Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Bible study of the Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

living-into-eternityPublished by:

Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church
7 Denman’s Camp Road

Scarness 4655 QLD

(07) 4124 7018

herveybaypresbyterian.org
ⓒ 2016

Bible quotes from

  • The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (www.zondervan.com)
  • The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. (http://www.esvbible.org)
  • The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

This booklet, or parts of it, may be reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

A New Creation – light in Darkness
A New Vision – the glory of the Son of Man
A New Order – the Groom reveals his glory
A New Temple – Christ our access to God
A New Birth – born from above
A New People – a harvest who worship God in Spirit and truth
A New Food – true bread from heaven
A New Fountain – the holy Spirit
A New Shepherd – He laid down his life for his sheep
A New Life – to live even though we die

 

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Light from eternity, life into eternity

My dear friends in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

It might just be that you found yourself in the back blocks, out there in the never-never, beyond the Black Stump.  The farms there, being anything between 30,000 and 100,000 acres can easily take in everything from here to Maryborough.  It might just be that you camp on a dry creek bed on a dark moon night.  Without some sort of light you can hardly see your hand before your eyes.  But then, when you look up into the starry heavens, every little star seems so close it feels possible to pluck it.

Then, when the fire died, and you killed your gas lamp, and your eyes get used to the dark, you might even see the weak light shining from the window of a homestead some miles from you.

Darkness is frightening; it swallows up all vision and can leave you feel terribly lonely and exposed.  But there is one thing darkness can’t do:  it can’t shut out light.

A new Creation

Reading John chapter gives us something of what I just described.  It talks about the swamping and frightening darkness of a world without God, but it has the birth light of the Gospel shining into it.

To understand something of the first few verses we need to go back to “the beginning” when God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1–2, NKJV)

From our human perspective everything is dark without God.  Apart from the fact that the beginning describes emptiness, even if something did exist even that was formless and just drifting hopelessly and helplessly from nowhere into nowhere.

But God spoke everything seen and unseen into existence: “And God said …” What was spoken into this formless void of nothingness was light.  God was light; the sun moon and stars were created later.  But God broke through into this darkness and came into the darkness.  One day after the other God spoke until at the end of the sixth day everything was created. And God rested.

How God created is revealed in the Bible.  Our reading from John 1 tells us more:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1–3, NKJV)

In another place we read:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  (Hebrews 1:1–3, NIV)

In yet another place the Holy Spirit testifies:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17, NIV)

Not far into the Bible we come across the most terrible event of all history:  Adam and Eve, our first parents, fell in sin.  What was very good at the end of the sixth day now became infected with thorns and thistles, sickness, pestilence, hatred, animosity, war, envy, jealousy – and death.  Adam and Eve were chased out of paradise, and the first murder took place not long after: their first child killed his younger brother.

This world became a dark place.  But instead of the void and the quiet of that then became the earth, there is a noise of war, there are the shrill screams of pain every time death visits – there is darkness.  Isaiah paints the picture:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched…  So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2-5, 9–10, NIV)

O, my dear friend, life without God is not life at all.  Showing the fist to God in anger, blaming Him for the pain suffering we have to endure, brings us nowhere; on the contrary, our agitation just sucks us deeper into the quicksand of sin.  We need to understand that this horrible place where people behead one another, where grown men jump on and crush the heads of babies, this place where the unborn are ripped out in pieces from the mothers womb, this place where cancer can chew you up bit by bit, this place where loved ones have lost the ability to talk to others whose memory was stolen from them through dementia – this place was not meant to be like this.  God created it good, but we through our sin, made it a very dark place indeed.

A life without God is dangling over the cliff of a dark abyss. the worst part of our sinful state is that we can’t do anything about it.

But God did!

Life-giving light

The very same Person who was there when all was created – God Himself – came like a light shining into the darkness.  “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

The darkness did not understand this light.  But the word used for understood in Greek can also mean overcome.  It’s like that little light shining in the dark night out of the window of the homestead: it’s always more than the darkness around it.

But of course the darkness of sin blinds our minds so that we might see the light, and yet not understand it.  This blindness causes in us the inability to know, to grasp what salvation is about, to recognise the mercy of God in and through Jesus Christ; we hear the Gospel, but we remain spiritually stubborn because our minds are dull. We cannot receive the message and, if left to ourselves, we will do nothing with and about it but to reject it.  That’s the effect of the darkness of sin.

But, and this is the good news of the Gospel of light:  This Good News is preached to us and somehow some miracle happens.  The light of Christ begins to shine on our minds, our ears are opened and we begin to understand our hopelessness without this light.  On one hand I see the darkness of the pit below me, and I look up and I see Him, the Lord through all things were created, holding his hand, ready to pluck me from sure eternal destruction.  From his face I see the radiance of life-giving light – all because He is light.

We don’t need to be good to be saved.  We don’t need a wide Christian pedigree to the received as a child of God.  Christ only save sinners.  This is how it happens:  God, by his Holy Spirit – all in the sight of Jesus Christ my Redeemer – by grace gives a new birth.  This happens not because of something we decide, or our parents decide or will; it happens when the light of grace opens up my mind, my heart, my will, and lifts the darkness caused by sin: the result is faith and the ability to accept his grace.  God then gives us a title, My child. To be called a child of God is a God-given right.

God in his tabernacle

Why all this grace?  There is not a human being on this planet who can answer that question.  But what the Bible tells us is that Christ, God from all eternity, sinless and holy in his being, chose to set up camp with sinners.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

He came to make known his Father.  He came to buy us back and take us home to the Father.  His earthly ministry was one of obedience to the Father:  He obeyed the law perfectly in and through everything He did or did not do; but more than that, He took our failures, our sins, our rebellion, and exchanged his glory for our trespasses.  And when He died on the cross the reconcile us to God, darkness came upon the earth for some hours.

Three days later all brightness in full sun broke open as He overcame hell and sin and death and satan.  He rose again and went back to his Father where He intercede for his own.  When He comes back, He will exchange our tents for  mansion.

Conclusion

My dear friend, do you know darkness? Yes, this world is a dark place, everything is not yet restored.  We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no sin – and we will be with God and his Son.  In that place there is not sun or moon, but the light of God will be our light – and that for all eternity.

In the meantime the Good News of Christ is preached.  the light of Christ is life from eternity and into eternity. Do you hear it and see it?  Ask god to bring about the miracle of a new birth if you don’t see and believe in the Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 25 September 2016

Grace trampled, grace offered, grace received

Saved, yet as through fire

1Corinthians 3:9-15, 2Chronicles 33:1-20

Last time I preached the Word of God to you we heard about the grace of God as we looked at God’s dealings with Ahab:  how many times God offered him grace to worship Him and to repent from worshipping the despicable idol, Baal.  There was almost hope for Ahab as we saw the signs of repentance; however, it was superficial, and soon he slipped back in his old ways, only to die in his sin – all because God is just, righteous and holy.

The Word this morning tells us about another such story.  I have titled it: “Grace trampled, grace offered, grace received.”  The subtitle “Saved, yet as through fire” are from the New Testament reading from 1Corinthians 3.  In this chapter the apostle Paul says each one’s work will be put to the test:  sobroken-chainsme will not stand, yet by God’s eternal grace and Gospel call, they will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Like someone who is trapped in a burning house, losing everything he has worked for, facing death himself, only then to be grabbed by the scruff of his neck by the fire-fighter and taken to safety. Stripped of everything, but alive! Manasseh of the Old Testament was such a man.

Grace trampled – obnoxious rebellion

Manasseh grew up in a godly home.  Hezekiah, his father, was a good king and led the nation in spiritual a revival. His son however became the worst king.
Why would this young king, who most probably shared the throne with his father for ten years and when old Hezekiah eventually died, turned away to rebel against God?  He who had seen and tasted the fruit of God’s blessing upon his godly father, why would he turn away from it to become known as more rebellious and worse than the kings who reigned in Israel before the Israelites got there.

There are very fine Christian homes with godly Christian parents in which a son or a daughter rebels against everything. But it also true that some young drifters were neglected at home. They saw godless, materialistic parents who were quarrelling all the time; they might come from broken homes, homes that were centred merely on self and selfishness. You can understand why they rebel against all of that, and just walked out. But why is it that a son or daughter will simply rebel and out of a lovely, Christian home and join  a crowd which rebels against all which is good and winsome?

All young people go through a period when they feel that their parents are old-fashioned, and may I say, stupid.  But others are rebellious. Their life is eventually destroyed and they themselves become a picture of destruction.

But God’s mercy is unfathomable.  We will never understand why God is so merciful to even include the worst of sinners, the most evil of rebels into his Gospel call.

Let’s look at the path of destruction of Manasseh.  He reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. This man reigned much longer than others, longer than David, longer than Solomon, longer than his father. Why? Because the sovereign God is merciful.

Manasseh deliberately pulled down the altars his father had built for the worship of the living God and replaced them with altars to Baal.  This man’s mind was bewildered and dulled by an explicit desire to rebel against God. His life is a picture of someone who gained the whole world, and yet lost his soul.

Manasseh made a systematic and persistent attempt, and all too successfully, to banish the worship of God out of the land. He reinstated the fertility cult of worshipping under every green tree, giving way to sexual immorality and depravity. Once this was introduced one thing followed the other, the next more wicked that the previous.

He introduced right into the temple in Jerusalem the worship of the hosts of heaven: like the worship of Jupiter, the worship of Mercury, the worship of Venus. He established worship of the horoscope there. You could have had your horoscope read in the temple in that day.  This is of course not only a sin in God’s sight, but also an extremely dangerous activity.  God commanded the Law:

And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

The argument goes that when such-and-such a star crossed such-and-such a star, it would be a very important time (or not) for you. It is amazing that in our day intelligent people can place so much confidence in the constellation of stars. Remember, a friend of this world cannot be a friend of God.  Look at Manasseh.  Manasseh was very much interested in worshipping the stars.

“And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.” And he didn’t stop there.

He defiled the temple of God by actually bringing the images into the temple.  The expression, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever” (verse 4) was both a promise of Gods’ presence and protection for his people, and a declaration of punishment if this name is profaned or defiled.  Manasseh was playing a dangerous game.

The Philistines, even before the Israelites occupied the land practiced divination in different forms:  Letting drops of oil fall into a cup of water and observing the patterns that appear; watching the various shapes from the smoke of incense.  They looked into the stars and made observations:  They listed the months of the year and told which months were favourable for certain kinds of tasks. They also listed activities that a person should engage in or avoid for each day of the month. From all of this, astrology was born.

And we thought we are modern!  Brother and sister, if you are tied up in these activities, stop it immediately.  It is a sin before God.  Look at the life of Manasseh!

He went further:  he sacrificed his own sons to the worship of the god Molech.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, (Deuteronomy 18:10)

I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people. (Leviticus 20:6)

Divination is an attempt to decipher the will of the gods through the use of magical techniques. We are talking about the value people put on dreams and other measures as apposed to being content knowing the God is in control.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you… [The] nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)

Manasseh knew that God promised good for those who obey Him, and destruction for those who disobey; and yet he pushed forward.

Amid this widespread idolatry there was not a shortage of faithful prophets (Isaiah, Micah) who voiced God’s disapproval and warning. But their fidelity only aroused bitter hatred, and a period of cruel persecution against all the friends of the old religion began.

There is an old Jewish tradition that Isaiah was put to death at this time.  He was sawn in two, as Hebrews 11:37 suggests. Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end, and 2Kings 24:3-4 says Manasseh had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive. (2 Kings 24:3-4)

Grace offered – “Thus sayeth the Lord”

And still, God did not forget his people.  Listen to 2 Chronicles 33:10:

And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 33:10, NKJV)

2 Kings 21 is about the same time in Israel.

And the Lord spoke by His servants the prophets … (2 Kings 21:10, NKJV)

The gracious God still speaks!  He is still busy, calling to repentance.  There is still grace.  Grace comes through the Word where God speaks. We have heard this gospel over and over again.  This message is about Jesus Christ, the son of God who came into this word to seek and to save the lost.  It is a searching message, just like God looked for Adam and Eve after they sinned; and God asked,  “We are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

So God is still speaking today.  You hear this, and once again God is offering eternal life through Jesus Christ.  It is free, it costs nothing.  Yet, this offer will not be there forever.  We might face our last day living in rebellion, outside of the grace of God and face eternity without God.  Listen:

Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; (Isaiah 1:18–19, NKJV)

This free offer of grace has a flip-side.  The verses from Isaiah 1 continue:

But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:20, NKJV)

Sin has consequences.  Disobedience has a cost.  Listen to verse 11:

So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11)

Did you see the “So” in the beginning of this verse?  It means “therefore”, “as a result”.

Manasseh, once a royal king, was chained and taken to Babylon with hooks in his nose.  The day of punishment arrived.  It was time to go.  God’s hourglass was full.  Roles are reversed, as the king became a prisoner and beggar. He was thrown in prison.

Grace received – humility before God

The old song says, “It is no secret what God can do, what He’s done for others, He can do for you.”

The apostle Paul in 1Timothy 1:15-16 says:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1Timothy 1:15-16)

Manasseh remembered the days of his father Hezekiah.  Like the prodigal son he remembered the good old days.  There in the darkness of his cell, with his hands and feet in fetters, barely able to speak as the hooks in his nose obstructed his speech, this killer of prophets, this Nero of Jerusalem, this blasphemer, this practiser of sorcery and divination, this father who had his own sons killed as a sacrifice to idols, turned to God for mercy. He reached the end of his rope.  He was empty.  He was eating from the swine troughs of this world.  He was hungry, blind, sick and cripple.

Is there hope?  Is the grace in Jesus Christ enough for this broken sinner?  If you where God, what would you do?  If you were Manasseh, would you turn to God? How dare he ask for forgiveness? How dare he not ask for forgiveness?

Before the holy God he pleaded for grace.  Not just as quick, “Forgive me my sins, Amen”; no, he humbled himself greatly before God.  Who knows what exactly went on in that cell?

This God was the God of his fathers – the covenant God.  The merciful God who forgives not after we try to improve ourselves, but the One who sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world for this reason:  to save sinners – that is, those who realise they are lost and on their way to eternal hell.  For those who plead before Him for forgiveness.

How did come about?  He had nothing to offer before God, but a humble prayer.  A simple, and yet powerful prayer of confession. This prayer was recorded in two important books of the time. It became an example of a sinner who begged for forgiveness.

God heard his prayer.  God forgave him and restored him as king in Israel.

Is that fair?  Is grace ever fair? Grace is defined as:  there is nothing I can do so God will love me more; and there is nothing I can do for God to love me less.  God’s is sovereign in his grace.  He can forgive if He wants.  Gods is always gracious, and thank Him, never fair.

Manasseh is an example of true repentance.  He, the once godless king, went back to his people and made restitution.  Confession is one aspect of repentance, turning around and committing yourself to God is another aspect.  Manasseh had the guts to go back and become a preacher of grace.  He took away the gods he had placed in the temple.  But he also commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.

Conclusion

If you ever doubted the grace of God, look at the example of God gracious love towards this once murderer.  If you ever thought you are too sinful; if ever you thought it is too late to turn to God, look at the cross of Jesus Christ.  That is God’s answer to a life of rebellion.  On that cross Jesus Christ was nailed to take away the certificate of debts with its charges against us – He nailed it to the cross.

Maybe you are not a big sinner.  You have not killed anyone.  You don’t practice divination and all those ugly things.  But you still need salvation.  Without God’s forgiveness and grace in your life you are still lost.  Why don’t you hear the offer of grace today and ask for forgiveness?

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 18 September 2016

Christ is all

… Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:11, NKJV)

Christ is all, in all the [eternal] counsels of God concerning man 

There was a time when this earth had no being.

Solid as the mountains look, boundless as the sea appears, high as the stars in heaven look – they once did not exist. And man, with all the high thoughts he now has of himself, was a creature unknown.

And where was Christ then?

Even then Christ was “with God “ – and “was God” – and was “equal with God.” (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6.)

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5, NKJV)

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:20, NIV)

Believers was chosen in Him,

For He [God] chose us in Him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

There came a time when this earth was created in its present order.

Sun, moon and stars – sea, land and all their inhabitants, were called into being and made out of chaos and confusion. And, last of all, man was formed out of the dust of the ground.

And where was Christ then?

“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3, NIV)

For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16, NIV)

In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Hebrews 1:10, NIV)

There came a day when sin entered the world.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favour of God and became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in heaven. Had He dealt with them according to their deserts, there had been nothing before them but death, hell, and everlasting ruin.

And where was Christ then?

The very day they fell, they were told that “the seed of the woman should yet bruise the serpent’s head,” – that a Saviour born of a woman should overcome the devil and win for sinful man an entrance to eternal life. (Genesis 3:15.)

There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God.

After 4,000 years the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God that made them. Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry.

And what did Christ do then? 

  • He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation.
  • He took our nature upon Him, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone: as a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered.
  • He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a fountain for all sin and uncleanness.
  • He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God’s right hand, and there sat down, waiting till His enemies should be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and managing by God’s appointment all that concerns the salvation of souls.
There is a time coming when sin shall be cast out from this world.

Wickedness shall not always flourish unpunished; Satan shall not always reign; creation shall not always groan, being burdened. There shall be a time of restitution of all things. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Romans 8:22; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 11:9.)

And where shall Christ be then? And what shall He do?

  • Christ Himself shall be King.
  • He shall return to this earth and make all things new.
  • He shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the kingdoms of the world shall become His.
  • The heathen shall be given to Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.
  • To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.
There is a day coming when all men shall be judged.

The sea shall give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell shall deliver up the dead which are in them. All that sleep in the grave shall awake and come forth, and all shall be judged according to their works. (Rev. xx. 13; Dan. xii. 2.)

And where will Christ be then?

Christ Himself will be the Judge.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…” (John 5:22, NIV)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31–32, NIV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)

If anyone thinks little of Christ, let him know this day that he is very unlike God! You are of one mind, and God is of another. You think it enough to give Christ a little honour, a little reverence, a little respect. But in all the eternal counsels of God the Father, in creation, redemption, restitution, and judgment – in all these, Christ is “all.”

“… that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent Him.” (John 5:23, NIV)

“Christ is all” in the inspired books which make up the Bible

In every part of both Testaments, Christ is to be found – dimly and indistinctly at the beginning – more clearly and plainly in the middle – fully and completely at the end – but really and substantially everywhere.

  • It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice. Every animal slain and offered on an altar was a practical confession that a Saviour was looked for who would die for sinners – a Saviour who should take away man’s sin, by suffering, as his Substitute and Sin-bearer, in his stead.  It is absurd to suppose that an unmeaning slaughter of innocent beasts, without a distinct object in view, could please the eternal God!
  • It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain. He offered the firstlings of his flock, with the blood thereof, and in so doing declared his belief that without shedding of blood there is no remission.  “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4, NIV)
  • It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14–15, NIV)
  • It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise. He believed that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. By faith he saw Christ’s day, and was glad.  “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56, NIV)
  • It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying. He marked out the tribe out of which He would be born, and foretold that “gathering together” unto Him which is yet to be accomplished. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Genesis 49:10, NIV)
  • It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law:  the morning and evening sacrifice, the continual shedding of blood, the altar, the mercy-seat, the high priest, the passover, the day of atonement, the scapegoat – all these were so many pictures, types, and emblems of Christ and His work. God had compassion upon the weakness of His people. He taught them “Christ” line upon line, and, as we teach little children, by analogies. “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24, NIV)
  • It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles which were done before their eyes in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire which guided them, the manna from heaven which every morning fed them, the water from the smitten rock which followed them “… and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4, NIV)  “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…” (John 3:14, NIV)
  • It was Christ of whom all the Judges were types. Joshua, and David, and Gideon, and Jephthah, and Samson, and all the rest whom God raised up to deliver Israel from captivity – all were emblems of Christ. They were set for example of better things in the distant future. All were meant to remind the tribes of that far higher Deliverer who was yet to come.
  • It was Christ of whom David the king was a type. Anointed and chosen when few gave him honour, persecuted and obliged to flee for his life – a man of sorrow all his life, and yet at length a conqueror: in all these things David represented Christ.
  • It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke. They saw through a glass darkly. They sometimes dwelt on His sufferings, and sometimes on His glory that should follow. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1:10–11, NIV)  They did not always mark out for us the distinction between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming. Like two candles in a straight line, one behind the other, they sometimes saw both the advents at the same time, and spoke of them in one breath. But Jesus dying, or Jesus reigning, was the thought you will ever find uppermost in their minds.
  • It is Christ of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are “Christ” living, speaking, and moving among men. The Acts are “Christ” preached, published, and proclaimed. The Epistles are “Christ” written of, explained, and exalted.

All through, from first to last, there is one name above every other, and that is the name of Christ. If in our study of the Bible we can’t see “Christ is all”, we are like a man who studies the solar system and leaves out in his studies the sun, which is the centre of all. It is no wonder if you find your Bible a dull book!

“Christ is all” in the teachings of all true Christians on earth

I hold the absolute necessity of the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, in order to effect the salvation of everyone that is saved. I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three Persons of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and that all three co-operate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Ghost is merciful.

But I see clear proof in Scripture that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted in the matter of saving souls.

  • Christ is set forth as the “Word,” through whom God’s love to sinners is made known.
  • Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner-stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests.
  • Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made.
  • Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted.
  • Christ is the only meeting-place between God and man, between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam.
  • It is Christ whom God the Father has “sealed” and appointed to convey life to a dead world. (John vi. 27.)
  • It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory.
  • It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace.

In short, it has “pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell.” (Colossians 1:19.)

What the sun is in the firmament of heaven, that Christ is in true Christianity.

In saying “Christ is all,” I do not mean to shut out the work of the Father and of the Spirit. Now let me show what I do mean.

Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.

Through Him alone we can have peace with a Holy God, By Him alone we can have admission into the presence of the Most High, and stand there without fear. “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25–26, NIV)

We must come in the name of Jesus – standing on no other ground – pleading no other plea than this, “Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him.”

  • The garment of our Elder Brother – the righteousness of Christ – this is the only robe which can cover us and enable us to stand in the light of heaven without shame.
  • The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall obtain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and Shibboleth, and we shall enter and live.
  • The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood, we had better never have been born.
  • Do you fear wrath? Christ can deliver you from the wrath to come.
  • Do you feel the curse of a broken law? Christ can redeem you from the curse of the law.
  • Do you feel far away? Christ has suffered, to bring you nigh to God.
  • Do you feel unclean? Christ’s blood can cleanse all sin away.
  • Do you feel imperfect? You shall be complete in Christ.
  • Do you feel as if you were nothing? Christ shall be “all in all” to your soul.

Never did saint reach heaven with any tale but this, “I was washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14.)

“Christ is all” in a sinner’s sanctification

No man is ever holy till he comes to Christ and is united to Him.

No man can grow in holiness except he abides in Christ.

  • Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must daily eat, like Israel in the wilderness of old.
  • Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water.
  • Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking unto Jesus – looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God – looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern.
    • Looking at Him, you would become like Him.
    • Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it.
    • Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)
  • The true way to be strong is to realise our weakness and to feel that Christ must be all.
  • The true way to grow in grace is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute’s necessities. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
“Christ is all” in a sinner’s comfort in time present
  • A saved soul has many sorrows. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose – a place in life to fill blamelessly – unconverted relatives to bear with patiently – persecutions to endure – and a death to die. And who is sufficient for these things?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” (Philippians 2:1, NIV)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV)

  • Jesus knows exactly how to comfort His afflicted people.
    • He knows how to pour in oil and wine into the wounds of the spirit
    • He knows how to fill up gaps in empty hearts
    • He knows how to speak a word in season to the weary
    • He knows how to heal the broken heart
    • He knows how to make all our bed in sickness
    • He knows how to draw nigh when we are faint.  “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.” (Lamentations 3:57–58, NIV)
    • In all our afflictions He is afflicted. He knows our sorrows. In all our pain He is pained, and like the good Physician, He will not measure out to us one drop of sorrow too much. “If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, … the raging waters would have swept us away.” (Psalm 124:5, NIV)
“Christ is all” in a sinner’s hopes for times to come
  • No living man but the real child of God – the sincere, thoroughgoing Christian – can give a reasonable account of the hope that is in him. No hope is reasonable which is not Scriptural.
  • What is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this:
    • Jesus Christ is coming again
    • Jesus Christ coming without sin
    • Jesus Christ is coming with all His people, coming to wipe away every tear
    • Jesus Christ is coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave
    • Jesus Christ is coming to gather together all His family, that they may be for ever with Him.

For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:37, NIV)

“… we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13, NIV)

  • Now is the time of sowing – then the harvest. Now is the working season – then the wages. Now is the cross – then the crown. “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation [hope] is from Him.” (Psalm 62:5, NKJV)

“Christ will be all” in heaven

  • All men and women who reach heaven will find that even there also “Christ is all.”

“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6, NKJV)

  • The praise of the Lord Jesus will be the eternal song of all the inhabitants of heaven. “They will say with a loud voice, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12–13, NKJV)
  • The service of the Lord Jesus will be one eternal occupation of all the inhabitants of heaven. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” (Revelation 7:15, NKJV)
  • The presence of Christ Himself shall be one everlasting enjoyment of the inhabitants of heaven. We shall “see His face,” and hear His voice, and speak with Him as friend with friend. “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads”. (Revelation 22:4, NKJV)
  • Sweet is the thought that whosoever may be wanting at the marriage supper, the Master Himself will be there. His presence will satisfy all our wants.  “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” (Psalm 17:15, NKJV)
  • But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of “going to heaven” when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith, and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honour here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas! what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!
  • I trust I have shown how deep are the foundations of that little expression, “Christ is all.”
    • Christ ought to be all in a visible Church.
    • Christ ought to be all in a ministry.
    • Christ is:  The High Priest, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Advocate, the Shepherd, the Physician, the Bridegroom, the Head, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Way, the Door, the Vine, the Rock, the Fountain, the Sun of Righteousness, the Forerunner, the Surety, the Captain, the Prince of Life, the Amen, the Almighty, the Author and Finisher of Faith, the Lamb of God, the King of Saints, the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Counsellor, the Bishop of Souls – all these, and many more, are names given to Christ in Scripture. Each is a fountain of instruction and comfort for everyone who is willing to drink of it.
  • We are useful so long as we exalt the great object of faith, but useful no further.

Let us learn the utter uselessness of a Christ-less religion:

  • Some calling themselves Christians do not have any experimental knowledge of His offices and work, His blood, His righteousness, His mediation, His priesthood, His intercession.  Such Christianity will never take them to heaven.
  • All notions and theories about God being merciful without Christ, and excepting through Christ, are baseless delusions and empty fancies. The God of heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one only Saviour and way of life, and all who would be saved must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.
  • Let us learn the folly of adding anything to Christ when it comes to salvation:
    • It cannot be Christ and the Church
    • It cannot be Christ and the sacraments
    • It cannot be Christ and His ordained ministers
    • It cannot be Christ and our own repentance
    • It cannot be or Christ and our own goodness
    • It cannot be Christ and our own prayers
    • It cannot be Christ and our own sincerity and charity,

on which the salvation of our souls rest. If so, we are changing God’s plan of salvation into a plan of your own devising; we are in effect deposing Christ from His throne, by giving the glory due to Him to another. Whatever you may practically add to Christ when it comes to salvation, you do Christ an injury.

Let us learn that all who want to be saved should apply salvation directly to Christ:

  • There are many who hear of Christ with the ear and believe all they are told about Him. They allow that there is no salvation excepting in Christ. They acknowledge that Jesus alone can deliver them from hell and present them faultless before God. But they seem never to get beyond this general acknowledgment. The world is their “all.” Politics are their “all.” Pleasure is their “all.” Business is their “all.” But Christ is not their all.
  • It is not knowing and believing that Christ is a Saviour that can save your soul, unless there are actual transactions between you and Christ. You must be able to say, “Christ is my Saviour, because I have come to Him by faith, and taken Him for my own.
  • Tell Him you want to be saved and ask Him to save you. Rest not till you have actually tasted for yourself that the Lord is gracious. Do this and you shall find, sooner or later, if you are really in earnest, that “Christ is all.”

Let us learn to lean on Christ and trust Him far more than we have ever done yet:

  • There are many of the Lord’s people who live far below their privileges!
  • Take heed that you do not make a Christ of your faith. Rest not on your own faith, but on Christ.
  • Thousands have no more religious feeling than a cat or dog. But oh, beware lest you make a Christ of your feelings and sensations! They are poor, uncertain things and sadly dependent on our bodies and outward circumstances. Rest only on Christ.
  • Look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. He that would prove a skilful archer must not look at the arrow, but at the mark.
  • Change your plan if your conscience tells you you are guilty: change your plan, and learn to trust Christ more. Physicians love to see patients coming to consult them: it is their office to receive the sickly and, if possible, to effect cures. And Christ loves His people to lean on Him, to rest in Him, to call on Him, to abide in Him.

Spiritual prosperity depends immensely on our private devotion, and private devotionbible-study cannot nourish unless we determine that by God’s help we will make time, whatever trouble it may cost us, for thought, for prayer, for the Bible, and for private communion with Christ. Alas! That saying of our Master is sadly overlooked: ‘Enter into your room and shut the door.” (Matthew 6:6.)

J.C. Ryle, Holiness

10 Spurgeon Quotes for Wounded Christians

We are all wounded by suffering, even if we only hear about it or see it in a distance.

Charles Spurgeon for most of his life nursed deep wounds and struggled to cope with a myriad of emotional and physical maladies.  Spurgeon lived in the spotlight and the shadow.

Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon

“I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me, he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else, it is for pain and affliction.

Read more:  http://center.spurgeon.org/2016/09/06/10-spurgeon-quotes-for-wounded-christians/

 

Understanding the times

 “… the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…”  (1 Chronicles 12:32, NKJV)

  • These men of Issachar are set before us as a pattern to be imitated and an example to be followed; for it is a most important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to know what those times require.
  • The man who is content to sit ignorantly by his own fireside, wrapped up in his own private affairs, and has no public eye for what is going on in the Church and the world, is a miserable patriot, and a poor style of Christian. Next to our Bibles and our own hearts, our Lord would have us study our own times.
The times require of us a bold and unflinching maintenance of the entire truth of Christianity, and the Divine authority of the Bible.
  • No educated person, we are constantly told nowadays, can really believe supernatural religion, or the plenary inspiration of the Bible, or the possibility of miracles.
  • It is only an old enemy in a new dress, an old disease in a new form. Since the day when Adam and Eve fell, the devil has never ceased to tempt men not to believe God, and has said, directly or indirectly, “You shall not die even if you do not believe.” “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13, NKJV).  “…scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts…” (2 Peter 3:3, NKJV)
  • Christianity has survived the attacks of Hume and Hobbes and Tindal – of Collins and Woolston and Bolingbroke and Chubb – of Voltaire and Payne and Holyoak. These men made a great noise in their day, and frightened weak people; but they produced no more effect than idle travellers produce by scratching their names on the great pyramid of Egypt.
  • When you cannot answer a sceptic, be content to wait for more light; but never forsake a great principle. In religion [faith], as in many scientific questions, said Faraday, “the highest philosophy is often a judicious suspense of judgment.” He  who believes shall not make haste: he can afford to wait.
  • When sceptics and unbelievers have said all they can, we must not forget that there are three great broad facts which they have never explained away:
    • Jesus Christ Himself.  Who was He? What was He? Where did He come from? How is it that there never has been one like Him, neither before nor after, since the beginning of historical times?
    • The Bible itself. If Christianity is a mere invention of man, and the Bible is of no more authority than any other uninspired volume, how is it that the Book is what it is? How is it that a Book written by a few Jews in a remote corner of the earth, written at distant periods without help or collaboration among the writers, written by members of a nation which, compared to Greeks and Romans, did nothing for literature:  how is it that this Book stands entirely alone, and there is nothing that even come near to it, for high views of God, for true views of man, for solemnity of thought, for grandeur of doctrine, and for purity of morality?
    • The effect which Christianity has produced on the world. If Christianity is a mere invention of man, and not a supernatural, Divine revelation, how is it that it has wrought such a complete alteration in the state of mankind?
  • They may often ask you a hundred questions you cannot answer, and start ingenious problems about various readings, or inspiration, or geology, or the origin of man, or the age of the world, which you cannot solve. They may vex and irritate you with wild speculations and theories, of which at the time you cannot prove the fallacy, though you feel it. But be calm and fear not. Remember the three great facts I have named, and boldly challenge sceptics to explain them away.
  • The difficulties of Christianity no doubt are great; but, depend on it, they are nothing compared to the difficulties of unbelief.
The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine.
  • Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ.
  • Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound.
  • If a preacher is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be.
  • They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error.
  • Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none is unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost.
  • Their faith is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very wayward and very wrong!
  • They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought.
  • They are eaten up with a morbid dread of controversy and an ignorant dislike of party spirit; and yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases.
  • They admire earnestness and intelligence and love, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong!
  • The natural heart in most men hates exercise in faith, and cordially dislikes patient, painstaking inquiry. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought loving and tolerant.
  • It is a lazy, idle frame of soul which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation.
  • Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions; and let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.
  • If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.
  • The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology
    • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
    • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
    • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
    • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
    • by lifting up the brazen serpent – by telling men to look and live – to believe, repent, and be converted.
  • Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.
  • If we want to “do good” and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to “dogma.” No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelisation! It was “dogma” in the apostolic ages which emptied the heathen temples and shook Greece and Rome.
  • It was “dogma” which awoke Christendom from its slumbers at the time of the Reformation and spoiled the Pope of one third of his subjects. It was “dogma” which 100 years ago revived the Church of England in the days of Whitfield, Wesley, Venn, and Romaine, and blew up our dying Christianity into a burning flame.
The times require of us an awakened and livelier sense of the unscriptural and soul- ruining character of Romanism.
  • Some profess to be tired of all religious controversy, and are ready to sacrifice God’s truth for the sake of peace.
  • Some look on Romanism as simply one among many English forms of religion, and neither worse nor better than others.
  • Some try to persuade us that Romanism is changed, and not nearly so bad as it used to be.
  • Some boldly point to the faults of Protestants, and loudly cry that Romanists are quite as good as ourselves.
  • Some think it fine and liberal (progressive?) to maintain that we have no right to think anyone wrong who is in earnest about his creed.
  • The causes of this sad change are not hard to discover:
    • It arises partly from the untiring zeal of the Romish Church herself.
    • It is aided by  poor understanding of the Scriptures (dogma) in Protestant churches.
    • It is fashionable now to say that all religions should be equal, and that there is a substratum of common truth at the bottom of all kinds of religion, whether Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity!
  • The consequences of this changed tone will be most disastrous and troublesome, unless it can be checked.
  • Beware of Romanism and beware of any religious teaching which, wittingly or unwittingly, paves the way to it.
  • Read your Bibles and store your minds with Scriptural arguments. A Bible-reading laity is a nation’s surest defence against error.
  • Do not forget that Rome never changes. It is her boast and glory that she is infallible, and always the same.
  • Surely I have a right to say that the times require of us a renewed sense of the evils of Romanism, and of the enormous value of the Protestant Reformation!
The times require of us a higher standard of personal holiness, and an increased attention to practical religion in daily life.
  • We need more men and women who walk with God and before God, like Enoch and Abraham.
  • Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business, the singleness of eye, the simplicity of home life, the high tone of conversation in society, the patience, the humility, the universal courtesy which marked so many of our forerunners seventy or eighty years ago?
  • We have inherited their principles and we wear their armour, but I fear we have not inherited their practice.
    • The Holy Ghost sees it, and is grieved;
    • The world sees it, and despises us.
    • The world sees it, and cares little for our testimony.
  • It is life, life – a heavenly, godly, Christ-like life – depend on it, which influences the world.
The times require of us more regular and steady perseverance in the old ways of getting good for our souls.
  • Public worship must always be accompanied by private worship.
  • Incessant running after sensational preachers, incessant attendance at hot, crowded meetings, protracted to late hours, incessant craving after fresh excitement and highly-spiced pulpit novelties – all this kind of thing is calculated to produce a very unhealthy style of Christianity.  By and by, as with opium-eaters and dram-drinkers, there comes a time when their dose loses its power, and a feeling of exhaustion and discontent begins to creep over their minds. Oh, that people would remember that it was not the wind, or the fire, or the earthquake, which showed Elijah the presence of God, but “the still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12.)
  • The root of a plant or tree makes no show above ground. If you dig down to it and examine it, it is a poor, dirty, coarse-looking thing, and not nearly so beautiful to the eye as the fruit, or leaf, or flower. But that despised root, nevertheless, is the true source of all the life, health, vigour and fertility which your eyes see, and without it the plant or tree would soon die. Now private religion is the root of all vital Christianity.
    • Let us pray more heartily in private, and throw our whole souls more into our prayers.
    • Let us read our Bibles in private more, and with more pains and diligence. Ignorance of Scripture is the root of all error and makes a man helpless in the hand of the devil.
    • Let us cultivate the habit of keeping up more private meditation and communion with Christ. Spiritual prosperity depends immensely on our private worship, and private worship cannot nourish unless we determine that by God’s help we will make time, whatever trouble it may cost us, for thought, for prayer, for the Bible, and for private communion with Christ. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6, NKJV)

Application

  • Would you understand what the times require of you in reference to your own soul? Beware of a helpless state of indecision about doctrinal truth under the plausible idea of not being party spirited, and under the baneful influence of so-called liberality and charity. Beware of frittering away life in wishing, and meaning, and hoping for the day of decision, until the door is shut and you are given over to a dead conscience and die without hope.
  • Would you understand what the times require of all Christians in reference to the souls of others?   Remember the souls of relatives, friends and companions; remember that God often works by weak instruments, and try with holy ingenuity to lead them to Christ. The time is short: the sand is running out of the glass of this old world; then redeem the time, and endeavour not to go to heaven alone.
  • Would you understand what the times require of you in reference to the Church of Christ?  Her life-blood is drained away by the behaviour of traitors, false friends, and timid officers within. Nevertheless, so long as the Church of Christ (Ryle here actually referred to the Church of England)  sticks firmly to the Bible, the Confessions, and the principles of the Protestant Reformation, so long I advise you strongly to stick to the Church. If the really loyal members of the Church (of England) will only stand by her boldly, and not look coolly at one another, and refuse to work the same fire-engine, or man the same lifeboat – if they will not squabble and quarrel and “fall out by the way,” the Church of Christ will live and not die, and be a blessing to our children’s children. (Members and clergy of the Church of England, now more than ever,  should take heed of Ryle’s word!)

Grace received, but grace despised

In the early church history a man named Marcion made an attempt to canonise the Bible – this means he tried to work out which books should be seen as authoritative and which not. Marcion was a man who measured everything by love and grace – which led him to believe that all of the Old Testament should be thrown out, purely because he could not see any love and grace in the Old Testament.  To him the God pf the Old could not be the God of the New Testament.  Of course Marcion was hopelessly wrong.

Hearing ProblemsBut study the book of 1Kings closely and something very interesting comes to light:  a large portion of the history of the kings of Israel is devoted to the life of one of the most ungodly of them all.  Some of the kings get a mention of only a view verses, but Ahab gets one chapter after the other.  One verse announces him this way as the new king:

He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam …, but he … began to serve Baal and worship him. (1 Kings 16:31)

Other verse in the Bible helps us to remember Ahab and his godlessness and rebellion:

There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord… He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols… (1 Kings 21:25-26)

He stole the inheritance of Naboth by condoning his murder.  The example he set was continued in his sons and sons in law.  Of his son we read:

He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother … who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal… (1 Kings 22:51-53)

Of Jehoram, his son in law, we read:

He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel… He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 21:4-6)

Ahab hated the man of God, Elijah, and he also despised other prophets of the Lord who dared come to him saying:  “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

Why would God’s Holy Spirit allowed so much to be recorded  about such a godless man into the Bible?

I can’t really say, but we surely see something of God’s grace, his long-suffering and his eventual just judgements as they were evidenced in the life of Elijah’s dealings with Ahab and other prophets of God.

With this in mind, I want to bring the Word of God to you under this heading: God’s grace given; God’s grace despised.

Let’s not first of all concentrate on Ahab this morning;  let’s ask God’s Spirit to reveal it to us God’s loving grace, his long-suffering and his righteous judgment.

My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord, yet I’m blind

Last time we heard about Ahab was on the mountain Horeb.  There God’s prophet, Elijah, interceded for God’s people by praying for them and challenging them to follow God who is the only God.  This happened in the dramatic events of the fire that came down on the mountain and consumed the offering on the altar the prophet had built; the prophets of Baal couldn’t get a squeak out of him, because his was not even a god with a small “g”.

Ahab witnessed all of this.  And most probably he heard the people cry out:  “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”  He witnessed the fate of the prophets of Baal.  The king stood alone.  What a moment in his life!

His eyes saw the glory of the Lord on display.  And Elijah spoke words of grace to Ahab:

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41)

This is significant, because God now listened to the prayers of his people upon their repentance:  He would open the heavens and send rain.  “Elijah, Baal is no God; he is only a god; meaningless and helpless.  But God answered with fire; He is God, and He is answering your prayer.  I will pray for rain, and God will do as the prophets of Baal couldn’t do.”

So Elijah did just that.  He climbed to the top of Mt Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.  He kept praying until a cloud the size of a man’s hand appeared on the horizon.  Elijah could not contain his excitement.  And who was the first to hear this good news?

“Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ ” (1 Kings 18:44)

Ahab got into his chariot and rode off to his palace in Jezreel. Ahead of him was God’s prophet on which he could lean to withstand the godlessness of his wife.

The power and grace of the Almighty God was shown and known to Ahab.  He saw it; he experienced it; he knew it.  There is only one God, and He is the God of Israel.  Worship Him, bow down to Him. Tragically he was still blind to the grace of God.

And us?

My eyes haven seen the glory of the Lord, and I’m still wavering

But what a disappointment when he arrived home and faced his Baal worshipping godless wife, Jezebel! He told her everything which had happened, but the most important thing he could have told her was not part of his report.  Yes, he told her about Elijah and what had happened on the mountain, but instead of focussing upon the greatness and uniqueness of the God of Israel who revealed Himself in splendour and grace to sinners by giving them another chance, he focussed on the loss of the prophets of Baal, as if that was the greatest demise of the day.

The Bible records the story of the demon-possessed man who lived amongst the graves.  He was uncontrollable and quite clearly in the power of Satan.  Our Lord saved him by driving out the demons.  He became a saved child of God, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  The Lord sent the evil spirits which had made their home in him into a herd of pigs.  The owners of the pigs heard of it and came to Jesus and begged Him – not to do the same to them as He did to the demon-possessed man – but they begged him to leave their part of the world because of the financial loss his presence meant to them – they lost their pigs!

Ahab, you just lost a golden opportunity to witness the greatness of God to your wife. Your eyes are still shut to the greatness and mercy of God.  How foolish can one be! You have seen the grace of God in action and still your heart is shut for his mercy which knocks on your heart.

And us?

My ears have heard the grace of the Lord, but I despised it

The next time we read about Ahab was when the king Ben Hadad II of Aram, together with 32 other kings, descended upon him like flies, leaving him powerless.  Their message was devastating:

‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.’ ” (1 Kings 20:3)

What was Ahab’s reaction?

“Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.” (1 Kings 20:4)

When Ben-Hadad then took advantage and demanded even more, Ahab enquired of his elders what to do.  They advised him to resist, and his enemy turned into a furious pit-bull terrier, wanting to destroy Israel, turning it into a heap of dust.

Then, out of the blue a prophet of the Lord appeared on the scene with this message:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” (1 Kings 20:13)

That was God’s intention with his intervention in the life of this sin-blind king.  Ahab did not believe it and asked how this would be possible.  The prophet explained to him God’s strategy, and said to Ahab:  “You must start the battle.”  Yes Ahab, be there and behold the power and grace of God and experience his deliverance.

God miraculously gave the enemy in his hands. The battle was repeated in the next year, and once again the prophet of the Lord came to Ahab with this promise:

“… I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.” (1 Kings 20:28)

The same purpose:  Ahab, God is doing all of this for you to understand that He is God.  God did as He promised.  Ben Hadad fled and hid in an inner room – a sign of his utter defeat.

What did Ahab do?  Did he believe God and put his trust in Him?  No!  And here we see something of ourselves in him.

We hear the mercies of God Sunday after Sunday, week after week and even year after year.  We see hear of Jesus Christ and of his sacrifice on the cross; we hear of his resurrection and ascension into heaven where He intercedes for us; we hear about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; we hear the Gospel calling us to repentance and service of God to his glory, but what do we do about it?  We still trust in ourselves and what this world has on offer.

We don’t trust God with our finances, not even when it comes to trusting Him to provide for us when we tithed our income for his service.  When trouble comes upon us, we sometimes react in the same way as unbelievers.  We might even trust our insurance more that we trust God.  And above all, we continue to live our lives as if nothing has ever happened on Golgotha.  Our lives do not show much difference from those who don’t even know a word from the Bible, or those who never darken the doors of the church.

Half-hearted repentance no repentance at all!

Ahab showed mercy to Ben Hadad, his defeated enemy, and treated him like a friend and a brother.  He restored free trade between Israel and Damascus as if nothing has happened.  And so by the way, further history tells us that Ahab had to submit in the end and become the slave of Ben Hadad and his allies.  And when he decided to call in the help of his son in law to throw off this yoke of slavery, he paid with his life.

And once again God did not turn away in anger from Ahab.  Once again he sent a prophet to warn him of the dire consequences of living outside of God’s will.  And instead of repenting before God for what he had done, he went away home “sullen and angry.”

The truth of the Scriptures is not meant to hurt and not bind up.  The truth which exposes sin is not meant to leave the sinner without hope; on the contrary, the truth of the Gospel and how it exposes our sins is meant to bind up and to offer grace.  How many people go away from worship angry, and maybe sullen like king Ahab, because the minister dared to preach about sin which hurt and wounded the sinful heart.

This is where many people stop listening to the message of God’s Word.  When it comes to the offer of grace, we kick up our tails in anger and walk away, because we refuse to acknowledge that we have sinned, which means we never get to experience the grace of forgiveness.  Ahab did the same and walked away unsaved, caught in the grip of Satan.

Then God sent Elijah to Ahab – again!  God just wanted to see his purposed worked out.  If I were Elijah i probably would not be willing to go the Ahab again – and that with an offer of grace.

He entered into the room where Elijah sat in anger and depression after the death of Nabot whose vineyard he took through the hands of the godless Jezebel.

What did Ahab say to Elijah?  “So you found me, my enemy!”  How sad to see as your enemy the one sent by God to tell of his mercy.  The words of Elijah are like a sword, which cuts deep with the purpose to cut out the festering sore which causes all the problems:

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. (1 Kings 21:20)

These words cut deep and for one little moment we see hope for Ahab. We read these words in the Bible:

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. (1 Kings 21:27)

Although this was a very superficial repentance God showed him merciful love. “Because he humbled himself I will not bring disaster upon him in his day.”  Mercy!  Judgment postponed.  Ahab’s heart responded to the word of God.  There is hope for Ahab.

Surely Elijah must have rejoiced in this change of heart in Ahab.  But alas! it is not heart-felt repentance.  Once again the grace of God was despised.

And in the next chapter God’s grace ran out for Ahab.  He died in a battle against the so-called friend whom he once showed mercy to.

The challenge – today!

And today the words of God to Elijah are like a hammer to us gathered here:  “How long will you waver between two opinions?”  We have heard and seen the grace of God, even more so as we have heard the message of Jesus Christ who took our sins upon Him.  We hear it over and over again. The question is, how do we react? Do we get angry when the Lord once again knocks on the doors of our hearts?  Can we find ourselves turning completely away from sin and Satan to follow God with a life in complete dedication to do his will?

There is another choice.  Here the voice of Christ Jesus, but turn away and become a friend of the world.  But then, the Bible tells us he who is a friend of this world, is an enemy of God.

How long will you waver between two opinions?  Look at the life of Ahab; look at the life of Judas:  it ended in disaster.

AMEN

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 11 September 2016

Unsearchable riches

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (Ephesians 3:8, NKJV)

What does Paul say about himself
  • Paul employs an emphatic comparative and superlative. He says, “I am less than the least of all saints.” What a poor creature is the least saint! Yet St. Paul says, “I am less than that man.”
  • To the Philippians he says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12, NKJV)
  • To the Corinthians he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9, NKJV)
  • The plain truth is that St. Paul saw in his own heart of hearts far more defects and infirmities than he saw in anyone else. The eyes of his understanding were so fully opened by the Holy Spirit of God that he detected a hundred things wrong in himself which the dull eyes of other men never observed at all.
  • Paul understood what Peter wrote about:  “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5–6, NKJV)
  • The more real grace men have in their hearts, the deeper is their sense of sin. The more light the Holy Ghost pours into their souls, the more do they discern their own infirmities, defilements, and darkness.
  • He who desires to be saved, let him know that the first steps towards heaven are a deep sense of sin and a lowly estimate of ourselves. Let him rather grasp that grand Scriptural principle, that we must begin by feeling “bad”; and that until we really feel “bad” we know nothing of true goodness or saving Christianity. “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13, NKJV)
  • The more we have of it [humility], the more Christlike we shall be. “[Christ] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8, NIV)
  • In heaven we will cast our crowns before the throne
What St. Paul says about his ministerial office 

that I should preach

  • He says with simplicity “…this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles…”
  • His ministry was not a sacerdotal ministry: a sacrificing priesthood in the Church of Christ. Paul writes, “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV)  And also, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, NIV)  There is no mention of a continued priesthood like in the Old Testament.
  • Preaching the Word is important.  “…God promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Saviour…” (Titus 1:2–3, NKJV)
  • Paul exhorts Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV)
    • The office of minister of the Word is Scriptural.
    • The office of minister of the Word is a most wise and useful provision of God.  For the uninterrupted preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments, no better plan can be devised than the appointment of a regular order of men who shall give themselves wholly to Christ’s business.
    • The office of minister of the Word is an honourable privilege. To serve the Master directly, to carry the message, to know that the results of our work, if God shall bless it, are eternal, this is indeed a privilege. Never forget to make supplications and prayers and intercession for the ministers of Christ – that there never may be wanting a due supply of them at home and in the mission field – that they may be kept sound in the faith and holy in their lives, and that they make take heed to themselves as well as to the doctrine.
    • The office of minister of the Word is a painful responsibility.  “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV)  If we tell our congregations less than the truth or more than the truth, we may ruin for ever immortal souls. Life and death are in the power of the preacher’s tongue. “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, NKJV)
  • The very man who said “Grace is given me to preach,” is the same man who said, in another place, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
What Paul says about the subject of his preaching

that I should preach … the unsearchable riches of Christ…

  • He never wasted precious time in exalting a mere rootless morality, in descanting on vague abstractions and empty platitudes – such as “the true,” and “the noble,” and “the earnest,” and “the beautiful,” and “the germs of goodness in human nature,” and the like.
  • Jesus and His vicarious death, Jesus and His resurrection, was the keynote of his sermons.
  • He never forgot the road to Damascus, the house of Judas in the street called Strait, the visit of good Ananias, the scales falling from his eyes, and his own marvellous passage from death to life.
  • From whatever standpoint he beheld Jesus, he saw in Him far more than mind could conceive, or tongue could tell.
    • There are unsearchable riches in Christ’s Person:  The miraculous union of perfect Man and perfect God in our Lord Jesus Christ is a great mystery:  it is a mine of comfort and consolation to all who can rightly regard it. Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined m our Saviour. As God, He is mighty to save; and as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative, and Friend.
    • There are unsearchable riches in the work which Christ accomplished for us, when He lived on earth, died, and rose again: the work of atonement for sin, the work of reconciliation, the work of redemption, the work of satisfaction, the work of substitution as “the just for the unjust.”
    • There are unsearchable riches in the names and titles which are applied to Christ in the Scriptures: the Lamb of God, the bread of life, the fountain of living waters, the light of the world, the door, the way, the vine, the rock, the corner stone, the Christian’s robe, the Christian’s altar.
    • There are unsearchable riches in the characteristic qualities, attributes, dispositions, and intentions of Christ’s mind towards man:  In Him there are riches of mercy, love, and compassion; riches of power to cleanse, pardon, forgive, and to save; riches of willingness to receive all who come to Him repenting and believing; riches of ability to change by His Spirit the hardest hearts and worst characters; riches of tender patience to bear with the weakest believer; riches of strength to help His people to the end, notwithstanding every foe without and within; riches of sympathy for all who are cast down and bring their troubles to Him; and last, but not least, riches of glory to reward.
    • These riches are unsearchable and will never be exhausted.  He is still the Sun of righteousness to all mankind.
Application
  • What do you think of yourself?  Have you found out that grand foundation-truth that you are a sinner, a guilty sinner in the sight of God? To know God’s unspeakable perfection, and our own immense imperfection – to see our own unspeakable defectiveness and corruption, is the A B C in saving faith. Well would it be for many if they would pray, night and day, this simple prayer – “Lord, show me myself.”
  • What do you think of the ministers of Christ? I ask what you think of the faithful minister of Christ, who honestly exposes sin, and pricks your conscience. Ahab hated such a prophet:  “… but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” (1 Kings 22:8, NKJV)  The is the best friend who tells you the most truth! It is an evil sign in the Church when Christ’s witnesses are silenced, or persecuted, and men hate him who rebukes.
  • What do you think of Christ Himself?  Is He great or little in your eyes? Does He come first or second in your estimation? Is He before or behind His Church, His ministers, His sacraments, His ordinances? Where is He in your heart and your mind’s eye? “I have all and abound: I want nothing more. Christ dying for me on the cross – Christ ever interceding for me at God’s right hand – Christ dwelling in my heart by faith – Christ soon coming again to gather me and all His people together to part no more, Christ is enough for me. Having Christ, I have ‘unsearchable riches.’” (Leigh richmond, 1772-1827)