Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This from Richard Baxter, via Voices From the Past, via Richard Rushing. :)
I thought this was, well, FABULOUS.
“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
Whenever you feel the least motion toward disobedience, meet it with an army of holy graces—zeal, courage, and love to God. Quench every spark that falls upon your hearts before it breaks into flame. When sin is little and weak, it can be easily resisted. When temptationvoices_from_the_past grows strong, grace grows weak and we lack the sense of God’s presence, attributes, and truths to rebuke it. O, do not drift out of the range of God’s voice, straying beyond His call. The habit of obedience will be dangerously abated, if you do not resist quickly the acts of sin. Labour for a clear understanding of God’s will that you will not delay in your obedience through doubt. If you doubt whether sin is sin, this weakens your resolve so that you are willing to draw near to it. When a man is sure of his duty, it is a great help against all temptations. When he is sure a thing is sinful, it is easier to resist. It is the devil’s method to delude the understanding, and make men believe that duty is no duty, and sin is no sin. It is no wonder that duties are neglected and sin is committed. It is almost incredible how much ground the devil takes when he has once made sin a matter of controversy: some are of one mind, and some of another; you are of one opinion and I am of another. If it were ever a controversy whether drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, swearing, stealing, or any villainy were a sin or not, it would be committed more commonly and with much less regret of conscience. By this means, good men themselves are dangerously disabled to resist sin, and are more prepared to commit it. take heed lest the devil cast you into this sleep of carnal security. When you are in a careless sleep, obedience seems a tiresome thing; like a tired horse, you don’t feel the spur. You are half-conquered, and have lost your love for obedience and are in danger to yield at last.
And there you have it.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hitting the books…

I admit it. When I think “I’m going to sit down and read something edifying tonight"… J.I. Packer isn’t what comes to my mind. He’s a good guy, and has written good stuff, but there are other issues there… However, I recently started reading John Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” and of course it would be insupportable to skip the introductory essay by Packer. After beginning it, I think I could say that it is one of the finest explanations of Calvinism that I have heard in a few concise paragraphs. (And it’s a good thing he is concise—for I am not!) I’m not going to quote his explanation of the five points of Calvinism, or the historical background he gives, but rather an introductory paragraph, and then his broader picture of Calvinism that I really liked.
“There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. … If we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel…..{and so they have begun to preach a newer gospel}  the new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centred in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do…. whereas the chief aim of the old (gospel) was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him… The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed…. Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for his sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ…. The result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”
Then he presents this, on Calvinism, after explaining the five points. (TULIP)
“In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the “five points” indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavour to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centred outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), Religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere.”
And that concludes my stint from Packer. However, I of course must add something more. I am quite thankful for a father that comes in and says “Wanna read me something good?” To which I reply “I’d love to—what did you have in mind?” And Spurgeon was the pick of the night. As to what particular choice-- his sermon preached on July 5, 1857, in the music hall of the Surrey Gardens. (it’s out of Volumes III-IV of the New Park Street Pulpit series). I thought this excerpt particularly good, and moving. The text was “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” – John xii, 32. The excerpt is in the context of his first point, which is that “Christ’s crucifixion was His glory.”
“Now, the cross of Christ is Christ’s glory. We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others—Christ by the slaughter of himself: men seek to get crowns of gold—he sought a crown of thorns: men think that glory lieth in being exalted over others—Christ thought that his glory did lie in becoming “a worm and no man,” a scoff and reproach amongst all that beheld Him. He stooped when He conquered; and He counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest…..And once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph. His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. “The cross,” said He, “the gibbet of my doom may seem to be cursed with ignominy, and the world shall stand round and hiss at the crucified; my name be forever dishonored as one who died upon the tree; and cavillers and scoffers may forever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with the malefactor; but I look not at the cross as you do. I know its ignominy, but I despise the shame—I am prepared to endure it all. I look up on the cross as a gate of triumph, as the portal of victory. Oh, shall I tell you what I shall behold upon the cross? Just when mine eye is swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is palpitating with its last pang; just when my body is rent with its last thrill of anguish, then mine eye shall see the head of the dragon broken, it shall see hell’s towers dismantled and its castle fallen. Mine eye shall see my seed eternally saved, I shall behold the ransomed coming from their prison houses. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is preparing for its last cry of “it is finished!;’ I shall behold the year of my redeemed come, I shall shout my triumph in the delivery of all my beloved! Ay, and I shall see then, the world, mine own earth conquered, and usurpers all disthroned, and I shall behold in vision the glories of the latter days, when I shall sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!” Yes, Christ saw in his cross the victories of it, and therefore did he pant and long for it as being the place of victory and the means of conquest. “I,” said Jesus, “if I be lifted up, if I be exalted;” he puts his crucifixion as being His glory.”
There you have it.