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31 August, 2014

Why is Salvation by Faith?

Thomas Watson

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift
of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9

"Jesus said to the woman—Your faith has saved
you; go in peace." Luke 7:50

Why is salvation by faith?

To exclude all glorying in the creature. Faith is a
humble grace. If salvation were by repentance or 
, a man would say, "It is my righteousness

which has saved me!" But if it is of faith, where is
boasting? Faith fetches all from Christ—and gives
all the glory to Christ!

God's believing people are a humble people.
"Be clothed with humility." God's people shrink into
nothing in their own thoughts. David cries out, "I am
a worm, and not a man!" Though a saint, though a
king—yet a worm! When Moses' face shined, he
covered it with a veil. When God's people shine most
in grace—they are covered with the veil of humility.
Abraham the father of the faithful, confesses, "I am
nothing but dust and ashes." "God resists the proud."
Surely, God will not take to be with Himself in glory,
such as whom He resists.

God's believing people are a willing people.
Though they cannot serve God perfectly—they serve
Him willingly. They do not grudge God a little time
spent in His worship. They do not murmur at sufferings.
They will go through a sea and a wilderness—if God calls.
"Your people shall be a willing people." This spontaneity
and willingness is from the attractive power of God's
Spirit. The Spirit does not force—but sweetly draws the
will. This willingness makes all our services acceptable.
God sometimes accepts of willingness without the
work—but never the work without willingness.

God's believing people are a consecrated people.
They have "holiness to the Lord" written upon them.
"You are a holy people to the Lord your God." God's
people are separated from the world—and sanctified
by the Spirit. The priests under the law were not only
to wash in the laver—but were arrayed with glorious
apparel. This was typical, to show that God's people
are not only washed from gross sins—but adorned
with holiness of life. They bear not only God's name
—but His image! Holiness is God's stamp; if He does
not see this stamp upon us, He will not own us for
His believing people.

30 August, 2014

Self-Centered Vs. God-Centered

Matthew 16:23 
You are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's
The apostle Peter is a glaring example of the struggle between self- and Christ-centered living. Only moments after Peter confessed the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-16), he found himself in league with the powers of darkness. Having just blessed Peter for his noble confession, Jesus announced to him and the other disciples the suffering and death which awaited Him at Jerusalem. "And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You'" (verse 22).
Jesus responded: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (verse 23).
Jesus' memorable rebuke seems mercilessly severe. But the fact that He identified Satan as the source of Peter's words describes precisely and appropriately the character of the advice Peter tried to give: "Save yourself at all costs. Sacrifice duty to self-interest, the cause of Christ to personal convenience." Peter's advice was satanic in principle, for Satan's primary aim is to promote self-interest as the chief end of man. Satan is called the "prince of this world" because self-interest rules the secular world. He is called the "accuser of the brethren" because he does not believe that even a child of God has a higher motive than self-service. You can almost hear him hissing, "All men are selfish at heart and have their price. Some may hold out longer than others, but in the end every man will prefer his own things to the things of God."
That's Satan's creed, and unfortunately the lives of all too many Christians validate his claims. Satan has deceived them into thinking they are serving themselves when in fact they are serving the world, the flesh, and the devil. But the Christian worldview has a different center. Jesus confronts our humanistic, self-serving grids and offers the view from the cross. Only from this center can you escape the bondage of the one whose sole intent is "to steal, and kill, and destroy" (John 10:10).

Prayer: Loving Father, help me forsake self-centered attitudes and actions in order to take up my cross daily and serve You.
Neil Anderson Devotional

29 August, 2014

A Chameleon Kind of Religion

John Angell James, 1837

"So that you may be blameless and pure, children of
God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted
generation, among whom you shine like stars in
the world." (Philippians 2:15)

Saving religion is not merely an occasional act--but
a permanent habit, resulting from an internal principle.

Saving religion is a principle so fixed as to constitute
a new moral nature; and so steadily operative, as to
form an unchanging character.

A real Christian is a Christian always, everywhere,
and in all companies. He carries his piety with him

wherever he goes, as an integral part of himself. It is
not like his clothes which may be continually altered, or
varied to suit his situation, occupation, and company.
He needs his piety everywhere, he loves it everywhere,
and is commanded to let it be seen everywhere.

But among most professors of Christianity, there is
too much of a chameleon kind of religion, which
takes its hue from surrounding objects. This is seen
most conspicuously in the conduct of those who have
a flexible, yielding, easy-going kind of piety--which
accommodates itself to changing circumstances, by
little sacrifices of principle and consistency.

28 August, 2014

Dead Things Never Grow!

 John Angell James, 1853

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes
so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2

Why is it that so many professing Christians make
no spiritual progress, and indeed make no efforts
to grow in grace? Why? Because they care nothing
about it! To take up a 'mere profession' is all they
desire; but to proceed from one degree of piety to
another; to grow in grace--is no part of their desire.

What! No solicitude to have more . . .
experimental knowledge of truth,
faith in Christ,
likeness to God,
fitness for heaven!

No desire to advance in such things! Is it possible
to be a Christian and yet destitute of this desire
to grow in grace? No, it is not! I tell you, it is not!

If you have no concern to grow in grace
there is no grace in you!

You are a piece of dead wood
--and not a living branch!

You are a spiritual corpse
--and not a living man!

In this state there can be no growth
--for dead things never grow!

27 August, 2014

Judas The Preacher!

By William Secker, 1660)

"If you know these things—you are blessed if you do them." John 13:17

To obey the truth, and not to know it—is impossible.
To know the truth, and not obey it—is unprofitable.

For, "Not everyone who says unto me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven—but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." Saving knowledge is not as the light of the moon—to sleep by; but as the light of the sun—to work by. It is not a loiterer in the market-place—but a laborer in the vineyard.

A man may be a great scholar—and yet be a great sinner. Judas the traitor—was Judas the preacher! The snake which has a pearl in its head—has poison in its body! The tree of knowledge has often been planted, and flourished—where the tree of life never grew! All abilities and gifts—without grace and holiness—are but like Uriah's letters, which were the death warrants of those who carried them!

Mere head knowledge will be as unhelpful to the soul, in the judgment day—as a painted fire is unhelpful to the frozen body, in a cold day. Theoretical knowledge may make the head giddy—but it will never make the heart holy. How many professors are there, who have light enough to know what should be done—but have not love enough to do what they know! Give me the Christian who perfectly sees the way he should go—and readily goes the way he sees!

That is barren ground—which brings forth no fruit. "To him who knows to do good, and does it not—to him it is sin." The sins of ignorance are most numerous—but the sins of knowledge are most dangerous! That sinner's darkness will be the greatest in hell—whose light was the clearest on earth!

There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet put a crown of thorns upon his head by an evil conversation. By the words of our mouth—we may affect to adore religion; but it is by the works of our lives—that we adorn religion.

As trees without fruits are unprofitable—so knowledge without good works is abominable! Leah and Rachel are fit emblems of knowledge and obedience. Knowledge, like Rachel—is beautiful. But obedience, like Leah—is fruitful.

26 August, 2014

An Angel on The Outside—And a Devil Within

Thomas Brooks, 1669

"Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish; but inside you are filthy—
full of greed and self-indulgence!" Matthew 23:25
A hypocrite's outside never corresponds with his inside.

A hypocrite's outside is one thing—and his inside another.
A hypocrite's outside is religious—but his inside is wicked.
Hypocrites are like the Egyptian temples, which were beautiful
outside—but within there was nothing to be found but serpents
and crocodiles, and other venomous creatures. They are like
white silver—but they draw black lines. They have a seeming
sanctified outside—but are stuffed within with malice, pride,
worldliness, envy, etc. They are like window cushions, made up
of velvet and richly embroidered—but stuffed within with hay.
A hypocrite . . .
may offer sacrifice with Cain,
and fast with Jezebel,
and humble himself with Ahab,
and lament with the tears of Esau,
and kiss Christ with Judas,
and follow Christ with Demas,
and be baptized with Simon Magus;
and yet for all this, his inside is as bad as any of theirs!
A hypocrite is . . .
a Jacob on the outside—and an Esau within;
a David on the outside—and a Saul within;
a John on the outside—and a Judas within;
a saint on the outside—and a Satan within;
an angel on the outside—and a devil within.
But let all such hypocrites know, that pretend sanctity
is double iniquity—and accordingly at last they shall be
dealt with. "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will
you escape being condemned to hell?" Matthew 23:33

25 August, 2014

The Godly Person Weeps!

by Thomas Watson

Christ calls His spouse His "dove" (Song 2:14).
The dove is a weeping creature. Grace dissolves
and liquefies the soul, causing a spiritual thaw.
The sorrow of the heart runs out at the eye.
A godly heart grieves that it is not more holy.
It troubles him that he falls short of the rule
and standard which God has set. "I should",
he says, "love the Lord with all my heart.
But how defective my love is! How far short
I come of what I should be, no, of what I
might have been!"

A godly man sometimes weeps out of the
sense of God's love. Gold is the finest and
most solid of all the metals, yet it is soonest
melted in the fire. Gracious hearts, which
are golden hearts, are the soonest melted
into tears by the fire of God's love.
I once knew a holy man, who was walking
in his garden and shedding plenty of tears
when a friend came on him accidentally
and asked him why he wept. He broke
forth into this passionate expression:
"Oh, the love of Christ, the love of Christ!"
Thus we have seen the cloud melted into
water by the sunbeams.

A godly person weeps
 because the sins he
commits are in some sense worse than the
sins of other men. The sin of a justified
person is very odious, because it is a sin
of unkindness.

Peter's denying of Christ was a sin against love.
Christ had enrolled him among the apostles.
He had taken him up into the Mount and
shown him the glory of heaven in a vision.
Yet after all this mercy, it was base
ingratitude that he should deny Christ.
This made him go out and "weep bitterly."
He baptized himself, as it were, in his own tears.
The sins of the godly go nearest to God's heart.
The sins of the wicked anger the Lord.
The godly man's sins grieve Him.
The sins of the wicked pierce Christ's side.
The sins of the godly wound his heart.

The unkindness of a spouse goes
nearest to the heart of her husband.
How far from being godly are those who
scarcely ever shed a tear for sin! If they
lose a near relation, they weep, but
though they are in danger of losing God
and their souls, they do not weep. How
few know what it is to be in an agony
for sin or what a broken heart means!

Their eyes are not like the "fishpools in
Heshbon", full of water (Song 7:4), but
rather like the mountains of Gilboa, which
had no dew upon them (2 Sam. 1:21).
Others, if they sometimes shed a tear,
are still never the better. They go on in
wickedness, and do not drown their sins
in their tears. Let us strive for this divine
characteristic: to be weepers.

This is "a repentance not to be repented of"
(2 Cor. 7:10). It is reported of Mr. Bradford, the
martyr, the he was of a melting spirit; he
seldom sat down to his meal but some tears
trickled down his cheeks.

There are two lavers to wash away sin:
blood and tears. The blood of Christ washes
away the guilt of sin; tears wash away the filth.
Repenting tears are precious.

God puts them in His bottle (Psalm. 56:8).
Repenting tears are beautifying.
A tear in the eye adorns more than a ring of
the finger. Oil makes the face shine. (Ps. 104:15).
Repenting tears make the heart shine.
Repenting tears are comforting.
A sinner's mirth turns to melancholy.

A saint's mourning turns to music.
Repentance may be compared to myrrh,
which though it is bitter to the taste,
is comforting to the spirits.
Repentance may be bitter to the fleshy part,
but, it is most refreshing to the spiritual.
Wax that melts is fit for the seal. A melting
soul is fit to take the stamp of all heavenly
blessing. Let us give Christ the water of our
tears and He will give us the wine of His Blood.

24 August, 2014

Grace Denial

Octavius Winslow 

Be cautious of grace denial.

You will need much holy wisdom here, lest you overlook the work of the Spirit within you.
You have thought, it may be, of the glory that Christ receives from . . .
brilliant genius,
and profound talent,
and splendid gifts,
and glowing zeal,
and costly sacrifices,
and extensive usefulness.

But have you ever thought of the glory, the far greater, richer glory, that flows to Him from . . .
the contrite spirit,
the broken heart,
the lowly mind,
the humble walk,
the tear of godly repentance that falls when seen by no human eye,
the sigh of godly sorrow that is breathed when heard by no human ear,
the sin abhorrence,
the self loathing,
the deep sense of vileness, and poverty, and infirmity that takes you to Jesus with the prayer:
"Lord, here I am; I have brought to You . . .
my rebellious will,
my wandering heart,
my worldly affections,
my peculiar infirmity,
my besetting and constantly overpowering sin.

Receive me graciously, put forth the mighty power of Your grace in my soul, and subdue all, and rule all, and subjugate all to Yourself! Will it not be for Your glory, the glory of Your great name . . .
if this strong corruption were subdued by Your grace,
if this powerful sin were nailed to Your cross,
if this temper so volatile,
if this heart so impure,
if these affections so truant,
if this mind so dark,
if these desires so earthly,
if these pursuits so carnal,
if these aims so selfish,
were all entirely renewed by Your Spirit, sanctified by Your grace, and made each to reflect Your image? Yes, Lord, it would be for Your glory, through time and through eternity!"

22 August, 2014

The Hiding Place

By James Smith 

"A MAN will be as a hiding place from the wind,And a refuge from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shade of a massive rock in an arid land!" Isaiah 32:2

The present world is like a bleak and cheerless desert; the climate is very changeable, and we are exposed to piercing, cutting winds.

Sometimes dangerous errors,
sometimes deep afflictions,
sometimes soul-distressing trials,
like violent winds, blow upon us and fill us with alarm and dread!
At such times—a hiding place is necessary.

Jesus is our hiding place!

He will hide us from . . .
the wrath of God,
the rage of Hell, and
the injurious effects of trials and troubles!

Beloved, are you in this hiding place? 
If so, abide in it, for nowhere else will you find such safety, or enjoy such repose!

Hail, sovereign love which first began,
The scheme to rescue fallen man!
Hail, matchless, free, eternal grace,
Which gave my soul a hiding place!

Against the God who rules the sky,
I fought with hand uplifted high!
Despised the notion of His grace,
Too proud to seek a hiding place!

Enwrapt in thick Egyptian night,
And fond of darkness more than light!
Madly I ran the sinful race,
Secure without a hiding place!

But thus the eternal counsel ran:
"Almighty love—arrest that man!"
I felt the arrows of distress,
And found I had no hiding place!

Indignant Justice stood in view;
To Sinai's fiery mount I flew!
But Justice cried, with frowning face,
"This mountain is no hiding place!"

E'er long, a heavenly voice I heard,
And Mercy's angel soon appeared;
He led me on with gentle pace,
To Jesus as my hiding place!

Should sevenfold storms of thunder roll,
And shake the earth from pole to pole;
No thunder bolt could daunt my face,
For Jesus is my hiding place!

On Him almighty vengeance fell,
That would have sunk a world to hell!
He bore it for the chosen race,
And thus became their hiding place!

A few more rolling suns at most,
Shall land me on fair Canaan's coast;
Where I shall sing the song of grace,
And see my glorious Hiding Place!

21 August, 2014

His Disciples - "Fellowship of the Unashamed"

Romans 12:1 

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice

An African pastor was overwhelmed by rebels who demanded that he renounce his faith. He refused. The night before they took his life, he wrote the following lines on a scrap of paper:I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed." I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I've stepped over the line. 

The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought , compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

Prayer: Lord, develop in me the perseverance and faithfulness to pursue Your goal for my life even in the face of rejection.

20 August, 2014

How God Works

You shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him
I believe in miracles, and I accept as fact every one recorded in the Bible. I believe that our entire Christian experience is a miracle. It simply cannot be explained by natural means. And God's power is seen in other miraculous ways today, but must He always prove Himself by stepping outside His created order? If God doesn't primarily guide us through His Word (which never changes) and take into account the fixed order of the universe, how can we ever have any stability? How can we make any plans if God doesn't reveal His ways and then stay consistent with them?
God is not capricious in His dealings with man. He has clearly established His ways and He is faithful to them. I believe God has revealed His ways and we are to walk in them. The question is, how does God work through human responsibility and the natural order of the universe to bring about His will? Somehow He works through a less-than-perfect church, orchestrating human affairs in such a way as to guarantee the outcome of the ages. What really impresses me is His timing, not His miraculous interventions.
Notice how Jesus responded to those who insisted on a sign: "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet" (Matthew 12:39). Satan wanted a sign too. He said, "If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down" (Matthew 4:6). To this Jesus responded, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (verse 7 NIV ). Jesus was saying that the sign we need is the Word of God, and we are to use the Word to guard against Satan's temptations to force the Lord to prove Himself.
I think it is better to prove ourselves to God rather than demand He prove Himself to us. We are the ones being tested, not God. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Prayer: Lord, I want to be responsible to use the gifts You have given me and lay aside sin and fruitless activities.

19 August, 2014

Asking Why?

Luke 5:36 
No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old
Determining the purpose of a Christian practice, and whether it is appropriate, requires an answer to the question, "Why?" "We have always done it this way before" is unacceptable. Christian practices continue for years, often outliving their purpose, until someone asks, "Why do we do that?" Characteristically, the defenses come up as though you were challenging what they believe!
For instance, having three church services a week is generally practiced by evangelical Christians, but few know why. Originally, Sunday morning was for instruction and worship, Sunday evening was for evangelism, and the Wednesday service was for prayer. Today few churches have three services for those same purposes. In many churches, evangelism has switched to Sunday morning (if there is an evangelistic service). Sunday evenings range from body life gatherings to an informal repeat of the morning service. Wednesday stopped being a prayer meeting years ago in most churches.
Few people can say why they have an adult fellowship group and, consequently, most never fulfill the greatest purpose for which they exist. Without a clear purpose, planning dribbles down to who is going to be the teacher and what is the next monthly social! The purpose of fellowship groups is to provide a base for incorporating new people into the church, going after those who stray, and meeting the needs of one another. Routine activities that lack purpose produce mindless participation. How is God going to guide such a group?
The greatest avenue for productive change is to clarify the purpose of any existing ministry or group. I sat with the leaders of an adult group and helped them hammer out a purpose statement. Some major changes took place in their class. Within two years they had doubled. Asking "Why?" forced them to evaluate their purpose and ministry, and necessary changes came.
Prayer: Lord, I purpose not to waste my time or effort on traditions that are no longer valid vehicles for ministry.

18 August, 2014

Test Everything (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

August 18

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NIVDo not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good
Alvin was discouraged and defeated. For several years he believed he had a special gift of prophecy from God. But over a period of months his personal life began to fall apart. By the time he came to see me he had been unemployed for two years, he was being cared for by his father, and he was a slave to prescription drugs.

Alvin and I read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21. I said, "Alvin, Satan can counterfeit spiritual gifts. That's why the Scriptures instruct us to put everything to the test."

Alvin admitted, "I think my problems began when I failed to test the 'gifts' of tongues and prophecy conferred on me by false teachers."

"Would you be willing to put your gift of tongues to the test?" I asked. Alvin really wanted to be free. "Yes," he answered.

I instructed Alvin to begin praying aloud in his "spiritual language." As he began to chant an unintelligible prayer, I said, "In the name of Christ and in obedience to God's Word, I command you, spirit, to identify yourself."

Alvin stopped in the middle of his chanting and said, "I am he."

"Are you the 'He' who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, buried, raised on the third day, and who now sits at the right hand of the Father?" I asked.

Alvin almost shouted the response: "No! Not He!" I led Alvin through a prayer renouncing Satan's activity in his life, and he was free from that deception.

I am not against spiritual gifts, even prophecy and tongues. I am committed to obeying Scripture, and 1 Corinthians 14:39 says, "Desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues." But Scripture also requires that all spiritual phenomena be tested. I believe that false prophets and teachers flourish today simply because Christians accept their ministry without testing the spirits behind it.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to stay alert to spiritual seduction and reject all phenomena that do not come from God.


17 August, 2014

Are We in Reality—What We are in Name?

By Samuel Davies 

"The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." Acts 11:26

We call ourselves Christians—but do we really understand the MEANING and sacred import of that name? Do we really know what it is to BE Christians indeed? 

Are we in reality—what we are in name? Certainly it is time for us to consider the matter!

What is it to be a Christian?

To be a Christian, in the popular and fashionable sense, is no really difficult or excellent thing. It is to be baptized, to profess the Christian religion; to believe, like our neighbors, that Christ is the Messiah, and to attend upon public worship once a week, in some church or another. In this sense, a man may be a 'Christian'—and yet be habitually careless about eternal things. He may be a 'Christian'—and yet fall short of the morality of many of the heathen. 

He may be a 'Christian'—and yet a drunkard, a swearer, or a slave to some vice or other. He may be a 'Christian'—and yet a willful, impenitent offender against God and man.

But is this to be a 'real Christian'—in the original and proper sense of the word? No! that is something of a very different and superior kind.

To be a Christian indeed—is to be like to Christ, from whom the name is taken!To be a Christian indeed—is to be a follower and imitator of Christ!To be a Christian indeed—is to have Christ's spirit and temper; and to live as He lived in the world!

In short, to be a Christian, is to have our sentiments, our character and our practice, formed upon the sacred model of the gospel.

16 August, 2014

Evidences & Results Of Sanctified Affliction - Part 4

By John Angell James

8. A more entire consecration of the soul to God's service in general, and to some special service in particular, is also a proof of sanctified affliction. How delightful a spectacle is it to God, to angels, and to men—to see a Christian rising from the bed of his own sickness, or returning from the grave of a near relative, in the spirit of the hundred and sixteenth Psalm—and while the eyes are yet moistened with tears, and the heart soft with sorrow, yielding up himself afresh to the claims, the service, and the glory of God; and instead of being paralyzed with grief, or taken up with enjoyment, setting himself apart by a new dedication to God.

How beautiful is the language of the Psalmist in the review of his deliverance, "I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the horrors of the grave overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: "Lord, save me!" The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate. 

The Lord guards the simple; I was helpless, and He saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, even when I said, "I am severely afflicted." How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me? I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant! You have loosened my bonds. I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord, in the very presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord's house. Hallelujah!"

This is the language of sanctified affliction. Then when the Christian is seen giving himself afresh to the service of God, in a more devoted attendance upon all the means of grace, private, domestic, and public; when his liberality is more diffusive, and his zeal more ardent; when he seems concerned, inventive, and laborious to show his gratitude and love by new acts of devotedness, and former measures of service will not content him—it is a convincing evidence that he has derived benefit from tribulation.

9. Increased sympathy for others in their affliction, is a proof that our own affliction has done us good. In some cases sorrow has hardened the heart, and made men selfish; it has drawn off all their attention from others, and concentrated it on themselves. This is a dark sign; nothing can be a stronger proof that trials have done us harm, instead of good—than when they have blunted our susceptibilities, hardened our hearts, and put all our tears in reserve for ourselves! 

Nor, on the contrary, can there be a more convincing evidence that they have benefited us, than an increase of sympathy, and a greater readiness to weep with those who weep. It is a delightful exhibition of a mind softened and sanctified by affliction, to see a person, on recovering from it, still holding in remembrance the wormwood and the gall—and instead of giving himself to selfish enjoyment, going forth with quickened sensibilities to support and comfort the distressed.

Such are the proofs, evidences and results of sanctified affliction.

May they be found in you, my dear friends; and in your pastor. Trials abound in this world—it is a valley of tears. Happy will it be for us, if we shall emerge from it at length into that blessed region, where God shall wipe away all tears from every eye. "I reckon," said the blessed Paul, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to his purpose." With such internal consolations as the gospel affords, and with such a peace as passes understanding—what external tribulation may we not endure, and endure not only with all patience, but with joyfulness?

It is beautifully said by Leighton, "All outward distress to a mind thus at peace, is but as the rattling hail upon the tiles, to him who sits within the house at a sumptuous feast." Do not dread affliction—or at least dread far more being left to grow worldly and sinful, for lack of affliction; or being allowed to endure the pain of affliction without reaping the benefit of it. The losses, the pains, the disappointments, of the present state—if blessed for our spiritual good—will all fit us for the state where there shall be no more sorrow nor crying! The drops of sanctified grief—are the seeds of immortal joy! There will soon be a last tear—but never a last joy! Fix your heart upon holiness as the preparative for heaven, and be little concerned at what expense of present ease and possessions it be obtained—so that it holiness obtained.

The first look at Jesus as he is, and the first moment spent in heaven—will make ample amends for the longest and the saddest life on earth! Abound in hope—a lively hope of that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you! Be much in prayer for the presence and help of the Spirit of God as a Comforter. Without his aid the least trial will distress you—and with it the greatest cannot crush you! God is able to support and comfort—as well as save—to the uttermost! And none of us can tell what, in either case—the uttermost of God can do!


15 August, 2014

Evidences & Results Of Sanctified Affliction - Part 3

By John Angell James

4. Increasing deadness to the world, and growing spirituality of mind, are sure results of sanctified affliction. The love of the world is the great snare of the church in every age of time, but especially in the present unmolested circumstances of the Christian profession. Worldly-mindedness is now the prevailing sin of Christians! 
We see them on all hands too eager to make themselves happy on earth, and seeking their enjoyments, if not in the sinful amusements of the world, yet in its innocent and home-bred comforts. They look not at unseen and eternal things, but at seen and temporal things. Theirs is too much a life of 'sense', refined it is true from its gross sinfulness, but still a life of sense, rather than a life of faith. Hence there is "a needs be for manifold trials," if not to separate them and keep them separate from specific and gross sins—yet to lift up their affections to things above, and to lead them to seek their happiness from faith, hope, and love; from God, the fountain of life; from Christ, the Redeemer of their souls; and from heaven, the object of their expectations.

When the world has been crucified to us, and we have been crucified to the world; when we have been taught its vanity and emptiness as a satisfying portion for the soul; when we have lost much of our anxiety to obtain its possessions, and of our dread of losing them; when we have been taken off from the folly of hewing out broken cisterns that can hold no water, and led more to the fountain of living waters; when we have lost our dependence on our comforts and possessions for happiness, and feel and rejoice in a glorious independence upon 'created good' for bliss; when there is really and truly a conscious elevation of soul towards God and things divine—there, there is the evidence that we are improved by our trials.

5. In some people we discover a striking and beautiful mellowness of character, as the result of God's chastening hand. The roughness, harshness, arrogance and haughtiness of their conduct, which once rendered them annoying and offensive, are scraped off—and a sweet gentleness, humility, meekness, and softness of manner, and a tenderness of spirit have come in their place. There is now a gentleness in their speech, a mildness in their look, and a kindliness and cautiousness in their manner—which tell us how the haughty spirit has been broken, and the proud loftiness of their mind has been brought down. 

An unusual loveliness has been spread over their character, a holy amiableness has been infused into their temper, and a stubborn self-will has yielded to a kind consideration of the wishes and feelings of others, which convince all around them, how much the Spirit of God has done in them, and for them, by the afflictions they have endured; how the plough and the harrow have broken up the hard soil, and pulverized the rough clods of their stubborn nature, and prepared it for the growth of the precious seed of the kingdom.

6. A clearer view of the glory of Christ, and a deeper sense of his inestimable preciousness, are an evidence of growth of grace in affliction. The design of all God's dealings in his providential dispensations, in the scheme of redemption, and in the work of his Holy Spirit—is to bring us to Christ, to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of him, to lead us to a more simple dependence upon him, and to endear him more and more to our hearts! 

If, then, amidst the 'decays of health' we have learned to feel his value more, as the Physician of souls; if amidst the 'loss of property', the worth of his unsearchable riches has been more correctly estimated; if at the 'grave of earthly friends', we have been drawn closer to him the Friend of sinners; if amidst the gloom and desolation of earthly scenes, the glory of the cross has shone forth with a new and surpassing luster; if amidst privations and losses, otherwise trying and distressing, we are brought to adopt the language of the apostle, "I have all things, and abound. 

All things are mine; for I am Christ's!" In this case, also, the affliction has answered its end; for that trial cannot have been in vain, which has revealed to us the glory of the Savior, and made us more Christlike, both in our sentiments, feelings and life. Clearer views of the importance of gospel truths, and a richer unction from them resting upon the heart, acquired by sorrow—are a convincing proof of benefit from God's chastening hand.

7. Less dread of future trials, with a stronger trust in God for support under them—is another evidence of sanctified trial. There is about most of us, until it is removed by God's grace, a timidity, dread, and desponding feeling about afflictions, which make us afraid to encounter them. We turn away from them with dismay, as if there were no power which could support us under them, no wisdom to guide us through them, and no grace to comfort us in the midst of them. The very shadow of an approaching affliction makes our coward hearts to tremble, and causes us to cry out in unbelief, "How can I endure it?" 

We thus dishonor God by our guilty fears, and show a weakness of faith exceedingly dishonorable to us. To be cured of this weakness by affliction, and to rise out of it strong in faith, and firm in trust; to feel our fears subsiding, and our confidence in God established; to see new chastisements preparing for us, to be endured as soon as the present ones have ceased; to behold storm clouds returning after the rain, and gathering to beat upon us, when those which have lately spent their fury upon us retire—and yet to be able to say, "I will trust and not be afraid—for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength, and he will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon him, because he trusts in him"—is a genuine mark of improvement by afflictive dispensations. 

God's design in chastening us—is to bring us to confide in him. He demands our trust, and is honored by it, and it is really no small part of our sanctification. And he that goes forward from one cross to another, strengthened by the past to meet with greater courage the future; who can trust himself and all he has with greater calmness to the disposal of God, with less apprehension for the result, has not been visited in vain by the afflictive hand of God.

Part 2