Thursdays With Spurgeon—Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

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

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

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

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

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

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

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

8 Quotes From “Warnings To The Churches”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel Of The Kingdom (book review)

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

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

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

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

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

I am a Wax Tablet Publications book reviewer. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Following The Prompting

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.

Following The Prompting

     I once while preaching at New Park Street Chapel. I had passed happily through all the early parts of divine service on the Sabbath evening and was giving out the hymn before the sermon. I opened the Bible to find the text, which I had carefully studied as the topic of discourse, when, on the opposite page, another passage of Scripture sprang upon me like a lion from a thicket with vastly more power then I had felt when considering the text that I had chosen. The people were singing and I was sighing. I was in a strait between two, and my mind hung as in the balances. I was naturally desirous to run in the track that I had carefully planned, but the other text would take no refusal and seemed to tug at my skirts, crying, “No, no, you must preach from me! God would have you follow me.” I deliberated within myself as to my duty, for I would neither be fanatical nor unbelieving, and at last I thought within myself, Well, I should like to preach the sermon that I have prepared, and it is a great risk to run to strike out a new line of thought, but as this text constrains me, it may be of the Lord, and therefore I will venture upon it, come what may.

     I had brought myself into great difficulty by obeying what I thought to be a divine impulse, and I felt comparatively easy about it, believing that God would help me and knowing that I could at least close the service should there be nothing more to be said. I had no need to deliberate, for in one moment we were in total darkness. The gas had gone out…. Having no manuscript, I could speak just as well in the dark as in the light…. When the lamps were lit again, I saw before me an audience as rapt and subdued as ever a man beheld in his life. … Thus, providence befriended me. I cast myself upon God, and His arrangements quenched the light at the proper time for me. Some may ridicule, but I adore; others may even censure, but I rejoice.

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

God can speak to pastors as clearly in his or her sermon preparation time as He can in the very moments before the sermon begins. The key is our obedience to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

Spurgeon would never advocate that preachers “wing it” every time they step into the pulpit. His own life showed a man of diligent study of the Scripture. But neither would Spurgeon say that preachers have to stick to their prepared remarks no matter what. What I think he would say is: Trust God when you’re studying for a sermon, and trust God when you’re delivering a sermon. Allow the Spirit to change your course at any moment. 

Is this a bit nerve-wracking? Spurgeon would say, “Yes, only when deliberating whether to strike out on the new course.” But notice how once he obeyed that prompting, he felt completely at ease.

Spurgeon also reminds us, “I do not see why a man cannot speak extemporaneously upon a subject that he fully understands. Any tradesman, well versed in his line of business, could explain it without needing to retire for meditation, and surely I ought to be equally familiar with the first principles of our holy faith. I ought not to feel at a loss when called upon to speak upon topics that constitute the daily bread of my soul.”

9 Quotes From “Shepherding God’s Flock”

T.M. Moore has given pastors a phenomenal training resource in Shepherding God’s Flock. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The work of church leaders today—and especially of that class of leaders called elders, with which this study is concerned—has been shaped and conditioned more by the temper of our times than by the teaching of God’s Word.” 

“According to Paul, any church that does not have in place elders—and other leaders working with them—who are functioning as shepherds is a church that is not in order.… A church without a strong ministry of shepherding is a flock without genuine pastoral care, oversight, and equipping. It may be very active, even happy, and may be ‘growing’ in what some consider impressive ways. But without shepherding as the framework and integrating dynamic, such a church will always be something less than what God intends.” 

“Where the work of shepherding is being faithfully pursued, the gospel goes forth with power, lost sheep are located, and the flocks of God grow as He adds new souls to the fold.” 

“Where faithful shepherds are at work, the Lord’s sheep will be well fed. Both milk and the meat of the Word will be their daily diet, according to the needs and callings of each. Well-fed sheep are healthy, strong, and fruitful in their own contributions.” 

“The work of shepherding begins in relationships of mutual love and trust, spiritual friendships where sheep and shepherd know, love, and care about one another.” 

“Only when the people feel known and loved, and only when they know and love those who are called to lead them—only then will they be willing to follow where the shepherds of the church are seeking to take them.” 

“In the Christian life, people tend to live up to or achieve, not the level of their abilities, for their abilities are virtually limitless, given the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Rather, they tend to live up to the level of their vision—of what they see for their lives in Christ. Unless we are leading them into God’s vision for their lives, the people of God will settle for something less than the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

“When temptation arises we can follow one of two courses. Either we will fall through temptation into sin, or we will grow through temptation into a higher stage of sanctification. … The shepherd’s task is twofold: first, he must help the Lord’s sheep to recognize temptation, by grounding them firmly in the law and Word of God; second, he must equip and encourage them in finding the way of escape from temptation, so that they may grow as the Lord intends.” 

“Jesus’ approach to bearing witness was thus energetic, proactive, continuous, compassionate, and pioneering. Should we expect anything less from the shepherds He has left to bring other lost sheep into His fold?”

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

Poetry Saturday—Let Not My Words

Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord, 
like Onan’s wasted, self-indulgent seed.
Let mine convey Your ever-fruitful Word,

and let them be far-flung, and gladly heard 
or read according to each person’s need.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,

like some discarded, useless, broken shard.
Let many take them up, and as they read, 
let my words bear Your ever-fruitful Word;

and in the chambers of men’s souls, deep bored, 
let them embed and germinate with speed.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,

but draw them from Your scabbard with Your Sword, 
and both together for Your glory wield.
Let mine with Yours be ever fruitful, Lord. 

This calling, this vocation, let me heed
with diligence and faithfulness, I plead.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,
but let them prove Your ever-fruitful Word. —T.M. Moore (based on 1 Samuel 3:19)
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