Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Death Of The Christian

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. 

The Death Of The Christian

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     Let me tell you a parable. Behold, two men sat together in the same house when Death came to each of them. He said to one, ‘You will die.’ 

     That man looked at him. Tears suffused his eyes, and tremblingly he said, ‘O Death, I cannot! I will not die.’ He sought out a physician and said to him, ‘I am sick, for death has looked upon me. His eyes have paled my cheeks, and I fear I must depart. Physician, there is my wealth. Give me health and let me live.’ The physician took his wealth but gave him not his health with all his skill. The man changed his physician, tried another, and thought that perhaps he might spin out the thread of life a little longer.

     But alas! Death came and said, ‘I have given you time to try your varied excuses. Come with me. You will die.’ And he bound him hand and foot and made him go to that dark land of Hades. As the man went, he clutched at every side post by the way, but Death, with iron hands, still pulled him on. … He did not come to his grave, but death fetched him to it; the grave came to him.

     But death said to the other man, ‘I am come for you.’ 

     He smilingly replied, ‘Ah, Death! I know you; I have seen you many a time. I have held communion with you. You are my Master’s servant. You have come to fetch me home. Go and tell my Master I am ready, whenever He pleases. Death, I am ready to go with you.’ And together they went along the road and held sweet company.

     Death said to him, ‘I have worn these skeleton bones to frighten wicked men. But I am not frightful. I will let you see myself. The hand that wrote upon Belshazzar’s wall was terrible because no man saw anything but the hand. But,’ said Death, ‘I will show you my whole body. Men have only seen my bony hand and have been terrified.’ 

     And as they went along, Death ungirded himself to let the Christian see his body, and he smiled, for it was the body of an angel. He had wings of cherubs and a body glorious as Gabriel. The Christian said to him, ‘You are not what I thought you were. I will cheerfully go with you.’ At last Death touched the believer with his hand. … So did Death put his finger on the man’s pulse and stopped it for a moment, and the Christian found himself by Death’s kind finger changed into a spirit. Yes, found himself brother to the angels. His body had been etherealized, his soul purified, and he himself was in heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

I love God’s timing. In my ongoing series looking at the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, I simply turned the page to the next sermon for this week, and this parable was especially timed for me because my Mom just passed away on December 26. 

What a godly woman she was! 

What a thrill it is to know that Death did not take her to her grave, but that she came to her grave at full age, fully ripened in God’s timing. Our family is at peace because we know that my Mom is now at Home with her Savior Jesus—the home she has been longing for! 

Our family loves the promise in 1 Thessalonians: And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve because we will miss her, but we have such an unshakable hope of her eternal home! Paul goes on to tell us that we should “encourage each other with these words” (v. 18). 

So let me encourage you, my friend, with this question: Will Death have to take you to the grave, or will you come willingly with him? If you have your sins forgiven because you have placed your faith in the sin-forgiving work Jesus Christ did upon His Cross, then Death will have no fear for you. If you are uncertain or fearful, don’t lose another moment! Pray to God: admit you are a sinner who is helplessly trapped in your sin, believe that Jesus paid the full penalty for your sin, and then ask God to forgive your sins because of your faith in Jesus. The moment you do that, you will be completely forgiven and the fear of Death will be removed. 

If you have any questions about this, please get in touch with me.

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Perelandra (book review)

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

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis is the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy. Of all the books in this series, this is the only book that I would recommend reading the first book—Out Of The Silent Planet—first, so that you can fully appreciate the story. 

Out Of The Silent Planet took place on Malacandra (or Mars) where our protagonist Dr. Elwin Ransom learns the Old Solar language and clashes with the antagonist Dr. Edward Weston. Perelandra (or Venus) is the setting of this second book, which essentially picks up right from the conclusion of book one. 

Although C.S. Lewis had much stricter definitions for terms like “allegory” or “parable,” his fantasy stories in both this space trilogy and his Narnian books clearly are telling a much grander and more real Story than merely the fictional accounts in these books. This concept is on full display in Perelandra. 

In the biblical account of the temptation of Eve, the whole affair is covered rather quickly. The devil says, “Eat the fruit,” to which Eve replies, “We’re not supposed to.” And then the devil says, “Nothing bad will happen to you if you do eat it,” and she does it. In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis takes us back to that scene and imagines the debate that might have happened, with Ransom counseling the Lady of Perelandra to obey, and Weston (or at least Weston’s body) trying to convince her to bravely disobey. The interplay between these three characters is quite fascinating. 

This story is a very enjoyable read on its own, but I found that the backstory of Out Of The Silent Planet increased my enjoyment in reading this book again. Whenever you choose to read this book, you are in for—with all due apologies to C.S. Lewis—a lovely allegory! 

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Prideful Prayer

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

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14) 

I think the NIV footnote on verse 11 is the most accurate rendering of “the Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself.” The footnote says, “He prayed TO himself.” He made himself God, which, if you will recall, is exactly how satan tempted Adam and Eve—you will be like God (Genesis 3:5). 

In a portion of William Cowper’s poem Truth, he addresses the pride of the Pharisee, and warns us that this could be our pride too if we aren’t carefully guarding our hearts. 

Who judged the Pharisee? What odious cause
Exposed him to the vengeance of the laws?
Had he seduced a virgin, wrong’d a friend,
Or stabb’d a man to serve some private end?
Was blasphemy his sin? Or did he stray
From the strict duties of the sacred day?
Sit long and late at the carousing board?
(Such were the sins with which he charged his Lord.)
No—the man’s morals were exact. What then?
‘Twas his ambition to be seen of men;
His virtues were his pride; and that one vice
Made all his virtues gewgaws [gyoo-gaws] of no price;
He wore them as fine trappings for a show,
A praying, synagogue-frequenting beau.
The self-applauding bird, the peacock, see—
Mark what a sumptuous Pharisee is he!
Meridian sunbeams tempt him to unfold
His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold:
He treads as if, some solemn music near,
His measured step were govern’d by his ear;
And seems to say—“Ye meaner fowl give place;
I am all splendour, dignity, and grace!”
Not so the pheasant on his charms presumes,
Though he, too, has a glory in his plumes.
He, Christian-like, retreats with modest mien
To the close copse or far sequester’d green,
And shines without desiring to be seen.
The plea of works, as arrogant and vain,
Heaven turns from with abhorrence and disdain;
Not more affronted by avow’d neglect,
Than by the mere dissembler’s feign’d respect.
What is all righteousness that men devise?
What—but a sordid bargain for the skies!
But Christ as soon would abdicate His own,
As stoop from heaven to sell the proud a throne.

When the writer of Hebrews says that we can approach the throne of grace boldly, it is clear that it is not because of our righteous deeds, even if they are as exacting and as perfect as a Pharisee. We can only come boldly into God’s presence because we come in the name and the righteousness of Jesus. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” 

Adding “in Jesus name” to the end of our prayers isn’t a password that opens the storeroom of Heaven, but it is a reminder that we have nothing in ourselves to commend us to God. We come boldly only in Jesus.

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Hidden Treasure And One Valuable Pearl

I am always blessed to sit under the ministry of Jeff Hlavin! These are some of my notes from his message Calvary Assembly of God on Sunday, but you really should watch the whole message. 

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

There are at least two possible perspectives about the meaning and the application of these two parables:

First Perspective: Jesus is the One who finds and seeks. 

The field is the world, and Jesus paid the price for the whole field/world to be His. 

Second Perspective: We are the ones doing the discovering. 

Jesus provides Himself as the Treasure of treasures. So taking up our cross to follow Him is not a morbid thing. There is overwhelming joy because of the extravagant treasure that is ours when we do so! 

1. It’s about our response to discovering His Kingdom.

2. It’s about our appropriate response to His Kingdom.

3. It’s about the whole-hearted appropriate response which the Kingdom of God requires.

4. It’s about the value of His Kingdom.

5. It’s about the primacy of His Kingdom.

Three Observations:

Both individuals are alike in that…

  1. Both of them know there is more to life than what they have. Neither one of them considers what they’re doing as a sacrifice because of what they’re gaining! 
  2. Both of them recognize what is missing when they find it.
  3. Both of them recognize that what they have found is of far more inestimable value than everything else they have.

One Saturday In Bethany

Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story takes place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry. 

As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.

Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.

Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and simply recline at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally. 

Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees 

Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet. 

Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public. 

Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them. 

Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.” 

Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.” 

Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).

At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?” 

Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room. 

What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men? 

Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him? 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection. 

15 Quotes On Prayer From J.C. Ryle

In my current Bible reading time, I am reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels as a read-along companion with my Bible. Bishop Ryle correctly feels the weight and effectiveness of prayer in the life of a Christian. Here are some of his quotes regarding prayer. 

“If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer, they are positive blessings.” 

“It is not for us to prescribe either the time or the way in which our requests are to be answered.… Let us rather ‘continue in prayer,’ ‘watch unto prayer,’ ‘pray always and not faint.’” 

“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working and yet so little result in positive conversions to God—so many sermons, and so few souls saved—so much machinery, and so little effect produced—so much running here and there and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple: there is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. … The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.” 

“If we would have good ministers we must remember our Lord’s example and pray for them. Their work is heavy. Their responsibility is enormous. Their strength is small. Let us see that we support them and hold up their hands by our prayers.” 

“Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit and return with praise.” 

“Let a petition for more faith form a part of all our daily prayers. As ever we would have peace, and calmness, and quietness of spirit, let us often say, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’” 

“Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master. Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything when the path of duty is clear and the voice of God calls. Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently when they come from a Father’s hand.” 

“We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder. We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture.”

“Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. … Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel—and they ought to pray for it daily.” 

“Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:17, 18). This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work.” 

“Daily bread and daily mercy are by far the first and principal things that mortal man needs. He is the rich man who possesses them. He is the wise man who is not ashamed to pray for them every day.” 

“Nothing that concerns God’s people is too little for Him to manage or for them to bring before Him in prayer.”

“‘He spoke a parable to this end: that men ought always to pray, and not to give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second advent, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is prayer without fainting during the long weary intervals between the first and second advents which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up.” 

“Let us often pray that we may have wisdom from above in order to answer rightly when perplexing questions are put to us. The servant of Christ must expect a portion like his Master. He must count it no strange thing if the wicked and worldly-minded endeavor to entangle him in his talk, and to provoke him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.” 

“Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace.” 

How Is Your Heart Hearing?

Therefore take heed how you hear… (Luke 8:18).

Therefore—when I see this word, I need to ask, “What came before?” Jesus has just shared the parable of the sower and given its fuller explanation to His disciples. Now Jesus is speaking privately to His disciples and telling them, “Be very attentive to how you are hearing My words.”  

Why would Jesus tell them that? He says that the way we pay attention to His words can either bring more blessing to our lives, or cause us to miss out on His blessings: “For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken away from him” (v. 18). 

In other words, every single one of us has the capacity to have hearts like all four types of soil Jesus talked about in His parable: hard, rocky, thorny, productive. 

I must be attentive to how I’m listening to Christ’s words…

  • …with a prepared (plowed) heart 
  • …not preoccupied with worldly things
  • …ready to obey what He says
  • …ready to share the blessings of what I hear with others

Lord, my heart is ready. Speak to me. I am ready to hear, ready to obey, and ready to share. Give me more insight into what You are saying to me.

The Q Series—Parables, End Times, And Prayer

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week we tackled questions like:

  • What does Christ’s Parable of the Sower mean?
  • Can people lose their salvation?
  • Are micro-chips implanted in humans the start of “the mark of the beast”?
  • What does “666” stand for?
  • Why aren’t all of my prayers answered?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • The Parable of the Sower [1:27]
  • What is a parable? [2:19] **Be sure to check out What Was Jesus Teaching In The Parables? on Biblegateway
  • Who is the farmer in this parable? [4:30]
  • “The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture” [5:14]
  • Can someone lose their salvation? [7:42]
  • Keep sowing seed [11:51]
  • Eternal security? [13:50]
  • The Scripture has “a lot of faces” [17:20]
  • Are micro-chips “the mark of the beast”? [20:37]
  • What is gematria? How does this fit with 666? [22:58]
  • 666 falls short of God’s perfection [25:54]
  • The antichrist is a parody of Jesus Christ [26:08]
  • What is the significance of 666 on the right hand and forehead? [27:31]
  • To understand the future, look to an historic event [29:05]
  • A lesson from the socialism of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler [29:49]
  • A quote from Dr. Erwin Lutzer [31:15]
  • Why did Jesus talk about material possession so much? [32:48]
  • Why aren’t all my prayers answered? [36:36] **Be sure to check out Praying With Authority on Biblegateway.
  • How do we pray “in Jesus’ name”? [37:07]
  • How did Jesus speak to His Father in prayer? [39:10]
  • James on unanswered prayers [41:32]
  • Perseverance in prayer [43:30]

We will be answering your questions one more time next Sunday. Please click here to find all the ways you can submit your questions.

The Gospels Side-By-Side (book review)

Gospels Side By SideI love reading. But hands-down, without a doubt, my favorite book to read is the Bible. So I’m always intrigued by any resource that can help me get more out of my time in the Scriptures. In The Gospels Side-By-Side by Rose Publishing, I found a goldmine.

This short pamphlet is chockfull of graphics, charts, maps and historical background information  that helped me see the bigger picture of the story of Jesus that the Gospel writers were conveying to us. It begins with the unique perspective of each Gospel writer, and launches us deeper into the Bible from there.

In this book you will see things like:

  • The events of Christ’s life, and which Gospel tells particular events
  • The miracles of Jesus
  • The parables of Jesus
  • The chronological movements of Jesus
  • How Jesus celebrated Passovers during His public ministry
  • How these biblical biographies compare to other biographies of the era
  • Even the historical harmony of the Gospel message in the post-apostolic age

This should bring new life to any Bible student’s reading time! I highly recommend you check out not only this pamphlet, but many of the other resources available at Rose Publishing.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the book…

 

Screen Shot -Christ's movesScreenshot - gospel writers

The Lesson Of The Lost Brooch

Corrie ten BoomCorrie ten Boom shares this memorable story about patience in her book I Stand At The Door And Knock

The old story of the lost brooch really helped me.

A lady lost a valuable brooch at the theater. She noticed it was missing when she arrived home. Early the next day she rang the caretaker of the theater and asked if he had found the brooch. “No,” he said, “but where was your seat? I will go and have a look if it is under your seat.”

“My seat was on the fifth row, number two.” The man went to have a look and found the brooch.

He went to the telephone and said, “Yes, I am pleased to tell you I found your brooch. Hello? Hello?”

There was no reply; she had impatiently hung up the phone. She will never know that her brooch was found.

The Holy Spirit teaches us to have great expectations for the Lord. Listen to the Lord. If you don’t hear His voice immediately, wait patiently. Waiting for the Lord is a blessing too. He is a good Shepherd. And a good Shepherd speaks to His sheep. Don’t put the receiver down too quickly. He loves you and has so much to say to you.

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