Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Where is the victory?

Scripture Readings

  • Acts 5:14,
  • Joshua 7:1-10, 16-21

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We often find ourselves at new beginnings.  We might find ourselves in a new job, or a new suburb or a new house.  The move to a new house helps us to get rid of the old stuff we thought we would never part with.  The new home is now decorated with new pieces of furniture.  It is a fresh start.  We have new hopes, new ambitions, and plenty of resolutions.  One thing we really want is to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

When Joshua took over from Moses, the people had been wandering in the desert for 40 years.  Their wanderings were because of their rebellion and unbelief.  Most of that generation had to die in the desert, and a new generation was raised up.   Moses led them to the eastern side of the Jordan from where they had visions of the Promised Land.  There was excitement with the people.

With fervour, they crossed the Jordan.  Before them was the Land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The promises of God were still fresh in their ears:  “Every place you put your foot soles will be yours.”

They made new promises as they renewed Covenant with the Lord.  The males were circumcised because they had not been circumcised before.  Then God declared, 

“This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Joshua 5:9, NKJV)

On the fourteenth of the month, like their forefathers did in Egypt the night God visited Egypt with the death of the firstborn, they celebrated the Passover.  All of this happened on the plains of Jericho, within the promised territory.  The manna stopped falling from heaven after they ate the food from their own land!

Victory!

Their first obstacle was the city of Jericho.  God promised them victory and they did exactly as the Lord commanded.  The city walls crumbled and He gave the city in their hands.  They tasted God’s victory based in his never-failing promises.

Perhaps a few sang “I am in the Lord’s army!”  Others might have sung, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”  

Chosen to be soldiers
In an alien land
Chosen called and faithful
For our Captain's band
In the service royal
Let us not grow cold
Let us be right loyal
Noble true and bold
Master Thou wilt keep us
By Thy grace divine
Always on the Lord's side
Saviour always Thine

Now for the next city.  Ai is nothing like Jericho!  This will be a walk in the park.  The spies came back and suggested to Joshua and send only three thousand men. 

Defeat!

Were these men not enough?  Why then did the men of Ai rout them from the city?  Why did some of the men fall in the battle?  Why the melted hearts of the people (Joshua 7:4-6)  Where is the victory?  If they were defeated by only the second town of their conquest what about the land between the Jordan in the east and the Great Sea in the west, and between Egypt in the south and the great river on the north?  What about the Anakites, the gainsays, against which the spies in the time of Moses warned them against?

Verse one gives us the answer:  

But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things. (Joshua 7:1, NKJV)

They acted unfaithfully by breaking the covenant with the Lord.  The unfaithfulness of their fathers was buried in shallow graves.  

You may ask, would God be angry and have his own people be defeated by a godless group of people just because of a few pieces of gold and silver, wrapped a colourful Babylonian robe?

Let’s look at it from God’s perspective.  Let’s join Joshua and the elders face-down before the Ark of the Lord, praying with dust on their heads,

“Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! (Joshua 7:7, NKJV)

Joshua continued, 

The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?” (Joshua 7:9, NKJV)

Lord, what have You done?  But God replied, and if we sum it up it comes down to sinful unfaithfulness.

  • Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed God’s covenant
  • They have even taken some of the accursed things, and therefore they have become doomed to destruction
  • They stole and lied; 
  • They took what belonged to God and put it among their own stuff

There result:

  • Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies
  • God will not be with them anymore

The cure?

  • Destroy the accursed from among you
  • Prepare to meet God

Lying to God

Let’s just for one moment leave the Israelites here and go to the new church in Jerusalem.  It’s that new and vibrant church, freshly filled with the Holy Spirit.  It grew day by day.  The people loved one another, they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, they shared meals, they practically lived in the temple corridors and witnessed to all with whom they came in contact with.  Let’s hear there report about the Jerusalem congregation:  

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32–37, NKJV)

Man, what a model church!  If only we could live up to their example of care love and devotion to the things of the Lord.

Not only did Barnabas give the money of his land to the world of the Lord; others did too.  Like Ananias and Sapphira.  The difference between Barnabas and this couple was not that they sold a piece of their property to give the money apostles, but that they lied about the amount of the sale.  What they publicly pretended was impressive; what they secretly hid was sinful!  In short, they were not obliged to sell their land to give money for the work of God, but between selling the land and giving the money to the apostles they were overtaken by greed to keep what they initially promised for God’s work to themselves, and they lied about the rest.  

What was the result?  They were found out. God knew about it all along.  They lied, not to the apostles, but to God.  This act was unfaithfulness to God, and it brought the church in disrepute.   God dealt with this sin without delay—they both died the same day.  Then we read, 

So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (Acts 5:11, NKJV)

Will anyone join a church where people drop dead for telling a lie?  In the eyes of men, surely not!  In the plan of God, surely.  God dwells by his Holy Spirit in a church who honours Him.  

… but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, … Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:13–16, NKJV)

The same principle which applied in Jerusalem applied in Ai.  Achan and his family were destroyed, and Israel was once again on the march to victory.

Where is the victory today?

There have been many Achan’s and Ananias’s and Sapphira’s in the church.  And let’s be honest, we count amongst that number.  We too are overtaken by greed, unfaithfulness, disobedience, theft of the things which belong to God, as well as lies.  In our tents are the things buried God very expressly forbids.  We think we can hide it as if God will not see.  We might even think that God will not punish us for small sins, only the expressly gross and publicly big ones. And we wonder why the church is not going forward in power as it proclaims the Word of Jesus Christ.  We ask, “Where is the victory?”  The worst about it is that we blame God for the state the church finds itself in.

What we need to get a good understanding of is not how powerful or mighty the church can be, but how holy God is. He gave us his Holy Spirit to dwell in us, but we are more often than not grieving the Spirit; we resist Him; worldliness became part of our activities and thoughts.

Achan and Jesus Christ

Do we have a chance to survive?  Can we still march forward in victory?  What about that promise of Christ, 

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20, NKJV)

In the valley of Achor sin was dealt with when Achan died.  But we have a High Priest who took our place, who took our sins on Him, who gave us his righteousness and took our iniquities.  This is the Gospel, 

For God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV)

To Him we must give our lives away; for Him, we must live; in His Name and by his power, we must march forward.  But in his Name we must put everything on the altar; we must take up our cross and follow Him; we must count the price of full obedience and trust.  We must repent, turn our backs on the world and fools Him, leaving things we hold dear behind for the sake of the glory of his Name.  Only then will there be victory again.

Do you want to be on the Lord’s side?  Do you once again see lost sinners come to Christ in repentance?  Do you want to see the church once again grow?  It will cost you your life, but you will win eternal life.

May God help us.

Amen.

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God’s act of salvation: Justification

A new Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-37 is the chapter in the Old Testament that speaks of a New Covenant; verses 31-34 is one of the largest portions of the Old Testament to be directly quoted in the New Testament.

Let’s look at a few themes in this chapter:

  • everlasting love: Jeremiah 31:3 and 20 tells of everlasting love—and surely it speaks of God’s love (which is not dependant on man’s love), and also of how He preserve those He saves
  • salvation: Jeremiah 31:7 and 11 tells about salvation that comes from the Lord, which is like a ransom paid
  • father-son relationship: Jeremiah 31:9 and 20 tells about a father-son relationship between God and his people
  • secure future: Jeremiah 31:17 tells about a secure future and a land to be inherited
  • God’s faithfulness: Jeremiah 31:35-47 tells about God’s faithfulness to never break covenant with his people.

The people broke the covenant

To make all of what we read about in the rest of the chapter possible, something extraordinary must happen: God had to make a new covenant.  Or better put: God had to renew the old.

Characteristics of the Old Covenant:

  • The Old Covenant was temporary because of the unfaithfulness of the people. 
  • The blood of animals was insufficient and temporal – over and over again sacrifices were needed to atone for the sins and rebellion of the people.  
  • The priests as mediators themselves were falling short too:  they were just like other sinners and needed blood to atone for their own sins.  

But God has not changed regarding the substance of his relationship between Himself and man. 

  • The Law both demands a perfect life, and shows the way of salvation
  • Types and figures of the old covenant pointed to Christ, the Head of the new covenant.

This means that whatever is necessary to know about God and have a relationship with Him is clear right through the Scriptures, even the Old Testament.

“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:31–32, ESV)

The expression “husband” here means to be “lord” or master.  As master of the unilateral covenant, God exercised his sovereign right in ruling over them, prescribing to them the way they were to live for his glory.  Yet, they rejected Him.  

That a new covenant was needed, was not because a deficiency in the Law (for the Law was abundantly sufficient);  the weakness was in the unfaithfulness of the people.

Chapter 11 of Jeremiah describes the covenant-breaking and the results of it in more specific terms:

They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” (Jeremiah 11:10–11,17, ESV)

In short: Israel lived in a state of continual faithless unrighteousness towards God.  They broke God’s law and was incapable of doing something to restore their relationship with God. 

A universal condition

  • All of us are born with the same attitude and heart of stubbornness and rebellion.  

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23–24, ESV)

  • We are by nature corrupt and unable to fulfil the Law of God:  

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20, ESV)

  • Our only hope is grace:  it depends on God.  

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3, NIV)

  • To be restored to God we need someone who can stand between God and us – someone who is perfect, but someone who can take away our sin.  That Person is Jesus Christ, our High Priest.  

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)

The New Covenant promised 

Calvin writes about Jeremiah 31:31:

“He now shows a difference between the Law and the Gospel, for the Gospel brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.”  (Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Je 31:33). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

The Law could not penetrate into the sinful heart to permanently change it; but the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, applies the righteousness which is from Christ Jesus and brings about the necessary change.

To write the Law on the heart means to make it possible that the Law should rule in our hearts.  Our hearts have no inclination to conform and to submit to God without this work of the Holy Spirit. Even if we would decide to obey the Law the best we can by doing good works, we will not attain God’s righteousness.  We need the regeneration by the Spirit of God:  the Bible calls it “to be born again”:  

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, ESV)

I will be their God and they my people

In these words, we find the covenant-establishing formula.  The same is found in Genesis 17:7

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. (Genesis 17:7, ESV)

Numerous other references in the Bible confirm this: God restores his people to Himself, He makes a covenant with them, and He binds Himself to the people through the covenant.  Jeremiah 7:23-24 is a good example:

But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:23–24, ESV)

In these verses, the covenant-breaking disobedience of Israel is pictured.  It called for covenant renewal. 

They will know Me

The New Covenant is different from the Old Covenant:  God would send a fuller light so that they would know and enjoy Him.  The Gospel about Jesus Christ under the New Covenant is that bright light. The Gospel of Christ reveals God more openly because its truth shines like the sun at noonday. 

John Calvin comments:

People under the Old Covenant were like children, therefore God kept them in the basic principles of knowledge; now under the Gospel, as we are grown up, He favours us with a fuller doctrine, and He comes, as it were, nearer to us. (Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Je 31:33). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

Under the Old Covenant, there was no perfect sacrifice to bring God’s people closer to Him.  A sinful priest who used the blood of animals could not do it, the curtain of the Most Holy separated the people from God.   It kept the people at a distance from God.  

However, when the perfect sacrifice was offered by a High Priest without sin—Jesus Christ— the curtain of the Most Holy was torn, and sinful people could enter into the presence of God.  

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. (Matthew 27:50–51, ESV)

God removed what kept us at a distance from Him, so we now have communion with God – but only by the blood shed by the Perfect Lamb.  There are just no other grounds to go to God.

After the personal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God gave his chosen people the mercy to approach Him in the Name of Jesus Christ.  The copies of the Old Covenant have been superseded by the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. 

Sins are forgiven

Based on Christ’s righteousness God’s people under the New Covenant may know that He set them free from sin by not imputing (no reckoning) their sins to them. This is the foundation of the New Covenant: God reconciles Himself to his people.  There is no need for more sacrifices.

Sins are forgotten

I will remember their sins no more”, says the Lord about the New Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant God forgave the people their sins based on the blood of the sacrificial animal on the altar.  But the blood of any animal was not good enough to completely erase the sin out of the mind of God.  Once again Calvin writes:

“Whenever then God severely handled his people, He seemed to remember their iniquities; but when He made the new covenant, all iniquities were then buried, and cast, as another Prophet says, into the depths of the sea.” (Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Je 31:33). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19, ESV)

The New Covenant confirmed

Remember, our main point in this section is to point to God’s gift of justification: He gives a righteousness which satisfies Him so that we may live in a relationship with Him.  Our sinfulness and our sins disable us from doing anything that can meet the wrath of God.

The Good News of the Gospel is that God did something to restore our relationship with Him: He indeed provided our righteousness and justified us in and through the work of Christ.

The passage in the New Testament referring to this passage in Jeremiah in its entirety is Hebrews 8 and 9.  Let’s go there now.  Hebrews 8.

The primary function of the high priest was to take the blood of atonement on behalf of the people into the Most Holy to the presence of God: God’s wrath on sin had to be satisfied, and the sin of the people had to be forgiven.  This is the only basis to live in a relationship with God; only after these conditions are met could they say, “We belong to the Lord.”

Leviticus 16 is the chapter about the Day of Atonement.  It speaks of the presence of God, the priest, death, blood, forgiveness, almost in that order.

Hebrew 8 contrasts the Old with the New, and the argument pivots on Jesus Christ, the only One to provide righteousness by which God justifies us.

  • The first thing we read about is that the Old was a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5)
  • Then, the ministry of Jesus is superior to the Old, because it is founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6)
  • To make sure that we understand that what Jesus Christ did as High Priest, the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31 (which we earlier looked at).
  • In Hebrew 9:1-10 the writer refers back to the Old Covenant sacrificial system with the tabernacle, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place with the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant, the mercy seat (or atonement cover).  He then concludes saying that those were:

gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation (or “new order – NIV). (Hebrews 9:9–10, ESV)

  • When Jesus Christ came
    • His tabernacle was “perfect” because it was not “man-made” (9:11, 24)
    • He entered into this tabernacle not by the blood of calves and goats, but by “his own blood” (9:12, 23)
    • He entered “once for all” – the High Priests had to do it over and over again, year after year (9:12, 25, 28, 10:1-4)
    • He gave his blood through his death to cleanse the conscience because his offer is “unblemished” (9:14)
    • He, therefore, is the Mediator of the New Covenant, for “He has died as a ransom to set them free from sins committed under the first covenant.” (9:15)
    • He ushered the church into the New Covenant because He sealed it with his blood (9:16-22)
    • He entered “heaven itself”, not the earthly tabernacle.
    • He took away once for all “the sins of many people” and will return to bring to glory those whom He ransom who are waiting for Him (9:28). He does so, and He has the right to do so because he gives them his righteousness; they now have the hope to enter his glory.  They are justified in the eyes of God.
    • He did the will of the Father by setting aside the Old to bring about the New and made us holy under Him:

“Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:9–10, ESV)

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14, ESV)

  • The New Covenant is instituted:

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17, ESV)

  • Justification is completed, and the relationship between God and his people is restored:

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:18, ESV)

 

Study

1. Read Romans 3:21-26

We are created for one purpose: to glorify God.  What does verse 23 teach us about our sinful state?

 

2. Now go to verse 25:

2.1  What did God do in Jesus Christ?

 

2.2 What does this verse say about God’s justice? 

 

2.3 Verse 24: On what foundation does our righteousness rest?

 

2.4 Verse 24: What do we need to pay to acquire God’s righteousness (or: what price tag is there on living in a God-satisfying relationship)?

3.  If we are “freely justified” how do we understand faith?  Is faith something we do to be justified?

 

4. In the light of what the Bible says about Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant (in Hebrews 8-10 as we heard it in the study earlier), how do we understand verse 22?

 

5. Read Verse 26: What does God do when we have faith in Jesus?  

 

6. Try to explain the agreement between this paragraph and 1 John 1:7-10.

 

7.  Read Romans 5:1-2

7.1  Verse 1: What gives us peace with God?

 

7.2  Verse 2: What does it mean to have “gained access” through Jesus Christ (do you remember something about Him being our High Priest)?  Read also Hebrews 9:24-25.

8.  Read 2Corinthians 5:21

God’s righteousness and justice demand that sin is dealt with – exhaustively and eternally.  Our problem is similar to the High Priest of the Old Testament: we are all sinful, and therefore we are sinners – we cannot bring a sacrifice good enough.  How did God solve our problem?

 

9. Read Galatians 3:10-14

9.1 The Galatians started out with grace, but soon find themselves on another path.  What was it?

 

9.2 Can good works, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, save anyone?

 

10. Read Philippians 3:7-11

10.1 What big discovery did Paul make about righteousness?

 

10.2 What became his overwhelming desire when he realised that his “righteousness” was worth nothing?

 

10.3 Is Paul’s desire your desire too?  Read verse 9-10 again.

 

God’s Act of Salvation: Biblical framework for salvation

Important themes

There are main themes running through the Scriptures. To understand how God’s grace and our salvation come together, we need to keep the following truths in mind:

God

  • God, the Creator, is holy, loving, just, righteous, merciful and faithful (Isaiah 6:3; 1John 4:8, 16; Exodus 34:6-7; Nehemiah 9:32-33.) 

Man

  • Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and were capable to choose between good and evil—however, they believed Satan, chose evil, and as a result lost their free will. (Genesis 3:1-6, John 8:44, James 1:13-15, Revelation 12:9)

Sin

  • Every person ever born after Adam and Eve is born in sin (Psalm 51:5; Job 15:14; John 3:6; Romans 5:12-17; 1Corinthians 15:21-22.) 
  • Sin separates us from God (Genesis 3:6-8; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23).
  • Sinful as we are, based on our own efforts, we don’t have the capacity in ourselves to establish a relationship with God (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:10-12; Colossians 2:13).

Christ, the Holy Spirit and new birth

  • God demands a perfect redemption to make us his children.  Jesus Christ, being perfect God (sinless) and perfect man (born as a human being, yet without sin) is the only answer to our need to live in a relationship with God (Hebrews 7:18-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1John 3:5).
  • Based on the perfect redemption of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us birth from above and enables us to live, work and pray as children of God (John 3:3-6, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:9-10)

The Bible

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God through which we know God, hear of God’s grace, know our sinfulness, and learn about the gifts of grace through Jesus Christ.  (1Corinthians 15:1-2, 1Peter 1:23-25, 2Peter 1:20-21, Hebrews 4:12)

Christian living

  • Jesus’ death and resurrection satisfied God’s righteousness: this is the only means by which God declares us righteous to be adopted as His children.  God made us holy to live holy lives, honouring Him in what we do.  (Romans 5:6-8; Galatians 3:10-14; Hebrews 9:11-14; Matthew 5:13-16, 1 Peter 1:15, 22, 2Peter 2:9-12)

Eternal life

  • Faith unites us with Christ, and faith in Him makes us share in his inheritance, which is eternal life with God (Romans 6:5-6; Colossians 2:9-12).

Application 

1.  Read through the verses under each of the headings above.  Write in your own words what the Bible says about 

1.1 God

 

1.2 Man

 

1.3 Sin

 

1.4 Christ, the Holy Spirit and new birth

 

1.5 The Bible

 

1.6 Christian living

 

1.7 Eternal life

 

2.  Now, using the structure of the headings above and write your testimony of how God called you to be his child

2.1 How did you learn more about God?

 

2.2 How did you become aware that you need salvation?

.

2.3 Once you became aware of your lostness in sin, who did you go to for forgiveness?

 

2.4 What role does the Bible play in your spiritual development?

 

2.5 How do you apply Biblical principles in your daily living?

 

2.6 Does eternity matter?  Why?

 

3. In a short paragraph apply what you know from this section to tell others about the grace of God’s gracious salvation for sinners?

 

Heavenly shaped defence (1)

Bible Readings

  • Acts 20:25-38;
  • 1 Peter 5:1-11

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

If our Lord allows us, we will walk slowly through the last chapter of 1 Peter.  The topic of this sermon “Heavenly Shaped Defence”. We of course speak of our defence against the strategy of the devil.  To begin our study of chapter 5 with we will consider certain things leaving us defenceless against our adversary, the devil. More about that later.

We have had the privilege to walk through 1Peter over the last two months or so.  God has shown us many wonderful things about our heavenly shaped lives, as well our heavenly shaped future in Christ.  

  • We have an inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade; it is kept in heaven. This inheritance is shielded by God’s power until the announcement of the last time (1Peter 1:3-5).
  • God revealed this salvation in Jesus Christ, who is the fulfilment of all prophesies of the Old Testament, now reality in the New Testament (1Peter 1:10-12).
  • The good news about the Gospel of Christ is that, by the work of the Holy Spirit—who works through the revealed will of God in the Bible (1Peter 1:24-25)—changed our hollow and meaningless existence, from being God’s enemies, by making us children of God (1Peter 1:14-15, 18).  For this Christ redeemed us by his precious blood, worth more than silver of gold (1Peter 1:19-21). 
  • Our life on earth is temporary, but one day Jesus Christ will return and will take us to Him (1Peter 1:13), but we called to, in the meantime, live holy lives, because we were called out of darkness into his wonderful light, to proclaim God’s praises (1Peter 2:9-10).  In fact, Christians, under Jesus Christ woh is the head, is like a temple, a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1Peter 2:5).
  • We live in this world as aliens, obeying the laws of governments, doing our daily work as if unto the Lord (1Peter 2:13-19).
  • Our marriage and family relationships must reflect the relationship between Christ and his church as a message of hope to the world (1Peter 3:1-7).

All in all, what we have heard up to now is absolute good news.  Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are kept in the hands of God: 

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18, NKJV)

But our summary of what Peter wrote in his epistle is incomplete.  Peter also prepares us for difficult times, precisely because of our faith in Jesus Christ. In 1Peter 1:6 he writes:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials … (1 Peter 1:6, NKJV)

Why does all of this happen?

  • The world, who rejects the Lordship of Christ goes after God’s children and whip up accusations against his church (1Peter 2:12), and Christians experience unjust sufferings (1Peter 2:19-21). 
  • If Christians suffer for what is right, they are blessed (1Peter 3:14), because it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1Peter 3:17).  
  • All of this should not come as a surprise to Christians, because being united to Christ implies that his sufferings will be our sufferings (1Peter 4:12-13).

Our sufferings and the glory of Christ

It is almost as if Peter leads us in our relationship with Christ, to have a look of what drives the drama behind the curtains, so we can understand the battle we are involved in.

There’s one thing our enemy would want to prevent from happening, and us from knowing:  that the glory of Christ will be known in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ.  Peter, on the other hand, cannot stress the point more:

Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13, NKJV)

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14, NKJV)

Peter is confident about the fact he himself will share in the glory of Christ when it is revealed (1Peter 5:1). Elders are encouraged to discharge of their shepherding task well, because they will “receive the crown of glory” when the Shepherd appears (1Peter 5:4).  He ends his letter with this encouraging word: 

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10, NKJV)

So, the devil’s plan to have Christians going through suffering, in the hope that they might retreat and give up following Christ as Lord—and thus miss out on the eternal glory of Christ—fails in the great plan of God:  suffering, as we saw last week is a necessary process of refinement, but it also unites us with the glory of Christ.

We need to hang on to the words of our Lord in his Hight Priestly Prayer in the face of our suffering and our battle with our adversary.

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:22,24, NKJV)

This prayer of Christ will ultimately surely be answered in full when He appears in glory: being already been gloried in Christ, those united to Him by faith will see his glory! The devil has no chance against Christ. In fact his place in the lake of sulphur is already prepared.  His tail feathers have been plucked, and his wings have been clipped.  Because he has been subjected to Christ, his is even more ferocious and dangerous. But God is not yet done with him. 

Our enemy

First, let’s look at the things leaving us defenceless. 

We look at five destructive dangers: 

  • our adversary, the devil
  • ungodly elders
  • insubordinate behaviour in God’s household
  • wavering faith in times of trouble
  • ignorance of prevalent danger

We will hear the Word of God on the first in this list, and continue next week.

The devil 

Although Peter mentions our adversary last, it does not mean that he is the least dangerous.  In fact, he is behind everything aimed at the destruction of the church of Christ.  

Let’s go to 1Peter 5:8

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)

Of all the wild animals there is one we do not want to tackle with bare hands: the lion.  Even tame lions can be dangerous and in some cases be extremely unpredictable.  

Our adversary is more than such a lion.  He prowls around with one aim and purpose:  to devour and destroy.

David prayed in Psalm 7:2

O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, lest they tear me like a lion, rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver. (Psalm 7:1–2, NKJV)

Of his adversary the Psalmist writes:

He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. (Psalm 10:9, NKJV)

John exposes the devil: 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44, NKJV)

He has sinned from the beginning (1John 3:8).  He perverts the truth of God, precisely because he knows truth so well.  He believes and his fellow fallen angels believe God, and they shudders (James 2:19). He knew very well what God had commanded Adam and Eve, but he perverted the truth and trapped them into believing his version of the truth instead.  He tried to use his version of the truth to tempt our Lord by quoting verses of the Bible.  Here is some of his strategies:

  • To undermine your faith in Christ he whispers in your ear that it is impossible to know that you are a Christian, reminding you of your sins.  
  • Or he might even prevent your from  fully trust in Christ as your Saviour by trying to convince you that you are not a sinner to begin with.  A loving God will not possible throw sinners in hell! 
  • He might try to convince you that God’s Word is not the truth, and not enough to lead you to the knowledge of who God and your Saviour is.  How can God call you through a book which was written thousands of years ago.  Can the Bible be true?  Is there power in the gospel?
  • Was grace enough for you?  Can you have security that your inheritance in heaven cannot spoil, fade or perish, and that God is shielding it for you? What about your past rebellion against God?
  • Who says God really loves you, and that He will never let anyone pluck you from his hand? Who says God really exist?
  • Another great delusion from the devil is the suggestion that Christians should not suffer for the sake of Christ. Last week we dwelled on the abominable teaching of the Health and Wealth theology, also know as Prosperity Theology.  Our adversary will be ready to whisper in our ear that God does not love us as soon as suffering shows up in our life.  And what is he so good in convincing ignorant Christians with?  He does it as he did with Christ: he makes promises he know very well he cannot deliver.  Don’t fall for it.  It is a lie from hell.   

And so you are tossed about like a wave on the ocean.  Listen to him and he will rip your heart out and laugh about you on your way to hell.

In The Pilgrims Progress Bunyan writes:  “No king will willingly lose his subjects,” said Apollyon to Christian when he stretched himself across the road, “and I swear you shall go no further; here will I spill your soul.” 

I quote from a sermon of Charles Spurgeon: 

“Do you suppose that Satan would lose his subjects one by one, and not be filled with wrath? Assuredly not. As soon as he sees a soul hurrying off to the wicket gate, with his eyes fixed on the light, away go all hell’s dogs after him. ‘There is another of my subjects going; my empire is being thinned; my family is being diminished:’ and he tries with his might and main to bring the poor soul back again.” 

There’s far more to say about the devil, but let’s wrap it up with this from Revelation 12:  it describes the battle between him and the angels of God who protects the church of the Lord out of which would be born Jesus Christ.  An enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns with seven crowns on his head appeared on the scene.  Here we have an explicit reference to him “the ancient serpent, the devil, or Satan who leads the whole world astray” (verse 9). At the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, the dragon wanted to devour the newborn child.  Satan lost the rebellion in heaven and was hurled to the earth and his angles with him (verse 8).  He then focussed upon the woman who had given birth to the son; he focussed on the church of Christ, but God is protecting his people (verse 14). Although overcome, Satan does not retreat.  He is still engaged in the battle, now honing in on all who call Jesus Christ their Lord.  Listen:  

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17, NKJV)

This is our enemy Number One.  Every soul who allows itself to be entrapped by this enemy is in great peril.  The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ has exposed itself by voices from within who denies the existence of its greatest enemy.

Conclusion

My friends, don’t be fooled or distracted.  Satan is not the little disfigured red-faced little fellow with sharp pointed ears and a pitch fork in his hands.  He is a dangerous, yet not almighty, fallen warrior.  He knows no love, although he can speak lovingly; he promises all, although he has nothing to offer; he prides as an angle of the light, yet in him is just darkness. The Bible gives us the instruction:

Resist him, be steadfast in the faith. (1 Peter 5:9, NKJV)

Hide in the righteousness of Christ and hang on to your inheritance in Him which cannot spoil, fade or perish.  This is our only defence.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 22 July 2018

 

My funeral, my new life

Bible Readings

  • Romans 6:1-14
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

Has it struck you that many contestants in TV shows, when they are knocked out of the game, might express regret, but find consolation in what they call fun.  “It is sorry to go, but I had a lot of fun.”   “Whatever you do, have fun”, is the advise of some parents to their teenagers.   Our society is one of fun-seekers. Fun is the principle, not moral uprightness.  We find the Bible’s advice in  Ecclesiastes 7:2 then strange, “It is better to go to a house of mourning Thant to go to a house of feasting.” Why this advice?  The next part of the verse helps us:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2, NIV)

There’s only one thing more sure than life, and that is death.

The time of death can’t really be postponed to create opportunities for the person who is dying or for the close relatives to put things right.  It is only in very rare occasions that people have this opportunity.  But once death has arrived, it’s all over.  Those who are left behind can speak, but there is no reaction from the one who just passed away.

Death is decisive and absolute.  There is this final moment of moving from this world into the next.  There is the final heartbeat and the final breath.  Once death has stepped in, it’s over; nothing can cheat death; it always has the last say, and it leaves human beings powerless in its power.

Death has a 100% success rate.  It’s inescapable.  It was not so from the beginning, but man’s rebellion and sin against God brought death into our world, and life on earth has become a painful place.  If God left man to himself he would live in misery and he would die in misery.  Nothing would have any meaning, not even meaning itself.

Spiritual death – a life without Christ

Apart from dying physically, every person born into this life has to reckon with spiritual death.  Not only does our physical heart stop beating, and do we stop breathing, and do our bodies become lifeless, but sin brought spiritual death, and without salvation in Christ Jesus we face eternal death. 

The non-Christian is someone who is controlled by human desires.  This is the “me”-life.  It’s about what I want for myself; it’s self-termination; a life governed by what my heart desire.

It’s a life of thumbing the nose at God.  When it’s all about me and my desires, it quickly blossoms in immorality.  I become the standard of who I do and what is right.  

Verses 3-4 of 1 Peter 4 refers to this life. There are three outstanding characteristics: 

  1. sexual sins—indecency, lust; 
  2. sins displaying a lack of restraint—drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties; and
  3. depraved religious practices—the detestable worship of idols.

Let’s go back in history.  God called Moses to the mountain to give him the Law.  Moses stayed away too long for the people and they soon wanted to have some for of worship.  What did they do?  

… and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:6, NKJV)

Don’t for one moment that “play” was having a game of ring-o-ring-of-roses.  It was revelry in an idol and openly mocking God; it surely, dancing around  an idol of fertility there was ore involved.

They fell into idol worship and made a golden calf.  What did this calf represent?  Fertility!  So they engaged in an orgy of lust like the heathen.  This was almost the first thing recorded about God’s people did after they we rescued from slavery in Egypt. All three things Peter mentions manifested in sinful Israel.

Drunkenness in 1Peter 4:3 conveys not only excessive drinking, but habitual intoxication. Orgies describes the result of excessive drinking; another way of expressing it is “excessive feasting,” “wild parties”. There is but a small step between drinking parties and orgies;  one is result of drunkenness, and the other provides the occasion for it. Included in the word is the idea of drinking competitions to see who can drink the most. I get a vision pub crawls. 

To better understand what Peter is conveying here one can combine the meanings of orgies and drinking parties.  It’s not uncommon in our day for people to habitually and specifically create occasions to get together to drink a great deal and then act in a shameful manner, and almost consider it as a human right to be drunk and become immoral and disgustingly silly.  

Peter refers to a flood of dissipation.  It literally means pouring out, or to overflow, like a river; here, an overflowing of immorality. Reckless translates the same word used to describe the way of life of the prodigal son (Luke 15:13). Paul uses the same word when he writes: 

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)  

Applied to elders, Paul writes:  

… a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Titus 1:6, NIV)

The flood of dissipation describes a person who no longer cares about anything as long as he can enjoy the pleasures of life. In reckless living he lives a life without any limits, or living in such a way as to fulfil every desire of his body.  We live in the “who cares” generation.  In other words, living without concern for the consequences of what one is doing and the consequence for oneself and others are.  Do we find it strange then that ambulance personnel get beaten up?

Living such a life is to be worthless in the eyes of God.  Peter writes in 2:10:  

Once you were not a people … once you had not received mercy … (1 Peter 2:10, NIV)

This leads to judgement.  

But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5, NIV)

New life

But there is grace.  And this grace is wrapped in the Gospel about Jesus Christ.  Some of those to whom Peter wrote had lost  family members and friends; they had once been part of those who lived in the “flood of dissipation”, but they heard the message of the Gospel respond to the grace of God before they died.  Peter says: 

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6, NIV)

What does it say?  They heard the Gospel; they received the grace of the Gospel call; they die; judgement for them is no terror.  What they did in their bodies no longer stand as judgement against them; and at the day of judgement God will deal with them applying the standards of his eternal judgement, but now with Jesus Christ as their advocate.  

Not giving heed to the Gospel call is to continue in spiritual death which leads to the second death: it’s eternal irreversible, and certain. 

Where do you stand with the Gospel?  Where do you stand with Christ?  Death may walk into your door today and the consequence of living as someone who either turned God’s grace away, or someone who received that grace and turned towards Christ for salvation will make an eternal difference.

Spiritual Funeral

The verse we look at now is 1Peter 4:1

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1, NIV)

It’s the last part of this verse we need to look at now.  … whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” Paul helps us to understand this better:  

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:2, 6–7. NIV)

Paul continues:  

… count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:11–13, NIV)

Back to 1Peter 4:1-2.  One of the marks of a Christian is his union with Christ.  He is willing to suffer with Christ, for Christ and like Christ – but thank God, not the same way Christ suffered, and surely not for the same reason. 

This verse means that anyone who in this life turns his back on sin, suffers physically:

  1. As he/she no longer has any desire to keep on sinning.  He has said no to sinning and has turned away from sinning. 
  2. The Christian is not controlled by his own desires, but now lives under the control of God’s will.  

This life-changing event makes to non-Christian wonder.  Why not enjoy the so-called good things in life?  You chose to become one of those who can’t enjoy yourself!  What’s wrong with you?  And you call what we do wrong?  Come one, just one night of wild parties, what can go wrong?  Do you really tell me that you will forever be satisfied with one woman or man?  Are you keeping your body from enjoying what everyone enjoys?

But living under the grace of God changes everything.  It changes the way I look at things, the way I laugh and what I laugh about; I changes the way I choose my friends and who I hang out with;  it changes the way in which I spend my money;  and moreover, the saving grace of God changes the way I spend my time. My previous life was a waste of time, it was a waste of oxygen and energy.  God loves me in Jesus Christ and gave me eternal life, and I owe my life to Him:  I need to love Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength and all my mind.

Conclusion

I met this lady in Sydney.  I was billeted to her during one of the Assemblies.  She was well into her seventies.  I was surprised to see many theological and other very good Christian books on her bookshelf in the sitting room.  

The way she spent her day also intrigued me:  every day of the week was filled activities connected to the church of which she was a member – Bible studies, hospital visitation, caring for those in need, feeding the hungry.  

I asked her one night to tell me more about her life in the Lord.  She told me her husband became very ill and ended up in hospital, terminally ill.  At that stage he was not a Christian, but the pastor of the church of her daughter came to visit him and led him to Christ.  He died in peace knowing that his sins were forgiven.  At his funeral the same pastor preached.  Next to her were her daughter and son-in-law, a minister himself.  The pastor told the story of how her husband repented of his sins, confessed it to the Lord and asked for forgiveness, accepting God’s grace in Christ.  He then said, “We will  join him in heaven one day.”  

My lady-host said God worked it in her heart to understand that if she wanted to see her husband again, let alone see Christ and God and heaven, she must do the same:  before the sun set that day she confessed her sins to God and received the grace of Christ.  She was a new person.  

Then she said to me, 

“I have wasted a lot of time in my life.  There is so much to know about God, and I can’t stop reading about Him; there are so many people who do not know God, and I can’t stop helping them to learn more about his love and forgiveness.”  

Her life without Christ was spiritual death, aimed at herself – but it led her nowhere.  Her turning to Christ was her spiritual funeral – there she said no to sin and she became obedient to the will of God; she learned to reckon that she was dead to sin.  She heard the Gospel call and she responded with her whole life.  Her life in Christ was the beginning of her walk to eternal glory.  She was prepared. She knew better things were coming.

I enquired about her when I saw her son-in-law last time.  He told me she went into glory with God.

The big question now today:  have you been to your spiritual funeral?  Have you started living?  Are you living a life to the glory of God where only his will counts?  Can you face the ridicule of the world and the sufferings of a Christian? Please, make sure of it.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 24 June 2018

 

When the truth becomes a lie, and the lie becomes the truth

Bible Readings

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • Romans 1:18-32

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

During the next three weeks Australians will have the opportunity to have their say in the battle to redefine marriage. Pressure from the world is mounting against Christians to separate what they think as Christians when they attend church from what they think when they go to the ballot box. Without a thorough Biblical worldview Christians stand and fall

The church as an institution does not participate in political processes, because we believe there should be a separation between church and state.  The Church as institution, and likewise the state, have boundaries or spheres to which they must stick.  This was the original intent behind the principle.  However, when Christians vote they do not stop being Christians.  Christians do not represent a denomination when they cast their votes; they stand in the ballot box as representatives of the Saviour.  This is the challenge.

In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord said:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13, NIV)

The modern cry for separation between church and state is an aberration of the original principle and is reduced to mean this:

  • (Individual) Christians need to keep their principles at home when they vote.
  • Adherents to all other religions are exempt.
  • Atheists are always neutral, because they don’t worship a specific god.

A Biblical worldview

The question then is what is the Christian of Biblical worldview?

The Bible teaches us that we must

… not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Without going into too much detail, let’s sum up what the Bible teaches about the world and those who live in it.

When truth reigned over the lie

1. God created the world out of nothing, without the aid of anything outside of Himself, by the power of his word. We therefore do not believe in the idea that everything come about by nothing; that everything exists by chance, and there is not really any purpose in life. This notion makes all meaningful life impossible, because it rejects absolute values and truths, while it only relies on subjective truths and values to determine right and wrong.

2. Although created without defect, but now stained by sin, God can be known through the works of his creation.  We read about this in Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

3. Created things were made according to its kinds, but mankind was created after the image of God. All people should be treated as such. This we know from Genesis 1:27

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)

Our Lord also taught this truth:

“Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ … (Matthew 19:4, NIV)

4. God created the first human beings male and female.  They were made to be one another’s companion and helper. Adam and Eve stood as equals before God, complementing one another according to God’s design. God gave them the command be fruitful, because they were created male and female with that capacity, the only basis on which other created things too could multiply.

5. Mankind was created for the purpose of ruling over God’s creation in a way which pleases the Creator.  Creation does not belong to man, but we are placed over it as stewards to look after it and develop it according to God’s design for it.

When the lie are presented as truth

Our first parents rebelled against God and dragged all of creation into misery.

1. What God created to be good—yes, very good—fell from its perfect design to a miserable state: man’s nature became corrupted, nature itself became corrupted and subject to death. Our reading from Romans 1 helps us:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21, NIV)

Another manifestation of how sin corrupted man is the foolishness of worshipping created things rather than Him who created all things:

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:22–23, NIV)

Why does the Bible call this foolishness?  Creation itself is corrupted by sin.  Romans 8:20-21

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20–21)

2. When mankind fell in sin they lost their innocence and freewill, but are still under the grace of God who provide in our everyday need. This is called common grace.

3. This misery affected the relationship between Adam and Eve and all human beings born after them, it affected relationships between members of families, and between nations on earth.  The result is idolatry, distrust, lies, hatred, jealousy, war, stealing, envy, diseases, pestilences, etc., and ultimately death. Romans 1:29 spells it out

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. (Romans 1:29–31, NIV)

4. Diseases and abnormalities became part of human life on earth.  Paul writes in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.”

5. We don’t accept cancer as normal just because it exists; on the contrary, we keep researching ways to eradicate it. Purely because they exist, we do not regard abnormalities as normal. Just because everyone lies, we still need to speak the truth, and we don’t introduce laws making it unlawful to demand the truth in a court of law.

6. Irrespective of what post-modernists say, the truth can be known.  This is the basis for the command of God:

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. (Exodus 20:16, NIV)

This is something the mass media needs to understand:  half truths and fake news are not normal—it is just as abnormal as cancer, and with truth we need to combat lies in the same way as we battle against diseases. For this reason we are called, as Romans 6:12 puts it:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:12–13, NIV)

5.Sexual desires became deeply affected.  As a result of our fallen state these desires may manifest itself in ways humans rebel against their Maker in an effort to normalise what was not according to God’s original design. Once again we read Romans 1:26-27

Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27, NIV)

Reflection

Just before we move on, let’s just pause for one moment and ponder what we have just learned.  It is important to know that Romans 1 does not refer to “them” sinners; it refers to sin and “us” sinners in general. In other words, before we begin to think that we are not included into the description of sinful corruption as Romans 1 spell it out, we have to understand it is not about “us” and “them”—it is about all of us.  How do we know this?  Let’s just read Romans 2:1

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1, NIV)

It might be true that not all of us committed all of the sins mentioned in Romans 1, however the fact remains that one human being cannot claim higher moral ground above others based on inborn qualities.

So, when you find yourself exercising your vote, pray about it, remember were it not for saving grace in Christ, we would all fall short of the glory of God.  As you vote, do so with a prayer that God would show our nation mercy, and pray for those who still do not know Christ, that they would turn from their rebellion and find salvation in Him.

When truth destroys and exposes the lie

1. The message of the Bible is one of hope:  sinners are saved by grace.  Jesus Christ, the son of God, was God’s gift to the world as perfect redemption.  By faith in Him alone all sinners, irrespective of the kind of sin they have committed, are forgiven and restored as God’s children. Although not perfect, relationships between forgiven people have a good chance of success as we forgive one another as we are forgiven in Christ. The Word states:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10, NIV)

Let’s heed to this verse too:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

2. Christ being the Head of both, husband and wife now should live submit to Christ in reverence of Him; in faithfulness to one another they must strive to live for the glory of God. By God’s design they bring up children for the glory of God within the confines of marriage.

The Bible sees marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church. Paul writes:

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:32–33)

3. Family relationships are sanctified in Christ.  Children must obey their parents, “for it is right.  Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2–3)

4. Christ’s grace, which reconciled sinners to God, calls them to gather as his people, the church.  Until Christ returns according to his promise, the Holy Spirit dwells with us as we fellowship with one another.

5. When Christ returns all people will be called to judgement where there will be a separation between those who were made righteous and those who rejected Christ’s righteousness.  The restoration in Him we know and experience now, will then be made complete as we will live on a new earth where sin will not enter to destroy the work of God.

Conclusion

These are the basic aspects which make up the worldview of Christians.  We don’t grab these out of the air; we base them on the Scriptures, which are the infallible and inerrant Word of God. These principles should be your guide when you vote.

Next week, Lord willing, we will endeavour to point out the principles of those oppose the truth of the Gospel in an effort to present it as the new truth.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on 10 September 2017

 

Grace, forgiveness, restoration

Bible Readings

  • 1John 1:5-2:6
  • 1Samuel 12:6-25

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Of all the parables of our Lord Jesus Christ I relate very well to the one of the wayward son.  This parable is about four lost things:  a coin, a sheep, and  two sons.  The headings added by some translators are missing the point:  it’s not about the lost coin, or the lost sheep, and even one son—the last it about two wayward sons, but surely not a prodigal son.  To be “prodigal”is to be wasteful, especially with one’s money—and the parable has nothing to say about being wasteful.

Although the father pleaded with the elder son and assured him of his love, the hardness of his heart resisted the restoring love of the father. That’s why he too was lost.

What the parables want to bring home is that the coin, the sheep and the younger son were found by the owner who cared. That’s the point! And over and over our Lord repeats:

I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, CSB)

And this aspect of grace keeps knocking me over every time I think about it. In our sinfulness we walk away from God, we want to do our own thing, we then fall in a heap, but the cords of love we enjoyed in the presence of our Father, draw us back.  In his faithfulness and mercy, God forgives and restores.  This is the message of all Scripture: the holy God who bows down to an underserving and sinful world, and then provides a way out if this sinful mess in and through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ.

Grace

According to 1 Samuel 12 he is now and old man, grey, about to hang up the boots.  He calls the people to bring charges against him, if they have any, before he hands over.  Has he taken anything from anyone unlawfully?  (“Taken” in this context stands against the charges brought against the sons of Eli who “took” what be longed to the Lord, and also stole what did not belong to them.  The future king would also “take”, and even Samuel’s own sons “took” bribes.)

Has Samuel defrauded anyone?  Was anyone oppressed?  Was anyone bribed?  No!  Can you hear these words echoed in the words of Paul?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8, CSB)

Samuel had been faithful and true to the God who appointed him. But he was not sinless; he too needed a sacrifice and atonement blood to be forgiven.  More later.

Our High Priest and Prophet, Jesus Christ, superseded and was far more superior to Samuel.  He never sinned in any way.  Yes, He only gave.  He did not come to be served, but to serve.  He knelt and washed the feet of his own.  The only thing He took was our trespasses to become sin for us, in order that we might in Him become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21).  Him we worship as our perfect High Priest. The writer of Hebrews helps us to understand the superiority of Christ.  A human high priest “… is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:2–3, CSB) But of Christ he writes:

“… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek, …” (Hebrews 5:8–10, NKJV)

Call to life

Samuel used the last opportunity to address the people to plead for the people before God.

Now therefore, stand still [maybe,“be quiet”], that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers: (1 Samuel 12:7, NKJV)

Moses used the same word and command of Moses in Exodus 14:13 when the Israelites were in a panic with the army of the pharaoh behind them and the mighty waters of the Red Sea in front of them. Moses said to the people,

“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (Exodus 14:13, NKJV)

Now Samuel connects these events and applied it to the people who away turned from God, and rejected his Kingship by asking for a king so that they could be like the nations around them.  In essence they formally walked away from God in rebellion.  Do you see the attitude of the younger son of the parable?

What Samuel said was to remind them of God’s love and how He compassion on his people.  Samuel recalls God’s acts of rescuing his people from slavery out of Egypt, and later out the clutches of Sisera, and again from the commander of Hazor’s army, and out of the oppression of the Philistines too.  He gave them leaders like Gideon, Barak and Jephthah, and even Samuel himself.

Samuel preached about the God’s great act of salvation, pleading with them to worship God.  This “plead” is a word used in legal sense.  An advocate pleads on behalf of his client, or brings charges against a perpetrator.  Samuel did both:  he charged the people with their sins, but he also pleaded for them before God.

Samuel hammered in the fact that they sinned by asking for a king, and pointed to Saul, “Look at him, God answered your prayers.”

Is it all over now?  Will God forsake you and leave you in the hands of this feeble man?  Have they missed the boat?

Has the lost son forfeited everything, even the love of his father?  No!  There is still opportunity for grace, forgiveness and restoration.

If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. (1 Samuel 12:14, NKJV)

The next verse spells out the opposite, “the hand of the Lord will be against you!” And it is a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God!

The prophet then called upon God to do an extraordinary thing:  to send thunder and rain upon the grain which was ready for harvest.  Why?  It was to illustrate to them that their actions were a mirror of the disruption of the God-ordained pattern of relationship that should be between them and the Lord. Israel moved out of its proper relationship with the Lord; now Lord ordained that nature would move out of its proper pattern with the people. This terrified the Israelites, for they understood that it could point to more severe disturbances as God spelled in the his Covenant with them.

Repentance and forgiveness

They then begged Samuel to pray for them, to intercede so that they would not die.  They realised they had made an enemy of the living God.  They begged:

“Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19, NIV)

They needed some to intercede for them.  Samuel did!

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23, NKJV)

This is the amazing aspect of grace. Then Samuel said to the people,

“Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. (1 Samuel 12:20–21, NKJV)

Why?  “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NKJV)

Restoration

The younger son went after all the empty things which profited him nothing and could not deliver what he craved for: he dreamed of freedom, but ended up in slavery.  At that point the loving care of his father overcame him.

“I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (Luke 15:18, NIV)

Like Samuel, and more than Samuel, our Lord, our Mediator, stood before God.  He,

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, [he] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7, NIV)

God heard the cry of his Son, not only for Himself, but for those He came to set free.  Samuel said if he would not intercede for the people he would sin.  But he stressed upon them “to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart” and to “consider what great things He has done for you.”  (1Samuel 13:24)

Jesus is still doing it. That’s our verse from 1 John this morning:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NIV)

More than Samuel, Christ pleads for us:  He is our righteous advocate before the Father; his plea rests upon his atoning sacrifice.

Conclusion

What is so amazing about grace?  Ask the younger son of the parable: in spite of his rebellion, his father restored him as his son.

Ask the Israelites as they gathered to hear Samuel’s farewell speech and heard the thunder and saw the lightning!  They found out that the same God who rescued their forefathers stood ready to destroy them if they did not repent; but He also stood ready to forgive and restore if they turned from their wicked ways and serve Him with all their heart.

What’s so amazing about grace?  There’s forgiveness and restoration for every rebellious sinner in and through the work of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 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 4:14–15, NIV)

He is our atonement.  He intercedes for us.  He calls sinners home to freely forgive and give assurance of restoration.

He is our King.  Saul, the king, is dead, but Jesus Christ our King lives forever. Fall down and worship Him as Lord. Do as the younger son did:

I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ (Luke 15:18–19, NIV)

What you will hear is the welcoming voice of the Father:

This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  (Luke 15:24, NIV)

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 August 2017

 

The Messiah, the thirsty sinner, the living water, the harvest 

A young pastor was looking for a cloth he could use over the communion table, and found one on a street sale.

The next day, while unlocking the building, he noticed an elderly lady on the curb and invited her to come inside for warmth. While she making herself comfortable in a pew, the pastor was covering the hole. She gasped as he unfolded the worn tablecloth. “That’s mine,” she exclaimed. “It’s my table cloth!” And she rushed to show him her initials embroidered in one corner. The minister listened as she retold the story of her days in Vienna, Austria, before the war. She fled from the Nazis, but her husband was captured. She hadn’t seen him since. The minister offered her the cloth, but she refused. It looked pretty over the communion table.

The following Sunday morning an ageing gentleman lingered behind to talk with the pastor. The cloth behind the pulpit brought back painful memories for him. “Many years ago my wife and I owned such a tablecloth,” he told the pastor. “We lived in Vienna then.”

The pastor made some calls, and not long after the two men were standing on the front steps of her apartment. The pastor witnessed a reunion more touching than he ever imagined possible.

That might have been  coincidence.  In the scheme of God’s program there is no such a thing as coincidence; providence – yes!

I bring to you the Word of God under the theme, “The Messiah sent by the Father, the thirsty sinner, the living water, the harvest”.  In the first place then,

The Messiah sent by the Father

As we followed the Gospel of John up to this point the Bible introduced us to Christ as the Word who was there in the beginning.  This Word is Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made.  His mission into this world John describes as light shining in darkness.  We learn from John that Christ dwelled with us and He revealed the glory of the Father.  He was the promised prophet, more than Moses and Elijah – yes the Messiah.  As Messiah He was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. John writes about Jesus Christ that He was the only true Son of God whom the Father sent so that whosoever believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.  Luke writes,

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)

Luke declares about Him,

… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, NIV)

John testifies about Christ his food ..

“is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34, NIV)

What is intriguing about Christ is his foreknowledge about the people He came in contact with.  He knew Nathaniel even before he met Jesus.  He knew how He would use Simon and called him Peter.  He knew that heart of Nicodemus and understood that he had very little understanding, if anything, of God’s plan of salvation.  Indeed, as John 2:24 says, “He knew all men.”

This takes us to verse 4 of John 4:

Now He had to go through Samaria. (John 4:4, NIV)

Following the will of the Father, doing the work of his Father, our Lord was travelling north from Judea to Galilee.  There were other roads to Galilee which Jesus could follow, but He chose that one – the one who led Him to the well of Jacob.

After the exile from Babylon, those who settled back in Samaria intermarried non-Jews.  The Jews in Judea looked at them as “religious bastards”.  So, culturally and spiritually Jews and Samaritans avoided one another.

About 400 years before Jesus arrived at Jacob’s well, some Samaritans build a temple in Gerazim, not too far from where Jesus met the woman at the well.  There they practised a faith based only on the Five Books of Moses (but nothing else), believed in one God, revered Moses and saw Mt Gerazim as the mountain God appointed for the temple.  This temple however was destroyed around 200 B.C. When the Romans took over in Israel, both the area of the Samaritans and the Jews were under the political sphere of Rome.

There was no social and religious contact between the Jews and the Samaritans, but Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, had to go through Samaria.  That was his mission.  When He became tired and rested at the well of Jacob at Sychar, all fitted in neatly in the providence of God.  One could say it was with expectation that our Lord found Himself there at that hour, with his disciples not there, having gone into town for food.  Christ was alone – but He was on God’s business.

But He was also a human being.  He Himself was tired, he was thirsty and hungry.  His feet was dirty because of the dusty roads He travelled.  This is the picture of Hebrews 4:

… 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 4:14–15, NIV)

The thirsty sinner

It was just another day for the woman who arrived at the well with her water jars on her shoulders.  Engaging in conversation with men, even one’s whom she did not know, was not uncommon for this woman.  She had been married five times, and she then became a partner of a sixth.  This woman had some moral issues and her burden and guilt were heavy.  But this was not what drove her to the well.  We know quite well it was a heavenly appointment. Not coincidence, but providence.

But the man she met this time at the well was different.  He was a Jew, and Jews were not on speaking terms with Samaritans.  He put his reputation on the line talking to her.  She was alone, and He was alone.  He was thirsty and exhausted.  She could give Him the water He asked for.

But what He asked for is what she herself needed.  His business was to talk to sinners, and if ever there was one, He found one.

She protested and actually had some good theological arguments – at least if you take her understanding of who God and his people were.  She actually knew about the coming Messiah, but – and this is the key to understanding this women and all others whose heart was still shut, and whose minds are dull – could not see or recognise Him right in front of her, offering her water that would take her thirst forever.

He started the conversation with something all of us know well: thirst.  The water she would give Him was good for that moment.  But the thirsty and exhausted stranger, was indeed greater than Jacob, who dug the well.  If one drinks from the water of that well, the thirst will come back again, but

“whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Who would not want this water to drink!  Give me some!

“Go call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)

What do my past and present relationships have in connection with this water of eternity.  Everything.

Jesus who knew, He knew about her sins and moral corruption – and she had to admit it.  He knows me, He knows all of us.  He knows our sins.  To worship Him as the Giver of life demands confession of sins.  And who better can we admit to that we have a terrible load of baggage than the Messiah!

We just try to keep on searing our troubling consciences with a busy lifestyle, but every time we face others speaking behind their hands, pointing their fingers to us, we stand bare and guilty.  And our accuser, the devil, makes it his business to remind us of our guilt.  We can try to hide it, but we also stand before Him who knows everything. “You are right when you say…”  And because He knows, He might just as well say, “You are wrong when you try to hide …”  Because I know you.

Does it scare you to know that He who was there when everything was created knows everything about you?  Don’t forget this:  He is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Remember our paragraph of last week?

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned… (John 3:17–18, NIV)

It almost seems as if this woman dug up some Sunday school knowledge about where and how to worship to make look her past a bit better,  but it didn’t cut with Jesus Christ.  What counts is not what we think we know about worship, but who we worship, and that we worship Him.  We need to bow before Christ who stands before us, who speaks to us – the One whom the Father sent because of his love for sinners.

He is speaking to me, to you.  Bring your past – it might not be as bad as that of the woman at the well, it might even be worse – only Christ and you really know!  But bring it to Him who offer the living water and take the thirst away.

The water and the harvest

When she understood Who she was speaking to, her water jars did not even count any longer.  As if she did not need daily water anymore, she went back in to her town and became a disciple of Him who knew everything about her.  Indeed, the water Christ give her became in her a spring of water welling up eternal life which she passed on to others. She did not hide from people who she really was, because her past was with Christ.  “It is no secret what Christ can do, what He did for others, He can do for you.”

She probably then returned to the well, and others followed her.  They wanted to find out who makes it his business to speak to a woman of ill repute and give her honesty, joy and restoration.  They met Him and urged Him to stay – and He did!  In the house of Samaritans:  and they believed and drank of the living water which flowed for the Saviour.

The harvest were ready.  Christ changed and saved lives.  He, the living water, fell on dry ground and it produced a crop.

The world and the mission

The disciples returned from the village with the food, but our Lord was busy with other food:  He was doing the will of the Father and wanted to finish it:  there were sinners to be saved!

They were horrified that their rabbi was talking to a Samaritan woman; stunned they said nothing!

Jesus looked up and save the ripening wheat paddocks.  “Four months and then the harvest.”  But there is another harvest.  It is a people harvest.  Our Lord prepares the harvest; his church just need to bring them in.  The mission field might astound us.

Rev. David Jones tells that people in his congregation prayed for years that they might see people come into the kingdom of God through repentance.  But when it happened, they opposed it because those who came to Christ were off the streets; they looked rough and spoke a different language. They did not represent your typical Presbyterian!

Our Lord took his disciples with Him and for the two days they  spent in that city.  It was a lesson they had to learn for Christ:  those who are saved come from all backgrounds, and to reap that harvest we need to be prepared to go and search for them in places we never thought we would ever venture into.

Our first step is probably to open up to whoever Christ lead us to and tell them, “He knew everything about me – and still, He saved me.”

Are you prepared to do that?

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 30 October 2016

J.C. Ryle: Holiness

Total depravity

The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael, and the Queen’s Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ.

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First published in 1877, reprinted in 2001 by Charles Nolan Publishers 

The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another.

And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect—perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope—perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun—perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.

No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time.



The need for Christ to save

A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.

Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.



Sanctification

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1Corinthians 1:30.)

The nature of sanctification

  • Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:5.)
  • Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature, receives a new nature and a new principle, and always lives a new life.
  • Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Romans 8:9.) The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character, and life.
  • Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election.  It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification – chosen unto salvation through sanctification – predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” – Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and labouring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he says, “I know your election of God.” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.)
  • Sanctification is a thing that will always be seen.  Whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone, and taste, and character, and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified,” while no holiness can be seen in his life, is flat nonsense and a misuse of words.
  • Sanctification is a thing for which every believer is responsible.  A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight, and a very ignorant man.
  • Sanctification implies growth.  If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree it is this: that they see more, and know more, and feel more, and do more, and repent more, and believe more, as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God.
  • Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible- reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.
  • Sanctification does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.  A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.
  • Sanctification cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God.  The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin, and merit heaven, is simply absurd.
  • Sanctification will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great day of judgment.  He who supposes works are of no importance, because they cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.
  • Sanctification is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven.

Visible marks of sanctification

  • True sanctification then does not consist in talk about religion.  We must be sanctified, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18.)
  • True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. Let us urge on every one who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. No state of soul is more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, because we have picked up a few religious feelings.
  • True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. In many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness.
  • Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life, and the renunciation of our social duties. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hothouse plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us – like salt in the midst of corruption, and light in the midst of darkness – which is a primary element in sanctification. “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15.)
  • Sanctification does not consist in the occasional performance of right actions. It is the habitual working of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through all a man’s daily conduct, both in great things and in small.
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them.
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual endeavour to do Christ’s will, and to live by His practical commands.  “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.)
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the Churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles.
  • A sanctified man will try to do good in the world, and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him.
  • Genuine sanctification, in the last place, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity. Long-suffering, gentleness, and meekness, are unquestionably passive graces. (Galatians 5:22, 23.)

The distinction between sanctification and justification 

There are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.

In what are justification and sanctification alike?

  • Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
  • Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.
  • Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.
  • Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person.
  • Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

In what do justification and sanctification differ?

  • Justification is the counting a man to be righteous because of Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous.
  • The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification, although imparted and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit involves us as we grow in obedience and trust.
  • In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.
  • Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
  • Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
  • Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.
  • Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
  • Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

A few observations

  • If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!
  • What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not?
  • The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.
  • If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ.
  • Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
  • Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness.


 Holiness

What sort of persons are those whom God calls holy?

  • Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment – hating what He hates – loving what He loves – and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
  • A holy man will endeavour to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment.
  • A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be “conformed to His image.” (Rom. 8:29.)  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6, NIV)
  • A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
  • A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. (Luke 21:34, 1Corinthians 9:27)
  • A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavour to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men speak to him. (Romans 13:8)
  • A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation, and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him, as far as he can (Acts 9:36)
  • A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.
  • A holy man will follow after the fear of God.
  • A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives, and more help than they.  (Colossians 3:23)
  • A holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come.

Sanctification is always a progressive work. It has a beginning.  Sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work.  The gold will never be without some dross – the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem.

True holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.

Why practical holiness is so important

Can holiness put away sin – cover iniquities – make satisfaction for transgressions – pay our debt to God? No!  The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness – the name of Christ our only confidence – the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven.  With all our holiness we are no better than sinners.

  • We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 20; also:  Matthew 5:48, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Peter  1:15-16)
  • We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes:  “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15; also: Ephesians 5:25-26, Titus 2:14).  Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. If we would die the death of the righteous, let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (John 14:15, 21, 23: 15:14).  Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.”
  • We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them.  You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the Gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape.
  • We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.  It is vain for anyone to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works, or does not strive to live a holy life. “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3, NIV).  “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:18–19, NIV).  When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger, but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after, they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41, NIV)
  • We must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. How shall we ever be at home and happy in heaven, if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now? To reach the holiday of glory, we must pass through the training school of grace.

Application

  • Are you holy?  Not all “Christians” are.
  • Are you holy, or are you not?  Don’t look at others; it’s a personal question.
  • Are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not?  The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do.  “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, NIV)   Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways, and search our hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts, and send us to prayer.
  • Impossible?  It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible.
  • Be unlike other people?  Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them – a separate nation, a peculiar people.
  • Only a few be saved?  “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14, NIV)We must not merely have a Christian name, and Christian knowledge, we must have a Christian character also. We must be saints on earth, if ever we mean to be saints in heaven.

I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other. All justified people are sanctified, and all sanctified are justified. What God has joined together let no man dare to put asunder. Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show us the Spirit’s work in you.

Advice to all who desire to be holy

  • You must begin with Christ.  He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him.  “Wisdom without Christ is damning folly – righteousness without Christ is guilt and condemnation – sanctification without Christ is filth and sin – redemption without Christ is bondage and slavery.” (Traill)
  • Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling;  
Naked, flee to Thee for dress;  
Helpless, look to Thee for grace. 

  • Holiness comes not of blood – parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh – man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man – ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine
  • Abide in Christ.  “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, NIV)   He is the Physician to whom you must daily go, if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him.


 The fight

There is a warfare which concerns every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul. It has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)

  • True Christianity is a fight.  The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.
  • Christians do not fight with other Christians.  The fight is not perpetual controversy. The cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.
  • The fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
  • He must fight the flesh. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. The Lord Jesus bids us “watch and pray.”  There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:27, NIV)

  • The Christian must fight the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

  • The Christian must fight the devil.  Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always “going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.” An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A “murderer and a liar” from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to hell. (1Peter 5:8; John 8:44)

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11–12, NIV)

  • Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.
  • It is a fight of absolute necessity. In this war we can’t remain neutral and sit still.  To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.
  • It is a fight of universal necessity.  All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness, and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps, and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
  • It’s a fight of perpetual necessity.   “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die.  The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner.
  • The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.

True Christianity is a fight by faith

  • The truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the devil, unless he has engraved on his heart certain great principles which he believes.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

  • Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
  • Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.  Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)

  • If Christians do nothing , it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward heaven.

True Christianity is a good fight

  • Civil war, even justified war, is an immense and incalculable ethical evil which leaves behind it destruction: it stems from sin.
  • The Christian’s fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory. He never makes any useless movements, never errs in judgment, never commits any mistake.
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges, and is never alone. Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits. Surely this is good!
  • The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises. To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises, because they are made by One who cannot lie, and has power as well as will to keep His word.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)

  • The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results. No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield. No mourning will ever need to be put on, and no tears to be shed for either private or officer in the army of Christ. The muster roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning.
 “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:9, NIV)
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it.  It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above. Philip Henry, in his last days he said to his family, “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.” Surely this is good!
  • The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world.  Go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it.  The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the King of Terrors. Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil. He may get little praise of man while he lives, and go down to the grave with little honour; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring.

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:4, NIV)

We see only part of it as yet. We see the struggle, but not the end; we see the campaign, but not the reward; we see the cross, but not the crown. We see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but we see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the kingdom of glory prepared for them. These things are yet to be revealed. Let us not judge by appearances. There are more good things about the Christian warfare than we see.

Application

  • It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure. If that be your case, take care. Your sowing will lead to a crop of bitter disappointment. Come out from the ways of a thoughtless, unreasoning world. Take up the cross, and become a good soldier of Christ.  None who repent and believe are too bad to be enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s army. All who come to Him by faith are admitted, clothed, armed, trained, and finally led on to complete victory.  No doubt you will often meet with trouble, fatigue, and hard fighting, before your warfare is accomplished. But let none of these things move you. Greater is He that is for you than all they that be against you. Everlasting liberty or everlasting captivity are the alternatives before you. Choose liberty, and fight to the last.
  • It may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already.  Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God, and never lay it aside till we die.

“In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory. But here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” (Gurnall’s Christian Armour.)

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4, NIV)

  • Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us, morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the Prince of this world.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize 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)

  • Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12, NIV)

  • Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us is one who never changes.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25, NIV)

  • Let us remember that the time is short.  A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal good-bye to warfare, and to sin, to sorrow, and to death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender.

Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:7, NIV)



The Cost

The cost ought of being a true Christian needs to be counted;  it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.

Always keep in mind:  it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary.  But this not the point of discussion at the moment.  We are discussing what a man must be ready to give up if he wants to be a follower of Christ.

What it costs to be a true Christian

  •  It entails self-denial and self-sacrifice, otherwise we must alter the description of the way of life of saving Christianity is and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!”  Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.
  • It will cost self-righteousness.  Be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another.  Give up all trust in own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.  It might be harder to deny proud self than sinful self.
  • It will cost a man his sins.  He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labour to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced.

    Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done.

But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. (Ezekiel 18:27–28, NIV)

  • It will cost a man his love of ease.  He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace.
  • It will cost a man the favour of the world.  He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn.

    When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:20-21,24, NIV)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)

Why  is “counting the cost” of such great importance to man’s soul

  • There are Christians who are not “rooted and ground” in their faith.  It remains shallow, based on superficial experience, emotions, sentiment, or a vague desire to do like others around them.  There is no solid work of grace in their hearts.  This is the opposite of what Paul prays for:

I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (Ephesians 3:16–18, NIV)

Myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervour, as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. And so, when enemies, privations, hunger, and thirst began to try them, they murmured against Moses and God, and would fain have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had “not counted the cost,” and so lost everything, and died in their sins.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matthew 13:20–21, NIV)

  • Revival meetings (when it is Biblically unsound)
    • Some people who came to Christ during rival meetings base their Christian live (only) on an extravagant and disproportionate magnifying three things:  instantaneous conversion, the invitation of unconverted sinners to come to Christ, and the possession of inward joy and peace as a test of conversion.
    • The duty of coming to Christ at once, “just as we are,” should be pressed on all hearers. It is the very corner-stone of Gospel preaching. But surely men ought to be told to repent as well as to believe. They should be told why they are to come to Christ, and what they are to come for, and whence their need arises.
    • The nearness of peace and comfort in Christ should be proclaimed to men. But surely they should be taught that the possession of strong inward joys and high frames of mind is not essential to justification, and that there may be true faith and true peace without such very triumphant feelings. Joy alone is no certain evidence of grace.
    • Not all true converts are converted instantaneously, like Saul and the Philippian jailor.
    • Sinners are not sufficiently instructed about the holiness of God’s law, the depth of their sinfulness, and the real guilt of sin. To be incessantly telling a sinner to “come to Christ” is of little use, unless you tell him why he needs to come, and show him fully his sins.
    • Faith is not properly explained. In some cases people are taught that mere feeling is faith. In others they are taught that if they believe that Christ died for sinners they have faith! At this rate the very devils are believers!
    • The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. To insist on all believers at once “rejoicing,” as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some will believe who cannot at once rejoice.
    • Last, but not least, the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, and the absolute necessity of preventing grace, are far too much overlooked. Many talk as if conversions could be manufactured at man’s pleasure.
    • Many humble -minded Christians are totally discouraged and daunted. They fancy they have no grace because they cannot reach up to the high frames and feelings which are pressed on their attention
  • Revival meetings (meeting the test of the Scriptures):
    • Let “all the counsel of God be taught” in Scriptural proportion; and let not two or three precious doctrines of the Gospel be allowed to overshadow all other truths.
    • Let repentance be taught fully as well as faith, and not thrust completely into the background. Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul always taught both.
    • Let the variety of the Holy Spirit’s works be honestly stated and admitted; and while instantaneous conversion is pressed on men, let it not be taught as a necessity.
    • Let those who profess to have found immediate sensible peace be plainly warned to try themselves well, and to remember that feeling is not faith. Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31, NIV)
    • Let the great duty of “counting the cost” be constantly urged on all who are disposed to make a religious profession, and let them be honestly and fairly told that there is warfare as well as peace, a cross as well as a crown, in Christ’s service.
  • Conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit.
  • Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill.

 Counting the cost rightly

  • Compare the profit and the loss.  You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul.

Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save itWhat good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:34-36, NIV)

  • Compare the praise and the blame.  Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)

  • Compare the friends and the enemies.  On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favour and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4–5, NIV)

  •  Compare the life that now is and the life to come.  The  present time is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest for ever.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NIV)

Compare the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service.  The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal, and unsatisfying. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting, and substantial. It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that does not fade away.

the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. (Job 20:5, NIV)

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4–5, NIV)

  • Compare the trouble that true Christianity entails, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave.  A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.

 … remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luke 16:25, NIV)

  • Compare the number of those who turn from sin and the world and serve Christ, and the number of those who forsake Christ and return to the world.
    • Noah, by faith, counted the cost and held the world’s opinion very cheap
    • Moses, by faith,  counted the cost and forsook the pleasures of the Pharaoh’s palace
    • Paul, by faith, brought upon himself the hatred of men in exchange of following Jesus Christ
  • The same faith must be our helper when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian.
  • We need to keep in mind:
    • does our faith cost us anything at present?  If it costs us nothing,  it will not support is in the day of affliction, nor cheer us in the hour of death
    • what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross, and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption.
    • persevere and press on; the presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below.


Growth

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)

There is such a thing as growth in grace

What is not meant by “growth”
  • A Christian can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes.
  • The justification of a believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest.
  • Our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase, or diminution.
What is meant by “growth”
  • An increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart.
  • His sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked.
  • He experiences more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.
  • This is what is stated in the Bible:
…you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:10, NIV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (1 Peter 2:2, NIV)

  • The graces which the Christian received when he was justified in Christ are the same in principle, but they have grown and bear fruit

True grace is progressive, of a spreading, growing nature. It is with grace as it is with light: first, there is the day-break; then it shines brighter to the full noon-day. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth, (Isaiah 61:3; Hosea 14:5.) A good Christian is not like Hezekiah’s sun that went backwards, nor Joshua’s sun that stood still, but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.– Thomas Watson, Minister of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, 1660. (Body of Divinity.)

  • Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity
  • Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our faith
  • Growth is one secret of usefulness to others. Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.
  • Growth in grace pleases God

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)

  • Growth in grace is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which believers are accountable.

Christian, as ever you would stir up others to exalt the God of grace, look to the exercise and improvement of your own graces. When poor servants live in a family, and see the faith, and love, and wisdom, and patience, and humility of a master, shining like the stars in heaven, it draws forth their hearts to bless the Lord that ever they came into such a family. – When men’s graces shine as Moses’ face did, when their life, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, is a very heaven, sparkling with virtues as so many bright stars, how much others are stirred up to glorify God, and cry, ‘These are Christians indeed! these are an honour to their God, a crown to their Christ, and a credit to their Gospel! Oh, if they were all such, we would be Christians too!” – T. Brooks, 1661. (Unsearchable Riches.)

There are marks by which growth in grace may be known

  • Increased humility.  The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfection, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections.  The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn, he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his light, the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart.
  • Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ.  Growing in grace makes the Christian  sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power – His heart and His intentions – His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd, and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner.
  • Increased holiness of life and conversation.  The Christian is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13, NIV)

  • Increased spirituality of taste and mind.  The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as down right sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.
  • Increase of charity (love towards others).  His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathising, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate.
  • Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year.  One of the surest marks of spiritual decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

The means that must be used by those who desire to grow in grace

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

  • Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault.
  • The use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him:  private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination.  Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
  • The use of public means of grace:  regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  It is a sign of bad health when a person loses enjoyment for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace.
  • Watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life.  When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the bad result is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches.  We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all.
  • Caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form.  Disease is infectious, but health is not.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

  • Regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus.  It is possible to have “union” with Christ, and yet to have little if any “communion” with Him.  The names and offices of Christ, as laid down in Scripture, appear to me to show unmistakably that this “communion” between the saint and his Saviour is not a mere fancy, but a real true thing. Between the “Bridegroom” and his bride – between the “Head” and His members – between the “Physician” and His patients – between the “Advocate” and His clients – between the “Shepherd” and His sheep – between the “Master” and His scholars – there is evidently implied a habit of familiar intercourse, of daily application for things needed, of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds.

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)

Application 

  • Do you know anything whets0ever about growth in grace?  Awake before it be too late; awake, and arise from the dead, and live to God.
  • Have you made little or no progress since you were first converted?  Does it seem that you have “become complacent?”  (Zephaniah 1:12.) Are you going on from year to year content with old grace, old experience, old knowledge, old faith, old measure of attainment, old religious expressions, old set phrases?  You are living far below your privileges and responsibilities?  Resolve this very day that you will find out the reason of your standstill condition. Probe with a faithful and firm hand every corner of your soul.
  • You might be really growing in grace, but no even know it.  We can never have too much humility, too much faith in Christ, too much holiness, too much spirituality of mind, too much charity, too much zeal in doing good to others. Then let us be continually forgetting the things behind, and reaching forth unto the things before. The best of Christians in these matters is infinitely below the perfect pattern of his Lord. Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming “too good.”  At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last.  Let us not be surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this world.  Sickness, and losses, and crosses, and anxieties, and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful, and spiritual-minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine, and the refiner’s furnace to the gold.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)



Assurance

I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NIV)

We see the Apostle Paul looking three ways – downward, backward, forward.

  • Downward to the grave:
    • I am like an animal brought to the place of sacrifice, and bound with cords to the very horns of the altar. The drink-offering, which generally accompanies the oblation, is already being poured out. The last ceremonies have been gone through. Every preparation has been made. It only remains to receive the death-blow, and then all is over.
    • The time of my departure is at hand – I am like a ship about to unmoor and put to sea. All on board is ready. I only wait to have the moorings cast off that fasten me to the shore, and I shall then set sail, and begin my voyage.He stands upon the brink, and says “I see it all, and am not afraid.”
  • Backward:
    • I have fought a good fight.” – There he speaks as a soldier. I have fought that good fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from which so many shrink and draw back.
    • I have finished my course.” – There he speaks as one who has run for a prize. I have not turned aside because of difficulties, nor been discouraged by the length of the way. I am at last in sight of the goal.
    • I have kept the faith.” – There he speaks as a steward. I have held fast that glorious Gospel which was committed to my trust. I have not mingled it with man’s traditions, nor spoiled its simplicity by adding my own inventions, nor allowed others to adulterate it without withstanding them to the face.
    • “As a soldier, a runner, a steward, he seems to say, “I am not ashamed.
  • Forward:
    • Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing
    • He speaks without hesitation
    • His crown is a sure thing
    • He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. (Hebrews 6:11, NIV)

An assured hope is a true and Scriptural thing

  • It is a positive gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.
  • The Church of Rome (wrongly) denounces assurance in the most unmeasured terms.
  • There are also some true believers who (wrongly) reject assurance, or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on presumption.

True assurance is built upon a Scripture basis: presumption hath no Scripture to show for its warrant; it is like a will without seal and witnesses, which is null and void in law. Presumption wants both the witness of the Word and the seal of the Spirit. Assurance always keeps the heart in a lowly posture; but presumption is bred of pride. Feathers fly up, but gold descends; he who hath this golden assurance, his heart descends in humility.” – (Watson’s Body of Divinity, 1650)

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; (Job 19:25–26, NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17, NIV)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14, NIV)

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)

To be assured of our salvation is no arrogant stoutness; it is our faith. It is no pride; it is devotion. It is no presumption; it is God’s promise.” (Augustine)

  • It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally – to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly – to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.
  • A Christian believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and takes Him at his Word.  Assurance after all is no more than a full-grown faith.

If the ground of our assurance rested in and on ourselves, it might justly be called presumption; but the Lord and the power of His might being grounded thereof, they either know not what is the might of His power, or else too lightly esteem it, who account assured confidence thereon presumption.” – Gouge’s Whole Armour of God.

Never did a believer in Jesus Christ die or drown in his voyage to heaven. They will all be found safe and sound with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them. (John vi. 39.) Not a bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of battle. They are all more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” (Romans 8:37. 37.) – Robert Traill.

A believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved

  • To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance.
  • A man must feel his sins and lost estate – must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation – must rest his hope on Him, and on Him alone.

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11, NIV)

  • It seems a Christian may be troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many an inward question, and many an anxiety – many a struggle, and many a misgiving – clouds and darkness – storm and tempest to the very end. He reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely realising his own safety, till he opens his eyes in glory.
  • Faith is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.  Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink: “Lord save, me!” (Matthew 14:30.) Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the Council in after times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:11)
  • Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24.) Assurance is the confident challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemns?”                                                                                                                       (Romans 8:33-34.)
  • He that has faith does well. They are safe. They are washed. They are justified. They are beyond the power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of Christ’s hand. But he that has assurance does far better – sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more.

All saints shall enjoy heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy heaven while they are here on earth” (Joseph Caryl, 1653)

Why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired

  • Assurance is to be desired because of the present comfort and peace it affords.
    • Assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage.
    • Assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a fixedness of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.
    •  General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to live upon while the sun shines and the body is strong; but when we come to die, we shall want to be able to say, “I know” and “I feel” The river of death is a cold stream, and we have to cross it alone. No earthly friend can help us. The last enemy, the king of terrors, is a strong foe. When our souls are departing, there is no cordial like the strong wine of assurance.

It was a saying of Bishop Latimer to Ridley, ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks than I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all trouble: no affliction daunts me. But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit that I could run into a very mouse-hole.’” (Quoted by Christopher Love, 1653)

  • Assurance tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
    • None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven, and trust not in their own works, but in the finished work of Christ.
    • He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work, and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing.

Assurance would make us active and lively in God’s service: it would excite prayer, quicken obedience. Faith would make us walk, but assurance would make us run – we should think we could never do enough for God. Assurance would be as wings to the bird, as weights to the clock, to set all the wheels of obedience a-running.” – Thomas Watson.



Moses: an example  

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:23–26, NIV)

What Moses gave up and refused 

Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul

He refused rank and greatness

If he had been content with the position in which he found himself at the Egyptian court, he might easily have been among the first (if not the very first) in all the land of Egypt. To be somebody, to be looked up to, to raise themselves in the scale of society, to get a handle to their names – these are the very things for which many sacrifice time, and thought, and health, and life itself. But Moses would not have them as a gift. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!

He refused pleasure

Egypt was a land of artists, a residence of learned men, a resort of everyone who had skill, or science of any description.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NIV)

Pleasure is the shadow which all alike are hunting – high and low, rich and poor, old and young, one with another – each, perhaps, pretending to despise his neighbour for seeking it – each in his own way seeking it for himself – each secretly wondering that he does not find it – each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found. This was the cup that Moses had before his lips.

He refused riches

To possess money seems to hide defects – to cover over faults – to clothe a man with virtues. People can get over much, if you are rich! But here is a man who might have been rich, and would not. He would not have Egyptian treasures. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!

Moses did these things 

  • deliberately – He was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22).  He knew what he was refusing
  • because he was obliged; his decision was not based in any dire earthly necessity which cause him to disregard the things of this world

What Moses chose

He chose three things for the sake of his soul

  • He chose suffering and affliction:  He openly took part with the children of Israel. They were an enslaved and persecuted people – an object of distrust, suspicion, and hatred; and anyone who befriended them was sure to taste something of the bitter cup they were daily drinking. If ever man seemed to be choosing pain, trials, poverty, want, distress, anxiety, perhaps even death, with his eyes open, Moses was that man. Moses saw the cup of suffering that was before him if he left Pharaoh’s court, and he chose it, preferred it, and took it up.
  • Moses chose the company of a despised people:  He left the society of the great and wise, among whom he had been brought up, and joined himself to the Children of Israel. He who had lived from infancy in the midst of rank, and riches, and luxury, came down from his high estate, and cast in his lot with poor men – slaves, serfs, helots, pariahs, bondservants, oppressed, destitute, afflicted, tormented – labourers in the brick-kiln. Here is a man who does far more. He not merely feels for despised Israel, but actually goes down to them, adds himself to their society, and lives with them altogether. He became one with them – their fellow, their companion in tribulation, their ally, their associate, and their friend.
  • Moses chose reproach and scorn:  There are few things more powerful than ridicule and scorn. It can do far more than open enmity and persecution. Many a man who would march up to a cannon’s mouth, or lead a forlorn hope, or storm a breach, has found it impossible to face the mockery of a few companions, and has flinched from the path of duty to avoid it. To be laughed at! To be made a joke of! To be jested and sneered at! To be reckoned weak and silly! To be thought a fool! – There is nothing grand in all this, and many, alas, cannot make up their minds to undergo it!

Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:22, NIV)

He chose to go after these things, they did not come upon him unawares

Moses was moved by  a principle:  he was faith-driven  

He did so because he believed. God set before the eyes of his mind His own will and purpose. God revealed to him that a Saviour was to be born of the stock of Israel, that mighty promises were bound up in these children of Abraham, and yet to be fulfilled, that the time for fulfilling a portion of these promises was at hand; and Moses put credit in this, and believed. God had spoken to him, and he had faith in God’s word.

  • He believed God’s promises
  • He believed that with God nothing was impossible
  • He believed God was all-wise
  • He believed God was merciful.  Faith told Moses that God was love, and would not give His people one drop of bitterness beyond what was absolutely needed.
  • Faith was like a telescope to Moses
  • Faith was an interpreter to Moses.  It made him pick out a comfortable meaning in the dark commands of God’s handwriting, while ignorant sense could see nothing in it but mystery and foolishness.
  • Faith made Moses look forward to heaven
  • Faith made him understand the consequences of sin and it pleasures
  • Faith made him understand the rewards for obedience to God
  • Faith made Moses understand that affliction and suffering were not evils, but the school of God for training in godliness
  • Faith connected him with the people of God
  • Faith made Moses look forward to Christ who would be greater than him
  • Faith made him understand that all the kings and kingdoms of this world will fall, but the kingdom of God will remain forever

The name of Pharaoh’s daughter has perished, or at any rate is extremely doubtful; the city where Pharaoh reigned is not known; the treasures in Egypt are gone. But the name of Moses is known wherever the Bible is read, and is still a standing witness:

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. (Proverbs 16:20, NIV)

Application

You must choose God before the world 
  • There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing. You cannot be a friend of Christ and a friend of the world at the same time. You must come out from the children of this world, and be separate; you must put up with much ridicule, trouble, and opposition, or you will be lost for ever. There can be no saving faith without sacrifices and self-denial.
  • Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? or is all smooth and rounded-off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion?

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25–27, NIV)

Nothing will ever enable you to choose God before the world, except faith.
  • There must be a real heartfelt belief that God’s promises are sure and to be depended on; a real belief that what God says in the Bible is all true, and that every doctrine contrary to this is false, whatever anyone may say.
  • You must learn to believe promises better than possessions; things unseen better than things seen; things in heaven out of sight better than things on earth before your eyes; the praise of the invisible God better than the praise of visible man.
  • There must be a real abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The life that you live in the flesh you must live by faith of the Son of God. There must be a settled habit of continually leaning on Jesus, looking unto Jesus, drawing out of Jesus, and using Him as the manna of your soul. You must strive to be able to say:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21, NIV)

The true reason why so many are worldly and ungodly is because they have no faith.
  • They do not put implicit confidence in the words that God has written and spoken, and so do not act upon them. They do not thoroughly believe hell,and so do not flee from it -nor heaven,and so do not seek it-nor the guilt of sin,and so do not turn from it – nor the holiness of God, and so do not fear Him – nor their need of Christ, and so do not trust in Him, nor love Him.
  • There are many who Sunday after Sunday repeat the Creed, and yet will live all the week as if Christ had never died, and as if there were no judgment, and no resurrection of the dead, and no life everlasting at all; their lives show plainly they know not anything as they ought to know; and the saddest part of their state is that they think they do!
  • A faith that does not influence a man’s practice is not worthy of the name. There are only two classes in the Church of Christ – those who believe and those who do not. The true Christian believes, and therefore lives as he does..
The true secret of doing great things for God is to have great faith. 
  • In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportioned to his faith. His peace, his patience, his courage, his seal, his works – all will be according to his faith.
    • What is prayer, but faith speaking to God?
    • What is Christian diligence, but faith at work?
    • What is Christian boldness, but faith honestly doing its duty?
    • What is holiness, but faith visible and faith incarnate?
  • Faith is the root of a real Christian’s character. Let your root be right, and your fruit will soon abound. Your spiritual prosperity will always be according to your faith. He that believes shall not only be saved, but shall never thirst – shall overcome – shall be established – shall walk firmly on the waters of this world – and shall do great works.


Lot: A Beacon – He lingered

And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16, NKJV)

What Lot was himself

Lot was a true believer – a converted person – a real child of God – a justified soul – a righteous man

… He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)… (2 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)

  • He was wounded, grieved, pained, and hurt at the sight of sin.
  • He did not at length become cool and lukewarm about sin, as many do. Many a man is shocked and startled at the first sight of wickedness, and yet becomes at last so accustomed to see it, that he views it with comparative unconcern.
  • Was Lot perfect?  No!  Was he saved? Yes!  We do not despise gold because it is mixed with much dross. We must not undervalue grace because it is accompanied by much corruption.

What do we learn from Lot’s behaviour?

  • Lot lingered.
  • Lot knew the fearful judgment coming down on all within its walls. The angels had said plainly, “The Lord has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19:13.) And yet he lingered.
  • Lot believed there was danger – for he went to his sons-in-law, and warned them to flee. (Genesis 19:14) And yet, he lingered.
  • Lot saw the angels of God standing by, waiting for him and his family to flee Sodom (Genesis 19:15).  Yet, he lingered.
  • There are many real children of God who appear to know far more than they live up to, and see far more than they practise, and yet continue in this state for many years. Wonderful that they go as far as they do, and yet go no further! They acknowledge the Head, even Christ, and love the truth. They like sound preaching, and assent to every article of Gospel doctrine, when they hear it. But still there is an indescribable something which is not satisfactory about them. They are constantly doing things which disappoint the expectations of their ministers, and of more advanced Christian friends. Marvellous that they should think as they do, and yet stand still!
  • They hate the devil; but they often appear to tempt him to come to them. They know the time is short; but they live as if it were long. They know they have a battle to fight; yet a man might think they were at peace. They know they have a race to run; yet they often look like people sitting still. They know the Judge is at the door, and there is wrath to come; and yet they appear half asleep. They linger! 
  • These are they who get the notion into their minds that it is impossible for all believers to be so very holy and very spiritual! They allow that eminent holiness is a beautiful thing. They like to read about it in books, and even to see it occasionally in others. But they do not think that all are meant to aim at so high a standard.
  • They would fain please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God.
  • These are they who dread sacrifices, and shrink from self-denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command, to “take up the cross,” and “cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
  • They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide, and the cross more light. But they never succeed.
  • These are they who are always trying to keep in with the world. They are ingenious in discovering reasons for not separating decidedly, and in framing plausible excuses for attending questionable amusements, and keeping up questionable friendships. These are they who cannot find it in their hearts to quarrel with their besetting sin, whether it be sloth, indolence, ill-temper, pride, selfishness, impatience, or what it may. They allow it to remain a tolerably quiet and undisturbed tenant of their hearts. All is summed up in these words:  “They lingered!

The reasons that may account for Lot’s lingering

  • He made a wrong choice in early life:  He chose by sight, and not by faith. He asked no counsel of God, to preserve him from mistakes. He looked to the things of time, and not of eternity.
  • Lot mixed with sinners when there was no occasion for his doing so:  Make a wrong choice in life – an unscriptural choice – and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the midst of worldly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns.
  • Beware of Lot’s choice! If you would not settle down into a dry, dull, sleepy, lazy, barren, heavy, carnal, stupid, torpid state of soul, beware of Lot’s choice!
  • Remember this in choosing a calling, a place, or profession in life. It is not enough that the salary is high – the wages good – the work light – the advantages numerous – the prospects of getting on most favourable. It will profit you nothing to fill your purse, if you bring leanness and poverty on your soul. Think of your soul!
  • Remember this in choosing a husband or wife, if you are unmarried.
  • Grace is a tender plant. Unless you cherish it and nurse it well, it will soon become sickly in this evil world. It may droop, though it cannot die. The brightest gold will soon become dim when exposed to a damp atmosphere. The hottest iron will soon become cold. It requires pains and toil to bring it to a red heat: it requires nothing but letting alone, or a little cold water to become black and hard.
  • Lingering:
    • there will come a cancer on your spiritual life, and eat out its vitality without your knowing it
    • there will come a slow consumption on your spiritual strength, and waste it away insensibly
    • at length you will wake up to find your hands hardly able to do the Lord’s work, and your feet hardly able to carry you along the Lord’s way, and your faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed;
    • and this, perhaps, at some turning point in your life, at a time when the enemy is coming in like a flood, and your need is the sorest.

What kind of fruit Lot’s lingering spirit bore at last

  • Keep in mind:  eminent holiness and eminent usefulness are most closely connected
    • Lot did no good among the inhabitants of Sodom:  He appears to have had no weight or influence with the people who lived around him. He possessed none of that respect and reverence which even the men of the world will frequently concede to a bright servant of God.  His life carried no weight; his words were not listened to; his religion drew none to follow him.
    • Lot helped none of his family, relatives or connections towards heaven:  there was not one among them all that feared God.   Lingering parents seldom have godly children. The eye of the child drinks in far more than the ear. A child will always observe what you do much more than what you say.

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. (Genesis 19:14, ESV)

Lot left no evidences behind him when he died:  The Scripture appears to draw a veil around him on purpose. There is a painful silence about his latter end. He seems to go out like an expiring lamp, and to leave an ill-savour behind him.  Lingering Christians have little peace, and reach heaven, to be sure; but they reach it in poor plight, weary and footsore, in weakness and tears, in darkness and storm. They are saved, but “saved so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15.)

Application

To walk closely with God –

  • to be really spiritually-minded
  • to behave like strangers and pilgrims
  • to be distinct from the world in employment of time, in conversation, in amusements, in dress
  • to bear a faithful witness for Christ in all places
  • to leave a savour of our Master in every society
  • to be prayerful, humble, unselfish, good-tempered, quiet, easily pleased, charitable, patient, meek
  • to be jealously afraid of all manner of sin, and tremblingly alive to our danger from the world

these are still rare things! They are not common among those who are called true Christians, and, worst of all, the absence of them is not felt and bewailed as it should be.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10, ESV)

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NIV)

  • Would you be found ready for Christ at His second appearing – your loins girded – your lamp burning – yourself bold, and prepared to meet Him? Then do not linger!
  • Would you be useful to the world in your day and generation? – Would you draw men from sin to Christ, adorn your doctrine, and make your Master’s cause beautiful and attractive in their eyes? Then do not linger!
  • Would you help your children and relatives towards heaven, and make them say, “We will go with you”? – and not make them infidels and despisers of all religion? Then do not linger! 
  • If you are a lingerer, you must go to Christ at once and be cured. You must turn again to Christ and be healed. The way to do a thing is to do it. Do this at once!

Earnestly believe that He will yet revive His work within you! Only return from lingering, and confess your folly, and come – come at once to Christ.

Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ ” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:13, NIV)

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22, NIV)