Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Psalm 23 (ESV)

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

Music is from the CD, Living Sacrifice which can be found here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Life in Christ: Free From Sin, But Not Free to Sin

Message on Romans 6:1-2 by Pastor Ron Bridge of Rehoboth Baptist Church given on Sep 5, 2010

"No doubt you've heard people say, once saved always saved. I've said that, because I believe it! But I don't believe it stands alone. Because while it is true to say that once a person is saved they are saved for all eternity, and I think we can go back to look at what Paul said in giving assurances in Romans 5 that salvation is in fact a one time and eternal thing. It is equally true that genuine salvation produces evidence that it is indeed genuine. The evidence is a fundamental change in the direction of life. Luther's classic statement is that we are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone. Genuine faith always gives evidence of conformity to the law of God. Genuine faith always gives evidence of conformity to the law of God." -Pastor Bridge

If you can't see the media player, click on the post title.

Download mp3 here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Judgment Day is Real - Tim Conway

This is a sermon excerpt from Christian Maturity Part 5 (Faith).

Watch or Listen to the full study here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Man sins—and God dies!

(Lewis Bayly, "The Practice of Piety" 1611)

"Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6

What had You done, O my sweet Savior, and ever-blessed Redeemer—that You were thus betrayed by Judas, sold to the Jews, apprehended as a malefactor, and led bound as a lamb to the slaughter? What evil had You committed, that You should be thus openly arraigned, falsely accused, and unjustly condemned? What was Your offence? Whom did You ever wrong? that You should be thus . . .

woefully scourged with whips,
crowned with thorns,
reviled with words,
buffeted with fists,
beaten with staves?

O Lord, what did You do to deserve to have Your blessed face spit upon, and covered as it were with shame; to have Your hands and feet nailed to the cross; to be lifted up on the cursed tree; to be crucified among thieves, and made to taste gall and vinegar; and in Your deadly extremity, to endure such a sea of God's wrath, that made You cry out, as if You had been forsaken by God Your Father; yes, to have Your innocent heart pierced with a cruel spear, and Your precious blood spilt before Your blessed mother's eyes? Sweet Savior, how much were You tormented to endure all this—seeing I am so much amazed even to think upon it!

What is the cause, then, O Lord, of this Your cruel ignominy, passion, and death? I, O Lord—I am the cause of these Your sorrows!

My sins wrought Your shame;
my iniquities are the occasion of Your injuries;
I have committed the fault—and You are punished for the offence;
I am guilty—and You are arraigned;
I committed the sin—and You suffered the death;
I have done the crime—and You hung on the cross!

Oh, the deepness of God's love!

Oh, the amazing profoundness of heavenly grace!

Oh, the immeasurable measure of divine mercy!

The wicked transgress—and the just is punished;
the guilty set free—and the innocent is arraigned;
the malefactor is acquitted—and the harmless condemned;
what the evil man deserves—the holy God suffers!

What shall I say? Man sins—and God dies!

O Son of God! who can sufficiently . . .
express Your love, or
commend Your pity, or
extol Your praise?

I was proud—and You are humble;
I was disobedient—and You became obedient;
I ate the forbidden fruit—and You hung on the cursed tree;
evil lust drew me to eat the pleasant apple—
and perfect love led You to drink of the bitter cup;
I tasted the sweetness of the fruit—
and You tasted the bitterness of the gall.

O my God, here I see . . .
Your goodness—and my vileness;
Your justice—and my injustice.

And now, O blessed Lord, You have endured all this for my sake; what shall I render unto You for all Your benefits bestowed upon me, a sinful soul? What shall I render to You, for giving Yourself in Your infinite love, to so cruel a death, to procure my redemption?

HT: http://www.gracegems.org

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Test Yourself: Football or Christ?

John Piper talks to a group of pastors about the importance of testing the soul to find out what is actually valued and loved. Is it Christ or other things?

HT: Truth Matters

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The flood came and swept them all away!

A Puritan Audio Devotional By Edward Griffin (1770—1837), an excerpt from "NOAH'S ARK"

"HE wiped out every living thing that was on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth! Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark!" Genesis 7:23

Finally, the frightful morning began! The heavens gathered blackness. Angry tempests conflicted in the skies. The lightnings flashed over the world! Word was spread, that Noah and his family had entered into the ark. The ungodly then began to fear!

Before long, floods of water poured from the sky. Some now began to turn their eyes towards the ark; others stood doubting; others still dared to scoff!

The waters go on to increase. The rivers fill—and start to overflow. The waters begin to rise in the streets. Some flee into their houses; others, more intimidated, hasten to the hills! Others are now convinced, and with dreadful fright, are seen wading towards the ark!

The fountains of the great deep are now broken up. The waters rise more rapidly, and begin to rush with impetuous force. With difficulty they stand against the stream. They struggle for their lives to reach the ark! Thousands come—some wading, some swimming, some sinking, some hanging onto the ark with the grasp of death—all screaming for admission!

But it is too late! Time was, when the ark was open and they might have entered in—but that time is past! Where are now those tongues which derided the enormous vessel and the man who built it? Now what do you think of him—who for more than a century has borne the character of a fool and madman! They would give a thousand worlds—to be in his condition now!

Those nearest to the ark, cry and plead for admission, but in vain! The waters roar! The ark is lifted up! They sink and are seen no more!

By this time, every wretch on earth is thoroughly convinced. Hear their cries from the tops of the houses, which are answered by wails from those on the hills. See the multitudes who have fled to the mountains. How like frightened sheep they crowd together! Now the waters, roaring and foaming, have reached their feet! They flee up to the highest ridge—but the floods pursue them there! Some are able to climb the lofty oaks—and the waves overtake them there! They flee to the highest branches, and for a moment have time to reflect on their former madness: "How could I disbelieve the Lord's prophet? Where is now the ark which I scorned? Where am I going? O eternity! eternity! What a dreadful God have I despised!" On the topmost bough, the impetuous torrent sweeps them away! Their hold is broken—and they sink to rise no more!

The ark floats by—and sails over the heads of the revilers and persecutors! Only that blessed family in the ark, are safe!

The same terrors will seize an unbelieving world when Jesus comes again! "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!" Matthew 24:37-39

HT: http://gracegems.org/

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This is War - Paul Washer

This is an excerpt of a sermon given by Paul Washer Sunday July 27, 2008 at Grace Life Church of the Shoals. Watch the full sermon here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grace changes the heart!

by Thomas Watson, from "A Divine Cordial" 1663.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

The true Christian has a great change wrought. Not a change of the faculties—but of the tendencies. He is altered from what he was before. His body is the same—but not his mind. Oh what a metamorphosis does grace make!

There is a change wrought in the UNDERSTANDING. Before, there was ignorance—but now there is light. The first work of God in the creation of the world was light—likewise it is in the new creation. He now says, "I once was blind—but now I see!" (John 9:25). He sees such evil in sin, and excellency in the ways of God—as he never saw before! It is a marvelous light, because it is more penetrating. Other light may shine upon the face—but this light shines into the heart, and enlightens the conscience (2 Cor. 4:6).

There is a change wrought in the WILL. The will, which before opposed Christ—now embraces Him. The will, which was an iron sinew against Christ—is now like melting wax, and readily receives the stamp and impression of the Holy Spirit. The will now moves heavenward—and carries all the affections along with it. The will now says, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). Before, the will kept Christ out; now, it keeps sin out! Oh what a happy change is wrought here!

There is a change wrought in the CONDUCT. He who is saved, walks directly contrary to what he did before. He once walked in envy and malice—now he walks in love! He once walked in pride—now he walks in humility. In the heart there is a new birth—and in the life there is a new conduct.

Thus we see what a mighty change grace makes.

How far are they from salvation, who never had any change! They are the same today—as they were forty or fifty years ago. They are as proud and carnal as ever! They have had no change in their heart. Let not them think to leap out of the harlot's lap (the world) into Abraham's bosom! They must either have a gracious change while they live—or a cursed change when they die!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Radical by David Platt

In Radical, David Platt invites you to encounter what Jesus actually said about being his disciple, and then obey what you have heard. He challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated a God-centered gospel to fit our human-centered preferences. With passionate storytelling and convicting biblical analysis, Platt calls into question a host of comfortable notions that are common among Christ's followers today. Then he proposes a radical response: live the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing.

HT: http://defendingcontending.com

Sodom will be better off!

Excerpt from The Doomed City (1887) by John MacDuff

"I assure you, Sodom will be better off on the judgment day than you." Matthew 11:24

Alas! alas! Is it not to be feared that many are content with having "a name to live," who are spiritually dead. There are thousands who come to our churches, who hear the preacher, who assent to the message, but go back from listening to the tremendous themes of Death, Judgment, and Eternity, to plunge deep as ever into engrossing worldliness and sin.

The preacher may be heard; his words may fall like lulling music on the ear, but the gates of the soul are firmly locked and barred against admission. The preacher may thunder his rebukes, but some heart sin and life sin, will, in spite of them, be retained and caressed.

Are there none now reading these words, whom the Savior would begin to "upbraid," because they have not repented? When His scrutinizing eye looks down, Sabbath after Sabbath, upon listening audiences throughout our land, all apparently solemn, sincere, outwardly devout, does He not discern, lurking underneath this fair external guise, the signs and symptoms of loathsomeness and decay; like the pure virgin snow covering the charred and blackened ruin?

Ah! sermons will not save us!
Church going will not save us!
Orthodoxy in creed and party will not save us!

Repent! Repent! is the sharp, shrill call of the Gospel trumpet!

There must be . . .
a change of heart;
a change of life;
a crucifixion of sin;
and with full purpose of heart, a cleaving unto the Lord who died for us!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Christians and Politics, Part 1 of 4

Titus 2:7-8

As Christians in the United States, it's easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores the biblical response.

There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can't even name three of the Ten.

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.

In less than fifty years' time, our nation's political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality--including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils--has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.

What are Christians to do about it?

Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics--lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott--to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a "Christian" political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.

But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America's moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.

Continue reading part 2 here.

© 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just a Thought - Tony Miano

I was working on one of my sermons for the upcoming Texas Revival Series, when the following came to mind and found its way into my sermon text.


A person cannot be saved by a gospel they do not know. Evangelism begins and ends with the gospel. Discipleship begins and ends with the gospel. The very life of the Christian—from the moment of regeneration, to the moment of glorification—begins and ends with the glorious gospel. And the gospel is Jesus Christ. Him we must proclaim.

This idea prevalent in the modern church that followers of Christ eventually progress beyond the gospel to weightier philosophical, pragmatic, even theological issues, to the point that the study of the gospel, the love and passion for the gospel, the joy of reading and hearing the gospel is thought of with little more than fond memories of being an immature babe in Christ; or worse, that the gospel is thought of almost with disdain as people silently warm pews and chairs during church services or living room couches during week night Bible studies, all-the-while quietly begging in their sin-soaked minds for the preacher or teacher to get beyond the preliminaries to the “good stuff”—the stuff that will tickle their ears without pricking their hearts, is blasphemous.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

by Charles Spurgeon (edited)

An evil is in the 'professed' camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel'.

No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they confronted them? The 'concert' has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? "You are the salt of the world", not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him," I do not hear Him say, 'Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!'

No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them!

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the 'gospel of amusement'. Their message is, "Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them... Don't touch their filthy things..." Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, 'Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are'.

No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today's church.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today's ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods!

HT: http://www.gracegems.org

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dead in Adam Alive in Christ

Message on Romans 5:12-21, II Corinthians 5:17-21 by Pastor Ron Bridge of Rehoboth Baptist Church given on Aug 29, 2010

"Standing behind grace and giving it its power is the love of God for His people. God knows us. He knows our sins, all of them. He knew them before the foundation of the world, and yet before the foundation of the world He set His love on us. Nothing is hidden from Him. God sees it all. He has heard the foul language that has come out of our mouths. The lies that we have told. The gossip that we have conducted behind someone's back. He's seen the cheating, the stealing, the sexual immorality in thought or deed. He knows every sin and yet in love He sent Jesus Christ to pay the price for them, and to cleanse us in His own precious blood. Praise His Name." -Pastor Bridge

If you can't see the media player, click on the post title.

Download mp3 here

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life Is Short

A letter from James Alexander (1804-1859) to his younger brother.

My dear brother,
Life has been compared to the flight of swift ships, and also to an eagle hastening to the prey. It is a moment, a hand's breadth, a dream. This is the account which the Scriptures give of human life, and if you will consider it, you will see much in it to make you alter your present course of conduct. When a youth looks forward, he almost always thinks of long life. He thinks somewhat in this way—"I am now thirteen, or fifteen, or seventeen years old, (as the case may be). In so many years more I shall be of age. Then I shall be my own master. I will do so and so; I will try such and such schemes; I shall be happy."

Mistaken boy! How different from this does life seem to the old man! He looks back, and says to himself—"It was but the other day that I was a boy. I was then full of hope. Life seemed a long and flowery path. I have mistaken it. It is a short journey, through a valley of tears."

From this, we all learn to say with Moses in the ninetieth psalm—"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.'

Is life short? Then, my dear brother, whatever you have to do in life—ought to be done soon. You ought to begin at once. If you were put to a hard task, and an hour-glass were put by you, and you were told, "This sand runs out exactly in an hour, and at the end of the hour I will come to see whether you have done your task,"—how anxious would you be not to lose a moment! Just as anxious should you now be to make a good use of your time. If the whole of life is but a span, then the little portions of it—which we call childhood, youth, middle age, old age—are short indeed. The little portion of youth will soon be over; yet in this very season you are laying a foundation for all the rest of your days. If the young twig grows crooked, the full grown bough will have the same direction fixed. Think of this.

Youth is the gathering time. You must now be busy in laying up useful knowledge for time to come. Youth is the seed-time. If the farmer lets the time of sowing pass by, he will have no harvest in summer, and must starve. If you do not fix in your mind the seeds of truth and wisdom now, you will be ignorant and foolish when you grow to be a man, if you ever do become a man. For you must never forget that multitudes never reach manhood.

Everything you do, however trifling it may seem, has its bearing upon your future life. You will reap as you sow, and every moment you are sowing some good or some evil. It seems to you no great matter to trifle away an afternoon; but you are thereby getting a habit of idleness—you are losing just so much of your life—you are letting just so much sand run down without attending to your assigned task.

The great thing for which you were made is, to please God, and to enjoy his love. Life is short; therefore, do not put off the service of God until tomorrow. If life is so short, you ought to give God the whole of it. Surely, you will not rob him of the spring of your days—the very best part of them. He has as much right to this day as to the morrow; he demands your youth as well as your old age. Follow the example of our adorable Redeemer, who said, "I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night comes when no man can work." This is what few boys think much of; but those who do are wiser and happier when they become older; and none enjoy life so much as those who have early given their affections to Jesus Christ the Lord.

Your affectionate brother,

Friday, September 10, 2010

Christ is Worth Everything

This is a powerful excerpt dealing with the Lordship of Christ. Tim Conway is preaching out of Matthew 13:44 about the man who in his joy went sold everything he had for the most valuable treasure. Oh my friends that treasure is Christ!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Offense of the Gospel!

A Letter by William Tiptaft, January 30th, 1830

Dear Brother,
Since I last wrote, I have preached in Abingdon Great Church, on Christmas evening, the only night in the year that it is lighted. I preached the truth, I trust, to a very crowded congregation, supposed to be (sitting and standing, who were able to get in) about 5,000 people. I pleased the believers, but very much displeased the carnally-minded, who were never so puzzled and confounded in their lives before. But even those who hate me and the truth acknowledge that the Bible has never before been so much read in Abingdon, or the Articles of our Church so much examined. I spoke the truth faithfully, and so as all could hear; but I had no idea that the gospel would have given so much offence. They have done nothing else since but talk about it. I allow there was much strong doctrinal matter in it, but I said no more than I fully believe.

On the Sunday after, a clergyman preached very much against me and the doctrines which I profess. Last week he published his sermon. He misrepresents my sermon so very much that, in my own defense, I am obliged to publish it, for which there is already a great demand. It is a very long sermon, from Matt. 1:21. The clergyman who preached against me is a wine-bibber, a great card-player, and a fox-hunter. They all acknowledge if I am not right, they are sure he is not.

The Lord is with me, for I really believe many are brought out of darkness through my preaching, and their lives manifest their faith as that which works by love and purifies the heart.

It is the truth that offends and disturbs Satan's kingdom. The neighboring clergymen, who are in the dark, say of me, "Away with such a fellow from the earth; it is not fit that he should live." Many hate, but some love me, and bless the day they first heard me. Some of the worst characters here have become decided Christians. They bring no charge against me except my views of religion; but they cannot gainsay them. Some say the Articles of our Church were buried until I brought them forth. My mind is not moved by the persecution, for I have every testimony that I am a minister of Christ, and I believe if He has a work for me to do, I shall do it, in spite of the devil and all his children. It is not coming near to the truth, it is not the letter of the gospel, that will convert men, but the Spirit.

Make the Word of God your study. Pin your faith to no man's views. I scarcely read any other book.

The people of Abingdon come over in large parties to hear what this troubler of Israel has to say. Though they say all manner of evil against me falsely, they find what I say "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." Nature is not changed, the gospel is not changed, and Christ is not changed. What reason is there why they should not hate the truth now as much as in the time of the apostles? I never saw any fruits of my labors until I roused and disturbed the roaring lion. When, through the grace of God, I began to disturb his kingdom, I soon found that his children began to hiss; they want to know what has become of their forefathers. I came not here to judge them, but to preach the gospel. Beware of those who want to exalt man in any manner. The world and Satan hate believers. Read Paul's Epistles; they beautifully throw light upon the other Scriptures. Listen to no one who wants to mix free will and free grace, the law and the gospel; for free will is a very stronghold of Satan's. Listen to no one who talks about universal redemption. Remember Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, and his ministers into ministers of righteousness. The Pharisees hate me the most. I cut off all their rotten props, and all their fleshly devotion.

Yours very affectionately,
William Tiptaft.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

Joni Eareckson Tada gives a powerful message on suffering. Well worth the listen!

If you can't see the media player, click on the post title.

HT: Truth Matters

Sunday, September 5, 2010

True patriotism!

A letter by John Newton

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, "Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Luke 12:14. "My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!" John 18:36. God's children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the "quiet in the land." Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God's wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the 'offence of the cross'!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their 'liberty'—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God's law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an 'air of importance', will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child's dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! "Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!" Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton

Give of your best to the Master

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

Marvin Olasky writes (I have added a few flourishes) about attending an exciting professional baseball game in which the two sides traded runs and were neck and neck throughout the game. The ninth inning opened with the game all square. The visitors scored one run in the top of the ninth, but the crowd remained confident as the home team had two men on base with only one out. Then it was two out and the tension increased, but the last man up was their big hitter. Although the stats listed him as 250 lbs, Olasky figured he was well over that and looked out of shape. His misgivings turned into reality as the big man's swing was way behind the fast ball and then missed the slider by a mile. The sparkle of the crowd faded like a glass of uncovered sod-pop as the inevitable happened a couple of pitches later. Swinging late the sluggish slugger popped a wicked curve ball to midfield to the collective groan of twenty thousand disappointed fans.

The moral of the story? While no one expects even the very best players to hit every time, anyone who receives ten thousand dollars a game ought (at least) to be in the best physical and mental condition possible and give 100% to the goal – winning!

There is a spiritual equivalent to this story. As Christians we have received something far more valuable than money or fame, we have the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Given this fact, each one of us should be in the best spiritual condition (and why not physical condition as well?) that we can be, and be dedicated to the goal of advancing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Writing to the church at Philippi Paul said: I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, and to the church at Corinth: Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, and to Timothy: ...exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things

Like even the very best baseball players, we will not bat one thousand. We will miss some fast ball opportunities to share the good news. The need to pray for or help a fellow Christian will slide by unnoticed. The enemy will throw some nasty inning ending curve balls our way and that opportunity will be over – but not the game. The writer of Hebrews employes a similar athletic theme by describing the great cloud of witnesses that surround us as we run the race of faith all the way to the end. Let us not disappoint them. Let us be sure to be in the best spiritual (and yes, physical) condition we can be in. Let us exercise our gifts and hone them to perfection so that when it is our turn at bat we will give it our best shot. When we do we can be sure that the Lord will be pleased: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive an inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23-24).

Give of your best to the Master, give Him first place in your heart, give Him first place in your service, consecrate every part. (Howard Benjamin Grose; cf. #450 in the church hymnal)

For the Kingdom,
Pastor Ron Bridge

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Halfhearted Christian

By Horatius Bonar, taken from Christ and the World (1867)
2 Cor. 6:14, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15

There is another class of a much more uncertain and indefinite kind—whose object seems to be to get hold of both worlds. They want to infuse as much religion into their life, their doings, their conversation, as will make them be reckoned religious men; at least, save them from the imputation of being worldly men. They want as much of worldly comfort and pleasure as will gratify their carnal tastes. Their life is a compromise; and their object is to balance between two adverse interests, to adjust the conflicting claims of this world and of the world to come; to please and to serve two masters, to gratify two tastes, to walk in two opposite ways at once, to secure the friendship of the world without losing the friendship of God.

The character as well as the life of these men is undecided and feeble. They are not decided in their worldliness, and they are not decided in their religion. If they were compelled to choose between their two masters, the probability is that they would prefer the world; for their heart is not in their religion, and religion is not in their heart. Religion is irksome to them; it is a yoke, not a pleasant service. They don't want to part with it, for several good reasons; but they have no delight in it. Their consciences would not allow them to throw it off; but it occupies a very small part of their thoughts and affections. They are, in fact, worldly men varnished over with religion; that is all. They are made up of two parts, a dead and a living; the living part is the world, the dead is religion.

There are many of these in our day, when religion is fashionable. When religion is unfashionable, there are few; when it is scoffed at, still fewer; when it is persecuted, hardly any. But when it is in fashion, they are numerous. They may go under many names—formalists, externalists, half-hearted Christians, half-and-half disciples; they may put on more or less of religion; they may indulge more or less in worldliness; still, the class I speak of is, in all circumstances, substantially the same. They have never broken with sin, nor crucified self, nor taken up the cross. Whatever their lives or their words may be—their heart is not right with God.

Some of these are people who have been brought up in worldliness, and who have, as they grew up, added a little religion to their worldliness, to make it respectable. Others have been religiously brought up from childhood; they have been well taught in the things of Christ; they have had their religious impressions, some deeper, some shallower; and these have remained for a season, so as to mold their character and life considerably. But such feelings have never gone deep enough; they never led to the new birth; they issue in no lasting spiritual life, so that, instead of leading to the transformation of the whole man, inner and outer, they have merely religionized the outer man, leaving the inner man unmelted, unbroken, and unrenewed. The people thus moved have gone a considerable way—but not the whole. They have been roused—but not converted. They have passed through a certain religious process—but not experienced the heavenly change, without which they cannot enter the kingdom. They have felt a good deal, read a good deal, prayed a good deal; they have not been without their earnestness and solemnity, perhaps their sighs and tears. They have been moved under sermons; roused by searching books; done many things and taken many steps which seemed to be religious. Yet, after all, there has been no broken-heartedness; no opening of the eye, no breaking off from sin, no surrender of the soul to God, no crucifixion of the old man, no resurrection to newness of life.

After a while, in such cases, a deep and fixed formalism has settled in. Earnestness has faded away, and left nothing but its dregs. The soul has become sapless and insensible. The edge of feeling, both upon heart and conscience, has become blunted. The 'routine of religion' is still gone through, and the 'profession' still kept up; but all within is dried up and withered; there is no enjoyment of spiritual things; the service of God is a burden; praise and prayer are irksome; sermons and sacraments are wearisome; and the poor professor moves on in his heartless career; outwardly still religious—but at heart unspiritual and worldly.

In such a case, with a religion in which he has no enjoyment, and with a profession which brings him no liberty and no comfort, it is not astonishing that he should have recourse to the world, to fill up the dreary void within. His carnal tastes never having been radically changed—but simply overborne for a season, by a rush of religious performances. So he returns naturally to gratify his carnal tastes in their old objects. His only restraints are the dread of a dark future, which he cannot shake off, and the desire to maintain a religious profession, to stand well with religious men, and to maintain his place in the church. How many of this class there may be in our day, God only knows. We are warned that, in the last days, there will be multitudes having the form of godliness—but denying its power.

These are the ambiguous disciples of our age, who belong to Christ only in name. These are the stony-ground or thorny-ground hearers; men who have a place at our communion tables, who join in religious committees, who make speeches on religious platforms, yet are, after all, "wells without water," "trees without root," stars without either heat or light.

The religion of such is but a half-and-half religion; without depth, or decision, or vigor, or self-sacrifice. It is but a 'picture' or a 'statue'—not a living man.

The conversion of such has been but a half-and-half conversion; it has not gone down to the lowest depths of the man's nature. I do not say it is all pretense or hypocrisy; but still, I say it is an unreality. It has been a movement, a shaking, a change—but it has not been a being "begotten of God," a being "born from above."

The discipleship of such is but a half-and-half discipleship. It has some of the aspects of discipleship; but it is not a forsaking all, and taking up the cross and following Christ. We do not count as genuine, the discipleship of the man who is today with Christ, tomorrow with the world; today in the sanctuary, tomorrow at the dance. There must be suspicion attaching to all such inconsistent discipleship; it is both cold and hot; it is both worldly and unworldly; it is both Christian and un-Christian—what can it be?—what can it mean?

In speaking of such inconsistencies, we must be faithful and direct. We are not to prophesy smooth things, and hint at certain evils, as if they were but minor imperfections, the quiet removal of which would set all right. No; we must strike deeper than this. We must lay the axe to the root of the tree, and say at once, that such inconsistencies betray the utter unsoundness of the man's whole religious profession. It is not that there are some flaws in his religious life; it is that his religion itself is hollow—without foundation, without root or soil. I will not say it is all a lie; for there is sometimes a certain amount of good intention in it; but it is all a mistake—a great and dreadful mistake; a mistake which, if not rectified at once, must issue in the fearful darkness and woeful disappointment of an undone eternity!

Such a man's whole religious life is one grand delusion; and every step he takes in it is a blunder, and a stumble, and a snare. Let such a man know that, in his present half-worldly, half-religious condition, he has no real religion at all. It is a fabrication, a delusion. It will stand no test of law or gospel, of conscience or of discipline, of time or of eternity. It will go to pieces with the first touch. It is all hollow, and must be begun again, from the very first stone of the foundation.

If, then, O worldly formalist, you would make sure your hope, and obtain a discipleship that will stand all tests, begin this day at the beginning. Count all the past but loss. Fling away your vain hopes and self-righteous confidences. Give up your fond idea of securing both earth and heaven. Go straight to Calvary; there be you crucified to the world, and the world to you, by the cross of Christ. Go straight to the grave of Christ; there bring all your sins, your worldliness, your half-heartedness, and all pertaining to your old self, that being made partaker of Christ's death and burial, you may be sharer of his resurrection too. Go at once to Him who died and rose again, and drink into his love. One draught, no, one drop of that love will forever quench your love of sin, and be the death of that worldliness which threatens to be your eternal ruin. The love of Christ will not only make you an out and out Christian, a thoroughgoing, decided man in all the things of God—but it will pour in a peace which you have never known, which you cannot know—except by simple faith in the heavenly Peacemaker, and in entire surrender of soul to him who gave himself for us, that he might deliver us from a present evil world, according to the will of God our Father.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Good Advice for Christians by Jonathan Edwards

A letter by Jonathan Edwards, addressed to a young lady in the year 1741.

My dear young friend,

As you desired me to send you, in writing, some directions how to conduct yourself in your Christian course, I would now answer your request. The sweet remembrance of the great things I have lately seen at your church, inclines me to do anything in my power, to contribute to the spiritual joy and prosperity of God's people there.

1. I would advise you to keep up as great an effort and earnestness in religion, as if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature, and were seeking conversion. We advise people under conviction, to be earnest and violent for the kingdom of heaven; but when they have attained to conversion, they ought not to be the less watchful, laborious, and earnest, in the whole work of religion, but the more so; for they are under infinitely greater obligations. For lack of this, many people, in a few months after their conversion, have begun to lose their sweet and lively sense of spiritual things, and to grow cold and dark, and have 'pierced themselves through with many sorrows;' whereas, if they had done as the apostle did, (Philippians 3:12-14) their path would have been 'as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day.'

2. Do not leave off seeking, striving, and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted persons to strive for, and a degree of which you have had already in conversion. Pray that your eyes may be opened, that you may receive sight, that you may know yourself, and be brought to God's footstool; and that you may see the glory of God and Christ, and have the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart. Those who have most of these things, have need still to pray for them; for there is so much blindness and hardness, pride and corruption remaining, that they still need to have that work of God wrought upon them, further to enlighten and enliven them, that shall be bringing them more and more out of darkness into God's marvelous light, and be a kind of new conversion and resurrection from the dead. There are very few requests that are proper for an impenitent man, that are not also, in some sense, proper for the godly.

3. When you hear a sermon, hear for yourself. Though what is spoken may be more especially directed to the unconverted, or to those who, in other respect, are in different circumstances from yourself; yet, let the chief intent of your mind be to consider, 'In what respect is this applicable to me? and what improvement ought I to make of this, for my own soul's good?'

4. Though God has forgiven and forgotten your past sins, yet do not forget them yourself: often remember, what a wretched slave you were in the land of Egypt. Often bring to mind your particular acts of sin before conversion; as the blessed apostle Paul is often mentioning his old blaspheming, persecuting spirit, and his injuriousness to the godly; humbling his heart, and acknowledging that he was 'the least of the apostles,' and not worthy 'to be called an apostle,' and the 'least of all saints,' and the 'chief of sinners.' And be often confessing your old sins to God, and let that text be often in your mind, (Ezekiel 16:63.) 'that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more, because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you have done, says the Lord God.'

5. Remember, that you have more cause, on some accounts, a thousand times, to lamest and humble yourself for sins that have been committed since conversion, than before; because of the infinitely greater obligations that are upon you to live to God, and to look upon the faithfulness of Christ, in unchangeably continuing his loving-kindness, notwithstanding all your great unworthiness since your conversion.

6. Be always greatly abased for your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it; but yet be not discouraged or disheartened by it; for, though we are exceeding sinful, yet we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; the preciousness of whose blood, the merit of whose righteousness, and the greatness of whose love and faithfulness, infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our sins!

7. When you engage in the duty of prayer, or come to the Lord's supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship—come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did! Come, and cast yourself at His feet, and kiss them, and pour forth upon Him the sweet perfumed ointment of divine love, out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured the precious perfume out of her pure broken alabaster jar! "There was a woman who was a notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's home, she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at His feet behind Him. She was crying and began to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed His feet over and over again, anointing them constantly with the perfume." (Luke 7:37-38)

8. Remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the souls peace, and of sweet communion with Christ: it was the first sin committed, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan's whole building, and is with the greatest difficulty rooted out, and is the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all lusts, and often creeps insensibly into the midst of religion, even, sometimes, under the disguise of humility itself. "To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech." (Proverbs 8:13)

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010