Archive | May 2017

This is the Only Cure

Hugh Binning, Works, p. 318:

Among believers in Christ there is much difference in self-judging; extreme contrarieties, both between diverse persons, and in one and the same at diverse times. You know that some are kept in the open view of their own sins and infirmities, and while they aim at holiness, they are wholly disabled to that worthy endeavour by their discouragements arising from the apprehension of their own weakness and infinite short-coming. Now to elevate and strengthen such spirits, that word was seasonably cast in, “and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin:” for it properly belongs to the comfort of such fainting souls; and it is all one as if he had said, up and be doing, and the blood of Christ shall cleanse your evil doings. He goeth not about to persuade them to have better thoughts of themselves, or lower apprehensions of their sins, but only to have higher and more suitable thoughts of Christ, and the virtue of his blood; and this is the only cure, – not to abate from that low esteem of ourselves, but to add to the esteem and grow in the lively apprehension of Christ. I would not counsel you to think yourselves better, but to think better of him, that all your confidence may arise from him.

Source: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/low-esteem-of-self-high-esteem-of-christ.89473/, Comment 1

Love and Tenderness Work More Strongly

Hugh Binning, Works, pp. 332-333:

It is the most suitable way to prevail with the spirit of a man, to deal in love and tenderness with it; it insinuates more sweetly, and so can have less resistance, and therefore works more strongly. It is true, another way of terrors, threatening, and reproofs, mingled with sharp and heavy words of challenges, may make a great deal of more noise, and yet it hath not such virtue to prevail with a rational soul. The Spirit of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still and calm voice which came to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11, 12. These suit not the gentle, dove-like disposition of the Spirit; and though they be fit to rend rocks in pieces, yet they cannot truly break hearts, and make them contrite. The sun will make a man sooner part with his cloak than the wind; such is the difference between the warm beams of affection, and the boisterous violence of passions or terror. Now, O that there were such a spirit in them who preach the gospel, such a fatherly affection, that with much pity and compassion they might call sinners from the ways of death!

Source: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/love-and-tenderness-work-more-strongly.89509/

What is a Biblical Christian?

What is a Biblical Christian?

by Albert N. Martin

There are many matters concerning which total ignorance and complete difference are neither tragic nor fatal. I believe many of you are probably totally ignorant of Einstein’s theory of relativity and if you were pressed to explain it to someone you would really be in difficulty. Not only are you ignorant of Einstein’s theory of relativity, you are probably quite indifferent, and that ignorance and indifference is neither fatal nor tragic. I am sure there are few of us who can explain all the processes by which a brown cow eats green grass and gives white milk. It does not keep you from enjoying the milk. But there are some things concerning which ignorance and indifference are both tragic and fatal and one such thing is the Bible’s answer to the question I am about to set before you.

 ‘What is a biblical Christian?’ In other words, when does a man or woman, a boy or girl, have the right to take to himself or herself the name Christian, according to the Scriptures?

We do not want to make the assumption lightly that you are true Christians. I want to set before you four strands of the Bible’s answer to that question.

1. ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, A CHRISTIAN IS A PERSON WHO HAS FACED REALISTICALLY THE PROBLEM OF HIS OWN PERSONAL SIN

Now one of the many unique things about the Christian faith is this —unlike most of the religions of the world, Christianity is essentially and fundamentally a sinner’s religion. When the angel announced to Joseph he approaching birth of Jesus Christ, he did so in these words, ‘You halt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’ [Matt 1.21]. The apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 1.15, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. He came into the world to save sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ himself says in Luke 5.31-32, ‘Those that are healthy do not need a doctor but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’. And the Christian is one who has faced realistically this problem of his own personal sin.

When we turn to the Scripture and seek to take in the whole of its teaching on the subject of sin, right down to its irreducible minimum, we find that the Scripture tells us that each one of us has a two-fold personal problem in relation to sin. On the one hand, we have the problem of a bad record and, on the other, the problem of a bad heart. If we start in Genesis 3 and read that tragic account of man’s rebellion against God and his fall into sin, then trace the biblical doctrine of sin all the way through the Old Testament, and on into the New, right through to the Book of Revelation, we shall see that it is not over-simplification to say that everything that the Bible teaches about the doctrine of sin can be reduced to those two fundamental categories — the problem of a bad record and the problem of a bad heart.

What do I mean by ‘the problem of a bad record’? I am using that terminology to describe what the Scripture sets before us as the doctrine of human guilt because of sin. The Scripture tells us plainly that we obtained a bad record long before we had any personal existence here upon the earth: ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’ [Rom 5.12]. When did the ‘all’ sin? We all sinned in Adam. He was appointed by God to represent all of the human race and when he sinned we sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. That is why the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 15.22, ‘As in Adam all die’. We passed our age of accountability in the Garden of Eden and from the moment Adam sinned we were charged with guilt. We fell in him in his first transgression and we are part of the race that is under condemnation. Furthermore, the Scripture says, after we come into being at our own conception and subsequent birth additional guilt accrues to us for our own personal, individual transgressions. The Word of God teaches that there is not a just man upon the face of the earth who does good and does not sin [Eccles 7.20], and every single sin incurs additional guilt. Our record in heaven is a marred record. Almighty God measures the totality of our human experience from the moment of our birth by a standard which is absolutely inflexible; a standard that touches not only our external deeds but also our thoughts and the very motions and intentions of our heart; so much so, that the Lord Jesus said that the stirring of unjust anger is the very essence of murder, the look with intention to lust as adultery. And God is keeping ‘a detailed record’. That record is among ‘the books’ Which will be opened in the day of judgment [Rev 20.12]. And there in those books is recorded every thought, every motive, every intention, every deed, every dimension of human experience that is contrary to the standard of God’s holy law, either failing to measure up to its standard or transgressing it. We have the problem of a bad record — a record in which we are charged with guilt; real guilt for real sin committed against the true and the living God. That is why the Scripture tells us that the entire human race stands guilty before Almighty God [Rom 3.19].

Has the problem of your own bad record ever become a burning, pressing personal concern to you? Have you faced the truth that Almighty God judged you guilty when our first father sinned, and holds you guilty for every single word you have spoken contrary to perfect holiness and justice and purity and righteousness? He knows every object you have touched and taken contrary to the sanctity of property and every word spoken contrary to perfect, absolute truth. Has this ever broken in upon you, so that you awakened to the fact that Almighty God has every right to summon you into his presence and to require you to give an account of every single deed contrary to His law, which has brought guilt upon your soul?

Certainly we have the problem of a bad record but we have an additional problem — the problem of a bad heart. We not only are pronounced guilty in the court of heaven for what we have done. The Scripture teaches that the problem of our sin is one that arises not only from what we have done, but from what we are. When Adam sinned he not only became guilty before God, but defiled and polluted in his own nature. The Scripture describes it in Jeremiah 17.9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?’ Jesus describes it in Mark 7.21, ‘From within, out of the heart of man, proceed…’and then He names all the various sins that can be seen in any newspaper on any day — blasphemies, pride, adulteries, murder. Jesus said that these things rise out of this artesian well of pollution, the human heart. Notice carefully that he did not say, ‘For from without, by the pressure of society and its negative influences, come forth murder and adultery and pride and thievery’. That is what our so-called sociological experts tell us. It is ‘the condition of society’ that produces crime and rebellion. Jesus says it is the condition of the human heart. For from within, out of the heart, proceed these things — lies, selfishness, self-centredness, total pre-occupation with my feelings and my desires and my plans and my perspectives.

We have hearts that the Scripture describes as ‘desperately wicked’ — the fountain of all forms of iniquity. To change the biblical imagery, Romans 8.7 reads, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be’. Paul says that the carnal mind, that is, the mind that has never been regenerated by God, is not reflective of some enmity; he calls it enmity itself. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God’. The disposition of every human heart by nature can be visually pictured as a clenched fist raised against the living God. This is the inward problem of a bad heart — a heart that loves sin, a heart that is lie fountain of sin, a heart that is at enmity with God. And such is the problem that every one of us has by nature.

Has the problem of your bad heart ever become a pressing personal concern to you? I am not asking whether you believe in human sinfulness in theory. Oh, there is such a thing as a sinful nature and a sinful heart. My question is: Have your bad record and your bad heart ever become a matter of deep, inward, personal, pressing concern to you? Have you known anything of real, personal, inward consciousness of the awfulness of your guilt in the presence of a holy God? — the horribleness of a heart that is ‘deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’?

A Bible Christian is a person who has in all seriousness taken to heart us own personal problem of sin.

Now the degree to which we may feel the awful weight of sin differs from one person to another. The length of time over which a person is brought to the consciousness of his bad record and his bad heart differs. There are many variables, but Jesus Christ as the Great Physician never brought his healing virtue to any who did not know themselves to be sinners. He said, ‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ [Matt 9.13]. Are you a Bible Christian, one who has taken seriously your personal problem of sin?

2. A BIBLE CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO HAS SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED THE ONE DIVINE REMEDY FOR SIN

In the Bible we are told again and again that Almighty God has taken the initiative in doing something for man the sinner. The verses some of us learned in our infancy underscore divine initiative in providing a remedy or sinful man: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .’; ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent us Son to be the propitiation for our sins’; ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. . .’ [John 3.16; 1 John 10; Eph 2.41. You see, the unique feature of the Christian faith is that it not a kind of religious self-help where you patch yourself up with the aid of God. Just as surely as it is a unique tenet of the Christian faith that Christ is a Savior for sinners, so it is also a unique tenet of the Christian faith that all of our true help comes down from above and meets us where we are. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own boot-strings. God in mercy breaks in upon the human situation and does something which we could never do for ourselves. Now when we turn to the Scriptures we find that the divine remedy has at least three simple but profoundly wonderful focal points:

 (a) First of all, that divine remedy is bound up in a Person. Anyone who begins to take seriously the divine remedy for human sin will notice in the Scriptures that the remedy is not in a set of ideas, as though it were just another philosophy, nor is it found in an institution, it is bound up in a Person. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’. ‘Thou shall call his name Jesus for he shall save. . .’ He, himself, said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me’ [John 14.6]. That one divine remedy is bound up in a Person and that Person is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ — the eternal Word who became man, uniting to his Godhead a true human nature. Here is God’s provision for man with his bad record and his bad heart, a Saviour who is both God and man, the two natures joined in the one Person for ever. And your personal problem of sin, and mine, if it is ever to be remedied in a biblical way will be remedied only as we have personal dealings with that Person. Such is the unique strand of the Christian faith — the sinner in all his need united to the Saviour in all the plenitude of his grace, the sinner in his naked need and the Saviour in his almighty power, brought directly together in the Gospel. That is the glory of the Gospel!

 (b) It is centred in the cross upon which that Person died. A cross that leads to an empty tomb, yes! And a cross preceded by a life of perfect obedience, yes! And when we turn to the Scriptures we find that the divine remedy in a unique way is centred in the cross of Jesus Christ. When he is formally announced by John the Baptist, John points to him and says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who is bearing away the sin of the world’ [John 1.29]. Jesus himself said, ‘I did not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give my life a ransom for many’ [Matt 20.28], and true preaching of the Gospel is so much centered in the cross that Paul says it is the word, or the message of the cross. The preaching of the cross is ‘to them who are perishing foolishness, but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God’ [1 Cor 1.18], and this same apostle went on to say that when he came to Corinth — that bastion of intellectualism and pagan Greek philosophy with its set patterns of rhetorical expertise — ‘I came amongst you determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him as crucified’ [1 Cor 2.2].

You see, God’s gracious remedy for sin is not only bound up in a Person, it is centred in the cross of that Person — not the cross as an abstract idea, nor as a religious symbol, but the cross in terms of what God declares it to mean. The cross was the place where God heaped upon his Son, by imputation, the sins of his people. On that cross there was substitutionary curse-bearing. In the language of Galatians 3.13, ‘God made him to be a curse for us’; ‘God made him to be sin for us’ [2 Cor 5.2] — the one who knew no sin. It is not the cross as some nebulous, indefinable symbol of self-giving love, it is the cross as the monumental display of how God can be just and still pardon guilty sinners; the cross where God, having imputed the sins of his people to Christ, pronounces judgment upon his Son as the representative of his people. There on the cross God pours out the vials of his wrath, unmixed with mercy, until his Son cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? why have you forsaken me?’ [Psa 22.1; Matt 27.46]. There in the visible world at Calvary, God, as it were, was demonstrating what was happening in the invisible spiritual world. He shrouds the heavens in total darkness to let all mankind know that he is plunging his Son into the outer darkness of the hell which your sins and my sins deserved. Jesus hangs on the cross in the place of an undefended guilty criminal; he is in the posture of one for whom society has but one option, ‘Away with him’, ‘Crucify him’, ‘Hand him over to death’, and God does not intervene. There in the theatre of what men can see, God is demonstrating what he is doing in the realm where we cannot see. He is treating his Son as a criminal, he is causing him to feel in the depths of his own soul all of the fury of the wrath that should have been vented upon us.

(c) A remedy that is adequate for and offered to all without discrimination. Before we have any felt consciousness of our sin, about the easiest thing in the world is to think that God can forgive sinners. But when you and I begin to have any idea at all of what sin is — we, little worms of the dust, we creatures whose very life and breath is held in the hands of the God in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’ [Acts 17.28] — when we begin, I say, to take seriously that we have dared to defy Almighty God who holds our breath in his hands, the God who, when angels rebelled against him, did not wait to show mercy but consigned them to everlasting chains of darkness with no way of mercy ever planned or revealed to them, then our thoughts are changed. Once we take seriously the truth that it is this holy God who sees the effusions of the foul, corrupt human hearts which are yours and mine, then we say, ‘O God, how can you be anything other than just; and if you give me what my sins deserve, there is nothing for me but wrath and judgment! How can you forgive me and still be just? How can you be a righteous God and do anything other than consign me to everlasting punishment with those angels that rebelled’. When you begin to take your sin seriously, forgiveness becomes the most knotty problem with which your mind has ever wrestled. It is then that we need to know that God has provided in a Person, and that Person crucified, a remedy that is adequate for and offered to all without discrimination. When God begins to make us feel the reality of our sin, if there were any conditions placed on the availability of Christ we would say, ‘Surely I don’t meet the conditions, surely I don’t qualify’, but the wonder of God’s provision is that it comes in these unfettered terms: ‘Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; he who has no money, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do you labor for that which does not satisfy’ [Isa 55.1 -2]. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out’ [Matt 11.28; John 6.37].

Oh, the beauty of the unfettered offers of mercy in Jesus Christ! We do not need to have God step out of heaven and tell us that we, by name, are warranted to come; we have the unfettered offers of mercy in the words of his own Son, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.

3. A BIBLE CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO HAS WHOLEHEARTEDLY COMPLIED WITH THE DIVINE TERMS FOR APPROPRIATING THE DIVINE PROVISION

The divine terms are two — repent and believe. That is what Jesus preached, ‘At that time Jesus came preaching, Repent and believe the gospel’ [Mark 1.15, 16]. It is what Paul preached. He says, ‘I testified to Jews and Greeks wherever I went, repentance toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ [Acts 20.21]. This is the Gospel that Jesus told his own to preach [Luke 24.45, 46]. He opened their minds to understand the Scripture and told them it was necessary for Christ to die, and to be raised again from the dead the third day, that repentance unto remission of sins should be preached in his name among all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

What are the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision? We must repent, we must believe. Now because we have to speak in terms of one word following another, or preceding another, we must not think that this repentance is ever divorced from faith or that this faith is ever divorced from repentance. True faith is permeated with repentance, true repentance is permeated with faith. They inter-penetrate one another so that, whenever there is a true appropriation of the divine provision, there you will find a believing penitent and a penitent believer. The one will never be divorced from the other.

What is repentance? The definition of the Shorter Catechism is an excellent one: ‘Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of (that is, a laying hold of) the mercy of God in Christ, does with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience’.

Repentance is the prodigal down in the far country coming to his senses. He left his father’s home because he could not stand his father’s government. Everything about his father’s will and ways irritated him. It was a constant block to following the desires of his own foul, wretched, sin-loving heart. The day came when he said he wanted what was due to him. He went into the far country. When he left he had a notion of his father, of his government and of his ways, which was entirely negative, but the Scripture tells us in Luke 15 that down in the far country he came to himself: ‘And when he came to himself he said, I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants’. And then the Scripture says he did not sit there and think about it, and write poetry about it and send telegrams home to his Dad. It says, ‘He rose up and came to his father’. He left all those companions who were his friends in sin; he loathed and abominated and abhorred everything that belonged to that life-style. He turned his back on it. And what was it that drew him home? It was the confidence that there was a gracious father with a large heart and with the righteous rule for his happy, loving home. And he said, ‘I will arise and go to my father’. He did not send a telegram saying, ‘Dad, things are getting rough down here; my conscience is giving me fits at night; won’t you send me some money to help me out and come and pay me a visit and make me feel good?’ Not at all! He did not need just to feel good, he needed to become good. And he left the far country. It is a beautiful stroke in our Lord’s picture when he says, ‘While he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and threw his arms around him and kissed him’. The prodigal did not come strutting up to his father, talking about making a decision to come home. There is a notion that people can come strutting into enquiry rooms and pray their little prayer and so do God a favour by making their decision. This has no more to do with conversion than my name is ‘Abraham Lincoln’. True repentance involves recognizing that I have sinned against the God of heaven, who is great and gracious, holy and loving, and that I am not worthy to be called his son. And yet, when I am prepared to leave my sin, to turn my back upon it and to come back haltingly, wondering if indeed there can be mercy for me, then — wonder of wonders! — the Father meets me, and throws the arms of reconciling love and mercy about me. I say it, not in a sentimental way but in all truth, he smothers repenting sinners in forgiving and redemptive love.

But note, the father did not throw his arms around the Prodigal when he was still in the hogpens and in the arms of harlots. Do I speak to some whose hearts are wedded to the world, who love the world’s ways? Perhaps in your personal life, or in relationship to your parents, or in your social life where you take so lightly the sanctity of the body, you show what you are. Maybe some of you are involved in fornication, in heavy petting, involved in looking at the kind of stuff on television and in the cinema that feeds your lust, and yet you name the name of Christ. You live in the hog-pens and then go to a house of God on Sunday. Shame on you! Leave your hog pens, your haunts of sin. Leave your patterns and practices of fleshly and carnal indulgence. Repentance is being sorry enough to quit your sin. You will never know the forgiving mercy of God while you are still wedded to your sins.

Repentance is the soul’s divorce from sin but it will always be joined to faith. What is faith? Faith is the casting of the soul upon Christ as he is offered to us in the Gospel. Forsaking All I Take Him. That is faith! ‘As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name’ [John 1.12]. Faith is likened to drinking of Christ. In my soul-thirst I drink of him. Faith is likened to looking to Christ. Faith is likened to following Christ, fleeing to Christ. The Bible uses many analogies and the sum of all of them is this, that in the nakedness of my need I cast myself upon the Savior, trusting him to be to me all that he has promised to be to needy sinners.

Faith brings nothing to Christ but an empty hand by which it takes Christ and all that is in him. And what is in him? Full pardon for all my sins! His perfect obedience is put to my account. His death is counted as mine. And the gift of the Spirit is in him. Adoption, sanctification and ultimately glorification are all in him, and faith, in taking Christ, receives all that is in him. ‘But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, whom God has made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption’ [1 Cor 1.30].

What is a biblical Christian? A biblical Christian is a person who has wholeheartedly complied with the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision for sin. Those terms are repentance and faith. I like to think of them as the hinge on which the door of salvation turns. The hinge has two plates. One that is screwed to the door and the other screwed to the door jam. They are held together by a pin and on that hinge the door turns. Christ is that door, but none enter through him who do not repent and believe, and there is no true hinge made up only of repentance. A repentance that is not joined to faith is a legal repentance. It terminates on yourself and on your sin.

A professed faith that is not joined to repentance is a spurious faith, for faith Is faith in Christ to save me, not in but from my sin. Repentance and faith are inseparable and except you repent you will perish. He that believeth not shall be damned.

4. A TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A PERSON WHO MANIFESTS IN HIS LIFE THAT HIS CLAIMS TO REPENTANCE AND FAITH ARE REAL

Paul said that he preached that men should repent and turn to God and do works meet for, answering to, consistent with, repentance [Acts 26.20]. ‘By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them’ [Eph 2.8-101. Paul says in Galatians chapter 5, that faith works by love. Wherever there is true faith in Christ there will always be implanted genuine love to Christ and where there is love to Christ there will be obedience to Christ. True faith always works by love, and what does it work? A life of obedience! ‘He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me. He who loves me not, keeps not my sayings’ [John 14.21-24]. We are not saved by loving Christ, we are saved by trusting Christ, but a trust that produces no love is not real. True faith works by love, and that which love works is not the ability to sit out on a beautiful starlight night writing poetry about how exciting it is to be a Christian. It works by causing you to go back into that home and to obey your father and your mother as the Bible tells you to do, or back to that university campus to take a stand for truth and righteousness against all the pressure of your peers. True faith makes you willing and prepared to be counted a fool and crazy, willing to be considered anachronistic, because you believe that there are eternal, unchangeable, moral and ethical standards. You are willing to believe in the sanctity of human life, and to take your stand against pre-marital gender and the murdering of babies in mothers’ wombs. For Jesus said, ‘Whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ [Mark 8.38]. What is a Bible Christian? Not merely one who says, ‘Oh, yes, I know I am a sinner, with a bad record and a bad heart. I know that God’s provision for sinners is in Christ and in his cross, adequate, freely offered to all, and I know it comes to all who repent and believe’. That is not enough. Do you profess to repent and believe? Then can you make that profession stick, not by a life of perfection but by a life of purposeful obedience to Jesus Christ? ‘Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of Heaven’, Jesus said, ‘but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in Heaven’ [Matt 7.21]. In Hebrews 5.8 we read, ‘He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him’ I John 2.4, ‘He who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.’

Can you make your claim to be a Christian stick from the Bible? Does your life manifest the fruits of repentance and faith? Do you possess a life of attachment to Christ, of obedience to Christ and confession of Christ? Is your behavior marked by adherence to the ways of Christ? Not perfectly — No! every day you must pray, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us’. But you can also say, ‘For me to live is Christ’, or

Jesus I my cross have taken
All to leave and follow Thee.

The world behind me, the cross before me, I have decided to follow Jesus. That is what a true Christian is. How many of us are real Christians? I leave you to answer in the deep chambers of your own mind and heart. But, remember, answer with an answer that you will be prepared to live with for eternity. Be content with no answer but that which will find you comfortable in death and safe in the day of judgment.

Source: https://www.gracegems.org/30/what_is_a_biblical_christian.htm

Light to Know God’s Mind in Affliction

Robert Traill (The Throne of Grace), Works 1:204-205:

God’s grace helps with light to know God’s mind in affliction. It is dreadful to be struck in the dark, when a man neither seeth the path he walks in, nor the hand that smiteth him, nor the weapon he is smote with. The great blessing that grace can help us to, is, to know what the rod means, what its voice is, who hath appointed it, and what of God’s name is written on the rod, Micah 6:9. Job was very earnest for this light, Job 10:2, I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. Elihu adviseth him well, Job 34:31, 32, Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more. Many a poor believer has been put to this, that if he had all the world, he would have parted with it, to have known God’s mind in his afflictions.

Source: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/light-to-know-god%E2%80%99s-mind-in-affliction.91023/, Comment 1

Guidelines for Sexual Purity

I am encountering more and more young people today who claim to be Christians but just “don’t see anything wrong with having sex outside of marriage.”  Here are some guidelines for sexual purity for those who still understand what the Bible says on this issue:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Part One: What You Need to Know

1. Sex is good. God created it, God called it “good,” and it existed before there was any sin in the world.

Sex was not created by Satan, Playboy, Hollywood, HBO, rock musicians or the Internet. Sex was created by the holy God of heaven, where purity reigns.

God made sex physically desirable by creating us with sex drives, without which sex wouldn’t exist and neither would people. God’s Word speaks openly of the pleasure of sex within the marriage relationship (Proverbs 5:18,19; Song of Solomon 4:5; 7:1, 6-9)…

Read more: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Jan/28/guidelines-sexual-purity/

A Curb, A Mirror, and A Guide

Hostivař, zrcadlo u kostela (01)

“What purposes does the Law then serve?”

First, the Law helps to control violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world (a curb).

Second, the Law accuses us and shows us our sin (a mirror).

Third, the Law teaches us Christians what we should and should not do to live a God-pleasing life (a guide).

The power to live according to the Law comes from the Gospel.”

Source: Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1991), qtd. at http://theaquilareport.com/three-uses-law-luthers-catechism/

Popular Amusements

Popular Amusements!

By Hiram Mattison, 1867

Let us turn to the Voice of the Scriptures to see what light, if any, they throw upon the subject.

To every Christian, the Bible is the end of all controversy. He should do whatever it enjoins — and shun whatever it condemns. And as we all recognize this Book as the rule of our faith and practice, it shall be our next business to compare the amusements already noticed — with the tenor and spirit of the Word of God.

It is not, of course, claimed that the Bible condemns dancing, billiards, theaters etc., by name. Neither does it so condemn gambling, lotteries, betting on elections, horse racing, forgery, or arson. But it inculcates principles which cut up all such follies and sins, root and branch. And it is upon this ground that we contend that participation in the popular amusements of the day, such as dancing, card-playing, billiards, theater-going, etc., is incompatible with the Christian profession, spirit, and life — and should therefore be discountenanced by all true friends of Christ and of the Church of God.

I. The Scriptures represent conversions to Christ as A GREAT CHANGE, to be followed by a corresponding change in the Outward Life of its subjects.

2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things have become new.”

But men of the world “mind earthly things,” and look wholly upon “things that are seen and temporal.” In these they seek and find their only earthly enjoyments — to eat and drink, and dress and amuse themselves, and get money and spend it. Such were the lives of the early Gentile converts, at least, before conversion — and so live the unconverted now.

But in conversion, old things are to pass away. New associations are formed, new desires, aspirations, and hopes are implanted in the soul, and new sources of enjoyment are opened up. Henceforth we are to look, not at the things that are seen and temporal — but at things not seen and eternal. Our affections are to be on things above, and not upon things on the earth. If, then, we are thus renewed and changed in the current of our relishes, desires, and hopes — then a new life necessarily follows; as when the tree is changed — the fruit also will be changed. This general principle covers the whole case. If “old things are passed away,” and “all things have become new,” we shall hereafter seek our delight in the things of God, and shall abandon forever the vain pleasures and delusive follies of an unbelieving world.

If professed Christians are to live like others so far as worldly pleasures are concerned — then how is the world to see that there has been any real change wrought in their hearts? “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good,” said the Savior, “or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt — for the tree is known by his fruit.” If the tree professes to be good — let the fruit or life correspond with the profession.

II. The Scriptures bear a general testimony against a life of worldly pleasure, as inconsistent with a Christian profession.

1 Timothy 5:6 Paul says, “but she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives!” That is, if she lives a pleasure-seeking life, she will be dead in religion. And let none suppose that the phrase “lives in pleasure” means something worse than mere worldly gaiety. It means precisely such a life as all those lead, who follow the fashionable amusements of the world, and nothing else.

Donnegan in his Greek Lexicon defines the original word rendered pleasure thus: “to live luxuriously or sumptuously; to riot in luxury — to frolic.” A perfect picture of a modem “party,” with a luxurious supper, with plenty of champagne, and a general frolic until daylight; but not the slightest intimation of impurity, unless the “frolic,” implies it.

Parkhurst’s Lexicon defines the word pleasure to mean “to live extravagantly, luxuriously, or voluptuously.”

Dr. Albert Barnes says, “the Greek word for pleasure means to live in luxury, voluptuously; to indulge freely in eating and drinking; to yield indulgence of the appetites. It does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures, but the kind of pleasure connected with luxurious living, and with pampering the appetites.”

Dr. Adam Clarke thus renders the passage: “She that lives delicately — voluptuously indulging herself with dainties. It does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures; but simply means one who indulges herself in good eating and drinking, pampering her body at the expense of her mind.”

And after citing an ancient Greek author to justify this definition, he says: “I have introduced this long quotation the better to fix the meaning of the apostle — to show that the life of pleasure mentioned here does not mean prostitution or immorality of any kind, though such a life may naturally lead to dissolute living.”

Dr. MacKnight, than whom there are few better Greek scholars, says, “the word pleasure signifies one who fares deliciously;” and his paraphrase or commentary upon the whole verse is, “But the widow who lives in gaiety and luxury is dead while she lives in that manner,” etc.

In the general Epistle of James, 5:1, 5, addressing certain rich men in the church who were corrupting it, as some are doing now, he says, “Go now, you rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you.” “You have lived in pleasure on the earth; you have nourished your hearts as in the day of slaughter.” Here the same Greek word is used as in the passage last cited — “to riot in luxury, to frolic;” and the same unchristian practices are solemnly condemned.

All this shows how specifically and emphatically Paul condemned a mirthful and pleasure-seeking life as utterly incompatible with the life and power of religion in the soul. If we live in pleasure, we are dead while we live.

Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, revelings and such like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God!”

In this passage we find “revelings and such like” enumerated among the works of the flesh. This phrase plainly covers dancing, wine-drinking, mirthful, festive parties, and all worldly folly. But to break its force as against worldly amusements, it has been alleged, as in regard to the preceding passage, that “revelings and such like,” has no reference to feasting and dancing — but to lasciviousness! This I emphatically deny, and will give the proof:

1. The passage itself shows upon its face that this cannot be the meaning of the phrase; for the apostle had already mentioned “adultery, fornication, immorality,” and “lasciviousness;” and hence, to represent him as again using a phrase which means lasciviousness is to accuse him of the strangest tautology. But when we take it to mean worldly amusements, its position is natural and comprehensive, “drunkenness, revelings, and such like.” And who does not know that dancing, and billiards, and theater-going, and drinking are usually associated?

2. The Greek word komoi, translated revelings, does not refer to lasciviousness, but to precisely what answers to a modern ball or “party,” with its accompaniments of wine and music, dancing and late hours. Let us consult the Greek lexicons:

Parkhurst defines the word thus: “Reveling, feasting [not conduct, mark] with songs and music.” Donnegan defines it to mean — “A jovial assembly of friends, who met at an entertainment, or to celebrate a festival, with music, dancing, and singing hymns, and odes — a band of revelers, etc.” Here you see that the komoi forbidden by the apostle included music, dancing, and a sumptuous supper, and tendencies to lasciviousness, but did not include lasciviousness itself. It means an ancient ball, and nothing else. And the phrase “and such like” covers all similar worldly pleasures and follies. There is no evading this fact, unless we are determined to wrest the word of God to accommodate our own carnal appetites and longings. And if we do this, we may as well cast off God’s authority over us and our conduct at once, and give up all pretensions to piety and all hope of Heaven at last.

3. Do not fail to notice that these “revelings and such like” are specifically designated as “works of the flesh,” and are classed with adultery, murders, drunkenness, etc. And nothing of the kind is found among the fruits of the Spirit; for they are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance — against such there is no law.” And the apostle immediately adds that “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts;” that is, they have put down and overcome all these fleshly lusts for the pleasures and vanities of the world, and are seeking happiness in Christ alone and the things of religion. Depend upon it, brethren, if we are Christians, we are “debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; for if we live after the flesh, we shall die. But if we through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live.'” Romans 8:12.

4. Mark with what solemn emphasis the apostle concludes the passage. After having enumerated the works of the flesh, even to “revelings and such like,” he adds: “Of which I tell you before [before the day of judgment and final retribution], as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things Shall Not Inherit The Kingdom Of God.” May God in mercy help us all to heed the solemn warning!

1 Peter 4:3-4, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, revelings, banquetings, and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you!”

Here observe:
1. That Christians were not to live as formerly, and like other men–in folly and dissipation.
2. That “revelings” and “banquetings” are specified, which covers all balls, parties, and masquerades, at least.
3. That the early Christians had ceased to run with those who walked in these follies.
4. That the ungodly thought this very “strange” and over-rigid.
5. That the ungodly spoke evil of Christians, on account of their peculiar abstinence and self-denial.

And today the same holy course meets the same unholy treatment, even at the hands of some who profess religion, and ought to be found wholly upon the Lord’s side.

2 Timothy 3:1-8, “This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, etc., despisers of those that are good, traitors [to God and religion], heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof — from such turn away.”

A more perfect portrait of a modern pleasure-seeking professor could scarcely be drawn. The love of pleasure stands associated with its kindred vices, contempt of the truly pious, unfaithfulness to Christ, pride, formality without religion, and hostility to God’s faithful watchmen, who, like Moses of old, contend for the truth.

And mark the stern decree of the apostle — “from such turn away;” that is, as Barnes well expresses it, “have no fellowship with them as if they were Christians; show no countenance to their religion.”

1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Here “the world” does not mean the globe, nor its inhabitants, but its amusements, follies and carnal pleasures. Hence it is added, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” And no such love of pleasure, it is declared, can co-exist with the love of God in the same bosom. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

III. The Scriptures constantly enjoin self-denial as an indispensable Christian duty.

Matthew 16:25, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:34, “Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”

Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 14:27, “And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

In his letter to Titus, 2:11-12, Paul says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;” and then adds, “these things exhort and teach.”

Hebrews 11:24-26, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt — for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”

Here we have an example of self-denial set before us: Moses discarding the pleasures of sin, which were but for a season at best, and choosing even affliction with the people of God, that he might finally inherit eternal life.

But if Christians indulge in all worldly amusements and follies like others — then where is the self-denial?
Where is the cross?
Where is the peculiarity?
Where is the difference in the life?

IV. The scriptures plainly require Christians to come out from the world, and not to be conformed to its spirit and practices.

Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

But if the world dances, and play cards and billiards, and attends theaters, and we do the same things — then are we not conformed to them, instead of their being conformed to Christ? In what sense is our body a living sacrifice to God, if we use it to play billiards and dance and attend theaters? Oh, how far are we from the divine standard, when thus swept away by the spirit and vanities of a prayerless and ungodly throng, who seek their only good in this world, and are hastening with every passing day to a dark and terrible hereafter! And yet professed Christians join the wild revel, and help to lead them on to death and destruction! Oh, may God pity and have mercy upon these professed Christians who have thus helped to deepen their blindness, increase their carnal security, render their conversion to Christ more difficult, and their final and eternal ruin more probable!

1 Peter 1:14-5, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy.”

But if we live a mirthful and pleasure-seeking life, as we did before conversion, are we not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts? Where, then, is the holiness in conduct and deportment? Where the conformity to Christ, and the example that leads others to him and his service?

2 Corinthians 6:17, “Therefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And will be a father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Here the prohibition “not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” is enforced by the general principle that Christianity and the world are not to be blended in the life of the same person. The Christian is to deny himself, even as to the choice of an irreligious companion, to “come out from” the irreligious and “be separate,” that the Lord may receive him.

V. Christians should avoid even the appearance of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” — not merely from that which is intrinsically and obviously sinful, but from that also which may be indifferent, but which others regard as wrong. Now who will deny that for a professed Christian to be seen playing cards or billiards, dancing or attending a theater — appears wrong to nine-tenths of the people of God, and also to a vast majority of non-professors? And if this be so, no matter what such practices are in themselves, this text forbids Christians indulging in them.

VI. We must not unnecessarily cause or allow our Christian profession and character to be brought into disrepute.

Romans 14:16, “Let not then your good be evil spoken of.” Do not practice those things, whether it is eating meat offered to idols, or anything else, which will bring a reproach upon Christianity, and give the unconverted occasion to speak evil of the religion which you profess. But for professed Christians to play cards, dance, or attend theaters, does give occasion for the world to reproach the cause of Christ; and therefore no Christian should ever indulge in such practices.

VII. We must not indulge in anything, however innocent in itself, if thereby a brother Christian is grieved or stumbles in the way to Heaven.

Romans 14:21, “It is good neither to eat flesh nor drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles or is offended, or is made weak.”

The subject under consideration was, whether a Christian should eat the ftesh of animals which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. The Church was divided upon the question. Some ate — and others were grieved, stumbled, and made weak in faith and love. Now how did Paul decide? “There is nothing unclean in itself.” Abstractly considered, it is a matter of indifference. But “let no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” And soon after comes the general declaration, “It is good neither to eat meat,” etc., as already cited.

Now, for professed Christians to play cards and billiards, and dance, and attend theaters, does grieve and afflict, and stumble a vast majority of their fellow disciples; and I have no doubt has in various ways “destroyed” hundreds of our fellow immortals for whom Christ died. How then can Christians be justified in these practices in the light of this passage of Scripture?

VIII. We are to do nothing that we cannot do to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Here the same question is under discussion, and the apostle inculcates the same doctrine. “Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.” But can men and women dance, and play billiards, and go to circuses and theaters, “to the glory of God?” Will such conduct honor the Christian name and profession? Do Christians, by so doing, “let their light so shine before men, that others [the irreligious], by seeing their good works [their good dancing and card-playing,] will glorify their Father who is in Heaven?”

IX. We are to set one affections upon things above, which we cannot do, if we indulge in worldly amusements.

Colossians 3:2, “If you then are risen with Christ [have been raised up from the death of sin and folly] seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

But whoever gives himself up to worldly amusements soon becomes so fascinated by them, that his affections are much more upon them than upon God and eternity. His heart is not upon the things that are unseen and eternal, but upon those that are seen and temporal — the fashion of this world which is passing away. Such a life of pleasure is, therefore, utterly at variance with that spirituality and heavenly-mindedness which this passage enjoins.

X. Indulging in such amusements is incompatible with that Spirit Of Prayer in which Christians are expected to live and die.

Our Savior taught, Luke 18:1, that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” and Paul’s advice, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, is that Christians “pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.” In his first letter to Timothy 2:8, he says, “I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting.” Now while these passages do not teach that Christians should be always upon their knees, or uttering vocal prayer, they certainly teach that Christians are to pray much, to pray constantly; that is, not to live days and weeks without praying; and that they are to maintain a spirit of prayer at all times, and wherever they are.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death,
He enters Heaven with prayer!

But, how can such a spirit be maintained while playing cards? What person carries a prayerful spirit to the ball-room? Who ever prayed even in his heart in a theater? Every votary of these amusements knows that the two things are as utterly opposed, the one to the other, as light and darkness. If, then, we obey Christ and his apostles, and maintain the spirit of prayer as they enjoin — we must give up our worldly amusements and follies, for the two are utterly incompatible, the one with the other.

Such, then, is the general tenor and spirit of that blessed Book which is our only guide as to our conduct here, and the results thereof hereafter. It teaches us that at conversion old things should pass away, as the dry leaves of the beech are shed from the boughs and disappear when the buds are swelled by the warmth of spring — that we cannot live mirthful and pleasure-seeking lives, and still enjoy the love of Christ in our souls — it classes “revelings” among the works of the flesh, which debar their votaries from admission to heaven — that the early Christians ceased to indulge in “excess of wine, revelings, banquetings,” etc., when they embraced Christ — that we are not to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God — that we are not to love the world, if we wish the love of God to abide in us — that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ — that we are not to be conformed to this world, not to fashion ourselves according to the former lusts — that we are to come out from the world and be separate, that God may receive us — that we are to avoid even the appearance of evil, and not let our good be evil-spoken of — that we should do nothing which will grieve, or stumble, or offend our brethren in Christ, such as card-playing, dancing, etc., does — that we are to set our affections on things above, as we cannot if we follow the vanities of the present life — and that we are to live in and cultivate such a spirit of prayer, as is utterly incompatible with a life of pleasure and worldly amusements.

These are but specimens of the general teachings of the Bible upon the subject; but enough to show that the practices against which I plead are entirely incompatible with the Christian profession, spirit and life. Whatever may have been our practice, therefore, or may be our present inclinations or preferences, such is the voice of God. It is not more certain that Christ came into the world and died to save us — than it is that, the Bible being our guide, a life of pleasure and worldly amusements is incompatible with the Christian name and profession.

Source: https://www.gracegems.org/30/popular_amusements.htm