Thursday, 6 June 2013

There Are Worse Things Than Dying

A helpful thought from Don Carson to put things into perspective:
I do not know how many times I have sung the words, “O let me never, never / Outlive my love for Thee,” but I mean them.
I would rather die than end up unfaithful to my wife; I would rather die than deny by a profligate life what I have taught in my books; I would rather die than deny or disown the gospel.
God knows there are many things in my past of which I am deeply ashamed; I would not want such shame to multiply and bring dishonor to Christ in years to come.
There are worse things than dying.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Keep Going

Some great words from Jonathan Edwards to encourage us to keep going in prayer:
It is very apparent from the Word of God that he often tries the faith and patience of his people, when they are crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first he may cause an increase of dark appearances.  And yet he, without fail, at last prospers those who continue urgently in prayer with all perseverance and ‘will not let him go except he blesses.’

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Jellyfish Christianity

Over 100 years ago J.C. Ryle wrote of an epidemic that was destroying the churches of his day. It is something that he called 'Jellyfish Christianity'. Sadly, his description could easily have been written in the 21st century. Listen to how he describes jellyfish Christianity :
[Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.” 
We have hundreds of “jelly-fish” clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have not definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all.
We have thousands of “jelly-fish” sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.
We have Legions of “jelly-fish” young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. They live apparently in a state of suspense, like Mohamet’s fabled coffin, hanging between heaven and earth and last.
Worst of all, we have myriads of “jelly-fish” worshippers—respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sound and no clergyman is unsound. They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to “render a reason of the hope that is in them.”
Never was it so important for laymen to hold systematic views of truth, and for ordained ministers to “enunciate dogma” very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.
 Therefore, let us be challenged afresh to ensure that our 'body of divinity' has a strong backbone.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Don't Go Down to Egypt!

What is it that grows a church? Here's Spurgeon's answer:
Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many. 
Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life! 
In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves. 
How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes. 
There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Tuesday Teaching| The Honesty of Sorrow (Psalm 51)

Here is the third sermon in a series of five sermons in the penitential Psalms with Christopher Ash. This week we are in Psalm 51 where we see The Honesty of Sorrow.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tuesday Teaching| The Weight of Sorrow (Psalm 38)

We come to the second in this five part series in the 'penitential' Psalms with Christopher Ash, learning what it means to say sorry the Bible way.

This week we're in Psalm 38 where we see The Weight of Sorrow. You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Why Preach?

Christopher Ash has written a great piece for the Gospel Coalition on the importance of preaching. 

In it he has a particular challenge to the preacher:
But here's the rub: to be a faithful preacher I need to be gripped, humbled, and transformed by the word of Christ. Moses's successors (the prophets) were not cold functionaries who merely expounded the written Torah; they were men in whom the covenant word burned because they walked in close fellowship with the covenant God (e.g. "Your words were found, and I ate them," Jer 15:16). In the same way, those who expound the apostolic word of Jesus must be those in whom these words burn, who are being humbled and transformed by these words.
And a great reminder for the hearer of the fact that...
As a believer, I don't just need to hear the word of God; I need to hear it taught and pressed home to me by a pastor who knows and loves me. There is no substitute. His skills may be surpassed by more famous preachers; but they do not know and love me, and he does.
You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tuesday Teaching| The Safety of Sorrow (Psalm 32)

Over the next few Tuesdays I shall be posting a series of sermons by Christopher Ash on the Psalms. This series looks at five of the 'penitential' Psalms, showing us what it means to say "sorry" the Bible way. Christopher has called this five part series Sorry: the Hardest Word. 

This week we are in Psalm 32, where we see The Safety of Sorrow. You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Monday, 7 January 2013

How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013

Over at the Gospel Coalition Matt Smethurst has written a helpful article on how not to read your Bible in 2013. Well worth reading, especially if you have just undertaken a new plan for personal Bible reading for a new year.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Killing Sin

John Owen once said, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you." One of the battles at the heart of the Christian life is the battle to put sin to death. Sinclair Ferguson has written a very helpful little article, where he focuses on Colossians 3:1-17 and draws out a number of lessons on how we ought to go about mortifying sin (that is, how we put sin to death).

One of the points he makes is that, in the fight against sin, dying to sin does not happen in isolation to living to righteousness. That is, we do not simply stop doing sinful things. No, we must instead replace sinful attitudes and behaviours with Christ-like attitudes and behaviours. Ferguson says:
The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the Gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 3:14. Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12-17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the Gospel of grace, then we will begin to make some real advance in holiness. As sinful desires and habits are not only rejected, but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13); as we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v. 14), not only in our private life but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12–16), Christ’s name and glory are manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17).
The whole article is well worth reading, you can read it by clicking here.