Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Unity Of Scripture

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Unity Of Scripture

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     Let us never allow anybody to divide between the word of the apostles and the word of Christ! Our Savior has joined them together. ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word’ (John 17:20). And if any begin rejecting the apostolic word, it will be outside the number for whom Christ prays. …  

     Such a doctrine that we are sometimes taunted about as being not revealed by Christ but by His apostles were all revealed by Christ, every one of them! They can all be found in His teaching, but they are very much in parabolic form. It is after He has gone up into glory and has prepared a people, by His Spirit, to understand the truths of God more fully that He sends His apostles and says, ‘Go forth, and open up to those whom I have chosen out of the world the meaning of all I said.’ The meaning is all there, just as all the New Testament is in the Old! … [Jesus Christ] is the Old Testament to which the Epistles come in as a kind of New Testament, but they are all one and indivisible. They cannot be separated. …  

     Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit. Pray the chapter over! I do not hesitate to say that if a chapter is read upon one’s knees, looking up at every word to Him who gave it, the meaning will come to you with infinitely more weight than by any other method of studying it. ‘He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.’ He will redeliver the Master’s message to you in the fullness of its meaning!

From Honey In My Mouth

Augustine wrote, “Scripture is the unus sermo Dei—the one sermon of God.” 

There is one consistent message in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, and the Holy Spirit wants to reveal that message to us. He is our Helper that will illuminate to our lives what has already been inspired in the Scripture. 

Jesus is Jehovah God from beginning to end. He is the “one sermon of God” that we can read and understand. Think about this: the same Spirit who inspired the pens of the biblical writers is the same Spirit in you who can help you understand and apply those words to your life. More than that, the Holy Spirit wants to make the Word of God clear to you. 

God is glorified and you are edified when Scripture comes alive in your heart and mind. 

Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). So, as Spurgeon suggests, begin your Bible reading time in prayer. Then if you come to a difficult text, don’t rush past it and don’t turn too quickly to what another human has written in a commentary, but ask the Holy Spirit to help. (I shared a 5-step process I use for these challenging passages here.) 

Pray, read, pray, apply, pray. The Holy Spirit WILL help you! “Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit.”

 

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

The Fear And The Comfort Of God’s Judgment

Near the end of the movie The Princess Bride, the grandson learns that Wesley, the hero of the story, has apparently died. He asks his grandfather, “Who kills Prince Humperdink,” the arch-villain in the story. 

His grandfather replies, “No one. He lives.” 

“You mean he wins!?” blurts out the exasperated boy, “Grandpa, why did you read me this story??” 

We love to see bad guys get what’s coming to them, don’t we? Some of the baddest bad guys—perhaps in all of history—are the kings of Assyria. When the Assyrians in Nineveh repented and God’s judgment didn’t fall on them, Jonah’s response was much like the grandson in The Princess Bride, “God, why did You send me here?!” 

Sennacherib was the king of Assyria who was threatening Judah. Nahum writes a short, scathing prophecy about the destruction that is headed Assyria’s way. This is fulfilled in a small part when God defeats Sennacherib’s army, which leads to Sennacherib then being assassinated by two of his sons.

For Judah, this is a short-lived victory because the two kings which follow Sennacherib turn out to be two of the evilest and ruthless kings of Assyria. Yet Nahum’s prophecy still stands: an ultimate destruction is coming. In 605 BC Assyria was defeated by the Babylonians, and the destruction was so complete that Nineveh’s very existence was questioned until archeological discoveries were made in the 19th century. 

Why is this prophecy given to us? What are we New Testament Christians supposed to do with this promise of judgment? 

Nahum’s name means comfort, so it seems like God’s justice should comfort us. But, interestingly, the root word of his name means to regret or to feel sorry

Why is this? Think about it: You cannot really know what peace is unless you have been through a period of turmoil. Likewise, you cannot truly understand the relief of being spared God’s judgment unless you fully understand the weight and totality of God’s judgment that should fall on you.  

Nahum reminds us that God will never let the guilty go unpunished, and yet in the very next breath he tells us that the Lord is a refuge for those who trust in Him.

God is Just. This is a cause for…

  • …BOTH fear of God’s anger AND rejoicing that He is good 
  • …BOTH humility for our sin AND confidence that He forgives our sin 
  • …BOTH regret that we fall short of God’s righteous standard AND relief that Christ’s blood makes us righteous in God’s sight 

It’s amazing to think that it was MY sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross, but it was HIS love that allowed that to happen so that I could be forgiven! 

God is not willing that any should be separated from Him, but we do have to choose to receive the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us. 

Assyria’s utter destruction is less than a drop in the bucket compared to eternal separation from God. As C.S. Lewis commented about the end of time: 

“For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” 

Today (and every day) is the day for heart-searching, acutely feeling the regret of our sin, and then knowing that our forgiven sins are forgotten sins! 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here.

The Role Of Prophecy

Micah may be classified as a minor prophet, but the prophecies in his book are fulfilled in a major way in as little as 20 years and as far out as 2700+ years! 

Here’s a question for us to consider: What exactly is the role of prophecy in the life of a Christian? 

Micah introduces himself in the opening verse. He was ministering in the country while Isaiah was in the city of Jerusalem at the same time. Micah’s ministry spans three kings of Judah in the south, and he overlaps the defeat of Israel in the north.  

Check out some of Micah’s most notable prophecies: 

  1. Judgment is coming to Samaria/Israel (1:6-7). This was fulfilled about 20 years later when the Assyrians defeated Samaria and took the Israelites into exile. 
  2. Judgment is coming on southern Judah (1:9-16). This was fulfilled about 30 years later when Sennacherib attacked Philistia and southern Judah, coming “even to the gate of Jerusalem” (v. 12). At the gate of Jerusalem was the miraculous deliverance God gave during Hezekiah’s reign (see 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 37). 
  3. Judgment is coming on Jerusalem (3:12). Micah even prophesied the Babylonians would defeat them (4:10). This is noteworthy because Assyria was the dominant world power at this time; it would be another 100 years before Babylon would even begin to rise to power. This prophecy was fulfilled about 160 years later, and this prophecy actually saved Jeremiah’s life around that same time (Jeremiah 26:7-19). 
  4. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (5:2). This prophecy was fulfilled about 700 years later when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:5-6). 
  5. How people will respond to the Messiah’s Advent (7:4-6). This prophecy was partially fulfilled 700 years later in a direct quotation from Jesus (Matthew 10:34-36). 
  6. The coming of the final Kingdom of God (4:1-3). This prophecy will be fulfilled at Christ’s second Advent. 

[you can read all of these prophecies yourself by clicking here

So what is the role of prophecy? 

First of all, fulfilled prophecy reminds us that God is sovereignly in control of everything (Isaiah 46:10). But right on the heels of that, fulfilled prophecy reminds us that there is still more prophecy left to be fulfilled (2 Peter 1:20-2:3). 

The Bible tells me that when I sin, God’s first response is not anger toward me but broken-hearted grief. In a similar fashion, the prophecies of coming judgment on sinners are intended to show us the incredible mercy of God in the forgiveness of sin that He made available (Micah 7:18-20). 

Prophecy is never, never to be used as a club to beat people into submission to God. When Micah prophesied the destruction of Israel and Judah, he wept (Micah 1:8). 

So did Jesus (Matthew 23:37). 

And so should we! 

We live in an age today—as Micah experienced and as the apostle Peter said would be coming—where people won’t want to hear the news that unforgiven sin brings God’s judgment. Our response to this should be brokenhearted grief, tears, and a steadfast commitment to speak the truth in love that Jesus has provided the only means to be rescued from that judgment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is Slow To Anger

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Is Slow To Anger

     God is “slow to anger” [Nahum 1:3]. When mercy comes into the world, she drives winged steeds. The axles of her chariot wheels are glowing hot with speed. But when wrath comes, she walks with tardy footsteps. She is not in haste to slay; she is not swift to condemn. God’s rod of mercy is ever in His hands outstretched. God’s sword of justice is in its scabbard, not rusted in it. It can be easily withdrawn, but is held there by that hand that presses it back into its sheath, crying, “Sleep, O sword, sleep. For I will have mercy upon sinners and will forgive their transgressions.” … 

     God will not at once slay the man whose character is the vilest until He has first hewn him by the prophets. He will not hew him by judgments. He will warn the sinner before He condemns him. He will send His prophets, “rising up early” and late (Jeremiah 7:13, 25; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 33:15), giving him ‘precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little’ (Isaiah 28:13). … 

     God does not in grace, as in nature, send lightning first and thunder afterward, but He sends the thunder of His law first and the lightning of His execution follows it. … But best of all, when God threatens, how slow He is to sentence the criminal! When He has told them that He will punish unless they repent, how long a space He gives them in which to turn to Himself! …

     Although God is slow to anger, He is sure in it.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… (2 Peter 3:8-11, 14-15).

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Patience Of God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Patience Of God

     But why are His chariots so long in coming? Why does He delay? The world grows gray, not only with age, but also with iniquity, and yet the Deliverer comes not. We have waited for His footfall at the dead of night and looked out for Him through the gates of the morning. We have expected Him in the heat of the day and reckoned that He might come before yet another sun went down. But He is not here! He waits. He waits very, very long. Will He not come?

     Long-suffering is that which keeps Him from coming. He is bearing with men. Not yet the thunderbolt! Not yet the riven heavens and the reeling earth! Not yet the great white throne and the Day of Judgment, for He is full of pity and bears long with men! Even to the cries of His own elect, who cry day and night to Him, He is not in haste to answer, for He is very patient, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. …

From the sermon God’s Long-Suffering

As a young child, I frequently heard my parents and grandparents say, “Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.” My grandparents have all died and are with Jesus in Heaven, but I’m still here. 

Yet, I still believe it’s true: Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.

Why does God delay Christ’s return? I believe the apostle Peter says it best—The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:3-15). 

That’s why Spurgeon concludes this sermon with this impassioned call to Christians: 

“God calls upon us, until the world is utterly destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might and main. Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation. We rightly call each year the year of our Lord. Let us make it so by more earnest efforts for the bringing of sinners to the Cross of Christ.” 

Let’s continue to look for Christ’s soon return, but let’s be busy telling everyone about a God who loves them, who is patient with them, and who wants them to come to repentance and spend eternity with Him! 

Remind, Refresh, Recall

It’s been said that repetition is the mother of all learning. Keep on reminding yourself in refreshing ways again and again, and the lessons will become permanent. 

Over the course of a year at Calvary Assembly of God, we cover a lot of ground biblically, crisscrossing the Bible, meeting old friends, learning timeless truths, and discovering how to apply those truths to our everyday lives. 

The apostle Peter wanted his friends to keep biblical truths in the forefront of their minds—So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body. … I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles (2 Peter 1:12-13; 3:2). 

In the spirit of that constant reminding, I will be presenting a year-end review of all the topics we covered throughout 2018. This will be a great morning to invite your friends, as they will get a quick snapshot of what we’re learning. It will also be a wonderful morning for our regularly-attending church family to be reminded and refreshed. 

Join us in person or on Facebook Live.

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 25-26

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 25-26

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 25-26.] 

     The prophets were holy men, not mechanisms; they were “moved by the Holy Ghost” [2 Peter 1:21] to say what they did. Each prophet had a distinct characteristic of his own, they were not all “moved” in the same way. We are not meant to be “channels only,” we are infinitely more responsible than “channels.” …

     Jeremiah continually warned the people that if they did not repent and come up to God’s standard for them, He would blight all that they possessed, including Jerusalem and the Temple. That was what enraged them against Jeremiah. They said he used his prophetic right to tell an untruth; for, they argued, God would never destroy His own holy city or the Temple in which He was worshiped (26:11). Any position before God based on a foundation other than living in the light of God and depending upon Him, is doomed to destruction.

From Notes On Jeremiah

God’s Word is still as viable and applicable to us today as it was in the days that Jeremiah and the other prophets spoke, and in the days the New Testament authors penned their words. 

J.C. Ryle issued this warning to us, “Let us beware of despising the Old Testament under any pretense whatever. Let us never listen to those who bid us throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book. The religion of the Old Testament is the embryo of Christianity. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud. The New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade. The New Testament is the Gospel in full ear.” 

God’s Word IS speaking to us today. The question is—are you and I willing to obey what God says to us, or are we more interested in making arguments about its relevance? 

7 More Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In his book Praying The Promises, Max Lucado shows us how simply we can turn passages of Scripture into intimate and powerful prayers. Here are a few more prayers (the references in brackets are passages that formed the prayer).

Lord, in the midst of my storms, I may doubt Your presence. I may wonder if You are there and if You care. Don’t let me lose hope or lose heart. Deepen my belief in You, even during the storms. Don’t allow doubt to take over. Help me release control of my circumstances and surrender them to You. Jesus is interceding on my behalf, and I am so comforted by this truth. [Luke 22:32; Hebrews 7:25; Matthew 14:23-24]

God, teach me how to live free from condemnation. Teach me how to trust and believe in this promise: in Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin. Free me from guilt and shame. [Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 8:1] 

Lord, thank You for the promise of a temporary tomb. Your power has no limits. You have conquered death. You have promised to make all things new. You are the God of restoration and redemption and regeneration. You are the God of resurrection. In my day-to-day life it can be difficult for me to maintain an eternal perspective. Sometimes I may get bogged down in the worries of today and forget that the best is yet to come. Restore in me the joy of my salvation, God. Renew my mind and my heart so that I will have an eternal perspective of all the worries of my day. They are nothing compared to spending eternity with You. And because of Your promise of resurrection, I do not have to fear death. I will live in faith, knowing that in Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory. Amen. [Matthew 28:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18] 

Guide me today, Holy Spirit. Show me where You want me to go, whom You want me to talk to, what decision You want me to make. Help me discern Your voice over my own and others’. Walk closely with me and whisper truth to me. Forgive me when I listen to my own desires and ignore what You are telling me. [John 16:13-15; Galatians 5:25] 

You know all of my needs before I can even ask for them. Sometimes it’s tempting for me to believe I can rely on myself for what I need. Instead of trusting You to provide, I think I can look out for myself. I fear not having enough. And when I do have enough, it never feels like it. But You have promised to meet my needs out of Your glorious riches. Remind me of Your kind and generous provision. Thank You for taking care of me and meeting all of my needs. [Psalm 34:10; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 10:29-31]

Help me to keep eternity in mind, making the most of my days and showing others Your renewing love. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:13] 

Dear God, You are my unshakable hope. Your promises are unbreakable. You never waiver. You are faithful to the end. My hope cannot be anchored to anything less than Your promises. … Forgive me for those times when I don’t put my hope in You. May I rest in Your promises once again. May any fear, anxiety, or confusion I feel subside in light of You as my anchor. [Isaiah 40:31; Romans 15:13] 

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here. I also shared some other prayers here and some quotes from this book here. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 8

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 8

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 8.] 

     Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life (Jeremiah 8:3). 

     Our Lord Jesus used these burning words, “The worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched,” [Mark 9:44, 46, 48] in reference to the condition of people who deprive themselves of right judgment by persistently going wrong (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:11). In the prophecies of Jeremiah we have the same great revelation, that eternal issues are involved in temporal living, but in a different connection. If we are going to remain true disciples of Jesus Christ, we will have to remain alien to the day we live in.

     Such terrible suggestions as these verses contain [verses 1-3] serve as a very wholesome awakening, and bring men to the understanding of the need of Redemption. …  

     The subject of the Second Coming is the one the average unholy Christian cannot stand, and the tendency is to listen, as the people did in Jeremiah’s day, to the false prophets (2 Peter 3:3-6). …  

     The modern scholar pretends to be expounding the Word of God, but in reality he is writing with a lying pen, he builds his wisdom out of his own rationalism, and takes out of the law of God only what agrees with it. …  

     Paul says the same to Timothy—“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers you say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

     They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace (Jeremiah 8:11). That is the perpetual peril at all times, relieving present pain by a temporal fictitious cure, when what is needed for an effectual cure is a surgical operation. …  

     All Christians are not Christian workers, but those who are called to be workers need the courage of the Holy Ghost to face life from God’s standpoint. We have to keep our hearts and minds faced with the awful condition of human life apart from the Cross of Christ. We must get into our souls the iron of God which makes us strong enough to present Jesus Christ to men. …  

     The majority of us know nothing about shame and repentance, consequently we drift from the central point because we more easily get into sympathy with men than with God, and that is slander against God. To save the world cost Jesus Christ His life, and if we teach that the world can be saved in any other way we slander God.

From Notes On Jeremiah

Oh God, help us—all of us, but especially Your workers—to preach sound doctrine that would save lost people from an eternal Hell. 

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