The Closed Ear

“How much we lose by the closed ear! … Other speakers may win the ear of the multitude, but it is to God the Lord that the saint listens. His voice is powerful. Its tones are penetrating; its words attractive. God speaks as One entitled to be heard, expecting to be heard. He speaks with authority, waiting for our obedience to the heavenly voice.

A saint then is one who has listened to God; who has heard the words of peace from His lips; who has believed them; who has been reconciled; and who knows that he is so. Therefore he seeks to be holy. He hates his former folly. He does not return to it. He does not make his free pardon a reason for returning to it.

“Brethren, be consistent! Beware of sin, folly, unholiness of every kind. Be Christians out and out. Show that the peace you have received is a holy peace.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

The Need For Confession

Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin. 

If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?! 

Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.” 

Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard. 

Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.” 

Sometimes I cannot see my own debts that need to be forgiven (Psalm 19:12), so I need the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the loving confrontation of someone who loves me (Psalm 139:23-24; Proverbs 27:6, 2 Samuel 12:1-13). 

The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16). 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”  

Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!

Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline. 

Poetry Saturday—What Is Prayer?

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach 
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death—
He enters heaven with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways;
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, ‘Behold, he prays!’ 

The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word, in deed, and mind;
While with the Father and the Son,
Sweet fellowship they find.

No prayer is made by man alone
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus, on th’ eternal throne
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou! by Whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way;
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray. —James Montgomery

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Oftener The Better

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 Oftener The Better 

     It is strange that spiritual blessings are our only possessions that we do not employ. We get a great spiritual blessing and we let the rest get on it for many a day. There is the mercy seat, for instance. Ah, my friends, if you had the cash box as full of riches as that mercy seat is, you would go often to it, as often as your necessities require. But you do not go to the mercy seat half so often as you need to go. Most precious things God has given to us, but we never overuse them. The truth is, they cannot be overused. We cannot wear a promise threadbare. We can never burn out the incense of grace. We can never use up the infinite treasures of God’s lovingkindness. … 

     How seldom do we ask counsel at the hands of the Lord! How often do we go about our business without asking His guidance? In our troubles how constantly do we strive to bear our burdens, instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us! And this is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say, “I am yours, soul; come and make use of Me as you will. You may freely come to My store, and the oftener the better. Welcome.” … 

     Have not God in name only. Since He allows you to have such a Friend, use Him daily. My God will supply all your wants. Never want while you have a God. Never fear or faint while you have a God. Go to your treasure and take whatever you need. There is bread and clothes, and health and life, and all that you need. O Christian, learn the divine skill to make God all things; to make bread of your God, and water, and health, and friends, and ease. He can supply you with all these. … 

     Oh! Child of God, let me urge you to make use of your God. Make use of Him in prayer. I beseech you, go to Him often, because He is your God. … Fly to Him; tell Him all your wants; use Him constantly by faith, at all times. …  

     Go to God continually, importunately, confidently. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will bring it to pass. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will guide you by His counsel and afterward receive you to glory (Psalm 73:24).

From God In The Covenant 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Greatest Treasure Ever!

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 Greatest Treasure Ever!

     Oh! Christian, do but consider what it is to have God to be your own! Consider what it is, compared with anything else.

Jacob’s portion is the Lord;
What can Jacob more require?
What can heaven more afford—
Or a creature more desire?

     Some have their portion in the city. Their wealth is superabundant and in constant streams it flows to them, until they become a very reservoir of gold. But what is gold compared with your God? You could not live on it; your spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Apply it to your aching head, and would it afford you any ease? 

     Put it on a troubled conscience, and could your gold allay its pangs? Put it on your desponding heart and see if it could stay a solitary groan or give you one grief the less. But you have God, and in Him you have more than gold or riches ever could buy, more than heaps of brilliant ore could ever purchase for you. … 

     There are griefs here with which men cannot intermeddle, and there are griefs to come with which men cannot interfere to alleviate the pangs, pains, agonies, and dying strife. But when you have this: “I will be your God” [Jeremiah 31:33]—you have as much as other men can have put together. … 

     O Christian, ask for nothing in this world but that you may live on this and that you may die on this: “I will be your God.” This exceeds all the world has to offer. …

     Oh! Here is a very sea of bliss, a very ocean of delight! Come, bathe your spirit in it. You may swim to eternity and never find a shore. You may dive to the very infinite and never find the bottom. “I will be your God.” Oh! If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.

From God In The Covenant 

I agree with Spurgeon: “If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.” 

If you want your soul to be in this healthy state, it is possible for you to know assuredly that God is saying to you, “I will be your God.” Jesus died in your place to pay the penalty for your sin. If you believe that, you may ask God to forgive all your sins—completely cancel that record of wrongdoing—and He will! Then His Spirit will take up residence in your heart and you can know the unspeakable bliss of the truth of what God says: “I am your God”! 

11 Quotes From “When The Darkness Will Not Lift”

John Piper has given us an extremely helpful book whether we ourselves are battling the darkness of depression, or someone close to us is. Please check out my full book review of When The Darkness Will Not Lift by clicking here. 

“This is the rock where we stand when the dark clouds gather and the floods lick at our feet: justification is by grace alone (not mixed with our merit), through faith alone (not mixed with our works) on the basis of Christ alone (not mingling His righteousness with ours), to the glory of God alone (not ours).” 

“Where should you start? Start at the easiest place for those in darkness. Start with despair. Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ.” 

“You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when they are physically weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression then at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in the Scriptures.” 

“It will be of great advantage to the struggling Christian to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life.” 

“One of the reasons God loved David so much was that he cried so much. … It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God.” 

“Faith is sustained by looking at Christ, crucified and risen, not by turning from Christ to analyze your faith. … Paradoxically, if we would experience the joy of faith, we must not focus much on it. We must focus on the greatness of our Savior.” 

“It follows from this that we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties. While we have the light, let us cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.” 

“Instead of only saying, ‘Just do your duty,’ we must say…that joy is part of your duty. The Bible says, ‘Rejoice always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). And in regard to the duty of giving, it says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). In regard to the duty of service, it says, ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). In regard to the duty of mercy, it says do it ‘with cheerfulness’ (Romans 12:8). In regard to the duty of afflictions, it says, ‘Count it all joy’ (James 1:2). We simply water down the divine command when we call someone to half their duty.” 

“In dealing with our sin we can make two mistakes. One is to make light of it. The other is to be overwhelmed by it.” 

“If we want the joy of seeing and savoring God in Christ, we must not make peace with our sins. We must make war.” 

“Sometimes the darkness of our souls is owing in some part to the fact that we have drifted into patterns of life that are not blatantly sinful but are constricted and uncaring. … Unconsciously we have become very self-absorbed and oblivious and uncaring toward the pain and suffering in the world that is far worse than our own.”

“Paradoxically, depressed persons may say that they must care for themselves and cannot take on the problems of the world, when in fact part of the truth may be that their depression is feeding on the ingrown quality of their lives. … Joy in Christ thrives on being shared. That is the essence of Christian joy: it overflows or dies.”

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joy Of Saying, “My 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 Joy Of Saying, “My God”

     We commence then by the first thing, which is enough to startle us by its immense value. In fact, unless it had been written in God’s Word, we never could have dreamed that such a blessing could have been ours. God Himself, by the covenant, becomes the believer’s own portion and inheritance. “I will be their God” [Jeremiah 31:33]. … 

     Stop just one moment and think it over before we start. In the covenant of grace, God Himself conveys Himself to you and becomes yours. Understand it. God and all that is meant by that word—eternity, infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect justice, infallible rectitude, and immutable love; all that is meant by God as Creator, Guardian, Preserver, Governor, Judge. All that that great word God can mean of goodness and of love, of bounty and of grace. All that this covenant gives you to be your absolute property as much as anything you can call your own: “I will be their God.” … 

     While He is Judge of all, He especially is their judge because He is the Judge whom they love to reverence, the Judge whom they long to approach because they know His lips will confirm that which their hearts have already felt, which is the sentence of their full acquittal through the merits of the glorious Savior. Our loving God is the Judge who will acquit our souls, and in that respect we can say He is our God whether as Sovereign, as Governor enforcing law, or as Judge punishing sin. Although God is in some sense the God of all men, yet in this matter there is something special toward His people so that they can say, “He is our God, even in those relationships.” … 

     Furthermore, the Christian can call God his God from the fact of his justification. A sinner can call God, God, but he must always put in an adjective and speak of God as an angry God, an incensed God, or an offended God. But the Christian can say “my God” without putting in any adjective except it be a sweet one wherewith to extol Him, so now we who were sometime afar off are made near by the blood of Christ. We who were enemies to God by wicked works are His friends, and looking up to Him, we can say “my God,” for He is my Friend, and I am His friend.

From God In The Covenant 

What an incredible assurance in those two words: my God! Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). 

It makes me want to sing along with Fanny Crosby:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song
praising my Savior all the day long!

 

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