"Though we ministers of Christ preach against the vanities and profits of this world, this is neither the main thing nor the right method of preaching to work upon the hearts of people, nor the great end of Christ's ascension. He did not give gifts principally for these things, but that men should be able to reveal the great doctrine of pardon of sin. Ministers need not keep a stir to get esteem and love, and to make themselves honorable among the people. If they did but apply themselves to preach this great doctrine God has set them about--that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their sin--they cannot but gain honor in the hearts of those to whom God has appointed this mercy."
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Sometimes, you all have excellent points that elucidate, amplify, (and sometimes even correct[!]) my daily devotions.
One of the "devotioners" sent this outstanding note (below), in light of today's text, from Acts 17:21:
"The irony is that Paul really does bring something new to their ears. In fact, it was so new, so earth-shattering, so bizarre that even the Athenians were startled. What? We're going to be held accountable for ignorance? What? We're going to be judged by a resurrected God-Man? And so God uses men's desire to hear new things as a platform for the proclamation of the coming Kingdom. . . . Hopefully we never lose touch with the fresh new-ness of the the gospel. (Indeed, it is new information to every man who hasn't heard.)"
"For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing."
Can you imagine having so much "free time," that you can stand around all day chatting about "new things"? Actually, this is the situation today, with most modern people. They have nothing better to do, than to waste their time, trying to fill themselves up with something "new."
The reality, however, is that there is "nothing new under the sun." All "new" thrills, "new" sins, and "new" experiences are actually very old. They take on themselves the circumstances of the day--but they are not "new" at all. The best path for the child of God is to go back to the "old ways"; and to enjoy the tried and true pleasures of life in Christ.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Who ever stayed and waited long upon God, but he had more than he prayed for?" --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."
This well-known verse (above) has several intriguing elements to it. First off, Paul and Silas are up late (at midnight). Secondly, they are praying and singing "publicly," and out loud--not at all concerned that others would hear them. Lastly, the other prisoners were "listening" to them. They were giving attention to what was being sung and said.
I can imagine that those two guys may have had gravelly singing voices; but it's also likely that what they sang and prayed was a great source of ministry to all who heard them. Let us remember that the Christian faith, the true religion, is not a "private" matter, as the godless would hope it to be; instead, our doctrine is totally "public," and it should fill the world even as "the waters cover the sea."
[Puritan quote of the day: "Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ?" --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to [Jesus], saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.' And He said to them, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' "
I find this (above) a very interesting interchange. James and John, the ever-bold brothers, come to the Messiah with an audacious statement: "We want You to do for us WHATEVER we ask." The impressive thing here is that Christ does not reprove, rebuke, or correct them in *any way*. The Lord simply asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
Could it be, that we believers are often just not "intrepid" enough to ask God for *everything* we really want? The Lord knows our hearts and desires anyway--why should we not have the candor of laying them bare before Him?
[Puritan quote of the day: "Though God does not answer you imme-
diately, yet He does hear you immediately." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Monday, July 27, 2009
"The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man . . . called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God."
Sometimes I think we believers imagine that no one "out there" wants to hear the Word of the Lord. We feel that we are all alone, as the only ones who have any interest in the truth, or the gospel. The
Bible--the New Testament in particular--challenges this notion. Here, a sharp guy wants to hear the Word. (Cf. in this connection Acts
13:42 & 44, where people "beg" to hear the Word, and show up in big numbers [to do so].)
Therefore, let us always be prepared to speak the gospel of Christ's grace to any and all who will hear. We are likely to be surprised by those who are (and who are not) interested.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Our victory lies not in ourselves and our own habitual strength, but in Christ's fresh assistance." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Friday, July 24, 2009
Watson, to help get you ready. This comes from his, "A Body of Divinity" book. . . .
"We know that there is a God by His works, and this is so evident a demonstration of a Godhead, that the most atheistical spirits, when they have considered these works, have been forced to acknowledge some wise and supreme Maker of these things.
"We will begin with the creation of the glorious fabric of heaven and earth. Sure there must be some Architect or First Cause. The world could not make itself. Who could hang the earth on nothing but the great God? Who could provide such rich furniture for the heavens, the glorious constellations, the firmament bespangled with such glittering lights? We see God's glory blazing in the sun, twinkling in the stars. Who could give the earth its clothing, cover it with grass and corn, adorn it with flowers, enrich it with gold? God only, (Job 38:4). Who but God could make the sweet music in the heavens, cause the angels to join in concert, and sound forth the praises of their Maker? Job 38:7: 'The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.' If a man should go into a far country, and see stately edifices there, he would never imagine that these built themselves, but that some greater power had built them. To imagine that the work of the creation was not framed by God, is as if we should conceive a curious landscape to be drawn by a pencil without the hand of an artist. Acts 17:24: 'God . . . made the world, and all things therein.' To create is proper to the Deity."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
" . . . 'Do not be afraid; only believe.' "
This is sweet counsel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to all of us, His churchmen. There are plenty of times that we are tempted to fear--but the antidote is always faith. It is intriguing that the Savior does not say, "Do not be afraid, only be strong"; or, He does not say, "Do not be afraid; only try harder"; or, He does not say, "Do not be afraid; only get more religious."
The man in Mark 5 had plenty of "reason" for fear: his little daughter had just died. But even in those dire straits, the answer is faith. Let us believe the Lord--albeit weakly, if necessary--recognizing that it is faith (in any sincere measure) that pleases God (cf. Heb. 11:6).
[Puritan quote of the day: " . . . Man's unrighteousness must usher in Christ's righteousness." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
Sometimes we hear well-meaning believers say things like this: "What the church needs right now is some persecution." At times, people are even so misguided, as to actually "pray" to God for trial and difficulty. But that is not the Lord's way. He causes His church to prosper in all kinds of spiritual "soil"; but He is most pleased when the gospel "settles" cultures, and gives the church favor in the sight of all.
Therefore, let us do as we are commanded (by the Lord) in 1 Tim. 2:1-4, and ask God to move and guide (even civil) leaders who will make decisions that benefit the body of Christ.
[Puritan quote of the day: "True grace is much engaged in the work of humiliation . . . " --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
" . . . And there was great joy in that city."
Sometimes believers forget that the gospel brings great joy to entire cities, as numerous people receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins, and they are brought into the church. This theme is prominent in the Book of Acts, and the principle runs throughout the entire Bible. (Remember how Nineveh was spared, at the preaching of Jonah?)
Therefore, as we conceive of the church's mission in the world, let us keep "front and center" the redemption of our particular communities. As sinners are showered with the blessings of heaven, they will experience joys the likes of which they never did (nor could) experience in the world.
[Puritan quote of the day: "God gives by denying sometimes . . . "
--William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Friday, July 17, 2009
"Another subtlety [of the devil] is to draw men to evil, 'sub specie boni,' under a pretence of good. The pirate does mischief by hanging out false colours; so does Satan by hanging out the colours of religion. He puts some men upon sinful actions, and persuades them much good will come of it. He tells them in some cases that they may dispense with the rule of the Word, and stretch their conscience beyond that line, that they may be in a capacity of doing more service. As if God needed our sin to raise his glory.
"Satan tempts to sin gradually. As the gardener digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart: he is at first more modest. He did not say to Eve at first, 'Eat the apple'; no, but he goes more subtly to work; he puts forth a question: 'Hath God said?' 'Surely, Eve, you are mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar one of the best trees of the garden.' 'Hath God said?' 'Surely, either God did not say it; or if He did, He never really intended it.' Thus by degrees [the devil] wrought her to distrust and then she took of the fruit and ate. Oh, take heed of Satan's first motions to sin, that seem more modest--'principiis obsta.' He is first a fox, and then a lion."
Thursday, July 16, 2009
"And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed."
In the Lord Jesus Christ every faithful churchman knows that what is written (above) is true. In the Redeemer, God has delivered *all* His goods. The Lord has nothing more to give; and He has nothing more to say. Those who seek for *anything* from God, beyond Jesus Christ, will receive nothing (positive) from Him.
Let us be thankful that we already possess everything. *All* of God's promises have come to pass for us. They are all "Yes," and "Amen," in Christ, (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). Let us trust our faithful King; and let His church worship Him for all His goodness to us.
[Puritan quote of the day: "[Prayer] is God conversing with man, and man with God." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"So the thing pleased the children of Israel, and the children of Israel blessed God; they spoke no more of going against them in battle, to destroy the land where the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt."
Sometimes believers assume the worst, where no harm was ever intended. The context of the verse (above) is this: the two and a half tribes of Israel that stayed on the east side of the Jordan had built an altar. It was immediately inferred (by the other tribes on the west side of the river), that idolatry and wickedness was intended (through the building of such an object).
But this was not the case at all. Once the parties all got together and talked it out--it was discovered that everything was fine, and that no evil was in the offing. Let us seek to possess such a spirit, especially as we deal with one another (in the church).
[Puritan quote of the day: "When God denies one mercy, He gives another." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]
Friday, July 3, 2009
Wahoo--it's almost Sunday, the Lord's Day, the best day of the week! In order to help you get ready for church, here is Thomas Watson, from "A Body of Divinity":
"If there be one God subsisting in three Persons, then let us give equal reverence to all the Persons in the Trinity. There is not more or less in the Trinity; the Father is not more God than the Son and Holy Ghost. There is an order in the Godhead, but no degrees. One Person has not a majority or supereminence above another, therefore we must give equal worship to all the Persons. 'That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father,' (John 5:23). Adore Unity in Trinity.
"Obey all the Persons in the Blessed Trinity; for all of them are God. Obey God the Father. Christ himself, as man, obeyed God the Father, (John 4:34), much more must we, (Deut. 27:10).
"Obey God the Son. 'Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,' (Psa. 2:12). Kiss Him with a kiss of obedience. Christ's commands are not grievous, (1
John 5:3). Whatever He commands is for our interest and benefit. Oh then kiss the Son! Why do the elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ, and fall down before the Lamb, (Rev. 4:10, 11)? To testify their subjection, and to profess their readiness to serve and obey Him.
"Obey God the Holy Ghost. Our souls are breathed into us by the glorious Spirit. 'The Spirit of God has made me,' (Job 33:4). Our souls are adorned by the Blessed Spirit. Every grace is a divine spark lighted in the soul by the Holy Ghost. Nay, more, the Spirit of God sanctified Christ's human nature; He united it with the divine, and fitted the man Christ to be our Mediator. Well then does this Third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, deserve to be obeyed; for He is God, and this tribute of homage and obedience is due to Him from us."
Thursday, July 2, 2009
"If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared."
That God forgives sin is an astounding fact. If the Lord kept track of our sins, and harbored them against us, we would have no hope of "standing" on the great Judgment Day. But, because Jesus Christ bore the sins of all His elect churchmen, who would, in time and space, be brought to believe in Him alone for their atonement, by grace--many sinners go free, and will never have to bear the condemnation of God.
If you are in this blessed condition today, then you have *no* troubles to speak of. You may have numerous hassles that harangue you--but you have no real problems. People who are not forgiven their sins have serious issues; but you do not. For this most-blessed standing before God, be ever-thankful.
[Puritan quote of the day: "Grace is not glorious if we add the least thing of our own to it." --Richard Sibbes, in "Glorious Freedom"]
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities."
This verse (above) has some good principles in it. To start with, note that our Lord Jesus Christ *first* instructs, or "commands" His own disciples. Then, only *after* having done that, He (Jesus) went out into the cities to preach the gospel to the masses, as well.
That is the pattern that we see repeated over and over in the Gospel accounts; and throughout the rest of the Holy Book. God *always* starts at home, in Christ's church; and from there He branches out to the rest of the world. In reaching elect sinners in the world, Christ adds to His church, and expands the borders of His kingdom (on earth).
[Puritan quote of the day: "Those whom God loves, He loves unto the end." --William Bridge, in "A Lifting Up for the Downcast"]