“A visitor to the contemporary church materializing from an earlier century would probably be struck by how enormously privileged we are. Many of us receive education until we are in our early twenties, while most of the left school by the time they were young teenagers. We each own a Bible (some with helpful study notes built in); if they owned a Bible it was in small print Elizabethan English. We carry entire theological libraries on our eReaders, have access to vast resources via the worldwide web; they perhaps owned one or two Christian books. And yet, if the truth be told, what might surprise them is that their familiarity with God’s word, their knowledge of key passages in the New Testament, the degree to which they had thought long and hard about what Scripture means and how it applies, would leave us feeling ashamed. They would be surprised how hard we find meditation on the word of God, how little we actually know of it and how poorly we have nourished ourselves from it. They might marvel at the extent to which Evangelical Christianity has been infected by our age of narcissism and how subjective so many Christians have become. They might notice that many modern Christians are often too interested in the development of self but little interested in the development of their understanding of the triune God . . . .” Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God
“Such is the plight of many in modern times who have received unjust and oppressive treatment from churches and church officers, even though the latter may remain on the side of truth. To remain under deformed government would only bring more wounds upon the distressed person. If complaints are sounded, the foundations of the cause of truth may be shaken. When one flees in relative silence, his every act is misinterpreted.” Walter Chantry, David, Man of Prayer, Man of War
Only the day of judgment will reveal the truth about what has been suffered at the hands of the church and its leaders. Until that day Christians will have to be content with being misunderstood, misinterpreted, and even mistreated. I am thankful that God gives grace in such circumstances, that He perfectly knows and understands, and that He is sovereign over all that happens to us, even when it is evil. Though others mean it for evil, God means it for good (Genesis 50:20).
“I have heard men in prayer instead of saying, “Make your calling and election sure,” say “Make your calling and salvation sure.” Pity they were not born when God lived far—far back that they might have taught God how to write. Oh, impudence beyond all bounds! Oh full-blown self-conceit! To attempt to dictate to the All-wise—to teach the Omniscient and instruct the Eternal. Strange that there should be men so vile as to use the penknife of Jehoiakim to cut passages out of the word, because they are unpalatable. O ye who dislike certain portions of Holy Writ, rest assured that your taste is corrupt, and that God will not stay for your little opinion. Your dislike is the very reason why God wrote it, because you ought not to be suited; you have no right to be pleased. God wrote what you do not like; He wrote the truth.
Oh! Let us bend in reverence before it, for God inspired it. It is pure truth. Here from this fountain gushes aqua vitae—the water of life—without a single particle of earth; here from this sun cometh forth rays of radiance, without the mixture of darkness.
Blessed Bible! Thou art all truth.”
Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol I, 112.
Who would have thought that just a month after the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the truck attack in Manhattan that we would be witness to yet another massacre with at least 26 dead in Sutherland Springs, Texas? Solomon wrote about 3000 years ago that “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.” Jeremiah said a few centuries later, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” All three of these acts of mass murder came from a human heart.
There is an answer to Jeremiah’s question, “Who can understand it?”
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
Be sure that the God of heaven who searches men’s hearts will bring retribution to those who do evil. He knows their motives. He sees every single thing. And, He meets it with exacting justice. This is His universe, after all, and things work that way because He designed it.
Devin Patrick Kelley and Stephen Paddock have already met their Maker, and the Judge of all the earth will certainly bring justice to them. Sayfullo Saipov awaits human justice, but only divine justice can properly deal with such cases. Multiple life sentences might sound harsh, but in reality it cannot equal the number of lives lost. Only God can bring justice to the mass murderer. That will be seen on the day of Judgment.
For now we mourn solemnly with the families of those who passed into eternity. We grieve deeply because of the children among the slain (I, too, am a pastor with a 14 year old daughter. I gave her a hug after I heard about the Texas incident at our church service last night). We pray earnestly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would receive a greater hearing even through these events so that men’s wicked hearts would be changed by the grace of God. We long greatly for God to bring the peaceful kingdom of His dear Son to its fulfillment on earth. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
“Historically, it is a simple matter of fact that Martin Luther and John Calvin, and, for that matter, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation, stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points, they had their differences; but in asserting the helplessness of man in sin, and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them, these doctrines were the very life-blood of the Christian faith.
The doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace; but it actually expressed for them only one aspect of this principle, and that not its deepest aspect. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a profounder level still, in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration – the doctrine, that is, that the faith which receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God, bestowed by spiritual regeneration in the act of effectual calling.
To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue: whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort.” J.I. Packer, Introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will
An aged saint, his strength worn out,
A man of faith, just and devout,
His heart is filled, his hope assured,
The Spirit leads toward Christ his Lord.
Up temple steps, a weary task,
Why the temple, one may ask,
A prophet’s vision long ago,
The Messiah will visit His house below.
A family meek, a mother mild,
And in her arms, her firstborn Child,
Their sacrifice, but two small doves,
A righteous offering to God above.
The aged saint and family meet,
Hope and Hope Fulfilled now greet,
The Child, a Boy, a little Lamb,
Is Christ, the King, the Great I AM.
The Child he takes into his arms,
The joy he feels-a million charms,
No other child can match this One,
This is God’s beloved Son.
“Lord, let me now depart in peace,
Now Your Salvation Your servant sees,
A Light for darkened Gentile clans,
And the Glory of Immanuel’s Land.”
The couple marvels—“What wondrous words,
What glorious things this saint declares,
The Child we hold beloved and dear,
Is the Hope of all both far and near.”
Joel I. Huffstutler 12/3/05
“Now ask yourselves, do you know what “God with us” means? Has it been God with you in your tribulations, by the Holy Spirit’s comforting influence? Has it been God with you in searching the Scriptures? Has the Holy Spirit shone upon the Word? Has it been God with you in conviction, bringing you to Sinai? Has it been God with you in comforting you, by bringing you, again, to Calvary? Do you know the full meaning of that name, Immanuel, “God with us”? No—he who knows it best knows little of it! Alas, he who knows it not at all is ignorant, indeed—so ignorant that his ignorance is not bliss, but will be his damnation! Oh, may God teach you the meaning of that name, Immanuel, “God with us”!
It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.”
Sages look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it. The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths. The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high and the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it!
“God with us.” It is Hell’s terror! Satan trembles at the sound of it. His legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it! Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word, “God with us”—back he falls—confounded and confused! Satan trembles when he hears that name, “God with us.”
It is the laborer’s strength—how could he preach the Gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor acknowledge his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away?
“God with us,” is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe, is the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep which God gives to His beloved, is their rest after exertion and toil.
Ah, and to finish, “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet, is Heaven’s hallelujah, is the shout of the glorified, is the song of the redeemed, is the chorus of angels, is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky!
“God with us”—
“Hail You Immanuel, all Divine,
In You Your Father’s glories shine!
You brightest, sweetest, fairest One,
That eyes have seen or angels known.”
Now, a happy Christmas to you all and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you!”
Excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon, “The Birth of Christ,” 1854
“The true minister is he who can preach Christ. Let him preach anything else in the world, he has not proved his calling, but if he shall preach Jesus and the resurrection, he is in the apostolic succession. If Christ crucified is the great delight of his soul, the very marrow of his teaching, the fatness of his ministry, he has proved his calling as an ambassador of Christ. Brothers, the Christian minister should be like these golden spring flowers which we are so glad to see. Have you observed them when the sun is shin- ing? They open their golden cups, and each one whispers to the great sun, “Fill me with your beams.” But when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, where are they? They close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influences of Jesus; so especially should the Christian minister be subject to his Lord that Jesus must be his Sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Happy would it be for us if our hearts and our lips could become like Anacreon’s harp which was wedded to one subject, and would learn no other. He wished to sing of the sons of Atreus, and the mighty deeds of Hercules, but his harp sounded only love; and when he would have sung of Cadmus, his harp refused—it would sing of love only. Oh, to speak of Christ alone!—to be tied and bound to this one theme forever; to speak only of Jesus, and of the amazing love of the glorious Son of God, who “though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.” This is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lips of the preacher, and the master key to the heart of the hearer! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven! Lord, teach it to us more and more, and we will tell it out to others!” C.H. Spurgeon, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, April 14, 1867
“The sovereign will of God alone
Creates us heirs of grace;
Born in the image of his Son,
A new-created race.”
“And we say to all of you who gnash your teeth at this doctrine, whether you know it or not, you have a vast deal of enmity towards God in your hearts; for until you can be brought to know this doctrine, there is something which you have not yet discovered, which makes you opposed to the idea of God absolute, God unbounded, God unfettered, God unchanging, and God having a free will, which you are so fond of proving that the creature possesses. I am persuaded that the Sovereignty of God must be held by us if we would be in a healthy state of mind. “Salvation is of the Lord alone.” Then give all the glory to his holy name, to whom all glory belongs.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Divine Sovereignty,” May 4, 1856
by William W. Borden
“Are you a Christian? There seem to be many today who have no clear conception of what is really meant by being a Christian. Of course, many things are involved and there are several ways in which we could treat this question. But limiting ourselves to the relationship with Christ that is involved, let us endeavor to ascertain what it means to be a Christian.
When we go back to New Testament times, when the name was first used, we find that the disciples were called Christians first of all because they trusted in Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation from the penalty of sin and for the enjoyment of a future life of blessedness. This relationship is implied in the name Jesus, given Him by the angels before His birth, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” He Himself declared it to be His mission in life to seek and to save that which was lost and to give His life as a ransom for many. After His death the apostles preached Christ as the only Savior of mankind. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ – for the remission of sins.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Many more passages might be cited, but these suffice to show that being a Christian meant first and foremost to trust in Jesus as the only hope of salvation. Does it mean that to you? It should, but how many there are who call themselves Christians who, in the last analysis, are not trusting in the righteousness of Christ, but in their own merit or some other false hope. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” A Christian then, is first of all, one who has Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
But in the New Testament we find that Christ was not looked on as Savior alone, but also as Lord. It was the Lord Jesus Christ whose name they bore, and that meant that He had absolute jurisdiction over them. This followed logically, and is nowhere more clearly brought out than in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “Ye are not your own: ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” And what Paul taught others was but the vital truth that gripped his own heart and made him exclaim, “For me to live is Christ.” That is what it meant to the disciples to be a Christian. Does it mean that to you? It should, but oh, how many there are enrolled on church lists as Christians who, as they are read by their friends and neighbors, do not tell of Christ, but of self! Christ has sacrificed Himself for us; we should sacrifice ourselves for Him even as it is written, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1-2). For a Christian is not merely one who trusts in Christ for salvation but one who also strives earnestly to please Him in all things great and small.
But Christ was even more than this to those early disciples who bore His name, and should He not be as much to us today? He was the perfect revelation of God; He Himself was God manifest in the flesh! This is the plain and ineffaceable teaching of Scripture. At His birth the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah was applied to Him: “And they shall call His name Immanuel, which is being interpreted ‘God with us.’” John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” All that is implied in these statements of His apostles is quietly assumed by Jesus Himself. He is the Son unto whom all things were delivered and who alone knows the Father and reveals Him. Indeed He and the Father are one and those who have seen Him have seen the Father. The true Christian is one who has caught the vision of the pierced hands of the risen Christ, and whose heart cries out like Thomas of old, “My Lord and my God.”
What does it mean to be a Christian? A Christian is one who believes in Christ as his personal Savior, who strives to please Him as His Lord, and who worships and adores Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as very God of Very God.”
This post was originally published as a tract by The National Bible Institute, New York, NY