"We keep the Sabbath Day holy, by 'consecrating and dedicating' this day to the 'service of the high God.' It is good to rest on the Sabbath Day from the works of our calling; but if we rest from labour and do no more, the ox and the ass keep the Sabbath as well as we; for they rest from labour. We must dedicate the day to God; we must not only 'keep a Sabbath,' but 'sanctify' a Sabbath. Sabbath-sanctification consists in two things: (1) Solemn preparation for it. If a prince were to come to your house, what preparation would you make for his entertainment! You would sweep the house, wash the floor, adorn the room with the richest tapestry and hangings, that there might be something suitable to the state and dignity of so great a person. On the blessed Sabbath, God intends to have sweet communion with you; He seems to say to you, as Christ to Zacchaeus, 'Make haste and come down, for this day I must abide at your house,' (Luke 19:5). Now, what preparation should you make for entertaining this King of glory? When Saturday evening approaches, sound a retreat; call your minds off from the world and summon your thoughts together, to think of the great work of the approaching day. Purge out all unclean affections, which may indispose you for the work of the Sabbath. Evening preparation will be like the tuning of an instrument, it will fit the heart better for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath."
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"Then He [Jesus] said to His disciples, 'Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life . . . ' "
Here is a very big challenge for any of us: not to worry about our lives. I would say that this is pretty much impossible to do, aside from miraculous grace. We "worry about [our lives]" just about as naturally as we breathe air.
But it is highly-liberating to actually *trust* God, and *not* to worry about our lives. It can be done, but it requires real and applied faith. No churchman on earth will ever do this (failure to worry) perfectly; but it really honors God whenever we do it *sincerely*--even though we still have a long way to go.
[Puritan quote of the day: "The mercies of God have a melting in-
fluence upon the soul; they dissolve it in love to God. God's judgments make us fear Him, His mercies make us love Him." --Thomas Watson, in "All Things for Good"]
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
"How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?"
Bildad the Shuhite asked this question. It is a good query. The answer is, "No one can be righteous before God on one's own. What is necessary is an 'alien' righteousness." This "alien" righteousness is that of Christ, imputed to the sinful soul, by faith.
Faith follows regeneration. Regeneration is God's sovereign act of bringing to life a dead and rebellious soul. Faith is the gift of regeneration. By faith, we fetch to our hearts the Lord Jesus Christ, who then is our righteousness. Therefore, "Can a man be righteous before God?" Yes, but only as he is clothed in Christ's righteousness.
[Puritan quote of the day: "A godly man loves God and therefore delights to be in His presence; he loves God and therefore takes comfort in nothing without Him." --Thomas Watson, in "The Godly Man's Picture"]
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . . ' "
Things can get pretty rough down here. Isn't it great, to know that God your Heavenly Father is Lord of heaven "and *earth*"? Whatever difficulties you are experiencing--no matter how real and hard they are--they are nonetheless under the watchful providential sovereignty of your Heavenly Father.
Ours is not some "stale" deity. Instead, the Lord of heaven and earth loves you, His churchmen, more than you can imagine. He cares for you much more than you care for yourselves (or for your loved ones). Jesus "thanked" and praised His Father; let us do the same--even in difficult times.
[Puritan quote of the day: "The church is the fitting place for glory. We enter into heaven in the church here." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, February 23, 2009
"But He [Jesus] said to them [His disciples], 'You give them something to eat.' . . . "
The church is the only institution on earth that is in the position to "feed" people--especially with regard to those items of nourishment that are most important. This would include the gospel of God's free grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Sunday sermon, and the sacrament are the primary means of this "feeding."
Too often we look to the government, families, or individuals to "feed" us, when, in fact they cannot do that. Once churchmen *are* fed the nutrition of heaven, they are indeed in a position to benefit others. Let us be sure not to neglect the church's responsibility to feed the entire world.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Let us pray that God will preserve pure ordinances and powerful preaching among us. Idolatry came in at first by the want of good preaching." --Thomas Watson, in "The Ten Com-
Friday, February 20, 2009
"If God should save men without repentance, making no discrimin-
ation, then by this rule He must save all, not only men, but devils, as Origen once held; and so consequently the decrees of election and reprobation must fall to the ground. How diametrically opposed this is to sacred writ, let all judge.
"There are two sorts of persons who will find it harder to repent than others: (1) Those who have sat a great while under the ministry of God's ordinances but grow no better. The earth which drinks in the rain, yet 'bears thorns and briars, is nigh unto cursing,' (Heb. 6:8). There is little hope of the metal which has lain long in the fire but is not melted and refined. When God has sent His ministers one after another, exhorting and persuading men to leave their sins, but they settle upon the lees of formality and can sit and sleep under a sermon, it will be hard for these ever to be brought to repentance. They may fear lest Christ should say to them as once He said to the fig tree, 'May no fruit grow on you anymore,' (Matt. 21:19)."
Thursday, February 19, 2009
"So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob."
This is an amazing couplet: our groaning, and God's remembering. One of the big reasons the good and perfect God gives even His beloved churchmen troubles is so that they will call out (or groan) to Him. This causes the Lord to call to mind His eternal covenant.
The covenant of grace is fulfilled in Jesus Christ's body and blood--given for sinners, who are then brought into His family (church). It is our privilege to be in covenant with God, and to secure His aid at every turn. This covenant does not exempt us from problems--but it does provide us redemption (which is of ultimate value).
[Puritan quote of the day: "The work and business of ministers of the gospel is, as it were, that of servants: to wash and cleanse the souls of men; for this is done by the preaching of the Word, which is their main business." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "Christ the Example of Ministers"]
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
" . . . And they said, 'Is this not Joseph's son?' "
The people that made this statement (above) had just been marveling at how wonderful Christ was. Later in the chapter, they are ready to try to throw the Messiah over the cliff of their town (Nazareth). The problem these people had was that they thought Jesus was "Joseph's son." They could not conceive of Christ as being the Son of God, (and not of a mere man: Joseph).
Such is the nature of almost all theological heresy: it starts with a mistaken foundation. If Christ was not the Son of God, He would not be sinless. He could also not atone for sinners, since He Himself would have to deal with His own sin nature. Recognize Jesus for who He is: the Son--not of Joseph--but of God Himself.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Defilers and profaners of ordinances, by known and allowed wickedness, provoke God more than the heathen who have no ordinances." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "A Warning to Professors of Religion"]
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
" . . . As I teach everywhere in every church."
Paul was consistent in his preaching, teaching, and instruction. All the churches everywhere--be they in Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, or elsewhere--received uniform doctrine. This was particularly true of the critically-important article of justification: that sinners are saved by grace through faith alone.
The individual churches had particular (and unique) challenges, and Paul's letters reflect his concern about these. But still, *every* church in his day, and ours, is to preach and teach certain things: foremost among them being the sufficiency and atonement of Christ.
[Puritan quote of the day: "[God] rewards His subjects in this life. He gives them inward peace and joy; a bunch of grapes by the way; and oft-times riches and honor." --Thomas Watson, in "A Body of Divinity"]
Monday, February 16, 2009
"And [Jesus] said to them [Mary and Joseph], 'Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?' "
We ought to be easy to find on Sunday. Anyone looking for us should be able to immediately discern that we would be in our Father's house, being about His "business." Nothing trumps this, in the life of a sincere believer. Mary and Joseph apparently looked all over the place for the young Messiah--but, had they immediately gone to the temple, they would have found Him.
May we be just like our Savior, in this particular (at least): that we put God's house and His business before everything else. We are sinners; Christ is holy--but in this one regard we may match Him almost step-by-step.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Do you think that when Christ is so highly advanced, and has all power in heaven and earth in His hand, He will not take care of His elect, and turn the most astonishing providences to the good of His church?" --Thomas Watson, in "A Body of Divinity"]
Friday, February 13, 2009
"Go to Christ's blood for peace. Some go to fetch their peace from their own righteousness, not Christ's: they go for peace to their holy life, not Christ's death. If conscience be troubled, they strive to quiet it with their duties. This is not the right way to peace. Duties must not be neglected, nor yet idolized. Look to the blood of sprinkling, (Heb. 12:24). That blood of Christ which pacified God, must pacify conscience. Christ's blood being sucked in by faith, gives peace. 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,' (Rom 5:1). No balm to cure a wounded conscience, but the blood of Christ."
Thursday, February 12, 2009
"And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance."
This is Joseph speaking here (above), as he addressed his shocked brothers. Joseph is a "type" of Christ. Jesus did fully and perfectly, what Joseph did (partially and imperfectly): Christ has "preserve[d] a posterity . . . in the earth." He has done this through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, whereby He purchased the church for Himself.
If you are a faithful churchman today, then rejoice greatly. All the benefits of heaven are yours, now, even here on earth, in the Lord Jesus Christ. These are all apprehended by grace through faith.
[Puritan quote of the day: "God is not now terrifying to us; but in Christ, God's nature is Fatherly and sweet to us." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
" . . . Since his life is bound up in the lad's life . . . "
The reference (above) is Jacob's life being entwined around his youngest son's (Benjamin's) life. I would like to extrapolate a bit, and note that Christ's life is bound up with that of His redeemed church (collectively), and with every individual saint within it (individually).
This is how close God is to those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone: what happens to them means *everything* to Him. The church is the "apple of God's eye"; therefore, let us be ever-mindful of how much the Lord loves us, and takes to heart what happens to us.
[Puritan quote of the day: "[God] will outwit the most subtle and overthrow the most stubborn hypocrite on earth." --Richard Steele, in "The Character of an Upright Man"]
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
" . . . But how can a man be righteous before God?"
Job asks *the*most profound question here. How, indeed, *can* a human being be *righteous* before God? If a righteous standing before God was based on works, then we would have to be absolutely perfect, never sinning, and doing everything right all the time.
But our right standing is not based on our works, or the law (even of God). Instead, it if found in Christ alone, who perfectly *did* keep the law without blemish. His righteousness is *imputed* to the elect churchman, by grace through faith. Therefore, it *is* possible to be--even today--perfectly righteous before a completely holy God--but there is only one way: by grace through faith in Christ (alone).
[Puritan quote of the day: "For we live by grace, and we must die by grace and stand at the day of judgment by grace--not in our own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ, being found in Him." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Monday, February 9, 2009
"On the third day Joseph said to them, 'Do this and you will live, for I fear God . . . ' " (ESV)
It is interesting that Joseph releases his brothers from their short prison stay "on the third day." We're reminded of our Savior's tenure in the tomb, before His resurrection; and we recall that we "live" because of our being raised up with Jesus. Joseph's "fear of God" led him to hasten his brothers' return trip home, so that they may feed their hungry families. Similarly, God preserves His church from starvation.
Like Joseph, let us today live in the vital fear of God--doing good to His people.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Another thing that greatly restrains wicked men's hatred of God is their education. Education won't alter the principles of their nature, but it may greatly restrain them, so that those principles shall be much more insensible both to others and also to themselves." --Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled, "The Abhorrence Between God and Wicked Men"]
Friday, February 6, 2009
"Let us show ourselves penitents in turning from sin to God. There are some persons I have little hope to prevail with. Let the trumpet of the word sound never so shrill, let threatenings be thundered out against them, let some flashes of hell-fire be thrown in their faces, yet they will have their way at sinning. These persons seem to be like the swine in the Gospel, carried down by the devil violently into the sea. They will rather damn than turn: 'They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return,' (Jer. 8:5). But if there be any candour or sobriety in us, if conscience be not cast into a deep sleep, let us listen to the voice of the charmer, and turn to God our supreme good.
"How often does God call upon us to turn to Him? He swears, 'As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: turn, turn from your evil ways,' (Ezek. 33:11). God would rather have our repenting tears than our blood.
"Turning to God makes for our profit. Our repentance is of no benefit to God, but to ourselves. . . . "
Thursday, February 5, 2009
"Then [Jesus] charged them, saying, 'Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.' "
I was struck a bit my this verse this morning. Our Redeemer wants us, His church, to "beware" of the teaching of certain elements, which are found in every society, in every place, and in every era (of fallen humanity). The one, Pharisaism, is well-known. It is a hyper-religion, that seeks to be more righteous than God Himself. Essentially, it is self- or law-righteousness.
"Herod's" doctrine, however, gets much less press. It also is dangerous. It is the mantra of liberalism, characterized by greed, racism, pride, political-correctness, and false forms of civil religion. The Lord Jesus would have us be wary of both of these. Let us be on our guard.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Saul's sparing Agag lost him the kingdom, and your sparing sin will lose you the kingdom of heaven." --Thomas Watson, in "The Mischief of Sin"]
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
"[Jesus] said to [the scribes and Pharisees], 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.' "
Some tradition--even in religion--is unavoidable, and even very good. The problem with false forms of even the true religion is the exaltation of human (non-God-ordained) tradition *over* the specific commandments of God (as they are found in the holy scriptures).
This is why we may, and should, without batting an eyelash, totally disregard *every* and *all* religious dictates that would be foisted on us--even by religious leaders, which cannot be traced directly (or by necessary inference) the the Word of God. Enjoy your freedom as a liberated churchman!
[Luther quote of the day: "When we willingly and gladly hear the Word preached . . . let us assure ourselves that God, by and with this preaching, sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts." --from "Commentary on Galatians"]
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
"And they [Jacob and his family] journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob."
Sometimes the church on earth is tempted to fear the unbelieving world all around us. But we tend to forget that the Lord puts the fear of God into those who do not yet even believe in Christ. This fear is a terror of the militant church, which marches supremely triumphantly across the globe (if even almost imperceptibly much of the time).
Don't be afraid of the world; instead, rejoice that your names are written in heaven (if you are a faith-filled churchman), and recognize that the world is scared to death of the collective body of Christ. Just because this does not *appear* to be so, does not fail to make it so.
[Puritan quote of the day: "God's word is fitted for all estates, callings, and conditions of mankind. . . . It gives direction for our apparel, sports, labor, gain, and giving; for our buying and selling, for our speech and silence, for our company and solitude." --William Lyford, in "The Instructed Christian"]
Monday, February 2, 2009
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . "
What a sweet verse this is. Those who are justified by faith have *peace* with *God*. To be at peace with God is to be in harmony with everything else: self, the church, non-Christians, and the whole universe. The wrath of God is removed from the soul that is "justified by faith."
Those who seek justification in any other way will never possess, nor experience the peace of God. To have God pacified, in relation to us, is a great and glorious thing. The Lord is right to grant this peace to those who believe, since Jesus bore the punishment for the sins of the faithful church.
[Puritan quote of the day: "What is the glory of the times we live in, but God's face revealed in Christ?" --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]