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Will Nice People Be Saved? – John Hendryx

July 26, 2017 Comments off

“We must not suppose that if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world.” (C.S. Lewis)

A reader recently responded to the above quote by Lewis with the following remark:

“True, but at least there would be less hatred!”

His answer is really how most of us naturally think. But helping to make people nice and moral is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer. Although many Christians may think making America more moral by strong political lobbying is our highest calling it may come as a surprise that morality and and making people nice is not our commission. We have not been mandated by God to do this and I believe this a diversionary activity. If the heart is not transformed or regenerated, all we do, then, is redirect the sin. We then make people into Pharisees and Jesus said that by making somebody a convert to our morality, we merely make him “twice as much a son of hell as [our]selves.” This is just repackaged legalism, attempting to attain godliness by a systematic change of behavior which does not spring from a renewed heart.

Our condition is really worse than we ever imagined and we rarely take this very seriously. As an analogy, we could liken our spiritual condition to the the well-known movie, The Matrix. Humankind, in the movie, is blinded to the real world and is really made a slave to serve the interests of something else (batteries for the machines). Those caught in matrix are unaware of their own wretched condition and they go about their business completely oblivious to their plight. Morpheus points out, “the world that has been pulled over our eyes to blind [us] from the truth” and that humans are “slaves” in “bondage.” Reality is no different. Just try and perfectly obey God’s commandments for a day and you’ll know what I mean. God and our condition can only be known, however, as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes that we might see – and He first reveals our fallen condition as being blinded so that we cannot see the truth:

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose casethe god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-5

In one scene of the movie Morpheus says, “Many of [the people in the Matrix] are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.” Then in a similar vein the Apostle Paul likens our real condition to one of bondage where we actually do the enemy’s bidding for him and tells us that with gentleness we need to correct those in opposition to the gospel if perhaps God may grant them repentance so….

“…they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:25, 26)

Amazingly, The Matrix shows a deep grasp of our real world condition, whether consciously or not. The Scriptures testify that our problem is not just one where we need to be nice or moral. Just imagine in the movie, if Neo, knew the enslaved condition of mankind (blinded to the truth and made a slave to the machines), would he then waste his time telling people how to be nice or teach them how to change their behavior? If instead of helping to free people from the matrix cyber-prison, Neo decided that the solution was to tell people how to be good and tolerant as an answer to their problems, you would think he was out of his mind, engaging in worthless diversionary activity and we might have him institutionalized.But don’t we often, as Christians, waste our time with similar thinking?

Using a similar analogy, theologian R. B Kuiper says,

“A man has been found guilty, shall we say, of a heinous crime and has been sentenced to death. He is now in prison, awaiting the day of his execution. A friend comes to visit him. This friend calls out: “I have good news for you!” Eagerly the condemned man asks: “What is it?” The answer comes: “Be good.” In that message there is not so much as a shred of good news. It is most cruel mockery. Yet many a self-styled minister of Christ holds forth to sinners under the sentence of eternal death a precisely equivalent message as gospel.”

Bad behavior is really only a symptom of a much greater concern. Likewise, the natural man is in bondage to his fallen nature and chooses only what that inner principle desires most. At the fall we lost the indwelling of the Spirit and now the Scripture testifies that the resulting consequence we find ourselves in is that we are hostile to God, hate the light and no one understands because the things of the Spirit are foolishness to us (John 3:19, 1 Cor 2:14). The real world and our true purpose remains hidden from our eyes due to no fault but our own. Without the supernatural intervention of God to redeem us we are caught in a situation worse than that of the Matrix. In the movie Neo says to Morpheus that he had been looking for him all his life. Morpheus tells him that this is only because he was looking for him first. This is similar with God toward us. He calls us out of darkness, out of slavery to sin and to the devil who has taken the natural man captive to do his will. Our desires are for things we have replaced God with, paltry and vain things. While we build up our dunghill here with our material possessions and pride that replaces the true God with ourselves, God has created us to inherit a much greater promise, the restoration of our original purpose. Don’t get me wrong, certainly, as Christians,we ought to be engaged in building up culture, and we should be taking the lead, but a desire to do good does not come about by law, which does, however, serve a positive function of restraining evil. But if we really want to transform society and culture, the inward principle of grace must first take place in individuals. Law is powerless to change their hearts. This new desire will only come to unbelievers by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the heart which changes their dispositions, thoughts, inclinations and affections so that they might delight in doing good. Spiritual resurrection is needed in those dead in sin who have been taken captive to do the will of another. The people trapped in the Matrix could not see beyond the limitations imposed by their captors. Their primary need, before all others, was to have a true view of who they were and what their condition was. Then and only then can life be lived in truth.

It is not about niceness or morality… it is about our condition. If everyone become moral tomorrow it would have no consequence on our enslavement. What we need is the new birth, a resurrection of our soul, a restoration to God’s original intent for humankind. What we need is the gospel. Theological liberals and conservatives alike need to recognize that our spiritual condition is much worse than we had thought. The conservatives have a tendency to condescendingly to look down at people with moral corruption and behaviorisms like sexual impurity, homosexuality and adultery all the while forgetting that God is equally if not more angry at pride, anger and bigotry. They are just as dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending as the liberal. God’s wrath hangs over those who trust in good works, those who somehow really are tempted think they are more deserving than another. Jesus said that many will come to Him on that Day and say, “did we not do [this or that] in your name.” Jesus said he never knew them. Why? Because they trusted in themselves, in their goodness, rather than on the finished work of Christ. We must remind ourselves daily that it is grace, grounded in the redemptive work of Christ ALONE that saved us. You are just as much a child of wrath as the liberal if you think you are more deserving.

The liberals then come and say we need to be tolerant and embrace diversity, allow for people of all orientations to continue in their ways since we now know that this is natural and this is who they are. In doing so, they also promote a change of behavior that conforms to the socially constructed philosophy of the day, as gospel. Thus, being taken captive by the culture around them, they strip the gospel of all supernatural influence and fail to recognize that, we all are naturally incapable of obeying God and the gospel. There is no one who is naturally inclined to the humbling terms of the gospel. Prior to God’s work of regenerative grace we all have an inward natural principle which is bent on rebellion against God. Conservatives and liberals alike are hold in common the fact that they are spiritually impotent and in desperate need of regeneration. The “world that has been pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth” (Morpheus) needs to fall like scales from our eyes (like Paul). Both groups need to repent of trusting in their good works and despair of any hope from themselves, which is the first (graciously bestowed) prerequisite of a sound conversion. The good news is that in the gospel God reveals the same righteousness and faith for us that God demands from us. What we had to have, but could not create or achieve or fulfill, God grants us freely, namely, the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) and the faith of Christ. The faith we have is ours but it arises from a new disposition of heart that God freely gives those He came to save. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “we must be born again.”

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True Saving Faith Always Produces Good Works – Walter Marshall

April 24, 2015 Comments off

God saves us from our sinful uncleanness by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, as well as from hell hereafter (Ezek. 36:29; Titus 3:5). Christ was called JESUS, that is, a Saviour, because He saved His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Therefore it is a part of our salvation to deliver us from our sins, which is begun in this life by justification and sanctification, and perfected by glorification in the life to come.

Though we are not saved by good works, as procuring causes, yet we are saved to good works, as fruits and effects of saving grace, which God has prepared that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). It is, indeed, one part of our salvation to be delivered from the bondage of the covenant of works; but the end of this is, not that we may have liberty to sin (which is the worst of slavery) but that we may fulfill the royal law of liberty, and that we may serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Gal. 5:13; Rom. 7: 6). Yea, holiness in this life is such a part of our salvation as is a necessary means to make us suitable to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in heavenly light and glory; without holiness we can never see God (Heb. 12:14), and are as unfit for the glorious presence as swine for the presence chamber of an earthly prince. I confess, some may be converted when they are so near the point of death that they may have little time to practice holiness in this world, but the grace of the Spirit is active like fire (Matt. 3:11), and, as soon as it is given, it will immediately produce good inward working of love to God and Christ and His people. This will be sufficient to manifest the righteous judgement of God in saving them at the great day, when He shall
judge every man according to His work; though some possibly may not have so much time to discover their inward grace in any outward works, as the thief upon the cross (Luke 23: 40,43). . .

Great multitudes of ignorant people that live under the gospel harden their hearts in sin, and ruin their souls for ever, by trusting on Christ for such an imaginary salvation as does not consist at all in holiness, but only in forgiveness of sin and deliverance from everlasting torments. They would be free from the punishment due to sin, but they love their lusts so well that they hate holiness, and would not be saved from the service of sin. The way to oppose this pernicious delusion is not to deny, as some do, that trusting on Christ for salvation is a saving act of faith, but rather to show that none do or can trust on Christ for true salvation, except they trust on Him for holiness; neither do they heartily desire true salvation, if they do not desire to be made holy and righteous in their hearts and lives. If ever God and Christ give you salvation, holiness will be one part of it; if Christ does not wash you from the filth of your sins, you have no part with Him (John 13:8). What a strange kind of salvation do they desire, that do not care for holiness? They would be saved, and yet be altogether dead in sin, aliens from the life of God, bereft of the image of God, deformed by the image of Satan, his slaves and vassals to their own filthy lusts, utterly unsuitable for the enjoyment of God in glory. Such a salvation as that was never purchased by the blood of Christ, and those that seek it abuse the grace of God in Christ and turn it into lasciviousness.

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“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe,…….” Philpot devotional – March 5th

March 5, 2015 Comments off

March 5 J.C. Philpot

“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.”
Ephesians 1:19, 20

Man needs to be roused by a mighty and effectual power out of his state of sleep and death. It is not a little pull, a gentle snatch at his coat, a slight tug of his sleeve, which will pull him out of his sins. He must be snatched from them as a person would be snatched out of bed when the house is on fire, or pulled out of a river when sinking for the last time. Let us never think that the work of grace upon the heart is a slight or superficial one. Indeed, there needs a mighty work of grace upon a sinner’s heart to deliver him from his destructions. We always, therefore, find the work of grace to begin by a spiritual sight and sense of our ruined condition before God. But this alone will not suffice to make us true-hearted disciples of Jesus. It is a preparation, a most needful preparation for a sight of the King in his beauty, but it is not the same thing as to see and believe in the Son of God unto eternal life. We must have something far beyond any convictions of sin or any sense of our lost and ruined condition. We must have by faith a view of the blessed Lord more or less manifested to our souls by that Holy Spirit whose office it is to take of the things of Christ and to reveal them to the heart so as to see his suitability, his grace, his glory, his work, his blood, his obedience; and to so see these divine and blessed realities by the eye of faith, as to know and feel for ourselves that they are exactly adapted to our case and state; that they are the very things we require to save us from the wrath to come; and that so far as we have an interest in them we are saved from the floods of destruction. Wherever this believing sight of Christ is given to the soul, it creates and maintains a faith that works by love. Thus wherever there is a view of Jesus by the eye of faith, wherever he manifests and makes himself in any measure precious to the soul, love is the certain fruit of it; for we love him because he first loved us, and, when we begin to love the Lord, love gives us a binding tie which creates union and communion with him. As, then, he unveils his lovely face, and discovers more and more of his beauty and blessedness, it gives him a firm place in the eart’s warmest, tenderest affections, and then he comes and takes up his abode in the soul and rules there as its rightful Lord. The following things therefore are indispensably necessary to true discipleship; first, a spiritual sense of our lost, ruined condition; then a knowledge of Christ by a gracious discovery of his suitability, beauty, and blessedness; and thirdly, a faith in him that works by love and purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and delivers from death and hell.

J.C. Philpot – 1802-1869

Becoming a Christian – a new birth (sermon by A. McGowan)

August 20, 2012 Comments off

Sermon on regeneration by A. McGowan (right click and save as…)

Becoming a Christian – a new birth – 1 John 2 (MP3)

Source – Truth to live by

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Regeneration – the Christian is born again – JI Packer

July 12, 2012 Comments off

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” JOHN 3:3

Regeneration is a New Testament concept that grew, it seems, out of a parabolic picture-phrase that Jesus used to show Nicodemus the inwardness and depth of the change that even religious Jews must undergo if they were ever to see and enter the kingdom of God, and so have eternal life (John 3:3-15). Jesus pictured the change as being “born again.”

The concept is of God renovating the heart, the core of a person’s being, by implanting a new principle of desire, purpose, and action, a dispositional dynamic that finds expression in positive response to the gospel and its Christ. Jesus’ phrase “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) harks back to Ezekiel 36:25-27, where God is pictured as symbolically cleansing persons from sin’s pollution (by water) and bestowing a “new heart” by putting his Spirit within them. Because this is so explicit, Jesus chides Nicodemus, “Israel’s teacher,” for not understanding how new birth happens (John 3:9-10). Jesus’ point throughout is that there is no exercise of faith in himself as the supernatural Savior, no repentance, and no true discipleship apart from this new birth.

Elsewhere John teaches that belief in the Incarnation and Atonement, with faith and love, holiness and righteousness, is the fruit and proof that one is born of God (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4). It thus appears that as there is no conversion without new birth, so there is no new birth without conversion.

Though infant regeneration can be a reality when God so purposes (Luke 1:15, 41-44), the ordinary context of new birth is one of effectual calling—that is, confrontation with the gospel and illumination as to its truth and significance as a message from God to oneself. Regeneration is always the decisive element in effectual calling.

Regeneration is monergistic: that is, entirely the work of God the Holy Spirit. It raises the elect among the spiritually dead to new life in Christ (Eph. 2:1-10). Regeneration is a transition from spiritual death to spiritual life, and conscious, intentional, active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit, not its immediate cause. Regeneration is the work of what Augustine called “prevenient” grace, the grace that precedes our outgoings of heart toward God.

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Spiritual appetite – Sinclair Ferguson

December 24, 2011 Comments off

Sinclair Ferguson

The Book of Psalms has been described as ‘an anatomy of all the parts of the soul’. It is an excellent description. For what we find in the Psalms is a description and analysis of the spiritual life. Nothing is hidden from us. ‘Highs’ and ‘lows’ are alike recorded. That is why, when we read the Psalms, we are often amazed by the way they present a mirror-image of our own experiences and condition.

In the Psalms we see a description of our own experience. But sometimes we also recognise a description of new experiences. These provide insights and guidelines for us, to teach us what to anticipate. Some psalms are really saying to us: ‘This is how God may work. Be prepared to recognise his hand in your life in similar experiences’. Such is the case with Psalms 42 and 43. They are unusually appropriate at this juncture of our thinking about spiritual growth.

These two psalms belong together. Psalm 43 is one of only two psalms in the second book of the Psalter (Ps. 42-72) which has no title. The reason probably is that at one time it was joined with Psalm 42. The theme of both psalms is the same. Indeed you will probably have noticed that there is a chorus or refrain running through both of them. (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5):

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

No wonder the message of these psalms has often been taken to be ‘counsel’ for the spiritually depressed’. They certainly provide such counsel. But that is probably not meant to be the main lesson. For it is characteristic of the Psalms to introduce the chief theme, not in the chorus, but in the opening words. Psalm begins with this statement:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Here is someone who is longing to know God! That is an essential part of all true spiritual growth. Of course growing as a Christian involves gaining more knowledge of God’s word; it implies a life of prayer and witness. But these are all the results of something more basic. Being a Christian means knowing God. Growing as a Christian means increasing in our desire to know God. This is the sum of the Christian life. Jesus himself said: ‘This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God’ (Jn. 17:3). The true men and women of faith are ‘the people who know their God’ (Dan. 11:32). That is why, in the Old Testament, one of the anticipated blessings of the new age which the Messiah would inaugurate was that then men and women would ‘know the Lord’ (Jer. 3 1:34).

This is the heart of the Christian life. It is fundamental to all spiritual growth. If we are not growing in the knowledge of God, we are not growing at all.

Does it sound churlish to suggest that our greatest weakness today as Christians (young and old) lies here? That was the complaint of Hosea about his church. God’s people were destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Similarly we tend to be a generation of Christians who major on minor matters but do not seem to possess the true measure of the gospel in the knowledge of God. We do not really know God. At best we know about him.

The man who wrote Psalms 42 and 43 may once have been content with a similar level of spiritual experience. But then God began to order his circumstances in such a way that a new desire to grow spiritually filled his horizon. He began to long to know God. He describes his experience in three stages.

LONGING TO KNOW GOD

What is it like to have a desire to know God? These Psalms indicate that it can be an exceedingly painful and disturbing thing. This man felt he was cast down. He realised that he did not know God as he needed to:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?

Perhaps in his earlier days he had known the presence of God in powerful ways. But now his spirit felt barren and dry. It was parched, and he was crying out for the dew of God’s presence to come to revive and restore him.

It is a great temptation, looking at this man’s condition, to say that he was simply a defeated and disobedient child of God — a backslider. Yet he makes no mention of repentance, or of any specific sin which is barring him from the presence of God. This is not a penitential psalm. Indeed, in some ways the reverse is true. For here is a man who can address God as ‘my Rock’ (v. 9). He is thinking of God as his shelter and protection — as a Crag in which he can hide to find shelter and protection from his enemies. ‘At night’, he confesses, ‘his song is with me’ (v. 8). Hardly the words of a backslider!

God had begun to break up the fallow ground in his spirit (Jer. 4:3; Hos. 10:12). He plans to bring him on to a new stage of spiritual experience. As in ordinary life, so in spiritual life, we experience not only the traumas of birth, but the struggles of growing out of one stage into another stage of life.

But what were the means God employed in his life to bring about this new state of affairs? And, correspondingly, what pattern of experiences may we anticipate he will employ in our lives to bring us into a growing knowledge of him and his ways with us?

SPIRITUAL DESIRES AWAKENED

There are three things which God began to use:

(i) Memories of the past. As he called to God in his perplexity, he said: ‘These things I remember as I pour out my soul’. What did he remember?

In his mind’s eye he was back in Jerusalem. He saw the crowds of pilgrims at one of the great festival services: ‘I used to go with the multitude’. He remembered the atmosphere: ‘shouts of joy and thanksgiving’. He himself was at the head of the procession (v. 4). It all comes flooding back to him — he even uses a rare word in the original to describe the picture of the short, careful steps it is always necessary to take in a vast crowd to avoid everyone stepping on each other. Yes, those were wonderful days!

Sometimes looking back like that can be a symptom of spiritual decay. If all our hopes, all our finest experiences lie in the past and all we do is to complain that things are no longer what they once were, it usually is a sign of personal spiritual decay. But that was not the case with this man. He was remembering the grace and power of God’s presence with his people for a specific reason: to stir up his soul to long for and anticipate it again. That is one of the things a memory is for!

When Paul was concerned about the spiritual growth of his young friend Timothy, he encouraged him to use his memory. Remember the day we laid our hands on you, Paul said. Think of that occasion when the Holy Spirit set you apart through us. Do you not recall how God sealed your calling and wonderfully blessed you? Do you not remember how you gave yourself to the Lord out of a sense of his goodness to you? Remember that hour, Timothy, and let its memory stir you up to seek and to serve God now (see 2 Tim. 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 4:14).

Many of us have similar memories of times and places of unusual blessing in our lives. George Whitefield the great 18th century evangelist used to say that when he returned to Oxford University (where he had studied) he always wanted to go to the spot where he had been converted and kiss the ground. The memory of what God had done for him had proved to be such a great source of continuing blessing that this was the only way he felt he could express his gratitude!

I remember meeting a very elderly Christian in the far north of Scotland. For many years there had been little faithful preaching of Christ in the area where he had his croft. I wondered how he had managed to keep his spiritual fervour (Rom. 12:11). He told me of an event in his teens which had made such an impression on him that he had found enormous encouragement for many years simply by remembering it. At that time the Lord’s supper was celebrated only twice each year. The congregation gathered for several days of special services. On the Sunday afternoon, he had gone out to the back of his father’s croft, and was astonished to discover the ground covered in black. Scarcely a blade of grass was to be seen. ‘It was’, he explained, ‘because the men all wore black suits, and they were kneeling and bowing together in prayer outside the house, calling on God for “the divine unction”. There had been such a sense of the Lord’s presence that he had never forgotten the occasion. Since then he had continued to long to know the Lord more and more.

Do you have a memory of meeting with God like this? Is it as clear in your mind as the memories which the psalmist was recalling? Then let your memory accomplish what God means it to: let it create in you a thirst, a longing, a fresh desire to know God and to sense his presence with you the way you did then.

(ii) Isolation in the present. Why was it that all these things were just memories? He tells us: ‘I will remember you from the land of Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar’. The reason he has only recollections is that he is now far away from the scenes of his former blessing. He is miles from Jerusalem, isolated in the highlands. He is cut off from the thriving fellowship of God’s people he once knew; he no longer is able to benefit from the various ministries he had formerly enjoyed. There were few resources here to encourage his spiritual growth; few friends with whom to share fellowship with God.

The problem was magnified by another factor. There, in Jerusalem, he had been more than simply one among many. He had been a leader, perhaps the leader: ‘These things I remember . . . how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God (Ps. 42:4).

He was not the last to go through such an acute sense of isolation. How many missionaries experience this! At home they played key roles in their own Christian fellowships. They were leaders. But, removed across the face of the earth, far from being leaders they cannot even speak the language of the people. For many months they may feel they are less than members, never mind leaders. When they return home they may experience exactly the same in reverse. While they have been labouring overseas their contemporaries have moved on in life another four years or more. Returning missionaries do not ‘fit in’ quite so easily as before. Even their own church is at a different stage of development, of which they may no longer feel an integral part.

But we do not need to go overseas to experience isolation. Any major readjustment in our life-style can have this effect of making us feel distanced, disorientated, no longer fulfilling a strategic, purposeful role in our Christian lives. A change of job, of house, of neighbourhood can do this. Bereavement, children leaving home, retirement can all do the same.

What did God want to teach the psalmist? What does he want to teach us in similar situations? God wants to teach us lessons in isolation which he does not teach us, or which we cannot learn, in fellowship. In our loneliness and separation from God’s people we may learn to look to God, trust in God, desire God’s presence. We discover that in the past we have relied too much on the encouragement of others and insufficiently on the Lord himself. While before we knew God (quite legitimately) through the help of our fellow Christians, now we must learn to know him in isolation from them.

This is why the psalm is called a Maskil, that is a song of instruction. The writer is saying to us: this is what God taught me through my experience; it is what he may want to teach you too.

(iii) Hostility in the environment. He is like a deer roving over the crags and rocks in the height of summer looking for water with which to slake his thirst. But he feels more than thirsty; he feels pursued:

As pants the hart for cooling streams,
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for thee
And thy refreshing grace.

There are several indications of this in what he says. People say to him: ‘Where is your God?’ (v. 3). He goes about mourning, ‘oppressed by the enemy’ (v. 9). He prays to be rescued ‘from deceitful and wicked men’ (Ps. 43:1). No wonder he felt that God had cast him off (Ps. 43:2). He must have felt as though God were digging his spiritual grave. He could not stand the pressure much longer. ‘Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause’, he cried (Ps. 43:1).

What was happening to him? There are several strands to be untangled in his experience. God was showing him how much he needed to depend on him for protection. Perhaps at an earlier stage in his experience he felt that he could hold his own with anyone who opposed his faith. Now he was discovering how vulnerable he was. Perhaps too he had taken an altogether too confident view of his own ability to stand firm against the forces of darkness. Now he was beginning to realise that belonging to the kingdom of God meant being a target for the attacks of the Devil. He goes around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He had sent his emissaries to attack this man. He needed help!

Yet none of this lay outside the control of God himself. While the psalmist felt that God was digging his grave he was only partly right. In a sense he was. God was wanting him to come to an end of himself and his self-confidence. That is always the place where the true knowledge of God begins. But it was not really a grave God was digging at all. It was a well! For out of the depths of this experience would flow a river of spiritual blessing for him, and through him to others. Through it all he was coming to know God. No price was too great to pay for that.

Sometimes we sing:

I thirst, I sigh, I faint to prove
The greatness of redeeming love,
The love of Christ to me.

What we tend to learn all too slowly is that sometimes we do have to thirst, sigh and faint if we are to prove it.

This writer did prove it. So he shares with us one final thing:

SATISFACTION

His testimony is this. He prayed for spiritual satisfaction. In particular he focused his prayers on the twin means by which God would bring this into his life:

Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

(Ps. 43:3-4)

What were the means he expected God to use in order to bring him to a deeper knowledge of him?

(i) The word of God. He prays for God’s light and truth. God’s word serves as a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). So a later psalm confesses:

The entrance of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.

(Ps. 119:130-1)

What does he mean? Of course he is missing the opportunity to read God’s word with others. He has no access to the exposition of God’s word in public. But he is wanting much more than the restoration of these lost opportunities. He is asking for God to send forth his light and truth. He is looking for ‘the entrance of your words’.

When we become Christians we are brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9). God, who at creation said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shined in our hearts to bring us to know him through Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Formerly we were darkness, but now we are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). One of the things which accompanies this is the penetration of God’s truth into our minds, consciences and hearts. We see our lives in his light for the first time. We are brought to see the kingdom of God for the first time (Jn. 3:3), and we are given a radically new interpretation of our own lives. Illumination, enlightenment takes place (cf. Heb. 6:4).

It is common for young Christians to experience this effect of God’s word regularly. There is so much that is new to learn. I have never forgotten the first occasion on which I heard someone preach on the idea that every Christian is a ‘saint’ according to the New Testament; nor the first time that I appreciated that I was ‘in Christ’. These new truths about our lives as Christians often come to us with unforgettable force.

Accompanying this illumination of the mind there is a deliverance and cleansing in our lives. Chains which formerly bound us, habits which we could not break seem to be overwhelmed and defeated by God’s power. We are not yet perfect (far from it); but we have begun to taste the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:5). We are new creatures:

At times with sudden glory,
He speaks, and all is done;
Without one stroke of battle
The victory is won,
While we, with joy beholding,
Can scarce believe it true
That even our kingly Jesus
Can form such hearts anew

 — Charitie Lees de Chenez

But it is not only in the lives of recent converts that God is able to do this. He can speak with unusual power whenever he pleases. He can bring fresh illumination, delivering grace, strong assurance. The psalmist was praying for this. There are times in our experience when ordinary means of growth need to be accompanied by special illumination from God if we are ever to make any significant progress. It was such a time in this man’s life. It may also be in our lives too.

(ii) The worship of God. Having prayed for God to come to him, he vows that in response he will come to God. He will climb God’s ‘holy mountain’ (v. 3); he will go to the altar of God; he will find God as ‘my joy and my delight’ (v. 4).

He has now discovered, as we shall discover, that all the experiences of life are ordered by the Lord for one great purpose. Trials and difficulties especially have this purpose in view. It is that we should be brought into the presence of God, so that we worship him with all our hearts. That is an authentic sign of spiritual growth.

There is a special significance in the order of these words: he climbs the hill; he goes to the altar; he discovers God as his great joy. He is thinking of coming to Jerusalem, where God has promised to reveal himself in his temple. He is thinking of drawing near to God at the place where sacrifice is made. He believes that at the altar, because of the sacrifice, he will meet with God in grace and in power.

The order of spiritual experience has not changed since the psalmist’s day. We too need to go to the place where God has promised to meet with us. That is no longer in Jerusalem. It is in Christ. No longer in a place, but now in a person (cf. Jn. 4:21ff). We too need to climb the hill to God — the hill of Calvary, in order to come to Christ in whom alone God makes his presence known to us.

What do we find there? We too find an altar, a place of sacrifice — the cross. We find a victim — our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to present our bodies on the altar as thank-offerings for his sacrifice for us. This is our spiritual worship (see Rom. 12:1, 2). Only then shall we discover God as our chief joy.

God has made us to ‘glorify and enjoy him forever’. Are we afraid of the cost of glorifying him? Have we never experienced the bliss of enjoying him here and now? We need a new willingness to sacrifice our lives to him and for him, in order that we may know him fully.

We came upon the writer of Psalms 42 and 43 picturing himself as a thirsty seeker. He longed to know God. We leave him as one who has begun to discover the blessings of a promise which he never heard, but which is so familiar to us.

Jesus said: If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. (Jn. 7:37)

He said: Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (Jn. 4:14)

Since we have ‘better promises’ (Heb. 8:6), let us follow on to know the Lord (Heb. 6:1-3).

The first step forward in knowing God better is the awareness that you do not yet know him fully. It is ‘thirsting’ for God. It is discovering that he has water which can satisfy our deepest longings. It is saying to him: ‘Lord, give me this water’ (Jn. 4:15).

Do you know God? Do you realise how little you know him? Do you want to grow? Are you willing for all that is involved? We shall see in the next chapter just exactly what is involved in knowing God better.

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A divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul by the Spirit of God shown to be both Scriptual and rational doctrine (exerpt) – Jonathan Edwards

December 18, 2011 Comments off

All Should Seek This Divine and Supernatural Light

Thirdly, All may hence be exhorted earnestly to seek this spiritual light. To influence and move to it, the following things may be considered.

1. This is the most excellent and divine wisdom that any creature is capable of. It is more excellent than any human learning; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is or can be, viz., the divine glory or excellency of God and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.

2. This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy  which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those  things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so   powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.

3. This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. 3:18, “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation  therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.

4. This light, and this only, has its fruit in a universal holiness of life. No merely notional or speculative understanding of the doctrines of religion will ever bring to this. But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God’s worthiness to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.

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