Posts Tagged With: Spurgeon

The Praise of His Glorious Grace

At our Sunday night Connect Group, one participant asked about grace.  I’m thankful she wished to have that glorious term clarified.  She mentioned that the time she usually hears about grace is when it came to something like being graceful in one’s movements.

Spurgeon in his work, All of Grace, pens two beautiful paragraphs on the nature of grace, springboarding from Romans 4:5: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness:”  Hear Pastor Spurgeon:

He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.

When a counsellor comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.

(Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, the beginning of Chapter 3.)

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He Understands Our Heavy Hearts

He understands what heavy hearts we have sometimes, when under a sense of sin.  Satan says to us, “Why should you pray? How can you hope to prevail? In vain, thou sayest, I will arise and go to my Father, for thou art not worthy to be one of his hired servants.  How canst thou see the king’s face after thou hast played the traitor against him?  How wilt thou dare to approach unto the altar when thou hast thyself defiled it, and when the sacrifice which thou wouldst bring there is a poor polluted one?”  O brethren, it is well for us that we are commanded to pray, or else in times of heaviness we might give it up.  If God command me, unfit as I may be, I will creep to the footstool of grace; and since he says, “Pray without ceasing,” though my words fail me and my heart itself will wander, yet I will still stammer out the wishes of my hungering soul and say, “O God, at least teach me to pray and help me to prevail with thee.”

— Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), The Golden Key of Prayer, from “12 Sermons on Prayer.”

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How to Sort Through Why Christians Adhere to Such an Old Book (Part 3: Necessity)

When Jesus told them that, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), the Jews objected. “We’ve never been slave to anyone.”

History bears out that the Jews have been enslaved or occupied by seven different countries: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. And this last one (Rome) showed their current condition. Rome occupied the Holy Land—and the Jews and Jewish leaders interacted with them every single day in every single way. Yet, they did not see their situation.

What a pity to see someone in slave but blind to their own condition. They felt they were actually free in a political sense—and this is a significant picture of being enslaved in a spiritual sense.

Whenever I ask someone, “What do you understand it means to be right with God?” Many answer, “Well, I just need to follow the commandments and do my best.” When I counter with, “Where does Jesus fit into this?” Some may say, “Well, he fills in the gaps.” Or, “He sees how hard I’m trying.”

Did you see the sign on the marquee when you drove in? “Christianity is not about trying your hardest, it’s about trusting the Highest?” If your hope is just trying to do your best—you’re not saved. If your hope is in Jesus just filling in the gaps that you can’t, you’re not saved. Christianity is about denying self, not asking Jesus to fill in the gaps self can’t do. We may be enslaved by cannot free ourselves. We may have sat under preaching after preaching, sermon after sermon. They are blind to their own condition!

Skeptics counter with this: “There’s nothing liberating and freeing about the Bible. So many of the commandments are ‘do nots.’ More and more of what you cannot do. The Bible restricts who you can marry, it feels restrictive to women, it’s been used as leverage to oppress (slavery, etc.), it’s used to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, what you can do, who you can fraternize with, what you should see, what you should say, where you should go, what you should think. I don’t feel free in getting around the Scriptures—I feel restricted and confined.”

First of all, let me just ask this: how does the world look now that the authority of God’s Word is continuing to lessen? Better? Granted, there are those who have used the Bible wrongly and selfishly. But they’ve also used it to build hospitals, education, orphanages, and to help people that God made from the cradle to the grave.

Second of all, do you believe that it’s good for us to be able to do all we want?  Not everything that we want is good for us—just ask the drug user or alcoholic.  In fact, those very things that we want so desperately may be the very things that enslave us so drastically (and destructively). 

Spurgeon told of the time when he came to Christ (and Christ came to him) as a young lad looking for the way to be free from his sin!  He went to church after church after church.   He finally stumbled into a Primitive Methodist church where a layman was filling in for the pastor who could not make the service due to inclimate weather.  Here what happened next in Spurgeon’s own words:

Now it is well that ministers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid, as you would say. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.

There was I thought, a gleam of hope for me in the text. He began thus “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now that does not take a great deal of effort. It ain’t lifting your feet or your finger, it is just ‘look.’ Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says. Then it says ‘Look unto Me.'”  “Ay,” said he, in broad Essex, “many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You’ll never find comfort in yourselves. Some look to God, the Father. No, look to Him by and by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of you say, ‘I must wait the Spirit a working.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. It runs: ‘Look unto Me.'”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on the cross. Look! I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend and sit at the Father’s right hand O! look to Me!” When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger, He then said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well I did, but I have not been accustomed to having remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued:

“And you will always be miserable in life, and miserable in death if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.”

Then he shouted as only a Primitive Methodist can: “Young man, look to Jesus Christ!” I did “look.”

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun: I could have risen that moment and sung with enthusiasm of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me that before. TRUST CHRIST, AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED.

Dear friends, you may know the truth and the Son who proclaims the truth by looking!  Don’t try to understand, then look!  Look and believe, that you may understand!  The Word does its work!  But you also must look out of necessity for your soul!  Look unto Christ and Christ alone!  Be blind no longer!

(This sermon was preached in full on Sunday, April 28, 2013 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.  You may listen to it here.)

Categories: apologetics, Bible, sermons | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A God Who Hears in House and Home (Psalm 5)

The Takeaway:  “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.  Devotion should be both the morning. . . and the evening star” (Charles Spurgeon).

1. Rejoice in God that He hears the prayers of the saints (Psalm 5:1-3).

When we pray, do we pray with a sense of urgency (“Give ear,” “Consider,” “Give attention.”) or do we take Him for granted? This is a promise only for the saints: God will hear your prayers (whether with words, groaning, or cries). He is “my King and my God.”

2. Recognize that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked (5:4-6).

Sin cannot dwell in the God’s presence, and shouldn’t dwell in God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Those who exalt ‘self’ over the Savior will not dwell with Christ in heaven because they see no need for a Savior. In His justice, God does not delight in wickedness, but will destroy it. May none of us be in that number (139:23-24).

3. Realize that God’s hesed love permits us to approach Him with confidence (5:7-8).

Hesed in Hebrew is God’s steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness in one term. God’s love comes to rescue; God’s mercy comes to cleanse our sin; and God’s faithfulness stays with His people, even in the midst of their unfaithfulness. Christians have a longing to be led by our Lord Jesus, who took our sin (love and mercy) and gave us God’s righteousness (faithfulness).

4. Rebellion against God is made clear by their words (5:9-10).

Here, David brings out the words of the wicked. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:33-37). Paul takes verse 9 and implements it in Romans 3 to show how everyone is a slave to sin and in need of rescue. The wicked will “fall by their own counsels.”

5. Refuge in Christ brings blessings and joy abundantly (5:11-12).

____________

Magnify: As you magnify our Lord Jesus this week, praise Him that He is one who hears the prayers of those who are His, and is just toward those who reject Him and His plan of rescue. We cannot magnify our Savior and self (Matthew 6:19-24).

Mature: We cannot mature in our relationship with our Lord Jesus without communing and connecting with Him in prayer. And we must continue to ask him to search out any wickedness or blind spots that may keep His light from shining full and free in and through us.

Minister: We can enter the house of worship here at ARBC by way of God’s overflowing steadfast love. The hesed love of God’s mercy-steadfast love-faithfulness is something desperately needed to be worked in us and through us. Read Luke 18:11-14—let us make sure we are not simply looking at external righteousness, but pray for the internal working of the Spirit in everyone!

Mobilize: Do we believe that those outside of Christ really understand their condition and position before God? Do we really believe that the wicked “have rebelled against you” (5:10)? If this truth about their condition and position has set it, how do you believe that God would have us react to them? Do we recognize we were there before Christ rescued us? Do we believe Christ will rescue them? Are we ready to be used as His instrument of rescue? May God help us realize His hesed love may be theirs as well—not just ours!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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Do We Truly Have Free Will?

Every so often over the years, this question of free will arises, usually under the context of salvation.  “Are we free to choose and do we have the capability to choose Christ within our own desires, or does the Father predestine us in Christ before the foundation of the world and choose us?”  After a while, an argument ensues, with each camp picking their choice verses to lob at one another—which can be divisive in the church, and less-than-impressive when the world watches on.

Or we could even say that ‘free will’ is that in which a will operates outside of God’s compulsion or wooing.  This idea is embraced greatly by Americans who hold to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ written in the context of being free from the monarchy and control of the British throne.  The aim of the founding of the United States of America was independence.  The people could exercise their will in voting for their leaders, voting on legislation, and having a significant say in the direction our country goes. 

Before one lunges into this line of thinking, let’s get a bit more ground level.  Two items converged in my thinking to make me so bold as to say, no, our will is not nor has ever been free in the most important sense.  In what sense?  Are humans free beings in one sense, in that we are not programmed robots?  In that sense, yes, we are free to think and choose on the natural level within the realm of time, space, and the limitations of our flesh.  Beyond this?  Well, let me share with you my two items.

First, Scripture.  I grieve over how Christians pick their verses that support their thinking rather than looking at the whole counsel of Scripture to rightly discern God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).  God is not divided, He is not inconsistent, and neither is His Word

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he (under the Spirit’s inspiration) writes a critical word to the church:

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

We are all slaves to something!  Even the atheist has at some point submitted to a course of thinking and living and has, willingly, become a slave to that thinking.  But Paul rightly tells us that we are either in two camps:  slaves of sin (as inaugurated by Father Adam) or slaves of righteousness (as made possible by Christ). 

To be a slave is to be ‘not free.’  To say that our will, our thinking, the core of our being, is free is to miss what Scripture teaches.  We all are led by whatever has taken our will captive. 

Secondly, I came across a quote by my pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) from a website I frequent:

‎”Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace.”

Clearly, Spurgeon had at least Romans 6:16-19 in mind. 

Someone then asks, “Why would God give commands in the first place?  Does this not imply free will?”  It does.  We are free to look at those commands, process them, then try to do them.  But keep in mind the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.  On these hang all of the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).  We look at these, process them, then try to do them. 

But can we?  The command is all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Can we do this?  No, we cannot.  So what’s the point of giving the command in the first place?  It’s to show that we can’t and are need of rescue by Someone who can and did fulfill these (Matthew 5:17-20).  Our ‘free will’ could also take us to a place where we see that it’s impossible, and who is this God who imposes such commands on us?  So they freely take their will to a place where they begin to set up their own standard, becoming a slave to that standard.  But even then, whatever standard we try to set up even for ourselves, we will fail at this as well (Romans 2:14-15).  We need a change—we need to be rescued, even from our own supposed ‘freedom.’ 

So before we begin to get into the deep theological and philosophical arguments in regards to ‘free will,’ take Paul’s truth in mind.  We are all slaves to something on this level.  And, yes, Christ does set us free (John 8:31-36), but free from what?  He ultimately sets us free from our slavery to sin.  Once he redeems us and rescues us from that sin, “We are not our own, we were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Christians are now free from their sin under the bonds of righteousness. 

Genesis 2:18 says, “It was not good for man to be alone.”  Outside of Christ, our own selfish aims and desires drive us, and our free will will always take us away from Christ.  But when Christ comes to rescue us, He draws us to Himself (John 6:37-44) and by the Spirit that indwells begins to lead us into all truth (read John 14-16 on the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit).  Being free in Christ is the equivalent of being a slave to righteousness. 

If I’m going to be a slave to something, I’m thankful it’s in service to my Lord Jesus Christ! 

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus—than to trust and obey!

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True Doctors of Damnation

“When men are living in sin they go from bad to worse.  At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God—the evil is rather practical than habitual—but after that, they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful.  They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed.”

–Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, pp. 1-2

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Spurgeon’s View of Bible Translations

Spurgeon is my pastor—at least he’s my dead pastor!  He was a man passionate for the Scriptures, passionate about the sovereignty of God, and passionate in evangelism!  His Lectures to My Students, The Soul Winner, and An All-Around Ministry are must-reads for all aspiring and experienced ministers of the gospel, without question.

I have been very interested in what his view was concerning the translation of Scripture.  I know he used the Authorized Version (a.k.a., the King James Version of the Bible).  With his ministry being in the 1850s through his death in 1892, I know this was the primary translation in churches, though there were others that were developed (as there were when the 1611 KJV came out). 

As there is now, there was then about which is not just preferred, but which is superior.  From my observations, five camps exist now in their view of the King James Version:

  • KJV Only:  In this camp, it is not just the Greek and Hebrew texts that are inspired, it is this particular English translation that is inspired as well.  All others are not simply seen as good in need of fixing, but perversions of God’s Holy Word.  In fact, the few that are in this camp do not refer to this as the King James Version but the King James Bible.  It is not just one version of many—but the only Bible that is needed. 
  • KJV Preferred:  In this camp, there are those who prefer the KJV, but who believe it is one translation out of many translations into the English and recognize that the other translations in evangelical mainstream do not deny any major doctrines.  Even if a word may not be in a certain verse, it is found elsewhere in the Scriptures, thus affirming that orthodox doctrine.
  • KJV Friendly:  In this camp, the KJV may not be the version they feel compelled to use for whatever reason, but understand the history, the beauty, and the importance of that version. 
  • KJV Hesitant:  They will use this in a pinch (in other words, only if no other version is available or if they are preaching in a church that is KJV Only), but avoid it because they hesitate to use a version relying on 17th century English in the 21st century. 
  • KJV Never!  In this camp, the KJV is (sadly) not in their library at all.  The dated nature of the wording make it difficult to understand—often having to take as much time to explain what the 17th century English means, if it’s pronounceable. 

Again, given that Spurgeon was around in the latter half of the 1850s, he was around when other versions other than the King James/Authorized Version of the Scriptures were being translated—in the same spirit that came about when the KJV was translated in 1611.  Here are some quotes below (HT):

Do not needlessly amend our authorized version. It is faulty in many places, but still it is a grand work taking it for all in all, and it is unwise to be making every old lady distrust the only Bible she can get at, or what is more likely, mistrust you for falling out with her cherished treasure. Correct where correction must be for truth’s sake, but never for the vainglorious display of your critical ability. [Commenting and Commentaries, p. 31.]

The end of this quote gives a good word.  If you are KJV Hesitant or KJV Never, do not belittle those who are in the other camps!

No one will doubt that Spurgeon was Baptist to the bone and no one would doubt his commitment to the Scriptures.  But he recognized from his voracious studies that all English translations will have places where correction will be needed—but it’s no reason to distrust other translations that aim to place Jesus and all other orthodox doctrines in high order. 

In message 1604, “Heart Disease Curable,” Spurgeon says,

Concerning the fact of difference between the Revised and Authorised Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text, and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner . . .. By the best and most honest scholarship that can be found we desire that the common version [KJV] may be purged of every blunder of transcribers, or addition of human ignorance, or human knowledge, so that the Word of God may come to us as it came from His own hand.

Remember, Spurgeon loved the KJV.  Loved it.  His camp is KJV-preferred.  But he had a view in showing that it is a translation!  Errors that are in any English translation can fall into, as D.A. Carson says, intentional and unintentional.

Consider this example from Carson:

Before the printing press the New Testament (and all other) documents were copied by hand.  People are not capable of copying a lengthy piece of written material without introducing errors.  This is easily proved.  Sit down and copy out the Gospel of John (from whatever translation you like).  After you have finished, read it through and correct it.  Then give it to two or three friends and have each of them read your correction.  No more evidence will be needed [Source, p 14].

Spurgeon was all for scholarship being used to find a better (read: more accurate) translation!  Even the KJV was revised in 1887—for the KJV Bible we have is not the precise one found in 1611.  The newer translations come out of late not because of a hatred for the Word and a desire to pervert the Word but for a desire to help make the Word clearer.  Some succeed, some do not!  Some try to make it more palatable for the modern reader, thus loosening the thrust of the original Greek and Hebrew.  But by and large, these translations work to honor the originals to help those in the faith. 

Lastly, this:

“Greek is the sacred tongue, and Greek is the Baptist’s tongue; we may be beaten in our own version [the KJV], sometimes; but in Greek, never” (Autobiography, vol. 2, p. 327).

Spurgeon spoke that the “Greek” (the language of the NT as well as the Greek OT known as the Septuagint) is the “sacred tongue.”  Not English—for English didn’t come into its origins until 1000 A.D. or so.  Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic were the languages God used for His original inspired texts. 

Thus speaks Spurgeon on the matter!  Heaven knows there are many other opinions, websites, books, and pamphlets out there on various and sundry angles of this issues. 

May charity be given to all, regardless of our respective camps. 

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Do Not Aim at Sensation and Effect

“Do not aim at sensation and ‘effect’ [when preaching]. Flowing tears and streaming eyes, sobs and outcries, crowded after-meetings and all kinds of confusions may occur, and may be borne with as concomitants of genuine feeling; but pray do not plan their production.

“It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over. They are like certain insects that are the product of an exceedingly warm day, and die when the sun goes down. Certain converts are like salamanders, in the fire; but they expire at a reasonable temperature. I delight not in religion which needs or creates a hot head. Give me the godliness which flourishes upon Calvary rather than upon Vesuvius . The utmost zeal for Christ is consistent common-sense and reason: raving, ranting, and fanaticism are products of another zeal which is not according to knowledge. We would prepare men for the chamber of communion, and not for the padded room at Bedlam. No one is more sorry than I that such a caution as this should be needful; but remembering the vagaries of certain revivalists, I cannot say less, and I might say a great deal more.”

(Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, pp. 20-21)

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Does the Gospel Promote Laziness or Greater Work?

I was thankful to speak at the Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at Eastern Kentucky University.  I preached on “A Gospel-Centered Work Ethic” from Proverbs 6:6-11 and Proverbs 26:13-16—and found how it tied in beautifully to the gospel work that Christ accomplishes and how that gospel is to be worked out in us!

Here were some helpful resources that will help you dig in more.  I’ll put up my manuscript from the talk tomorrow.

“Work” by Tim Keller:  http://download.redeemer.com/rpcsermons/storesamplesermons/Work.mp3

One Lion, Two Lions, No Lions” by Charles Spurgeon:  http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/1670.htm

“Work and Rest” by Tim Keller http://download.redeemer.com/rpcsermons/storesamplesermons/Work_and_Rest.mp3

“Why Work?” by Dorothy Sayers http://download.redeemer.com/rpcsermons/storesamplesermons/Work_and_Rest.mp3

“Top Ten Not in the Hall of Fame:  Ricky Watters”  http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-network-top-ten/09000d5d80999490/Top-Ten-Not-in-HOF-Ricky-Watters

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