Thursdays With Spurgeon—Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

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.

Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

     Our Lord Jesus Christ has nothing that He does not give to His church. He gave Himself for us and He continues, still, to give Himself to us. He receives the gifts, but He only acts as the conduit through which the grace of God flows to us. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and of His fullness have we all received. …  

     These gifts, given in the form of men, are given for men [Ephesians 4:8-13]. Churches do not exist for preachers, but preachers for churches. … My brothers and sisters in the church, we who are your pastors are your servants for Christ’s sake. Our rule is not that of lordship, but of love. …  

     See how wonderful, then, was that ascension of our Lord in which He scattered down mercies so rich and appropriate among the sons of men! From His glorious elevation above all heavens He sends forth pastors, preachers, and evangelists, through whom the Holy Spirit works mightily in those who believe. By them He gathers the redeemed together and builds them up as a church to His glory!

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

Both the apostle Paul and King David from whom he quotes (see Psalm 68:18-19) see God’s victories as our victories. In the same letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says that Jesus gave up everything for His Bride—the Church.

To bring His Bride into the fullness of her radiance, Jesus gave gifts to the Church in the form of people—apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and servants that will help build up the Church and bring her into full maturity. 

Don’t ever downplay the important role that you, dear Christian, play in His Bride. YOU are a gift from Jesus and a gift to His Bride!

8 Quotes From “Warnings To The Churches”

This hard-hitting, no-pulled-punches book is directed primarily at pastors and other church leaders. However, I think anyone who loves Christ and His Bride will find much to ponder in Warnings To The Churches by J.C. Ryle. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go forward, beloved brethren, and fear not the adversary. Only abide in Christ and the victory is sure. Marvel not at the hatred of the gates of hell. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own’ [John 15:19]. So long as the world is the world, and the devil is the devil, there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers! The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians as long as the earth stands. As the great reformer, [Martin] Luther, said, ‘Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth.’” 

“He who cannot lie has pledged His royal word that all the powers of hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue, and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome.” 

“Weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man, it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He who lays hands on it is touching the apple of God’s eye!” 

“We corrupt the Word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the absolute inspiration of any part of Holy Scripture.” 

“We corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements as doctrines. We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church or of the Church Fathers, as if they were of equal authority. We do so when we take away from the Bible for the sake of pleasing men. We do so when from a feeling of false liberality, keep back any statement which seems narrow, or harsh, or hard. We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment or the reality of hell. We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions.” 

“May we never care what men say of us so long as we walk in the light of God’s Word! May we strive and pray to be wholly independent of, and indifferent to, man’s opinion, so long as we please God!” 

“Chosen as believers are by God the Father, justified as they are by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, believers are still only men—they are still in the body and still in the world. They are ever near temptation. They are ever liable to misjudge, both in doctrine and in practice. Their hearts, though renewed, are very feeble; their understanding, though enlightened, is still very dim. They ought to live like those who dwell in an enemy’s land, and every day to put on the armor of God. The devil is very busy: he never slumbers or sleeps.” 

“Like the fruit of which Eve and Adam ate, at first sight it looks pleasant and good, and a thing to be desired. ‘Poison’ is not written up on it and so people are not afraid. Like counterfeit coin it is not stamped ‘bad.’ It passes for the real thing, because of the very likeness it bears to the truth. Let us be on our guard against the very small beginnings of false doctrine.” 

Warnings To The Churches (book review)

J.C. Ryle died in 1900, placing his writings two centuries before our own. And yet his Warnings To The Churches sound an alarm that is just as relevant to the Church and her leaders as if it were written last week! 

Bishop Ryle spoke and wrote with an authority that sounded much like the Old Testament prophets thundering, “Thus saith the Lord!” And at the same time, you can also hear his ardent love for Christ’s Bride as tenderly as the beloved disciple John, who called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Taken together, that means Ryle’s words are steeped in authoritative, loving Scripture. 

He pulls no punches in pointing out how even Church leaders have bought into a definition of “church” that doesn’t quite line up with the way Jesus defined it. He reminds pastors of their heavy responsibility to preach the Word of God in all its purity. Just like Jesus, Ryle warns church leaders of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And he calls for loving confrontation of those leaders who have succumbed to the “leaven” just as Paul confronted Peter. 

This is a challenging book to read simply because of the gut-level honest introspection that it will require. I certainly couldn’t read through this book thinking I’ve got my act together, and I doubt few others will be able to either. If you are a church leader and you would like Ryle’s iron to sharpen your iron, Warnings To The Churches is a definite must-read for you.

Proper Correction

…to the church of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:1). 

This short letter from the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica is a masterpiece on how to correctly correct fellow Christian brothers and sisters. 

The entire letter follows this pattern: 3 Cs surrounded by prayer—

  1. Compliment
  2. Prayer
  3. Clarify
  4. Prayer
  5. Correct
  6. Prayer

(And then repeat, if necessary.) 

Compliment and encouragement—“We are bound to thank God always for you…because your faith grows exceedingly” (1:3). Paul complimented their love for each other, their patience and endurance in persecution, and their future glorification. He encouraged them that Jesus IS coming, and He will deal with their persecutors and take the righteous into glory with Him (1:3-10). 

Prayer—And then he prays for them to be equipped to endure to the end and finish well (1:11-12). 

Clarify misunderstandings—“Let no one deceive you by any means” (2:3). Paul reminds them of what he taught them about the end times and the Second Coming of Christ, clarifying that watchful Christians will by no means miss out on the signs (2:1-12). 

Prayer—Paul again praises their acceptance of the gospel and launches into another prayer for them to finish well (2:13-3:5). 

Correct errors of understanding—“But we command you” (3:6). There were those who were departing from the faith, growing slack in their work ethic, being disorderly, and meddling as busybodies. Paul said, “We command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ” that you knock it off! He even told the church to “not keep company” with such people (3:6-15). 

Prayer—Finally, Paul closes with a prayer for God’s peace to be with his brothers and sisters (3:16-18). 

This is such a masterful pattern for all of us in church ministry to follow! 

If you are in a leadership role, I hope your ongoing prayer would be the same as mine: “Holy Spirit, in all my interactions with my fellow saints, remind me of this godly, practical plan for confrontation, and help me to live it out for God’s glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

10 Quotes From “The Knowledge Of The Holy”

A.W. Tozer helps us think long and deep about the greatness of God, opening windows of insight that many have not contemplated previously. Check out my full book review of The Knowledge Of The Holy by clicking here. 

“With our loss of the sense of Majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine presence. … The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go along way toward curing them.” 

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing then all the woes of the world piled one upon another. …

“But unless the weight of the burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroyed the gospel for all who hold them.” 

“Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. … The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” 

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.” 

“When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism.” 

“An attribute of God is whatever God has in anyway revealed as being true of Himself.” 

“We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasonings of the theological mind.” 

“If we ever think well it should be when we think of God.” 

“The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but of the absence of parts.… An attribute, then, is not a part of God, it is how God is…. The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.” 

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. 

Godly Leaders Need (+) Desires

…if someone desires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position (1 Timothy 3:1). 

Desires—Paul uses two different Greek words for this one English word. The first word is orego. In the (+) sense it means to stretch out in order to grasp something. In the (-) sense it means to give one’s self up to the love of money.

The second word is epithymeo. In the (+) sense it means to long for a good thing (see Matthew 13:17; Luke 22:15). In the (-) sense it means to covet what is forbidden (see Matthew 5:28; James 4:2).

So (+) or (-) leadership comes down to desire. If I want a leadership position for what I can get, that is a (-) desire. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them… (Jeremiah 45:5). 

But if I desire a leadership position for what I can give, that is a (+) desire. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45). 

With these differing desires in mind, the list of qualifications for church leaders in verses 2-7 and 8-13 should be viewed through the (+)/(-) desire lenses:

  • Why should I be above reproach: (-) so that I can get something, or (+) so that I can serve others better?
  • Why should I be faithful in marriage: (-) so that I look good, or (+) so that I am strengthened by my spouse to serve? 
  • Why should I be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, sober, gentle, agreeable, content, and so on? The answers to those questions determine what desire I have.

A godly leader desires to glorify God and serve others, so a godly leader willingly submits to the Holy Spirit to address any area of (-) desire that may derail the God-honoring (+) desires. Just as Jesus is the Ultimate Servant-leader, I too must “have the same mind as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

A mark of a godly leader is one who desires leadership with a (+) desire.

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Gospel Of The Kingdom (book review)

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis presented a series of radio talks which became the book Mere Christianity. It was in this book that Lewis went beyond any denominationalism to the basic tenants of Christianity as outlined in the Bible. T.M. Moore persuasively warns us today of the trend away from “mere” Christianity to what he terms “near Christianity.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is an important book for those who desire to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). 

An increasing number of people who call themselves Christians—and even more alarmingly, those who are in positions of church leadership—aren’t living or preaching the full Gospel as presented in the Scriptures. Moore sounds the clarion call: “We are in danger, I believe, of having embraced, not the Gospel Jesus and the Apostles proclaimed, and for which our forbearers in the faith lived and died, but another gospel, a shallow, self-centered, merely sentimental gospel, which ‘assures’ us of heaven but does not equip us for the kingdom of God.” 

The followers of near Christianity tout how they have been saved from hell, but their profession and lifestyle don’t go beyond that. In other words, there is very little—if any—evidence that Jesus has become the Sovereign of their lives, and that they are living as citizens of God’s Kingdom. “Near Christianity, therefore, produces little in the way of kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it,” says Moore. 

In The Gospel of the Kingdom, Moore fully defines the imposter known as near Christianity, and then systematically details the characteristics of the Kingdom of God that should be evidenced in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. This isn’t just Moore’s opinion, but this short book is thoroughly cross-referenced with over 100 biblical passages.

All Christians—and especially those in the pastorate or other leadership roles—would do well to digest this book. If we aren’t vigilant, near Christianity may dominate the landscape of our churches, which really isn’t Christianity at all. 

I am a Wax Tablet Publications book reviewer. 

What Is The Church Supposed To Look Like?

If someone asked you what a church is supposed to look like, do you describe steeples and crosses, stained glass windows and big wooden pulpits?

Guess what? The first Church in Jerusalem had none of those things!

Luke the historian describes the church this way: “They studied and prayed together, they ate with each other, they fed the hungry, and they took care of the poor. God performed miracles through them, everyone thought well of them, and people were getting saved every single day” (see Acts 2:42-47). Other historians of the day noted that Christians started the first orphanages, the first feeding programs, the first homes/schools for the blind, and the first medical dispensaries. They described how the Christians changed the cultural understanding of marriage and family, and how they gave dignity to women, children, the elderly, and the sick. 

They did this by putting their faith into action, just as Jesus described (see Matthew 25:31-40). James reminds us that this required a deeply personal faith and a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. In fact, James went so far as to say that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough. 

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. We must believe it and live it. We need both faith and works.

Everyone can do this… 

  • if a young kid is hungry, get involved with feeding them
  • if an elderly lady in your neighborhood needs a friend, stop by for coffee
  • if a neighbor is sick and can’t cover their usual tasks, mow their lawn 
  • if a high school student can’t go to homecoming because she can’t afford the dress, take her shopping and buy the dress for her
  • if someone has an extended hospital stay, collect their mail and water their plants
  • if no one is visiting them in the hospital, go sit with them for a while

Jesus said, “When you do this for others, you are really doing it for Me.” 

Luke didn’t say, “Every day the Christians were preaching.” He says, “Every day the Christians were serving. And then every day God was adding to their number people who were being saved.” 

Your faith in action speaks a sermon louder and more convincingly than any sermon ever could. 

How will you show your neighbors the love of Jesus this week?

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

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