Thursdays With Spurgeon—Mercy Finds The Loophole

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Mercy Finds The Loophole

And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21) 

     To begin, then, with the text, we have here a most painful fact that man’s nature is incurable. ‘The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’ You will remember, before the flood, in the fifth verse of the sixth chapter, it is written, ‘Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6:5). After the flood it was just the same. … 

     You might have hoped that after so terrible a judgment, when only a picked and peculiar few, that is, eight, were saved by water, that man began anew with better stock.… It is not one wit so. The same God who, after looking at men, declared that his imagination was evil before the flood, pronounces the very same verdict upon them afterward. …

     I believe that God might justly have condemned the whole race of Adam on account of Adam’s sin and their own guilt. But I do think that this was a blessed loophole through which His mercy could, as it were, come fairly to the sons of men. ‘No,’ He says, ‘I made them not distinct individuals but a race. They fell as a race; they will rise as an elect race. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). And ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).’ … 

     I must have more than nature can give me. More than my mother gave me, more than my father gave me, and more than flesh and blood can produce under the most favorable circumstances. I must have the Spirit of God from heaven.

From Human Depravity And Divine Mercy

When Adam and Eve sinned, God wasn’t scrambling to come up with a Plan B. Jesus is described as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), meaning that God had His merciful plan of redemption ready before He even created humans! 

The atoning sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross was the “loophole” that God’s mercy used to pardon our sins. We can never earn our salvation because we are still people with evil hearts. But we can put our faith in the One who took our punishment upon Himself so that His righteousness can be our righteousness. 

O what a Savior! O what mercy God has shown! O how great is His love for us! How shall we escape appropriate retribution if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation…? (Hebrews 2:3)

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Prideful Prayer

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14) 

I think the NIV footnote on verse 11 is the most accurate rendering of “the Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself.” The footnote says, “He prayed TO himself.” He made himself God, which, if you will recall, is exactly how satan tempted Adam and Eve—you will be like God (Genesis 3:5). 

In a portion of William Cowper’s poem Truth, he addresses the pride of the Pharisee, and warns us that this could be our pride too if we aren’t carefully guarding our hearts. 

Who judged the Pharisee? What odious cause
Exposed him to the vengeance of the laws?
Had he seduced a virgin, wrong’d a friend,
Or stabb’d a man to serve some private end?
Was blasphemy his sin? Or did he stray
From the strict duties of the sacred day?
Sit long and late at the carousing board?
(Such were the sins with which he charged his Lord.)
No—the man’s morals were exact. What then?
‘Twas his ambition to be seen of men;
His virtues were his pride; and that one vice
Made all his virtues gewgaws [gyoo-gaws] of no price;
He wore them as fine trappings for a show,
A praying, synagogue-frequenting beau.
The self-applauding bird, the peacock, see—
Mark what a sumptuous Pharisee is he!
Meridian sunbeams tempt him to unfold
His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold:
He treads as if, some solemn music near,
His measured step were govern’d by his ear;
And seems to say—“Ye meaner fowl give place;
I am all splendour, dignity, and grace!”
Not so the pheasant on his charms presumes,
Though he, too, has a glory in his plumes.
He, Christian-like, retreats with modest mien
To the close copse or far sequester’d green,
And shines without desiring to be seen.
The plea of works, as arrogant and vain,
Heaven turns from with abhorrence and disdain;
Not more affronted by avow’d neglect,
Than by the mere dissembler’s feign’d respect.
What is all righteousness that men devise?
What—but a sordid bargain for the skies!
But Christ as soon would abdicate His own,
As stoop from heaven to sell the proud a throne.

When the writer of Hebrews says that we can approach the throne of grace boldly, it is clear that it is not because of our righteous deeds, even if they are as exacting and as perfect as a Pharisee. We can only come boldly into God’s presence because we come in the name and the righteousness of Jesus. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” 

Adding “in Jesus name” to the end of our prayers isn’t a password that opens the storeroom of Heaven, but it is a reminder that we have nothing in ourselves to commend us to God. We come boldly only in Jesus.

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Two Great Lies

“By two great lies was man led away from God. By the same two lies has the estrangement been kept up. On these two lies the world has been feeding ever since the Fall. Their fruit has been woe and death—‘Ye shall not die’ and ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ …

“The world’s history is the same. Our race has been eating the fruit of lies [Hosea 10:13]; not simply of sin, but of lies. The sorrows, sighs, tears, pains of our race are the fruit of lies—the original lie of Paradise, and a thousand such since then. …

“The two original satanic lies are continually coming up, and along with them myriads of others, all leading us astray. Each day brings forth the lie, the fruit, the eating thereof. satan, or the world, or the flesh, or a friend, or a book, or a scene whispers the lie; it is fair and specious, we believe it; it brings forth fruit, we eat of it, and the end is bitterness and disappointment. We feed on lies. … We persuade ourselves that this world is good, and pleasant, and excellent, so we pursue it in preference to the world to come. …

“Jesus says, ‘Yes, ye shall not surely die, but that deliverance shall not be in the way you think. Death is the wages of sin, yet I bring life to the sinner, everlasting life, life through the belief of the Truth, even as death came through the belief of a lie. Yes, ye shall be as gods, but not in your way. I will make you partakers if the divine nature, not by eating the forbidden tree, but by eating of Me.’” —Horatius Bonar, in Light and Truth: The Old Testament

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Humility Of Christ’s Birth

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 Humility Of Christ’s Birth

     Moreover, there was a peculiar wisdom ordaining that Jesus Christ should be the Son of the woman, and not of the man, because ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (John 3:6). Had He been born of the flesh, and merely flesh, He would, naturally, by carnal generation, have inherited all the frailties and the sins and the infirmities that man has from his birth. He would have been conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity, even as the rest of us. Therefore He was not born of man, but the Holy Spirit overshadowed the virgin Mary and Christ stands as the one man, save one other, who came forth pure from His Maker’s hands, who could ever say, ‘I am pure.’ Yes, and He could say far more than that other Adam could say concerning his purity, for He maintained His integrity and never let it go! And from His birth down to His death He knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth….

     Let us take courage here. If Jesus Christ was born in a manger in a rock, why should He not come and live in our rocky hearts? If He was born in a stable, why should not the stable of our souls be made into a house for Him? If He was born in poverty, may not the poor in spirit expect that He will be their friend? If He thus endured degradation at the first, will He count it any dishonor to come to the very poorest and humblest of His creatures and tabernacle in the souls of His children? Oh no!

From The Birth Of Christ

If Jesus was only God, He would never have been able to stoop to love us. 

If Jesus was only Man, He would never have been able to help us. 

Only the God-Man has both the power and the love to save use. Truly there is no one like Jesus! 

No one like Jesus our troubles can see
No one can feel them so keenly as He
No one like Jesus our burdens will bear
He and He only can answer our prayer

No one like Jesus could die for our sins
No one but Jesus can make the heart clean
No one but Jesus such mercy can show
He and He only such love can bestow

Jesus, Jesus
Precious Savior
Oh, how I love You
Love and adore You
Thank You, thank You
Precious Jesus
Oh, how You love me
Oh, what a Savior to me —Fanny J. Crosby, No One Like Jesus

Justice And Love

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). 

There are consequences for sin (because God is Just) and there is a remedy for sin (because God is Love). 

Adam and Eve sinned. 

They lost their innocence before God, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they would experience pain in childbirth, they would have to scratch to provide their food, they would experience relational turmoil, and most devastatingly of all, they faced the potential of being separated from God’s presence forever. 

These are all just penalties for sin. 

But don’t miss God’s love in this too—

  • God came to them in the cool of the day, not in the instant of their sin 
  • He came walking in the Garden, not hurling lightning bolts of judgment 
  • He came with questions, not accusations 
  • He cursed the devil and the ground, but not Adam and Eve 
  • He provided for the final defeat of satan, not the final defeat of mankind 
  • He killed an animal to clothe their nakedness, not leaving them vulnerable 
  • He didn’t allow them to become immortal while still in their sin

There are painful consequences for sin—this is Justice. 

But even in justice, never lose sight of the fact that GOD IS LOVE ❤️

5 Quotes From “Praying For Muslims”

Sobhi Malek put together an extremely helpful guide for praying for Muslims. Each week has a prayer, but there are also several helpful insights which Sobhi shares. Here are a few of those insights.

“This warfare is not against people of any religion or affiliation. Christ, who died for all human beings, instructed us to love our neighbors. Rather, this war is against the evil powers which control people and hinder them from seeing the light of the Gospel of Christ (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, we are warring against satan who ‘has blinded the minds of unbelievers.’ His goal is to keep people from seeing ‘the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). When we pray and ask others to pray, this does not mean that we feel superior. We do not think we are better than Muslims or any other people.  Rather, we believe we are fallen human beings like all others, but we have been saved by God’s grace.”

“When Muslims say, ‘In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate,’ all Muslims and many Christians do not know that this is taken from the Bible. This phrase demonstrates the early influence of Judaism and Christianity on Muhammad. Here are some occurrences of this combination in the Bible: compassionate and gracious (Exodus 34:6, NIV); compassionate and merciful (Psalm 86:15, GW; 103:8, NLT; James 5:11, GW); merciful and tender (Luke 1:78, TEV).”

“There are many teachings in Islam that we, believers in Christ, can use as bridges to help Muslims draw near to and enter the Kingdom of God. The Qur’an states that God created Adam and Eve, that He sent the flood but rescued Noah, that He spoke to Abraham, that He gave the Torah (Pentateuch) to Moses, that He sent Jesus who was born of a virgin. All these narratives, common to both Muslims and Christians, can be used as bridges to bring Muslims closer to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that all the details of these stories in Islam are in full agreement with the biblical accounts, but they can work as starting points. It is also rewarding to establish friendships with Muslims as you seek to share with them the Gospel of Christ. Friends trust each other, depend on each other and desire each other’s wellbeing. Building bridges of common narratives and friendship pays dividends.”

“The Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, is a collection of jumbled statements and stories in a random arrangement. Most of its stories are fractured and lack consistency. Subjects and themes are not connected. So fractured are narratives in the Qur’an that only one story has a clear beginning, middle, and end: the story of Joseph. All the other stories pick up in the middle, or else they are never carried to their conclusion. The Qur’an admits that satan sometimes intervened and gave Muhammad ‘inspiration.’ It also states that Muhammad forgot some parts of it. Several chapters start with meaningless three-letter words such as alr, alm, etc. Even great quranic interpreters cannot find a meaning for such words. In one place the Qur’an states that no changes occurred in its text, and in another it says changes to it indeed took place.”

“In the past few decades, millions of Muslims have migrated to the West. Some seek jobs, others pursue freedom and a better living, and still others hope to conquer the West by converting Westerners to Islam or by sheer reproduction and numerical growth! I personally take this migration to mean the Lord wants to help the Church win large numbers of Muslims to Christ by bringing them to her doorstep.”

Next week I will share a few of the prayers Sobhi leads us in each week. I would also recommend that you check out my review of Praying For Muslims.

No Room For God?

My friend Scott delivered a right-between-the-eyes message yesterday. Here are my takeaways.

Quite possibly the deadliest of the relationship killers is pride.

Think of all the ugly things surrounding Pride:

  • Always fault-finding
  • Always defensive
  • Constantly craving attention
  • Disregarding advice
  • Saying “I’m better than you!”
  • Saying “I don’t need your help!”
  • Quick to tell others “Here’s how you should do that”
  • Can’t handle any constructive criticism
  • But always critical of others

In fact, C.S. Lewis said, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

One psalmist got right to the root of the problem of pride when he wrote—

In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

No room for God?!

The Bible is all about relationships. Adam was first created to be in a relationship with God, and then Eve was created so she and Adam could be in a relationship with each other. Jesus reiterated this when He was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”

But if Pride rules in my heart, and there is no room for God, how can I love Him with all I’ve got? The simple answer is: I can’t.

Jesus quickly added that the next greatest commandment also revolved around relationships when He said, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

If my proud heart is filled with prideful love, it cannot be filled with God’s love.

If my pride-filled heart has no room for God’s love, then it has no room to love anyone else.

Pride kills every relationship.

Jesus had absolutely no trace of pride when He set aside all His heavenly privileges and came to earth as a Human (Philippians 2:6-8). The Apostle Paul then tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s attitude.

Humility kills pride!

Are you filled with pride? Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I have a problem submitting to authority?
  • When I get into an argument, do I always have to have the last word?
  • Am I willing to accept blame?
  • Can I ask for forgiveness, or am I always right?
  • Do I sometimes cheat at a game just so I can win?
  • If I lose, is it someone else’s fault?
  • If I win, do I brag about how good I am?
  • Do I think I’m the only one who can solve all my own issues?
  • Do I think I can solve everyone else’s issues too?

If you found yourself saying “yes” to these questions it’s probably time to ask the Holy Spirit to do a heart-check on your level of pride. Make sure that in your heart there is increasingly more room for God.

Who Can Bridge The Gap Between God And Man?

Mankind was created good and upright in God’s image and given dominion over everything God had created (see Genesis 1:26-28 and Psalm 8:3-8). But man was not given dominion over himself (Genesis 2:15-17).

As Oswald Chambers said, “The temptation came to him on this line—‘Disobey, and you will become as God.’ Man took dominion over himself and thereby lost his lordship over everything else. According to the Bible, the disposition of sin is my claim to my right to myself” (see Genesis 3:1-7).

“And sure enough, they then had knowledge of good and evil, but it was from the standpoint of becoming evil and remembering how good they once were” (Nancy Guthrie). Their disobedience created an unbridgeable gulf between God and man. 

There were other consequences of their sin too:

  • Consequence #1—They realized they were naked, making them ashamed of themselves and ashamed to be in God’s presence.
  • Consequence #2—They feared God and tried to hide from Him.
  • Consequence #3—They couldn’t accept responsibility for what they did because that acceptance would mean they would also be responsible for bridging the gulf, something they were utterly unable to do.
  • Consequence #4—They were completely separated from God. Now there was nothing that they could do except work, have children, raise a family, and try to make the best of things.

Even in the midst of this despair, God foreshadowed the hope that would be their salvation. First, God promised that their offspring would one day crush satan’s head. Then God sacrificed an innocent animal and used those skins to make more permanent clothes for Adam and Eve, foreshadowing what Jesus would do.

Adam must have glimpsed this ray of hope because he then named his wife Eve, which means life!

But who could bridge this chasm? Who could be a mediator between God and man? The only possible candidate would have to be Someone who was both fully God and fully Man—that is Jesus Christ!

Only Jesus can fully and eternally cover our nakedness, remove our fear and shame, and present us without sin before His Father (see Jude 24 and Romans 5:6-11).

If, as Oswald Chambers says, sin is my claim to my right to myself, then salvation is God’s right to myself because I have surrendered to the reconciling work of Jesus.

“Believers in Christ are seen by God exactly as Christ is seen by God,” wrote Ann Voskamp, because those who believe in Jesus are clothed in His righteousness!

If you haven’t surrendered yourself to God’s right to you, what’s holding you back from doing that today? If you have surrendered yourself to God, don’t ever let satan lie to you about your nakedness, shame, or unworthiness—you are “Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home!” (Voskamp).

Cherish (book review)

Gary Thomas notes something rather peculiar: Many wedding vows contain the promise “to love and cherish” our spouse, and many pastors spend quite a bit of time promoting love, but often the concept of cherishing our spouse gets overlooked. Gary is out to correct that in his aptly-titled book Cherish.

Learning the value of cherishing our spouse pays enormous benefits. In fact, near the beginning of the book Gary says, “Cultivating a cherishing attitude toward your spouse will elevate your marriage relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.” That sounds to me like something we would all want in our marriages!

So Gary begins unpacking and defining the idea of marriage in practical terms that any married person (or soon to be married person) can grasp. He uses examples from the first marriage in history between Adam and Eve, shows some of the principles Solomon outlines in his Song of Songs, shines a light on the many passages in the New Testament that address marriage, and even shows the ultimate picture of Jesus cherishing His bride. Throughout all of these, Gary gives us modern-day examples from couples he has known and counseled, and even lessons learned from his own marriage.

Each chapter concludes with some bullet points summarizing the main themes, and some questions to help couples grow in their cherishing of one another.

If you are married, about to be married, or a pastor or counselor who works with married couples, Cherish is a book you need to read and be ready to share with others. Such an outstanding read!

I am a Zondervan book reviewer.

6 Quotes From “The Fi5th Gospel”

The Fi5th GospelI have been watching the One Minute Apologist videos from Bobby Conway for quite awhile, and find them very helpful. Recently I finished a reading plan in YouVersion based on Bobby’s book The Fi5th Gospel. Here are a few quotes that especially caught my attention.

“If I am the only Gospel people will ever experience are they experiencing the true Gospel?”

“At no other time in human history has God so plainly and blatantly revealed Himself than at Calvary. At no point has He so graphically uncovered His heart for mankind. It was there, on a hill outside Jerusalem, the Messiah bled for us, suffering hellish agony and sin-induced banishment, all the while enduring the brutal wrath of a holy and righteous God.”

“The exclamation point to this graphic love letter to us was the resurrection—Jesus’ conquering moment of triumph over sin, satan, and the grave. This is what Christians are all about right? It’s how we are saved. Take away the Cross and we’re no different from any other religious idea. It’s Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Strip away all the modern church fluff and this is what you find at the core of our faith. It’s essential. Nonnegotiable. Undeniable. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s what makes Christians ‘Christian.’ And it’s why Jesus is the answer to all of life’s deepest issues.”

“The sacrifice [God] requires isn’t death on a cross, but rather death to our pride and fear of what other might think. God just wants us to be proud of Jesus and what He has done for us. He wants us to be unashamed of His Son.”

“Though we were originally created in God’s image, God’s reflection in us was marred in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. And though His image wasn’t completely erased, it was defaced and tarnished. When you trusted in Christ, the Holy Spirit began a beautiful work of ‘image restoration’ in you; masterfully remaking you to more accurately reflect God’s virtue. He began sculpting, forming, and transforming your character to better display Christ to the world. You become His image-bearer, and His ongoing work in your life distinguishes you from the world. This is a lifelong process, by the way, and one God is committed to completing.”

“None of us will ever perfectly represent God’s character. As long as we’re on this earth, we’ll have imperfections. And it’s these imperfections that some unbelievers are quick (and happy) to point out and expose. But there is value in listening to what others say, of taking an honest look in the mirror, of stepping into an unbeliever’s shoes to see what they perceive about Jesus and His bride. Think of it as a spiritual awareness-building exercise.”

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