Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Part, Our Part

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’s Part, Our Part

     The lesson is clear to all: The wind turns mills that men make. It fills sails that human hands have spread. And the Spirit blesses human effort, crowns with success our labors, establishes the work of our hands upon us, and teaches us all through that ‘the hand of the diligent makes rich’ (Proverbs 10:4). And ‘if anybody will not work, neither shall he eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). … 

     Let us do our part faithfully, spread every sail, make all as perfect as human skill and wisdom can direct, and then in patient continuance in well-doing await the Spirit’s propitious gales, neither murmuring because He tarries nor being taken unawares when He comes upon us in His sovereign pleasure to do that which seems good in His sight.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We cannot do what only God can do, and God will not do what we are supposed to do. It is the Holy Spirit who can help us keep those two thoughts clear. 

It’s wrong to say, “God only helps those who help themselves.” But it’s equally as wrong to say, “I don’t need to do anything except wait for God.” In example after example in the Bible we see people doing their part while at the same time believing for God to do something miraculous:

We don’t take matters into our own hands, but neither do we sit idle waiting for something miraculous to happen. We plant, and water, and tend, and then God brings the harvest.

Spirit-Empowered To Do Good Works

Micah the prophet’s name means who is like God, or more literally: “who but God?” The implied answer, of course, is no one! 

Micah opens his letter by telling us his name, and then he closes his prophetic words with a play on his name when he says, “Who is a God like You?” (7:18-20). Who else but God could…

  • …pardon sin?
  • …forgive transgressions? 
  • …not stay angry at sinners? 
  • …delight to show mercy? 
  • …have such boundless compassion? 
  • …tread our sins under His foot?
  • …hurl our iniquities into the sea?  

NO ONE! 

In light of this, how should we respond to this amazing God? Micah asks a series of rhetorical questions about what sort of religious practices would somehow “balance the scales” for God’s amazing gifts to us. But here’s the deal: there is no way for us to balance the scales! Instead, Micah tells us this, “God has showed you what is good. What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

In other words, our response to God’s invaluable gifts must transition from a have to lifestyle to a get to lifestyle! Micah makes it clear that God’s Spirit empowers us to live this way (Micah 3:8). 

It is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christians to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. 

The apostle Paul agrees with Micah, even echoing some of Micah’s own phrases—God’s great love, His rich mercy, His unearned grace, His forgiveness of sin, His kindness, and His salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10). Why did God do all of this? So that we could “do good works”—like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly—“which God prepared in advance for us to do”!

I am saved by grace SO THAT I am free to do grace-filled, Spirit-empowered, good things. 

All of this prompts me to ask myself three introspective questions:

  1. Do I continually remind myself that I was saved by grace and not by works? I need to check my have to vs. get to attitude. 
  2. Am I aware that people are watching me? What are they seeing? Do they see godly justice, loving mercy, and humility? 
  3. Am I living like Jesus? Peter explained that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Can that be said of me too? 

Who but God could call us, forgive us, and forget our sins? NO ONE! 

Who but God could empower us to live in such a way that others see His greatness too? NO ONE! 

Let’s never, ever become self-reliant or works-dependent (that’s have to living), but let’s stay so Spirit-reliant that we cannot help be get to people! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series about major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind

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.

Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind 

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) 

     Sometimes the wind comes with a sweep as though it were going on forever. It comes past and dashes through the trees, sweeping away the rotten branches. Then away it goes across the Alps, dashing down an avalanche in its course, still onward. And as it flies, it blows away everything that is frail and weak. And on, on, on it speeds its way to some unknown goal. And thus it is sometimes the Spirit of God will come right through us, as if He were bearing us away to that spiritual heritage that is our sure future destiny, bearing away coldness, barrenness, everything before it. We do not lament then that we do not pray. We do not believe that we cannot pray. ‘I can do everything’ is our joyful shout as we are carried on the wings of the wind. …  

     The lower branches of the trees are scarcely moved, but the top branches are rocked to and fro by it. [The wind] is a great leveler! So is the Holy Spirit. He never sees a man high but He brings him down. He makes every high thought bow before the majesty of His might. … Now do not let this make you fear the Holy Spirit. It is a blessed thing to be rocked so as to have our hopes tested, and it is a precious thing to have our carnal confidences shaken. And how blessedly the wind purifies the atmosphere! …  

     So the Spirit of God comes and cleanses out our evil thoughts and vain imaginations, and though we do not like the hurricane, yet it brings spiritual health to our souls. …  

     The Holy Spirit is the great testing power, and the result of His operations will be to show men what they are. … Thus also we try the doctrines of men; we bring the breath of inspiration to bear upon them. … True Christians and sound doctrines have ballast and weight in them; they are not moved nor driven away. But empty professors and hollow dogmas are scattered like chaff before the wind when the Lord will blow up on them with the breath of His Spirit. Therefore examine yourselves; try the doctrines and see if they are of God.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We are wise to fear the Wind of God. 

By fear I mean a holy reverencing, an appreciation of the awful weightiness of God’s presence, an ever-growing awareness of the awesomeness of the thought of standing before The Judge of the Universe—the All-holy and All-righteous King of kings. I don’t mean cowering in the corner, afraid to approach God, nor afraid of Him approaching us. 

In the first Church in the book of Acts, we see a married couple trying to lie to the Holy Spirit, a sorcerer thinking he could learn “the tricks” of the Holy Spirit, and King Herod trying to claim the majesty of God’s presence for himself (Acts 5:1-11, 8:18-24, 12:21-23). The Holy Spirit dealt powerfully and decisively with all of these pretenders. The result: the power of the Holy Spirit was unmistakably and unquestionably acknowledged! So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. 

True Christians welcome the wind of the Spirit. He cleanses, purifies, prunes, fills, and empowers. He blows away what is impure so that He can impart more of Himself to us. 

Let us never, ever treat the Holy Spirit lightly. Let us never, ever try to put the Holy Spirit in our own little boxes. But let us be open to whenever and however He wants to blow His wind through our hearts. 

 

Impossible To Unstoppable

King David was a unifier. He took people that were territorial and possessive of their own tribes and unified them into the strong nation of Israel. 

The way he responded to the murders of Saul, Abner, and Ish-Boseth prompted this response: “All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything that the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner” (2 Samuel 3:36-37). 

The leaders of Israel’s various tribes then followed the lead of Abner—“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron” and “all the elders of Israel” joined with David (5:1, 3). 

David accepted all of this in confident humility. He knew that it wasn’t his doing but God’s. He made sure to stay reliant on God (5:19, 23), keeping in mind that he was leading to win victories for all Israel: “Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over [all] Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel” (5:12).

Result: “[David] became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him” (v. 10). 

God delights to empower leaders who have a humble heart to unify God’s people. God will let self-made leaders struggle in their own ability, but He will unleash all His resources to help the humble, God-dependent leader.

These God-empowered leaders are the only ones who can bring lasting unity. 

Leading on my own strength: Impossible.

Leading in God’s strength: Unstoppable! 

[read all of these passage in the Bible for yourself by clicking here]

Loitering Words

These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs. The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’” (2 Samuel 23:1-4) 

Look how David describes himself: 

  • Inspired by God
  • Exalted by the Most High 
  • Anointed by God 

This statement by David reminds me of the words Moses spoke about himself: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)! 

David also said that he was the hero of Israel’s songs. The King James Version says he was “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” However he is described, these are his last words. Literally, that means that his words loitered. They hung around. They continued to impact people’s lives long after he was gone.

Look how long his words loitered. When the Church prayed in Acts 4, they quote David’s prophetic words, stating that they were spoken through the Holy Spirit. David said that’s exactly how he was speaking—“the Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue” (v. 2), and God Himself is recorded as speaking through David in verse 3.

God’s words were on David’s lips because God’s Spirit was in David’s heart.

David was both confident of this and humbled by this.

  • Confidently he said he “rules over people in righteousness” and “my house [is] right with God” (v. 5). 
  • Humbly he said “he rules in the fear of God” and God was the One who “brought to fruition my salvation” (v. 5). 

God is still looking for people through whom He may speak loitering words.

May our prayer be—God, You are still looking for men and women through whom You can impart loitering words. You want to put Your words in the mouth of those who are righteous in Your sight and who walk in reverent fear of Your holiness, those who acknowledge Your love and Your sovereignty. O God, make me that person! I don’t want to speak idle words, but life-changing, God-glorifying, Spirit-empowered words that will loiter, and impart truth, and bring people to Jesus. Show me what I need to change to be the one through whom You will speak Your loitering words.

’…And Yet We May Not Be Christians’

Something serious for all Christians to ponder…

The disciples had life before our Lord breathed on them, but then they attained more. They had life before Pentecost, but then they obtained more. … Thus a man may be very like a saint and yet not be one. A church or a congregation may be very like a Christian one, with a fair appearance and compact organization; all in excellent bustling order, numerous, liberal, united, earnest after a sort; and yet lack one thing which neutralizes and paralyzes all the rest—the breath of life.

“Our creed may be sound, and yet we may not be Christians.

“Our religion may be externally complete, and yet we may not be Christians. … Mechanical religion may do for the gods of Greece and Rome, but not for the living and true God. … Your sanctuary attendance may be regular and reverent; but what if there be no breath in it? Your prayers and praises may be punctual and unexceptionable, but what if there be no breath in them? Will God accept them? Will they satisfy you? Will they make you happy? Will they not be irksome and intolerable? And the more you multiply them, the more intolerable.

“Our good works may be numerous and praiseworthy, yet we may not be Christians. It is not the work that makes the Christian, but the Christian that makes the work.

Our life may be exemplary, and yet we may not be Christians.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

[see Ezekiel 37:8, and this post that talks about the difference between the Holy Spirit being on a Christian versus in a Christian]

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

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.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

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.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Navel-Gazing?

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.

Navel-Gazing?

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bid to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the psalmist: ‘My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up’ (Psalm 5:3). And again, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?’ (121:1). If it is right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of His glory! …  

     The truth is, there’s nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven. But they went a little further than looking—they stood gazing. A little excess in right may be faulty. … There is a gazing that is not commendable. This is when the look becomes not that of reverent worship but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should not be known, a prying into that which it is for God’s glory to conceal. … 

     Thus certain things that you and I may do appear right and yet we may need to be chided out of them into something better—they may be right in themselves but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable or expedient. They may be right up to a point and then may touch the boundary of excess.

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

The word gazing reminds of another word: navel-gazing. The dictionary defines this as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” This “excessive absorption” is, I believe, what caused the angels to chide the disciples of Jesus.  

Jesus was always on the move. Even His times of rest and recovery were strategic so that He could engage in ministry refreshed and refilled to do spiritual warfare effectively. The Gospels never show us a picture of Jesus wondering what to do next, or concerned about what people thought of Him, or even strategizing over His next ministry opportunities. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward. 

And this same forward momentum is exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples to undertake. “You will move forward into all the world, telling people about Me, baptizing them, and commissioning them to also be forward-looking to their mission field.” This mission was to be preceded by the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was a 2-mile walk away from were the disciples were now gazing up into the heavens. 

The angels essentially said, “Your curiosity is on the verge of becoming procrastination. It’s time to head back to Jerusalem to wait for the empowerment that you will need to fulfill the mission on which Jesus sent you.” 

What about us? What “looking” can become unhealthy “gazing” for us? What excuses might we be making for our navel-gazing? What’s keeping us from being on-mission for Jesus? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have anything less than forward momentum for the sake of the Kingdom of God! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Are You Gazing Or Going?

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.

Are You Gazing Or Going?

     The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory! Equally delightful is the remembrance of His ascension. …

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11) 

     It is not the Lord’s will that [His disciples] should long remain inactive—the reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough, for the angel’s words may be accurately rendered, ‘Why do you stand gazing up into heaven’? … 

     As they had once said to the women, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6), so did they now say, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ …

     They do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, ‘Tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:49). They seem to say, ‘The taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about. He has gone to His throne and to His glory, and He said it was expedient for us that He should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father….

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was incarnated in human flesh so that we could know the way to Heaven. 

Jesus died on a Cross so that we could have our sins forgiven and go to Heaven. 

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could go to prepare a place for us. 

Jesus wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can take others to Heaven with us. 

Let us not imitate the disciples’ first reaction and simply gaze into Heaven hopefully and longingly after the ascended Jesus. Instead, let us imitate their next reactions: Waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so that we can take the Good News of salvation everywhere we can!

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