary methods of preaching, catechising and pastoral care that the Lord used to bring revival to Fenwick. He blessed the means that He had ordained to fulfil the longings of a people above all that they were able to ask or think. God is also able to bless our longing expectations in the next sermon we hear.

Scotland’s Greatest Revival

£1.00

FOR A BUNDLE OF 3 COPIES

What insights might you learn from understanding the seven key points why the Second Reformation period was not only a national movement of reform in the Church and Nation but also the greatest period of revival in our country’s history?  What if the key to the future is knowing the past?

Out of stock

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

Opening the Door From Our Heads to Our Hearts

Opening the Door From Our Heads to Our Hearts

Opening the Door From Our Heads to Our Hearts

Why aren’t we more greatly and lastingly moved by the truths we believe? It’s easy to grasp something intellectually and to receive it as truth without it making a powerful impact on us. We hear powerful sermons, we read penetrating words of Scripture but are we powerfully stirred by them? Sound doctrine has not done its work in us till we both live it and love it. Do we dwell on these truths enough to let them sink down into our hearts? To do this we need to set aside time to meditate on spiritual things. This is nothing to do with mindfulness and eastern practices. It is the biblical requirement of giving our minds and hearts entirely to spiritual things for a set time.

We are always giving our minds and hearts to something – why not the best things? Such a practice prepares us for engaging in spiritual things and helps us to profit from them. Even if we were only speaking about hearing sermons it would be essential. As Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) put it, “God requires you to hear sermons, [and] requires you to meditate on the sermons you hear”.

It is digesting that nourishes not the mere action of eating something. “Meditation is digesting all the things of God. It is not merely hearing a sermon that does you good, but meditating on what you hear. If a man has a plaster and lays it on his sore, and then takes it off as soon as he has laid it on, it will do no good at all. So when you hear a sermon, if you forget it as soon as ever you have heard it, if you do not chew, meditate and ponder upon what you hear, you will never get any good”.

There are “so many lean Christians that devour hundreds of sermons…and are never any better, never any fatter”. Why is this? Because it goes in one ear, and out the other. “They never meditate, ponder and consider what they hear, that is the reason why you are so lean in grace”. Calamy points out that it takes many hours to digest a little meat which it has not taken long to eat. We should spend many hours digesting a sermon.

Calamy was a member of the Westminster Assembly and, like many other puritans, he wrote a book on the subject of meditation. The following is an updated extract from The Art of Divine Meditation.

Meditation is the soul’s transmigration to heaven, the soul’s transfiguration, the soul’s going up to heaven to converse with God, Christ and the things of eternity

The Christian who does not meditate may have Christ by faith just like someone who possesses a jewel in a purse. But meditation opens the purse, takes out the jewel and looks on it. Our failure to meditate tends to encourage hard-heartedness, ingratitude, unbelief and formality. Calamy even asserts and shows that failure to meditate is the cause of all sin.

 

1. What is Daily Meditation?

Daily meditation is set, solemn and deliberate. It is when someone sets apart some time and goes into a room alone or takes a private walk to solemnly and deliberately meditate on the things of heaven.This holy meditation is dwelling and abiding on things that are holy. It is not only knowing God and about Christ but dwelling on the things we know. As the bee dwells and abides on the flower to suck out all the sweetness that is in the flower; so we must suck out all the sweetness we can in the things we meditate on.

To meditate is to continue and fix ourselves and our hearts on the things we know. Scripture calls meditation holy musing (Psalm 39:3). It is to commune with our own hearts (Psalm 4:4). It is both communing and consulting with our own hearts or “bethinking” ourselves (as in 1 Kings 8:47). The Hebrew word in 1 Kings 8:47 is: if they will bring back to their hearts or reflect on themselves. Meditation is a reflecting act of the soul by which the soul is carried back to itself and considers all the things that it knows.

Meditation is an inward, spiritual act of the soul by which it looks back on itself and considers all the things that concern its everlasting happiness.

Another metaphor is in Psalm 119:59 “I thought on my ways”. The word in Hebrew refers to traders who when they buy a commodity, turn it over and over and over again. They look into every part of it. Meditation is a thorough contemplation and consideration of the things of God.

 

2. How Does Daily Meditation Engage the Heart?

It is an act of the heart as well as of the head. It is not mere speculative knowledge of divine things but rather practical knowledge. It is not only an act of the intellect and understanding but also of the will and affections. “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She did not only think of them in her head but she pondered them with her heart (see Deuteronomy 4:39).

True meditation is when we meditate on Christ in such a way as to get our heart inflamed with the love of Christ. It is to meditate on the truths of God to be transformed into them; to meditate on sin to get our hearts to hate it. Such musing on God kindles a fire in the whole soul (Psalm 39:3). It is to so contemplate on God that our heart is all on fire with the love of God.

When the heart is affected with meditation in the head David says “My meditation of him shall be sweet” (Psalm 104:34). This is true meditation, when we so meditate on God as to taste a sweetness in Him.

Meditation does not stop in the intellect, but flows into the will and affection so that the heart is all inflamed with the things on which we meditate.

Many great scholars meditate much on God, Christ and heaven, yet never become any holier by their meditation. This is because they meditate on these things merely to find out curious things about God, Christ and heaven. They do not meditate on these things to get their hearts affected, and get heavenly and divine hearts. Thus, many scholars can be as undevout and as unholy as other people even though they know more and meditate more.

I have found many poor lay people that get more good by meditation than great scholars. This is because the great scholar’s meditation many times vanishes into empty speculations, notions and opinions. But the godly man’s meditation is all about putting it into practice. He meditates on sin to hate it, on God to love Him and on Christ to be inflamed with a desire after Him. Thus, he often gets more good by meditation.

Both the butterfly and the bee dwell on the flower but the butterfly does not suck honey from the flower. There are many scholars that meditate much about the things of God but the honest plain-hearted Christian meditates on God like the bee, to suck out the sweetness of God.

 

3. Meditation Must Enter Three Doors

Meditation must enter into three doors or it will never do you any good.

1. It must get into the door of the understanding.This is the proper place of meditation but if it stays there, you will never be any better for it.

2. It must get into the door of the heart and affections. You must never stop meditating till it gets into that door likewise.

3. The door of practical living. Your meditation must not stop in the affections, it must influence your conduct by making it more holy. You must meditate on God to walk as God walks and so meditate on Christ as to prize Him and live in obedience to Him. Live out your meditation (Joshua 1:8). Let meditation and practice, like two sisters, walk hand in hand. Meditation without practice will only increase your condemnation.

 

4. Daily Meditation is Essential to the Christian Life

Meditation will help to obtain and increase grace and also resist the devil and all his temptations.

(a) It obtains grace

  • It helps produce repentance in us (Psalm 119:59; Ezekiel 36:31; Mark 14:72).
  • It helps produce love to God and Christ in us (Psalm 104:34)
  • It helps produce the fear of God in us (Isaiah 51:12-13; Jeremiah 5:22-23).

(b) It preserves and increases grace

As wood preserves fire, oil preserves the flame and water preserves fish, so meditation preserves your graces. It preserves and increases every grace. Meditation is a divine pair of bellows to blow on the sparks of grace. When there is only a little fire, meditation will kindle this fire more and increase it.

When you find your love of God grows cold meditate on the love of God, this will kindle the love of God in your hearts. When you find the fear of God diminish within you, meditate on the power of God. Consider that your breath is in His hand and He has you in His hand; this will increase the fear of God. When the love of the world increases within you, meditate on the vanity and nothingness of it – this will decrease the love of the world.

(c) It is an essential duty

This duty is not only a duty but the quintessence and marrow of all other duties. No duty will leave any impression on your souls without practising this duty.

It is the very life and soul of Christianity, without it a Christian is but the carcass of a Christian. Lack of meditation is the cause of all sin and all punishment.

Let me tell you, you would be tall Christians in grace if you accustomed yourselves to this duty. The reason why you are such dwarfs in Christianity – so unacquainted with God, the promises, Christ and heaven – is due to failing to practise this duty. This is the reason you crawl along the ground and are so poor in grace and so lean in religion.

Meditation is as necessary as your daily bread.

 

Conclusion

There is much more to learn about daily meditation; Calamy gives around 200 pages to the subject (see this outline of the contents). But it is time to apply what we have gleaned. It would be an indictment if we only grasped the necessity and benefits of meditation with our intellects. We also need to ensure that it enters through the doors of our affections and practical living.

Calamy says that we ought to mourn if we have a Christian for many years and yet have never really practised the duty of meditation. Were we ever solemnly and seriously in the Mount of God for even half an hour? We should also mourn if meditation has become a lost duty in our Christian experience.

The heart of man is restless like the pendulum of a clock that cannot stop once wound up. The heart of man will always be meditating on something or other.

You should mourn if you have spent your days in meditating what to eat, drink, wear or how to become rich, manage your job and prosper in the world. You have been meditating all your life long on vain things and have not meditated on eternity – the things of greatest concern to you eternity. You have been meditating on things that will not profit at the hour of death and concern eternity.

Those in business must have time to meditate on their work, I will not lay heavier burdens on you than Scripture. But if you waste all your time in meditating on earthly things and are never serious in meditating on heavenly things you should mourn.

Though time is scarce and you work long hours, you can still draw spiritual lessons from outward things as you go about your work. But even if you have no time during the working week for set, solemn meditation; you do have time on the Lord’s Day when your work is laid aside. This is the God has set apart for public worship and private meditation. Meditation on the work of creation, redemption and our eternal rest in heaven is our great work on the day of rest.

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

Are You Spiritually Authentic?

Are You Spiritually Authentic?

Are You Spiritually Authentic?

​We’re told that young people in their 20s and 30s crave authenticity. They have grown up with the empty exaggerated promises of advertising. Over-polished superficiality doesn’t impress much. Authenticity and trustworthiness are certainly important values to recover. The danger, however, is that we judge what is genuine simply by what “feels” real to us. Spiritual authenticity is defined by God in His Word. Above all, what matters is that we personally are spiritually real.

​Sadly a defective idea of spiritual authenticity has become a trend in some parts of evangelicalism. It has a focus towards others and features a false openness. It means being vulnerable and admitting your failings to the extent of wallowing in them. Making the acknowledgement of imperfection an excuse for continuing in sin. So much so that some writers have questioned whether such “authentic” confessions are really a way of avoiding the demands of holiness.

True spiritual authenticity is focussed on God. Andrew Gray describes spiritual authenticity as the grace of “sincerity”. He preached a sermon on the description of Nathanael: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). Christ, who spoke these words, is the judge of spiritual authenticity. Gray begins his sermon by posing the question as to whether there were any in the congregation to whom Christ could give this “precious testimony”. Professing Christians pursue many spiritual things more than this particular grace. “There is more true and unspotted religion in one grain of sincerity – it is of more worth and value – than if you would pray half of your time and weep the other half”. The following is abridged and extracted in updated language from Andrew Gray’s sermon.

 

What is Spiritual Authenticity?

  1. Our practice conforms to our profession. Usually, we profess more than we practice (Matthew 23:5). Most of us come very short not only of what we ought to be, but also of what we seem to be.
  2. We are as much exercised in spiritual duties on our own as in company. Many commend Christ to others. Yet if the walls of their houses could speak, they would testify that they do not watch in prayer. They “love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). They do not love to pray much in private.
  3. Our hearts conform to our words. Our blessed Lord Jesus was commended for having no guile in His mouth and His spirit. He spoke nothing with His mouth that was not in His heart.
  4. We act for the glory of God as well as out of faith and love.

In short, Christian sincerity is a sweet agreement between our profession and practice, our heart and our walk and our walk and our hope. Every Christian grace can be counterfeited by a hypocrite. Whatever we do, have or can have, is empty and pointless without this precious and excellent grace of sincerity. Sincerity is to other graces what the sun is to the planets. They cannot be seen without it.

The Christian has his greatest peace from this grace of sincerity when passing through death to his everlasting rest and home. All our duties will then pass away as a cloud.   Sincerity is the way to best resemble God. Is not God sometimes in Scripture called the God of truth? All your other graces will not thrive if they do not grow out of the ground of sincerity.

 

The Benefits of Spiritual Authenticity

1. It Best Prepares You for Assurance

It is because you are not sincere that you debate with yourself about your assurance of salvation and have so much jangling unbelief. The grace of sincerity best capacitates a Christian to receive intimation of peace.  The sincere Christian knows best how to make use of assurance and peace of conscience.

2. It Enables You to Wrestle Against Sin

It engages the Christian to wrestle against predominant sins. There is no grace that enables a Christian more to put predominant sins to death. “I was also upright before him and I kept myself from mine iniquity” (Psalm 18:23). There is an emphasis in these words. Christians may engrave this title on their iniquity: “It is mine”. While iniquity is still living and Christians are under it, while it is not yet put to death,  Christ does not have much access to the soul, and has only the corner of the Christian’s heart.

3. It is the Best Evidence that Your Sins have been Forgiven

David says in Psalm 32:2 that the evidence of one who iniquity is forgiven is that there is no guile in his mouth.

4. It Brings You Most Victory Over Sin

It enables a Christian to put his besetting sins to death. What is the blessedness of such Christians? “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord”. Their blessedness is that they hate every false way and their feet do not turn from the commandments of the Lord. I am persuaded that the little we exercise sincerity is the reason we do not succeed in putting sin to death. Is it not often your aim in prayer merely to quiet your conscience? Why do you seek to put sin to death? Is it not to obtain peace and be free of outward offence against the generation of the just? Such motives are due to lack of the grace of sincerity.

5. It Makes You Receive All God’s Promises

God manifests His faithfulness most to those who exercise sincerity most. God is upright with those that walk uprightly (Psalm 18:26). That uprightness consists of faithfulness most of all. “The Lord God is a sun and shield…no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). This promise is to those that walk uprightly and delight in God’s law with their whole hearts.

6. It Best Prepares You for Fellowship with God

“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73:1). Who are those that receive divine influences from heaven? Those that are sincere.

7. It Enables You to Persevere to the End

The sincere Christian will endure to the end of their fight and spiritual warfare without the least spot and blemish on their walk. Solomon says: “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely” (Proverbs 10:9).

8. It Enables You to Enjoy Christ’s Presence

It is impossible to make best use of Christ’s presence without this precious and noble grace of sincerity. The Christian is to make best use of experiencing Christ’s presence as strengthening towards heaven and putting sin to death. This is not possible without sincerity.  “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright” (Proverbs 10:29). We are certain that all the ways of mercy and grace give strength to the Christian that is sincere. Lack of sincerity prevents Christians from making best use of their spiritual blessings.

Conclusion

Gray acknowledges that there are difficulties in the way of spiritual authenticity. It requires diligence, humility and a constant focus on the being and glory of God. We read of “hypocrisies” in the plural in 1 Peter 2:1. This is because it may be in any and all of a Christian’s actions. Before we condemn ourselves altogether, he makes a distinction between having hypocrisy to some extent in our actions and being a hypocrite. The excellent nature of the grace of sincerity should provoke our desires and affections after it. It is like a precious and excellent garment with which we can be robed so that it is clear to both God and man that we are an “Israelite indeed in whom is no guile”.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person

10 Signs of a Spiritual Person

Spirituality is a vague concept these days – both inside and outside the Church. As David F. Wells has put it: “Today, we think that each person must find his or her own way of being spiritual, something that is comfortable to that person; each spirituality is particular to each person.” Too often it’s something esoteric and about self-discovery with no connection to how the Bible defines spiritual life.

Scripture is clear that spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit alone. In the New Testament, the word “spiritual” means “of the Holy Spirit”. Like Lydia the heart is first opened by the Spirit to receive the truths of God’s Word (Acts 16:13-14). Samuel Rutherford observes:

We do not have the Spirit till we are brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Christ is not owner of the man who does not have the Spirit “If any have not the spirit, he is none of Christ’s” (Romans 8:9). Christ and the Spirit cannot be separated. The Spirit that is in the first heir (Christ) is in all the rest. We must be diligent to make our calling sure or else be “none of Christ’s”.

Spiritual life is dependence on the Spirit. Samuel Rutherford wrote a large book dealing with the relation of the Spirit to the believer work in the matter of spiritual growth and experience. This is something that concerns the Christian every day in his devotional life.  The book is called Influences of the Life of Grace.

He deals with many important questions, such as what believers should do when they do not feel spiritually exercised.  Rutherford asserts that the believer is to do his duty in prayer and worship even if he feels otherwise. It is the believer’s duty to pray away spiritual indisposition. We must pray for the Spirit’s help but we must make the Word our only rule and not our feelings. He emphasises that spiritual life centres around the Word of God: “the word is the chariot, the Spirit the driver of the chariot”.  Rutherford also stresses the believer’s union Christ who bestows the Spirit and His influences. “Know the way to the well of life, be much with Christ, and lie, and be near to the well, if you would have influences every moment”. “Make sure union with the Vine-tree, if you would be sure of growing to the end”.

The following abridges and updates an extract from Influences which identifies ten characteristics of a spiritual person from the Bible. He is answering the question: how can we identify a spiritual person and spiritual influences?

1. A Spiritual Person Submits to the Guidance of the Holy Spirit

The guide is the one who determines the journey. The commands of the Spirit have much free grace and persuasive leading (Acts 10:19; Acts 11:2; Acts 18:9-11; John 14:16, 26; John 16:13). Where the will presses forward strongly with much liberty in obedience, there is much of the Spirit. Drawing back in spiritual actions, however, indicates much of the flesh. Christ, who had the anointing of the Spirit without measure, was all will and all heart and all spirit to obey and suffer (John 10:17-18; Psalm 40:8-9).

2. A Spiritual Person Runs Strongly After the Holy Spirit

A spiritual person runs strongly in following the leading and drawing of the Spirit (Song 1:4; Psalm 119:32). “I held him and would not let him go” (Song 3:4). Is this not vehemence? It is followed by sweet feelings and high commendation of Christ. The Spirit’s power in drawing and the bride’s energy in running combine. He that is willing to be led shall be led. Keeping Christ’s commandments makes room for the Father and the Son to come and dwell (John 14:21 and 23). Fire makes more fire.

3. A Spiritual Person Cherishes All of the Spirit’s Activity

A spiritual person takes care that none of the parts of the new creation are damaged. He loves and honours his guide and leader. Scripture notes our wrongs we do to the Holy Spirit: (a) vexing; (b) quenching; (c) tempting; and (d) resisting.

(a) A spiritual person will not vex the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10) or grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). To grieve is to sadden rather then to anger (see Matthew 14:9; 17:23 and 26:22). Can a friend lodge in a house, where he is saddened every hour? Is not this to chase him away? The signs of grieving the Spirit are when we acts in a deadened condition. For instance in praying when a Christian knocks faintly and life, liberty and godly boldness are absent.

(b) A spiritual person will not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Some cast water upon the fire and holy flamings of the Spirit. This makes a cold hearth-stone and mightily obstructs the working of We should rather add new fuel to His fire, blow away the ashes and wrestle against deadness, dullness, faintness, and stir up the grace of God. Do not quench it in your self by unbelief and cheerless walking. When men cast water on the flamings of the Spirit and crush His work in others they are doing Satan’s work.

(c) A spiritual person will not tempt the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). We must acknowledge and adore the Holy Spirit as God and not follow Ananias in trying the Holy Spirit to see if he will find out hypocrisy, (Acts 5). A spiritual person will not say “but I may do this and be pardoned”. Tempted free grace is a transgression with so loud a cry, it is heard all heaven over.

(d) A spiritual person will not resist the Holy Spirit and do despite to the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:28-30; Matthew 12:31-32). Do you find not the actings of the Spirit sweet and heaven-like? If so, it indicates a spiritual disposition.

4. A Spiritual Person Displays Much Self-denial

He who will be least his own is most God’s, and partakes most of the divine nature. There is little of self in children; the children of God are like such as are learning to walk. So does the Spirit act without resistance in the sons of God. It’s true, there is much of renewed self, in spiritual actions and this increases the excellency of the actions (see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Galatians 2:20; Romans 7:17, 22; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21)

5. A spiritual person is spiritually bewildered

A spiritual person doubts every way he walks in except the way that he is sure to be from God (Psalm 143:10). This shows that:
(a) The spiritual person doubts every way and knows that he is a bewildered and ignorant traveller in himself. He is not able by his own light to know the way, the home and lodging or the guide.
(b) The spiritual person esteems God’s Spirit to be a good leader and guide.
(c) The spiritual person commits their
goings to the Spirit and asks Him to be a guide to them.

He fears lest the way be hidden to him (Psalm 119:19). The commandments are the way, and a hid and covered way is misery to a stranger or pilgrim. Seeing our ignorance and errors frequently and being in love with the Spirit’s leading is good.

6. A Spiritual Person Finds Spiritual Actions to be Natural

Action is easy when it comes from an inward principle. The stream flows from the fountain naturally without violence. Likewise heat comes from the fire naturally. It’s neither toil nor labour to the sun to give light. All these come from internal principles. There is violence in the motion of a clock, and therefore the wheels will be worn out by time. But the actions of the Spirit are sweet and natural. Grace makes the commandments to be not grievous. It is no effort but easy to a gracious pastor to love Christ. It breaks neither leg nor arm to desire Christ and be sick for Him and feed His flock out of love to the Chief Shepherd.

Meekness is easily led and drawn. When the Spirit comes in, the man is made pliable for counsel. O wrestle not against warnings, but yield to them! All gracious influences are sweet, delightful and easy. It is not a struggle but sweet and pleasant for a field of roses, of vine-trees to receive showers and summer influences from the sun and heaven. It was sweet for the baptised man Christ to receive and lodge the Holy Spirit who came down in the form of a dove on Him in all His influences.

7. A Spiritual Person Acts Much in the Spirit

Acting much in the Spirit brings greater abundance of the Spirit.

(a) The more that someone acts for the good of others (especially the people of God) the more the person is under the Spirit. Christ was under mighty flowings of the Spirit in redeeming His people. He was willing to have the influences of spiritual comfort withdrawn and be under that sad cloud of being forsaken by God in order that God might embrace us. It is the characteristic work of the Spirit to glorify God. “He shall glorify me (Christ says about the Spirit) for he shall receive of mine” (John 16:14). The more we glorify God and Jesus Christ God’s Son, the more we testify that we partake more of the flowings of the Spirit. The Church shows more of the Spirit in being willing to bear the Lord’s indignation because she has sinned (Micah 7:9) and bear public sufferings to illustrate the glory of His justice.

(b) If we have much of the spirit, we will patiently submit to the Lord’s sovereign withdrawing influences of comfort. What if He withdraw joyful influences of believing, of glorying, and rejoicing in the Lord, and feed the poor sinner with absence and exercise him with sad desertions?

(c) We are in a spiritual condition when Christ casts in feelings and discernible motions of the Spirit and we are moved and our soul fails for Him (Song 5:2, 4-6). “Quench not the spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) includes the positive requirement to cherish kindly and yield sweetly to the flowings and sweet influences of the Spirit.

8. A Spiritual Person is Watchful

The Spirit of God keeps the soul watchful. “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the spirit” is combined with watching “with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18 see also Jude v21). “The spirit is willing” (Matthew 26:4 – forward, watchful i.e. the renewed part) “but the flesh is weak” (i.e. sleepy, and lazy). How much a person has of the Spirit is the amount they have of holy watchfulness. Watching guards against sleeping, and watchfulness makes the soul resolved to watch. Since the Spirit is a spirit of life, and a quickening and living spirit, (Romans 8:1). The more watchfulness in any, the more of the Spirit. “Let us not sleep as do others: but let us watch, and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-7; see also Romans 13:13).

9. A Spiritual Person Keeps Company with Other Spiritual People

They are born of the Spirit by the same Father (John 5; John 3:1; John 3:14; Psalm 119:63). Brothers love one another; the common nature and spirit of their Father dwells in them. Birds of the same feather and colours flock together. Beware of becoming weary of the Spirit’s company or that of spiritual men. Beware of loathing a spiritual ministry. The saints keep their spiritual being with the excellent ones in whom is all their delight (Psalm 16:2). God ordinarily showers influences and promises influences to the flocking together of the godly and pouring His Spirit on them, (Jeremiah 50:4-6; Zechariah 8:21-23; Malachi 3:16)

10. A Spiritual Person Speaks About Spiritual Things

When the well is full it must run over. When there is a treasure and abundance in the heart, the Spirit comes to the tongue in Zechariah and Simeon (Luke 2:25, 27).  Grace seethes and boils up to the tongue when the conceptions of the King Christ are the good matter indited by the heart (Psalm 45:1). Men show their spirit by their language. The spiritual person speaks about Christ, redemption and imputed righteousness. The pilgrim’s heart, tongue and thoughts are all on his way and his home. In the same way the spiritual person dwells much on eternity, heaven and Christ.

 

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from the blog

AUTHOR MENU

READ MORE

LIKE THIS

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