Monday, 30 April 2012

The Fight

J.C.Ryle reminds us of the fight that every Christian must fight, and fight daily. The fight against the world, the flesh and the devil:
The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is their never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom they must wage war. Unless they get the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If they had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, they must either fight or be lost. 
The Christian must fight the flesh. Even after conversion they carry within them a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I discipline my body,” cries Paul, “and bring it under subjection.” “I see a law in my members at war against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.” “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:23, 24; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5). 
The Christian must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on their way to heaven, and must be conquered. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world.” “Be not conformed to this world” (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:4; Rom. 12:2). 
The Christian must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of a person’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. “Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved. But “this kind does not come out” except by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armor of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle. (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8; John 8:44; Luke 22:31; Eph. 4:11). 
Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colors too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting. Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.” This Christian warfare is no light matter.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pray for Your Prayers

Tim Challies has a helpful post on seven ways we can pray for our prayer lives. His seven points, each drawn from a particular Bible passage, are as follows:

1) Pray that your prayers would be the expressions of a humble heart.
2) Pray that God would remind you that he doesn’t want or need your eloquent prayers.
3) Pray that you would remember what the really important requests are.
4) Pray that you would remember biblical examples of answered prayer.
5) Pray that God would give you confidence in his sovereign power.
6) Pray that God would help you to persevere in your praying.
7) Pray that God would encourage you that he is your loving Father and will give you only what is good.

You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Tuesday Teaching| Deuteronomy 6 (3)

This week we come to the third and final sermon in our series in Deuteronomy 6 with Christopher Ash. This week we're looking at Deuteronomy 6:10-19, where we see One Lord, No Rivals.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tuesday Teaching| Deuteronomy 6 (2)

We come to the second in this short series in Deuteronomy 6 with Christopher Ash. This week we're in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 'One Lord, One Life.'

You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Monday, 16 April 2012

John Stott, the Napper

I've just come across an interesting short article by Trevor McMacken on one particular lesson he's learnt from the life of John Stott. Of all the things he was struck by in reading about Stott's life and ministry he says that he was most impacted by his disciplined daily life, including his daily nap.

This is a worthwhile reminder of the importance of discipline in the daily Christian life, a discipline which includes both work and rest.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Common Grace and Evangelism (3): How God is Gracious to All

This is the third post in a series on the doctrine of  'common grace' and its significance for evangelism. Click here to read the first and second posts in the series.
In the previous post we established that God is gracious to all, both to those who are His people and to those who are not. However, we also made an important distinction, a distinction between saving grace and common grace. Common grace is a grace that God shows to all people whether Christian or non-Christian, saving grace is a grace that only those whom He has chosen will experience.

In this third post I want to focus on how God is gracious to all people in a non-saving way. That is, how he is commonly gracious. This will shed light on the question that we asked in the first post about how the unbeliever can do good things if they are totally depraved.

There are two particular ways that God shows His common grace that helps us aswer this question:

1) He Restrains Sin and Its Consequences
God is gracious to all by restraining sin and its consequences in the world. He does this by holding back peoples sinfulness from being worked out to the full.

We’ve already seen that sin has affected every part of us, that we are ‘totally depraved’. However, this does not mean that people are as bad as they can be. That’s not true. A look at the world around us shows us this.

The reason that people are not as wicked as they could be is because God, in his grace, restrains sinfulness from being worked out to its fullness in peoples lives. Even though people are totally depraved, this is not expressed fully in this life. God shows His common grace by restraining their sin.

More than this, God is also gracious by restraining the consequences of sin in this life. Think about it: The world would be a horrific and chaotic place to live if we faced the full consequences of sin in this world. Sin causes disintegration and disorganisation in every area of life. Simple things such as the relationships we take for granted would be impossible if God had not restrained the effects of sin. Friendships, marriages, parent and child relationships, none of these would be possible without God's restraining grace. Neither would society be able to function if human sinfulness was allowed to express itself fully. But God, in His grace holds back this sinfulness, so that society and human relationships are possible.

God also holds back the punishment sin deserves. The anger of God that we deserve has not yet been poured out. Each one of us deserves to be in hell this very moment. But God, in His grace, is holding back that day of judgement that more  Peter tells us that the Lord "is patient...not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). God is patient. He is holding back that day of wrath so that people may come to repentance.

We need to be clear, this does not mean that God will not punish sin. He will. He has set a day when He shall judge the world through Jesus His appointed judge (Acts 17:30-31). On that day the fullness of His wrath shall be poured out, as sin is punished.

God is gracious to all is by restraining sin and its consequences. If you want to do a bit more thinking on this read and think through Genesis 3:22-33; 4:15; 20:6; Acts 17:30; and 2 Peter 3:9.

2) He Enables People to Do Good
Not only does God show His common grace by restraining sin and its consequences in the world, He also, positively, enables people to do good. Now, they are not able to do good in the full sense of good. The non-Christian does not do things to the glory of God. Nevertheless, they are able to do things that are, in a sense, good. God graciously enables them to do this.

This explains why non-Christians are able to live good lives – God not only restrains sin, but also enables them to do good.

In Luke 6:33 Jesus says to his disciples: “…if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Those who are ‘sinners’, are still those who do good. This is because God in his grace enables them. This is why non-Christians can be great husbands, wives and parents, why they can be faithful workers, why they can be involved in aid work, hospital care and providing for others in need, and sometimes even better than us.

Not only this, but God also enables people to make progress and create things for the good of society. In his grace, God enables people to create technology, literature and art. Advances in society, standards of living, excellent medical care: none of this would be possible apart from God’s grace restraining sin and enabling good.

God is gracious to all by enabling people who are totally depraved to do good. If you want to do a bit more thinking on this read and think through Luke 6:33; Matthew 5:45; Romans 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:14.

How does God do this? How does he restrain the non-Christian's sin, and enable him to do good? The answer is that in both these things – the restraining of sin and the enabling of good – God makes the non-Christian unaware of who they truly are.

Think about it. The non-Christian is in complete opposition to God, and refuses to submit to his rule through Jesus. Yet, God makes them unaware in their thinking and inconsistent, so that this opposition is not worked out to the full in every area of life. This means, that, without realising it, the non-Christian does God’s will in some areas of their life. This is why a non-Christian can be a faithful husband, and care for his family, even though marriage and family are God’s institutions. If he was fully aware and consistent with his opposition to God, he would have nothing to do with them because they are from God.

If we understand this, that God is gracious to all by restraining sin and enabling good, it has a number of important implications:

This makes governments and rulers possible. Peter tells us that rulers are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good.” Government is only possible because of God’s common grace (restraining sin and enabling good), and they are themselves a means of restraining evil and promoting good. This is why a non-Christian government can make good policies.

It means that it is possible for a Christian to be faithful, and to work in a secular job, under a non-Christian boss.

This means that, as Christians, we are able to enjoy art and culture and have hobbies. And we are able to do this all the more so because we know that they are ultimately only possible because of God’s grace. We ought to be all the more thankful for these things, because we know they come from the good hand of a gracious God.

It means that as Christians we are able to benefit from non-Christians. It is possible for our children to get a decent education at the hands of a non-Christian. We are able to enjoy music and movies made by non-Christians. We are able to benefit from the services that non-Christians provide. Think about the vast amount of good quality medical care we receive from non-Christian doctors and nurses.

Also, as we will explore in the next post, it makes conversations possible between Christians and non-Christians.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tuesday Teaching| Deuteronomy 6 (1)

Over the next three weeks I am going to post a series of sermons by Christopher Ash from Deuteronomy 6. The first sermon in the series looks at Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and is entitled 'One Lord, One Love'. You can listen to it by clicking on the link below: