What is real?

9 12 2008

Here’s a great quote from Puritan preacher Thomas Watson:t_watson

“When a Christian loses those comforts he cannot keep, he keeps those treasures which he cannot lose… He who has spiritual things inherits substance. If you speak of true wisdom, it is to know God; if of true honor, it is to be born of God; if of true beauty, it is to have the image of God; if of true riches, it is to be rich in faith; if of true victory, it is to overcome the world; if of true delight, it is to have joy in the Holy Ghost; if of true happiness, it is to see God. Here is substance. This is that which will fill the soul eternally with wonder and delight…

The earth is the basest element; men tread upon it, yet they make that their god which they tread upon every day. Alas, how poor are these earthly things that men so throw away their hearts on! What are silks but the excrements of worms? What is a pearl but the disease of the fish? What is gold but the dregs of the earth? These things a man may have and go to hell. A pack horse carries gold and silver all day, and at night lies in the stable with a lame back. So a man may be laden with worldly riches and, afterwards, lie down in hell with a lame conscience.”

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Dead to sin, Alive to God

20 08 2008

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

This verse puts before every one of us a matter of LIFE and DEATH. Don’t dismiss this if you value your soul! The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, says that if you DO THIS you will die; but if you DO THIS you will live. The path that leads to death is to live your life ACCORDING TO THE FLESH. The path that leads to life is to PUT TO DEATH THE DEEDS OF THE BODY BY THE SPIRIT. The text is talking about the Biblical doctrine of MORTIFICATION, which means “putting to death.” If you are a believer, you have been crucified with Christ. The OLD MAN is dead in principle, but you must also PUT TO DEATH the inclinations of the old sinful nature by faith in the pursuit of Christ’s righteousness. This is all part of the Spirit’s work of SANCTIFYING believers.

So, how do you know if you are mortifying the flesh? Here are a few things to check as you examine your heart before God…

BEFORE YOU COMMIT A SIN…

1. Do you have a strong desire to sin, so that you carefully plot and plan how to pursue it? Psalm 36:4 says of the unmortified sinner that “He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil.” In other words, his energy and effort is spent in preparing to sin. This is a sign of an unmortified heart.

2. Are you more eager to commit a sin when you are tempted than you are to resist it? A stream is known by the natural course that it follows. So is the human heart. When faced with a temptation, which is stronger: your desire to give in, or your desire to resist? Your honest answer will reveal the extent to which your flesh is mortified.

3. Do you pray often and consistently against the sins that you most often fall into? James tells us that we do not have because we do not ask (in prayer). If you don’t have victory over prevailing sins, could it be because you are not asking for victory? Your practice of prayer (or lack thereof) will also show you the state of your heart.

4. Does your desire for sin occupy your mind even when you are in the presence of God? What do you think about when you go to church and sit before the Word? Are your thoughts inclined toward Christ or do they drift here and there in the contemplation of sin? When the preacher is praying, what are you thinking about?

5. When you remember your former sins, does it move you to deep humility or does it spark a new desire to return to them? The heart that truly hates sin and is mortified will hate even the memory of past transgressions. But the unmortified heart will be stirred up to fresh lusts when prior sins are brought to mind.

6. Are you easily swept away by even the slightest temptations? How hard does Satan have to work to trip you? The more that your flesh is mortified, the higher will be your resistance against the motions of the flesh. Dead men have no reflexes. If the smallest hint of temptation provokes you to sin, the reflexes of the OLD MAN are still very much alive.

AFTER SINNING…

1. Do you find more joy in the pleasure of sin than you find sorrow for having fallen into it?

2. Do you get angry and defensive when a brother or sister tries to point out your sin in love?

3. Are you more careful to hide your sins from the eyes of men than to repent and be humbled before God?

These are some tests of the heart that will help you to determine whether you are on the path that leads to DEATH or the way that leads to LIFE. Remember, the putting to death of the flesh is BY THE SPIRIT. It isn’t in your own strength. If you are convicted by these things, call out to God for grace and strength to DIE to SIN and LIVE to CHRIST.





Stolen Poultry

17 08 2008

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.” (Jeremiah 17:11)

It was commonly believed that the partridge would steal eggs from other birds’ nests and hatch them as its own. Eventually, however, the pilfered birds would leave and return to their own kind. God used this example from nature to teach an important lesson through His prophet Jeremiah. Those who get riches through unrighteousness are like the nest-robbing partridge. Whatever they gain eventually deserts them, and they end up looking stupid.

Everybody’s trying to gain something. The old bumper sticker that says, “Whoever has the most toys at the end wins!” seems to be the operational creed of most folk in our generation. The quest for fame and wealth, power and reputation drives the daily pursuits of folk inside and outside of the church. But most are no different from Jeremiah’s foolish partridge. They’re stealing eggs from other nests and passing them off as their own, because they’re gaining riches by injustice.

There are some who enrich themselves by theft. These are not just the thugs that knock over stores and mug old ladies on the street. They’re also the ordinary folks who cheat on their taxes, or pinch a few dollars from the petty cash drawer when nobody’s looking. And they’re the churchgoers who think all they get is their own and never give a dime to the Lord’s work. They’re the preachers who lazily feed God’s sheep with watered down fluff and collect a paycheck like they’re serving up a five star banquet.

There are some who enrich themselves by deceit. They twist the truth in order to gain the applause of men and pump up their bank balances by preying on the gullible. They sell products that they know are not worth the price, or offer services they have no intention of delivering.

There are some who enrich themselves by murder. You don’t have to be a mafia hit man to fall into this category. It also includes business men who sell faulty products with no regard for their effects on the lives of the consumer; or even preachers who kill the souls of God’s children by filling them with errors and heresy or simply depriving them of the life-giving truth and get rich in the process.

Some folk get rich by misusing religion, and these are the worst kind of partridges. They’re the hypocrites who pretend to serve Jesus and use His holy name so they can squeeze dollars from His people and build their own personal kingdoms.

But God says plainly, all those who get riches through injustice, deceit, murder and theft will see those riches fly away, and will be seen in the end to be as foolish as the partridge that sat on stolen eggs. What they had was not their own, and what they’re left with will be worse than nothing.

Now read what Jesus says in Luke 11:9-13…

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you want an egg, you don’t have to steal it from some other bird’s nest. You just need to ask your heavenly Father. But notice what the egg is! Jesus said that if we earthly fathers, though we are evil, know how to give our children an egg instead of a scorpion when they ask, then how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

Luke 11:9-13 is not a proof text for getting rich by asking God for worldly prosperity. Jesus is directing us to the true riches that we ought to be seeking. Real prosperity is the presence of Christ in the heart in the person of the Holy Spirit. That kind of wealth cannot be stolen. We need to get our hearts and our eyes off of the world and its empty promises of gain and set them instead on the pursuit of Christ and His indwelling presence, which is better than all the riches this world can ever produce.

How do we get this precious “egg”? Ask… seek… knock… with a sincere heart and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek the eternal treasure that can’t be taken away. Everything else is stolen poultry.





Incarnation

13 08 2008

This is a poem that I wrote while meditating upon the amazing condescension of Jesus Christ, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7)

 

Incarnation

A baby cries

amid the straw, fresh-born into a world so strange;

Could this be God,

the eternal Son,

glorious throne for flesh exchanged?

 

How can this be?

What mind can grasp the untold splendor of this thing?

Almighty God,

The Lord of Hosts

in infant-form to mother clings!

 

Majestic One,

whose blazing beauty shineth forth to shame the dawn.

Now without form

or comeliness

that any should to him be drawn.

 

Creator God,

Who made and owns the cattle on a thousand hills;

Now humble, poor,

A stable floor

For solace ‘gainst harsh winter chills.

 

Perfect Spirit,

Unhindered by the bonds of Adam’s flesh-bound race,

conceived and born

in mankind’s form,

with limits all of time and space.

 

When once He dwelt

in Heaven high, He was untouched by worldly woe.

Yet willingly

He condescends,

consents the scourge of pain to know.

 

And not mere pain,

but death itself, and not mere death, but cursed cross,

the Suffering Servant

stoops to bear

to purge away man’s sinful dross.

 

Was this for me?

Did Glory stoop so low to grace this wretched orb

To set me free,

and for my sin

did He God’s righteous wrath absorb?

 

‘Tis said

in order to secure the ransom price I could not pay,

He took my form,

and bore the storm

of God’s just punishment that Day.

  

The Lord of Glory

took my place before the unleashed wrath of God!

Like grapes His blood

beneath the feet

of His Almighty Father trod!

 

And had He not

consented thus, the confines of the flesh to know,

then I would face

eternal chains

to pay the penalty I owe.

 

What glorious grace!

The Risen Son, enthroned once more at God’s right hand

has conquered death

through sacrifice

and put to shame hell’s raging band!

 

“Come to Me,

all you who bend beneath the crushing weight of sin,”

says He,

“and I will give you rest.”

Eternal life is found in Him!





Lamentations 1:1 – Sin’s Consequences and Cure

12 08 2008

How lonely sits the city That was full of people! How like a widow is she, Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces Has become a slave!” (Lamentations 1:1)

Jeremiah has been called “the weeping prophet” because of the heartfelt sadness he expresses over the devastation of Jerusalem for her sins. Centuries later, the Lord Jesus Christ would weep over Jerusalem again, as He mourned her hardness of heart and anticipated yet another great judgment upon her. Sin promises fulfillment, happiness and contentment, and yet its promises are empty and hollow. In the end, the wages of sin is death, and the consequences of self-indulgence are a broken life and untold miseries. The people of Jerusalem learned this lesson the hard way.

Yet sorrow for sin is not an end in itself. Godly sorrow is designed to lead to repentance, which in turn leads to forgiveness and restoration. There is no shortcut to restoration that bypasses godly sorrow. Before a sinner can be brought to reconciliation, he must face the reality of his offenses against God and feel the sting of conviction.

The chastisements of God are calculated to accomplish this purpose. They are, in that sense, a means of grace. Make no mistake… God would be perfectly just to bring every sinner instantly to judgment and consign him or her to an eternity of punishment. But in His grace and mercy, He often brings only temporal sufferings into the life of the sinner, to show him the consequences of rebellion and call him to acknowledge his offenses and cry out for mercy.

Chastisements serve a double purpose. They are the just consequences of sinful actions, and they are the gracious instruments of God to humble the sinner that he might be restored. The first step toward restoration is to mourn over sin and its results.

Repentance begins with an acknowledgment of particular transgressions. If your child, while being punished for some act of disobedience, sought to have the punishment removed by making a vague and general apology (“I’m sorry for whatever I might have done to make you angry”) you would rightly question whether he truly understood his offense. So it is with repentance before God. The heart of the true penitent must come to grips with his particular sins, and be made to acknowledge precisely how he has given offense to the Holy God.

Often, the first step toward recognizing particular sin in our lives is the wake-up call of finding ourselves smarting under the sudden consequences those sins have brought down upon our heads. The Lamentations of Jeremiah therefore begin with a consideration of the misery of Jerusalem, that she might see how her sins have reduced her to the deplorable condition in which she now finds herself. The design of this contemplation of suffering is not to encourage self-pity, but to stimulate self-examination.

The lament begins with the acknowledgment that the former glory of the city has been stripped away: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave!”

The Hebrew titles of the books of the Old Testament are generally taken from the first word of the first verse of the book. The formal title of the book of Lamentations is the Hebrew word “Eekah,” which means “How!” It is a word denoting sudden alarm and amazement, and might also be translated “Alas!” or “Behold!” The force of the language used here is important. The idea conveyed is “Look at us! Look what has become of us!” Jerusalem was once a grand city, bustling with activity. Her marketplaces thrived and people filled her streets. All of this is now gone. She has become a ghost town, lonely and desolate. The throngs of people that once overflowed her streets have perished or been carried off as captives to a foreign land.

The eerie emptiness of the streets of Jerusalem testifies to the vanity of placing confidence in prosperity.None of the inhabitants of that great city ever imagined that it would have come to this. The prosperity of the city had lured them into a false assurance. Every great nation presumes itself to be invincible. Yet God is able to reduce the greatest and most prosperous nation to nothing. A nation that rejects God is not secure, regardless of the appearance of prosperity. All of the prosperity in which they trust can be stripped away in an instant when God brings judgment upon those who reject His laws and spurn the Son of His love.

Jerusalem had been a princess among the provinces, but she finds herself a widow. She had received tribute from kings, but now finds herself a slave. In reality, Jerusalem had been a slave long before her captivity.The people had sold themselves into bondage to sin. The captivity of the nation was only the result of God giving them over to the desire of their own wicked hearts.

The effect of sin in a nation or an individual is bondage. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). This is the great illusion of sin, which promises freedom from the demands of God’s law, only to clap chains of iron around the wrists and ankles of those who submit to its lusts. Those who are given over to sin may imagine themselves to be free for a time, but eventually their bondage will become evident.

The promises of sin are empty. In the end it leads to solitude, grief, and slavery. The façade of prosperity will be stripped away from all who imagine themselves secure in their ways apart from Christ. They will be left to mourn their pitiful condition as they look back at the vain confidence they once had.

What application are we to make from these opening lines of Jeremiah’s Lamentation? “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Here is a word of warning for the church, the nation, and the individual…

The Church

Judah was God’s covenant people, and Jerusalem was the place where He chose to dwell among them. They mistakenly presumed that they could boldly continue in sin and that God would never forsake His covenant people or His holy sanctuary in Jerusalem. Now they looked with horror upon the ruins of the temple, in which they once boasted – and the holy city, which they thought could never be overthrown. Judah learned the hard lesson that “Judgment begins at the house of God!”

Today, the Church already finds itself, to a great extent, in a posture of subjection and forsakenness, though she has not yet recognized her deplorable condition. She must awaken unto repentance and reformation while the voices of God’s prophets are still sounding the warnings of inevitable judgment if she continues to follow after worldliness and self-satisfaction while forsaking obedience to the revealed will of God as it is found in the Scriptures!

The Nation

Our nation needs desperately to learn the lesson of Lamentations. When the godly attempt to point out the inevitable consequences of moral decay and spiritual decline resulting from the rejection of Christ in our land, their warnings are casually or mockingly dismissed. We are assured that the economy is strong, as though a strong economy is a guarantee of future security no matter what the moral condition of the land and its people may be. The people are resting in a vain security. Our nation will find itself echoing the laments of Jeremiah if we continue to ignore the Lord’s warnings.

The Individual

Perhaps you find yourself in the place of mourning personally. Has your outward prosperity been stripped away? Is your life filled with grief and sighing? Do you see that sin’s empty promises of freedom have only led you into bondage to fear and lust? If so, then God is calling upon you to begin the process toward restoration. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Don’t wait to receive your paycheck! The perks you have been promised are fraudulent! Look at where sin has brought you! How did it come to this? How empty and vain is your life! How pitiable the condition of your soul! How lonely and desolate you are! How enslaved to your lusts and wants and insatiable longings for the things of this world!

You must acknowledge your condition and recognize the mournful emptiness that your life has become. You must see the vanity of trusting in self-satisfaction or in the approval of others. True repentance begins with anguish of heart over sin and its consequences.

I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? And I said, “This is my anguish;” But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. (Psalm 77:6-10)

That “right hand” is the place where Jesus now sits… having displayed the power of God’s justice and mercy. It is to Him – and to Him alone – that you must look when the Spirit of God opens your eyes to the bankruptcy of your own heart and the desperate lostness of your eternal soul.

Sin has led you into bondage, but the Son will set you free!