Thursdays With Spurgeon—Don’t Let Your ‘Well Begun’ Be Only ‘Half Done’

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. 

Don’t Let Your ‘Well Begun’ Be Only ‘Half Done’

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 3:20—4:1). 

     The start is not everything, but it is a great deal. It has been said by the old proverb that ‘well begun is half done,’ and it is certainly so in the things of God. … See to it that you lay a good foundation. It is better to have no repentance than a repentance that needs to be repented of! It is better to have no faith than a false faith! It is better to make no profession of religion than to make an untruthful one! … We should learn early on the difference between grace and merit, between the purpose of God and the will of man, between trust in God and confidence in the flesh. If we do not start aright, the further we go, the further we will be from our desired end and the more thoroughly in the wrong we will find ourselves.

From The Watchword For Today: “Stand Fast”

Some people love wearing the label “Christian” but they never surrender to the lordship of Jesus. This is scary because Jesus says that these are the people to whom He will have to say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

In the biblical passage Spurgeon used as his text, we read some important words. First of all, we need to live as citizens of Heaven, not as citizens of Earth. That means we need to always follow God’s laws, not the passing fads of culture. 

Second, the apostle Paul calls Jesus both Savior and Lord. We don’t get to choose one and ignore the other. We cannot say, “Thank You, Jesus, for saving me, but I’ll take it from here.” 

Finally, we need to not only stand firm, but as Paul also says in another letter, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). No assumptions. No coasting. No merely going through the motions of Christianity, but keeping a humble heart that responds to the correcting word from the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s make sure that our walk with Jesus is never described as only “half done.” But instead, let’s begin well, walk well, and rejoice to hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Hypocrites Who Hurt The Church

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. 

Hypocrites Who Hurt The Church

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27 KJV). 

     Dear friends, I might just continue, for the subject is a very wide one. But I stop because, unhappily for me, though perhaps happily for your patience, my time has gone. Having just indicated what the Christian life ought to be, I must, in a few words, plead with you that by the power of God’s Holy Spirit you will seek to make your lives such. I could mention many reasons, but I will only give you one or two. 

     The first is, if you do not live like this, you will make your fellow members who are innocent of your sin, suffer. … It is very hard when [skeptics] can say to you, ‘Look at So-and-So, he is a church member! Look at what he did. You are all a parcel of hypocrites!’ … 

     And then, remember, dear friends, unless your conversation is such, you will pull down all the witness that you have ever borne for Christ. … Oh, the great thing the church needs is more holiness! The worst enemies of the church are not the infidels. … No, the worst enemies of the church are the hypocrites, the formalists, the mere professors, and the inconsistent walkers. …  

     May the Eternal Spirit, Who still winnows His church, blow away the chaff and heave only the good golden wheat upon the floor! And if you know yourselves to be living in any sin, may God help you to mourn over it, to loathe it, to go to Christ about it….

From The Gospel’s Power In A Christian’s Life

I have defined a hypocrite as a Christian who carries the name of Jesus Christ but not the nature of Jesus Christ. 

I remember once when a man who was virtually a stranger to me—but apparently knew that I was a pastor—walked up to me and said, “What do you think about your boy So-and-So?” The So-and-So he mentioned was a prominent pastor in another state who had just been caught doing some very sinful and embarrassing things. This stranger quickly painted me with the same brush! 

The phrase “one another” is so prominent in the New Testament, which means that we truly are all in this together. That’s why Charles Spurgeon warns us that a hypocritical lifestyle is not only damaging to the hypocrite’s life, but to the entire Christian community as well. 

So I also call for every Christian to “examine themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:28) for both known and hidden sins. We ought to regularly ask the Holy Spirit to point them out so that we can repent of them, make restitution, and strengthen the testimony of all Christians everywhere! 

Let me close with a final word from Dwight Moody, “The world finds plenty of difficulties on the way; let us see that we Christians do not add more stumbling-blocks by our un-Christlike walk.” 

To that I add a heartfelt “Amen!”

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be Careful

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. 

Be Careful

Having a form of godliness but denying its power…. (2 Timothy 3:5)

     Time was when to be a Christian was to be reviled, if not to be imprisoned and perhaps burned at the stake. Hypocrites were fewer in those days, for a profession cost too much. …  Today religion walks forth in her velvet slippers. And in certain classes and ranks, if men did not make some profession of religion, they would be looked upon with suspicion. Therefore men will take the name of Christian upon them and wear religion as a part of full dress. …

     I do not doubt that a form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are. … 

     Many who have the form of godliness are strangers to its power and so are in religion worldly, in prayer mechanical, in public one thing, and in private another. True godliness lies in spiritual power, and they who are without this are dead while they live. … 

     In the depths of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry? There must be vitality and substantiality—or else the form is utterly worthless and worse than worthless, for it may flatter you into deadly self-conceit. Moreover, there is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, to raise the spirits, or to strengthen the mind against the day of sickness or the hour of death. … 

     If you tremble at God’s Word, you have one of the surest marks of God’s elect. Those who fear that they are mistaken are seldom mistaken. If you search yourselves and allow the Word of God to search you, it is well with you. … 

     If the Spirit of God leads you to weep in secret for sin and to pray in secret for divine grace, if He leads you to seek after holiness, if He leads you to trust alone in Jesus, then you know the power of godliness, and you have never denied it.

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

Spurgeon mentioned the Pharisee that said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people. Especially like that tax collector over there.” Jesus said that the tax collector who humbly said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is the one who went home justified by God (see Luke 18:9-14). 

That’s where the warning comes in. When we begin to compare ourselves to others, when we begin to say, “I’m better than him” or “At least I don’t mess up as bad as she does,” instead of judging ourselves by God’s standard, we are in real danger of having merely a form of godliness without any real power. 

Paul said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” and challenged each of us to “test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:4). 

I would challenge everyone that calls themself a Christian to be careful! Don’t fool yourself by saying, “I do all of the things a Christian is supposed to do, so I must be standing firm.” But ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you even your hidden sins, and then just as the tax collector who experienced God’s reassurance in his heart did, pray: “God, be merciful to me. Help me to correct what’s wrong. May my life be godly not just in outward performance, but in the power that can only come from a vibrant, growing relationship with You!” 

Let’s all strive to not only have the form of godliness, but to have the real energizing power of godliness on full display in our daily lives.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do Your Own Growing

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. 

Do Your Own Growing

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:5) 

     But now, as these people had not got the power of godliness, how did they come to hold the form of it? This needs several answers. Some come by the form of godliness in a hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people, and they almost naturally take up with the profession of their fathers. … 

     Not generation but regeneration makes the Christian. You are not Christians because you can trace the line of fleshly descent throughout twenty generations of children of God. … Grace does not run in the blood. If you have no better foundation for your religion than your earthly parentage, you are in a wretched case. … 

     I have seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formal religiousness but a lacking heart. … Godliness should never be put on in order that we may put a wedding ring upon the finger. This is a sad abuse of religious profession. …  

     I put these things to you that there may be a great searching of hearts among us all and that we may candidly consider how we have come by our form of godliness. … 

     Let me remind you of the questionable value of that which springs out of fallen human nature. Assuredly, it brings no one into the spiritual kingdom, for ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Only ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:6). ‘You must be born again’ (3:7). Beware of everything that springs up in the field without the sowing of the Husbandman, for it will turn out to be a weed.

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is.” This is equally true for Christians! 

I’m a fourth-generation Pentecostal Christian, which means I was practically raised in a church building. But still I had to come to a point in my life where I had to decide: Do I believe that Jesus is my Savior just because my parents and grandparents believed this, or because I truly believed it for myself. All of us, regardless of our parentage, have to make this choice. 

Those who simply call themselves Christian without ever examining the root of their faith are those the apostle Paul described as having a form of godliness without the power, or what Spurgeon describes as a weed. But most sobering of all are those Christians-in-name-only to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” 

Please, my friend, make the choice to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior because you have personally put your faith in Him.

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Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

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

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

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

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Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples. 

Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path. 

Jesus prepares us for… 

1. OPPOSITION

Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways: 

    • Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own. 
    • You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.  
    • Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer. 
    • The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
    • Consider the source of the questioner. 
    • We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things. 
    • Love fulfills the law. 
    • When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.

2. DAILY LIVING

Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons. 

    • The power of faith-filled prayer
    • Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs 
    • We are only stewards of God’s resources 
    • The ugliness of hypocrisy

3. END TIMES EVENTS

Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29). 

So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is. 

Viewing Abortion As Slavery

In our American history, we have many valuable lessons. Some of these lessons come from sad chapters that now we have the benefit of hindsight to see the error of our ways. But with this hindsight, there should come insight into the issues which currently face us.

Slavery was an abhorrent evil that plagued our country. Thankfully there were strong men who forcefully and persuasively spoke out against the horrors of slavery; men like Frederick Douglass. His address “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?” is a masterpiece of statesmanship!

Those under the oppression of slavery had no choice. They weren’t allowed speak for themselves, so they depended upon free men and women to speak for them.

Much the same today, babies who are aborted in the womb have no choice, no voice. They cannot speak for themselves, so it is up to us to speak out for them against this abhorrent evil that plagues our country.

I would ask you to consider some of the words of Frederick Douglass where the terms for slavery are replaced with the terms for abortion.

“Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding [aborted baby] on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate [abortion]—the great sin and shame of America! … 

“The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. … 

“Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of [an unborn baby’s] liberty, hear only [the abortionist]! … 

“A religion which favors [‘choice’] against the [unborn baby]; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, [pro-choice] and [pro-life]; which says to the [baby in the womb, you don’t matter]; and to the [abortionist, continue on]; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and [killers] of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies His fatherhood of [all human life], and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. … 

“The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold [abortion]; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish [abortion]. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. … Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against [abortion]; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds….

“O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Good Religion Must Be Practical

“Religion which has no practical impact on our daily lives quickly becomes a vague, abstract notion that amounts to nothing. Yet many have nothing more than an empty profession to prove they are Christians. …

“A good Christian but a nagging wife, a godly man but a negligent father—these are contradictions that cannot be reconciled. The man who does not walk uprightly in his own house is nothing more than a hypocrite at church. If you are not a Christian in your shop, you are not a Christian in your closet—even though you may pray there.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor

More quotes from this book can be found here and here.

Links & Quotes

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“There is a burden of care in getting riches; fear in keeping them; temptation in using them; guilt in abusing them; sorrow in losing them; and a burden of account at last to be given concerning them.” —Matthew Henry

“Don’t imagine I doubt for a moment that what God sends us must be sent in love and will all be for the best if we have grace to use it so. My mind doesn’t waver on this point; my feelings sometimes do. That’s why it does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice….” ―C.S. Lewis

“Our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power.” —John Piper

Have you seen all the videos of one of Obamacare’s architects, Jonathan Gruber? Here is the story behind the man, Rich Weinstein, who unearthed all of these clips and exposed the outright lies and hypocrisy. And this video compilation is just a sampling of the lies—

Links & Quotes

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“How can you know when you are trusting in man rather than in God? If you fall apart when someone else lets you down, or if the actions of others affect your walk with God, then you know you are leaning on the arm of flesh!” —David Wilkerson

“Hypocrisy turns people against God, so He has a no-tolerance policy. Let’s take hypocrisy as seriously as God does. For starters, expect no credit for good deeds. None! If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. If no one knew of the good you do, would you still do it? If not, you’re doing it to be seen by people.” —Max Lucado

Intersting ongoing studies about the brain development of children born before full-term pregnancy.

“Let not the fact that the answer seems farther off than ever be any discouragement to you. Remember that to trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark—that is faith. To rest upon God when everything witnesses with God—that is nothing; but to believe God when everything gives Him the lie—that is faith. To believe that all shall go well when outward providences blow softly is any fool’s play, but to believe that it must and shall be well when storms and tempests are round about you, and you are blown farther and farther from the harbor of your desire—this is a work of grace.” —Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Romans 4:19-20

For my pastor friends: “As a minister of the gospel, have you ever considered why you have a salary and a place to live, and so are freed from the need of holding a regular job? The reason is so that you can continue in prayer and the ministry of the Word. These will give you the necessary wisdom and anointing for your work. And that is the secret of a fruitful ministry. No wonder there are often complaints about the ineffective spiritual life of a minister and his congregation. That which is of prime importance—perseverance in prayer—does not occupy its rightful place.” —Andrew Murray

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