"Compare sin with hell, and you shall see that sin is worse. Torment has its emphasis in hell, yet nothing there is as bad as sin. Hell is of God's making, but sin is none of His making. Sin is the devil's creature. The torments of hell are a burden only to the sinner, but sin is a burden to God: 'I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves,' (Amos. 2:13). In the torments of hell there is something that is good, namely, the execution of divine justice. There is justice to be found in hell, but sin is a piece of the highest injustice. It would rob God of His glory, Christ of His purchase, the soul of its happiness. Judge then if sin be not a most hateful thing, which is worse than affliction or hell."
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Today's encouragement comes from Luke 11:37, fittingly, on this day. There, we read these words:
"And as [Jesus] spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat."
Our Lord Jesus had some pretty sumptuous meals during His bodily ministry on earth. The pharisees--though short on humility--were typically long on show (and abundance). What do we learn from Christ's willingness to eat, even with a pharisee? That the gospel is to go to *all* sorts of people--particularly those in the very *worst* spiritual conditions (as was the case with the pharisees).
The dinner conversation turned a bit gnarly, as we see in vv. 39 ff., but even there our Redeemer was doing his guest a favor, by exposing his sin, and directing him to Himself.
[Puritan quote of the day: "So let us seriously and fruitfully consider what excellent times the Lord has set us in, and respond thankfully and obediently." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Churchmen are to rejoice (always), but we need to be a bit careful concerning those things about which we delight. The disciples (above) were thrilled that the devil cowered before them. Christ, on the other hand, would have them direct their excitement to the fact that they were sealed in heaven, by the blood of the Lamb.
The church's conquest of sin, sinners, Satan, and his demons is all a good thing. But we must always keep in mind the fact that God takes pleasure in positive salvation much more than He does the destruction of the wicked--and so should we.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Do you wonder why the grace of God has found such enemies as it always has, especially in religions in which works are mingled with grace?" --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."
I was impressed, in reading Luke, ch. 9 today, at how Jesus would have His gospel preached, and His kingdom (church) established no matter how much opposition and rejection there might be to this happening. But the answer to resistance is not to call upon God's harsh judgment on sinners (as James and John had sought to do, in v. 54). Instead, it is simply to go to the next person, and/or town, and bring the message to others.
This is highly-helpful for us, since we tend to get discouraged by the general state of things today. Instead of getting down, let us get excited about telling people of the One who came, not to destroy them, but to save them.
[Puritan quote of the day: "As the sun rises by degrees till it comes to shine in glory, so it was with the Sun of Righteousness [Christ]. He revealed Himself in the church little by little." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, November 24, 2008
"Now it came to pass, afterward, that [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. . . . And [the formerly demon-possessed man] went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him."
Here is a great pattern of how true Christianity works. Jesus' gospel is proclaimed from the church's pulpits, the cities of the world are filled with Christ's doctrine (cf. Acts 5:28b), and the individually-redeemed saints bring this good news to everyone they can.
Today, just like then, what Christ preaches through His clergy, the parishioners proclaim in their worlds and spheres of influence. In this way "every city" and "whole cit[ies]" are reached with the gospel of grace.
[Puritan quote of the day: "What would become of us if there were not grace above sin, and mercy above misery, and power in Christ Jesus above all the power in Satan and death?" --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Friday, November 21, 2008
"Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in magnanimity and heroicalness [as heroes]. The saints are high-born. They are of the true bloodroyal, born of God. They must do nothing sneakingly or sordidly. They must not fear the faces of men. As said that brave-spirited Nehemiah, 'Shall such a man as I flee?' (Neh. 6:11). So, should a child of God say, 'Shall I be afraid to do my duty? Shall I unworthily comply and prostitute myself to the lusts and humours of men?'? The children of the Most High should do nothing to stain or dishonour their noble birth. A king's son scorns to do anything that is below him."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
"Then He [Jesus] closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him."
In this world, the only time the people of God can collectively gaze upon Jesus intently is in church on Sunday. In today's text (above), the Lord Christ is keeping the old Sabbath. The citizens of Nazareth are, too. They have heard the Word of God read (by Christ), and now the Messiah is about to expound on it. As He does so, the congregants are locked-in on the Redeemer.
This is a good pattern for all who would be Christ's followers today. Let *us* "fix our eyes on Jesus," (as per Heb. 12:2a). Then, upon leaving church, let us love and follow the Savior, (rather than seek to throw Him off the cliff, as the Nazarenes had hoped to do).
[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ is called grace. He is the grace of God clothed with man's nature." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by [John the Baptist] con-
cerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison."
This is a fascinating passage of Scripture. Herod was basically a typical bad guy. He was ruthless, cruel, immoral, vicious, and violent. And yet the very *worst* thing he ever did, according to the Bible itself, was to lock John the Baptist up in prison. Why was this more nefarious than Herod's public incest, for instance? Because by silencing John he was hindering the gospel proclamation of the church.
Keep that in mind as you evaluate various individuals, be they public officials, or people in the neighborhood. Someone may go to a deeper hell over unrepented-of disdain for the clergy's ministry, than they would over gross and brazen adultery.
[Puritan quote of the day: "For if it were not the Spirit that persuaded the soul when the minister speaks, alas! all ministerial persuasions are to no purpose." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.' "
These familiar Advent season words are applicable to the church, and to the world all the time. When we are given to fear, let us remem-
ber that overwhelming joy has been given to us--and not only to us, but to "All people." But this heavenly comfort and consolation has a Name, Christ, who is "born to [us]" in time and space.
Therefore, it matters not so much what we face today, as much as it does the One we direct our faces to (in faith). If we would but look to Jesus today, and simply ask for His help--surely we will share in the joy of His incarnation and atonement (of sinners).
[Puritan quote of the day: "And by the Spirit we have the beginnings of these [liberties] in this world, too. For, what is peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost? Is it not the beginnings of heaven . . . ?"
--Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, November 17, 2008
"Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people . . . "
God does not relate to us, His church, from afar. Instead, He con-
descends to us, perfectly, in the incarnation of His Son Jesus. Then, having visited us, the Redeemer does the unthinkable, and dies for us. But that in itself would not be enough, if He did not also rise again from the dead (for us).
For all of these reasons, we, like Zacharias, whose words are found above, ought to "Bless the Lord God of Israel." There is every cause to do so, and no reason to fail to do so. No matter how dark your day may appear, nor how heavy your burden may seem--the Light is shining about you (in the Lord Jesus Christ); and His burden is light.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Now when the Spirit of God sets the will at liberty, a man does what he does being fully advised by reason."
--Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Friday, November 14, 2008
"See in this, as in a transparent glass, the love of Christ to the elect. He came to redeem them; and died intentionally for them. Were it not great love for a king's son to pay a great sum of money to redeem a captive? But that he should be content to be a prisoner in his stead, and die for his ransom; this were matter of wonder. Jesus Christ has done all this, He has written His love in characters of blood. It had been much for Christ to speak a good word to His Father for us, but He knew that was not enough to redeem us. Though a word speaking made a world, yet it would not redeem a sinner. 'Without shedding of blood there is no remission,' (Heb 9:22)."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
" ' . . . For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' "
Here, the writer of the book of Hebrews is quoting from the great New Covenant passage, from Jer., ch. 31. And what a citation! In Christ, God will "be merciful to [our] unrighteousness," and our "sins and lawless deeds [He] will remember no more." These are amazing and wonderful promises, but they only apply to those who trust in Jesus alone for their salvation.
Let all faithful churchmen marvel at the fact that God has forgiven the sins of His people. And let this liberty of heart, spirit, and conscience propel us into active lives of love for such a wonderful God.
[Puritan quote of the day: "This is the greatest slavery in the world, for a man to have no acquaintance with that which is contrary to his corrupt disposition." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
"Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle--my lovingkindness and my fortress . . . "
Life as a faithful churchman is a spiritually military existence. Christians are soldiers; and the church is an army. Our weapons are spiritual, and so, for the most part, are our enemies. Jesus, our Great Captain, has already won the war for us. Our mission is a "mopping-up" operation, designed to make us more like Christ (through the struggles of sanctification).
Note (above) that God Himself "trains" us, as to how to be good and effective warriors. And notice (as well) that warfare and love are not contraries (in this world full of the admixture of the fall of Adam and the redemption of Christ).
[Puritan quote of the day: "The greatest men in the world are holy men. They are above all others, and without usurpation they pass censure on the state of other men, even the greatest of them."
--Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning . . . Cause me to know the way in which I should walk . . . "
We need to "hear" from God every morning, so that we know how to live (throughout the rest of the day). How do we "hear" from God? We wake up, and greet Him in prayer. The Lord then, through His Spirit, communicates with our spirits. How? In several ways: among them, He may bring to our remembrance what we heard from the pulpit the previous Lord's Day, and/or He may communicate to us through His scripture (which we should try to read everyday).
And notice: we need to hear God's "lovingkindness" in the AM. Why? Because we desperately need His encouragement (especially at that critical time).
[Puritan quote of the day: "The Spirit of God is a victorious Spirit, freeing the soul from base fears of any creature." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, November 10, 2008
"Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him."
Josiah was outstanding, because of his comprehensive zeal for the Lord and His word. Virtually everything Josiah could conceive of doing, in order to be in accordance with the law of God, which had been recently-found in his day, he did. The earlier verses of this chapter detail all the wonderful reforms Josiah effected, in Judah and Jerusalem.
Was Josiah perfect? No. But his heart was whole, toward God. The Lord accepts desire for deed, for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let us take comfort from this truth; and may we seek everyday, by grace, to be more and more faithful to our Redeemer.
[Puritan quote of the day: "A good and clear conscience keeps holiday every day of his life, though he has hardly anything else to feed upon." --Christopher Love, in "The Dejected Soul's Cure"]
Friday, November 7, 2008
"At one time a Christian is like David, when he danced before the ark with all his might, (2 Sam. 6:14); at another time he is like Samson when his hair was shaved and his strength left him, (Judg. 16:19). When the gold has been made pure in the fire, it remains pure; but it is not so with the heart. When the heart has been purified in an ordinance, it does not remain pure, but gathers new soil and dross. The heart is humble one day and proud the next; it is meek one day and passionate the next; it is quick in its motions towards heaven one day and the next the clock is set back. It is with the heart as with a sick man's pulse, which alters almost every quarter of an hour. Since the heart is so full of variation and inconstancy, it is needful to keep the heart with all keeping. Like a violin, the heart will soon be out of order; therefore we must often screw up the strings and keep the instrument in tune so that we may make melody in our heart to the Lord, (Eph. 5:19)."
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places."
The truth of this verse (above) cuts both ways, from our experiential point of view. At once, we are glad that our God is strong, and that He is sovereign. But, on the other hand, some of the things He allows to happen do not always please us, (and they even go counter to our explicit and fervent prayers).
But, in the end, we realize that we are better off trusting the Lord in all situations; and that leaving the governance of the church and the world in *His* holy hands is the only way to go. God knows all things--and that, with perfection. He knows what will most benefit Christ's church. Let us love and praise our King, the One who does *all* things well.
[Puritan quote of the day: "There are two sorts of wicked persons in the world: one sort count it their heaven and happiness to domineer over others. . . . The other sort will sell their liberty, their reason, and everything for even a poor thing, so they may get anything that they value in the world." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
" . . . That the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."
Notice (from above) that the faithful churchman's effective evangelism is largely the result of simply recognizing that God has instilled in us a lot of wonderful and blessed graces. In other words, evangelism is more about *who* we are, than it is about *what* we do (or even what we say). Of course, our nature dictates our actions.
But Paul's corrective here is important. Too often, Christians have tried to succeed by policy or program; when God would have us do well naturally, by character and grace. Do not be discouraged today, if you belong to Christ--instead, hold your head up, and recognize that the Lord has invested many marvelous blessings in you.
[Puritan quote of the day: "The liberty of the church, of the Word and sacraments, along with order in the church, brings in spiritual liberty and preserves it." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
"Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men."
Now everybody take a deep breath. On this election day (in the USA), many of God's people have undoubtedly experienced some sleeplessness (last night). Look at this verse (above), which was providentially the first words I read today. Don't these verses give the church some perspective, even in the darkest (political) hours?
Does this mean God would not have us condemn the positions of those who oppose the truth--as it is most manifest in the Christian religion? No; we must, and should do that. But, on the other hand, let us be the leaders in gentleness and respect. After all: Christ is on the throne; no mere man is. Go out and vote; and follow it up with abiding faith in Christ.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Men are brought into the church by the liberty of the gospel and preserved by government." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, November 3, 2008
"The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad."
If you are a regenerated churchman, then one thing is absolutely true of you: the Lord has done great things for you. To be given Jesus Christ, His righteousness, and His Spirit; to be placed into His church, and to be the recipient of His many tender mercies and gentle benevolences--is to be blessed, indeed.
Flowing from these (most important) spiritual blessings are numerous temporal benefits, as well: family, country, health, sustenance, material goods, and even recreational enjoyments. All God's people have much *more* to be thankful for than any of us could ever adequately enumerate. Let us recognize this--especially in our dark times--and give God proper gratitude.
[Puritan quote of the day: "A heartless, drooping, and discouraging life and walk is very unbecoming the gospel of Christ." --James Durham, in "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ"]