Thursdays With Spurgeon—Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:5) 

     We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. I will confess my transgressions to the Lord. Not to my fellow human beings or to the high priest, but to Jehovah. … 

     When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, “And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but so was the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away at once, as soon as the acknowledgment was made. God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

I notice again the Selah at the end of this verse. That word means to pause and deeply consider the previous words. I shared a sermon about the weight that is lifted and the freedom that is restored if we will just confess our sin to God! 

But the devil loves to condemn us, to whisper the lie that we’ve sinned one too many times for God to forgive us again. This is truly a lie because a forgiven sin is a forgotten sin. So in essence when we ask God to forgive us for our most recent sin, He views it as our only sin! 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I challenged pastor-shepherds to make good use of confession: 

     When your reactions aren’t Christlike, admit it. Someone might want to push back, “But if I say I was wrong, then I may lose some leadership credibility.” I would agree that you will lose credibility if you believe you are a self-made leader and if you are climbing up a career ladder that you designed. But if you are truly living and leading as a servant that God has equipped and placed among this flock, admission of an un-Christlike action or reaction triggers something extraordinary: God’s help. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). 

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession, and one who is experiencing fewer mess ups over time because the Holy Spirit is helping him get healthier and more mature. —an excerpt from chapter 12 of Shepherd Leadership

Don’t listen to the devil’s lies, but hear the loving voice of the Holy Spirit calling you to confess your sin and receive immediate absolution from it. As Spurgeon said, “God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.” 

If you would like to know more about Shepherd Leadership, please click here.

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Judging The Right Way

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

I have probably heard this verse quoted more by non-Christians than any other verse: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). 

Does Jesus mean that we can never point out to anyone else an area of concern? No, because Jesus Himself did this as well as nearly every epistle writer of the New Testament. What it does mean is that confrontation needs to be truly corrective and never condemning. 

Correcting means that I am never serving as the judge and jury. But it does mean that I can lovingly help someone before they have to stand before God on Judgment Day. Jesus said that if I am a mean, self-serving judge of others, I can expect to receive that same treatment (v. 2). 

Instead, I need to first recognize that what I may see in another person may only be apparent to me because I am afflicted with the same thing. So my first response when I see “a speck” in someone else’s eye is to ask the Holy Spirit to show me a possible “plank” in my own eye. Only after I have dealt with this through repentance and making appropriate changes, will I have the necessary empathy and gentleness to help my brother or sister deal with their own eye speck (vv. 3-4). 

Jesus said that trying to get someone else to repent of something that still exists in my own life is being a hypocrite. It’s playing a role that isn’t me. So Jesus says “first” deal with my own sin, “then” I may help a brother or sister (v. 5). 

Notice that I have been very careful to use the phrase “brother and sister.” I believe that Christians should deal with fellow Christians, but we shouldn’t try to bring correction to those who don’t come from the same biblical paradigm that we have. In legal terms, I may say that we have no standing, or that non-Christians are out of my jurisdiction. 

One final thought. I think I need to treat a concern that another person brings to me in a very similar fashion as I would treat an eye speck someone else. Perhaps God sent them to me, so I need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me any “plank” that may be in my eye, even if it has been brought to my attention through a judgmental person. It is very God-honoring for me to give that person the benefit of the doubt by saying that they cared enough for my well-being that they would be willing to point something out to me. 

Correction is an important aspect of Christian maturity. But we need to make sure we do it in a Christlike way.

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Don’t Putrefy Your Leadership

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King Solomon nailed it pretty succinctly with this verse: Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1) 

As a Christian leader, I always have mixed emotions when I hear of another prominent Christian leader who has stumbled. Part of me is angry because I know that all Christian leaders will get painted with the same brush. Another part of me is incredibly sad to hear of a brother or sister who has squandered the trust that was placed in them. Finally, part of me becomes quite self-reflective, because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes. 

Tom Peters said, “There are no minor lapses of integrity.” King Solomon would agree. And so do I. 

Godly leadership can be such a beautiful thing, but just a couple of dead flies can putrefy the whole thing! 

Here are four things that I have seen in the lives of those leaders who haven’t finished well. These are the things all of us need to watch carefully in our own lives.

(1) They compromised in “the little things.” None of them started off by saying, “I’m going to completely ruin my reputation as a godly leader.” But they allowed themselves to indulge in things that were just “little things” in their minds. Perhaps they thought, “It won’t hurt if I indulge in this one little thing.” The apostle Paul warns us, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

(2) Pride crept in. They thought they were better than others. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). I addressed this topic in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter like this—

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession.

Pride will keep us from confessing the “little sins” and keep us from God’s help. But humility quickly admits the smallest of slip-ups and therefore receives God’s grace and help. 

(3) They lowered their standards. If anything, leaders should raise their standards as they become more successful. Think of it this way: when I was young and immature, I didn’t give much thought to my diet or my exercise routine. As I became older (and hopefully more mature), I became much more tuned-in to these things. Physically, the older I get, the more I need to pay attention to my health. The same thing is true in our leadership: maturity should lead to higher standards and higher levels of scrutiny. 

(4) They stopped listening to others. The combination of little compromises, pride, and lowered standards doesn’t easily invite accountability nor transparency. The track record is pretty consistent among those who have fallen short: they stopped listening to people who tried to correct them.

I want to finish well. I don’t want a leadership stumble in my life to rob God of glory, nor to cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. I am committed to living my life in a way that will allow Jesus to say to me at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

I pray that all Christian leaders will join me in this.

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“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

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Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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Finishing Well Is Better

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

The land was at peace… (2 Chronicles 14:6).

King Asa started out so well. The beginning of his reign could best be described by the word “peace”:

  • The land was at peace 
  • No one was at war with him 
  • The Lord gave him rest 
  • “[God] has given us rest on every side”  
  • The Lord his God was with him

When Cush attempted to attack the nation of Judah, Asa called on God: “Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. … Do not let mere mortals prevail against You” (14:11). God gave Asa a great victory over Cush, and other God-fearing people from Israel began flocking to Judah “when they saw that the Lord his God was with [Asa]” (15:9). 

This peace lasted for 35 years!

And then came one poor decision from which Asa never recovered. 

The king of Israel began to make preparations for war against Judah. Instead of calling on God as he did when Cush was preparing to attack, Asa reverted to political maneuvering. He sent a bribe to a rival nation, enticing them to attack Israel. 

The prophet Hanani told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (16:9). 

From “the land was at peace” to “from now on you will be at war” came about because Asa…

  • …trusted his own ingenuity instead of relying on God 
  • …calculated his odds instead of calling on his God 
  • …forgot about God’s past provision 
  • …refused to confess his sin and repent from it, even when the prophet called him out
  • …utterly abandoned his God (16:2-12) 

Starting well is good, but finishing well is far better! 

A mark of a godless leader is one who refuses to confess and repent from his sin. 

Asa’s refusal to admit his sin resulted in the end of his life being spent afflicted with disease and his country being surrounded and oppressed by enemies. 

This is part 54 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Trinitie Sunday

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
    And hast redeem’d me through Thy bloud,
    And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
    For I confesse my heavie score,
    And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
    With faith, with hope, with charitie;
    That I may runne, rise, rest with Thee. —George Herbert

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—A Good Confession

It seemed as if nothing less likely could be
Than that light should break in on a dungeon so deep;
To create a new world were less hard than to free
The slave from his bondage, the soul from its sleep.

But the Word had gone forth, and said, Let there be light,
And it flashed through my soul like a sharp passing smart;
One look to my Savior, and all that dark night,
Like a dream scarce remembered, was gone from my heart.

I cried out for mercy, and fell on my knees,
And confessed, while my heart with keen sorrow was wrung;
’Twas the labor of minutes, and years of disease
Fell as fast from my soul as the words from my tongue. —Frederick William Faber

Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label?

This 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.

Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label? 

     Our Lord makes the test of goodness not only goodness in intention, but the active carrying out of God’s will. Beware of confounding appearance and reality, of judging only by external evidence. …  

     The baptism of the Holy Ghost turns men into the incarnation of what they preach until the appearance and the reality are one and the same. … He does in us what Jesus did for us. … 

     Human nature is fond of labels, but a label may be the counterfeit of confession. It is so easy to be branded with labels, much easier in certain stages to wear a ribbon or a badge than to confess. Jesus never used the word testify; He used a much more searching word—confess. ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men…’ [Matthew 10:32-33]. The test of goodness is confession by doing the will of God. ‘If you do not confess Me before men,’ says Jesus, ‘neither will your Heavenly Father confess you.’ Immediately we confess, we must have a badge, if we do not put one on, other people will. Our Lord is warning that it is possible to wear the label without having the goods; possible for a man to wear the badge of being His disciple when he is not. Labels are all right, but if we mistake the label for the goods we get confused.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Some people only wear the labels—they use the name “Christian” without ever surrendering to the lordship of Jesus. Oswald Chambers reminds us that these are the people to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

Listen to the Holy Spirit. He can make sure that your preaching your living are one and the same. You and I don’t want to just testify that we are disciples of Jesus, but we want to be the living incarnation of all that Jesus did and taught.

Labels are fine (if other people put them there), but just make sure you have the goods! I’ll say it again: Listen to the Holy Spirit and immediately obey what He points out to you.

A “Slip Of The Tongue”?

Have you ever said something and then immediately thought, “Where in the world did that come from?!?” 

You might have thought it was just a slip of the tongue, but it’s not. That slip of the tongue is actually a gift to us to help us know what’s really going on in our heart. 

Check out this 2-minute clip—

The Scriptures I reference in this passage are Psalm 39:1; Jeremiah 17:9; and Matthew 15:19. 

This is a snippet from a longer message on putting other things in our life in perspective. You can check out the full video by clicking here, or you can read the list of the 5 things we need to keep in proper perspective by clicking here.

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