Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holding Two Extreme Truths

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.

Holding Two Extreme Truths

     This is a deep, unsearchable mystery. Man walks without a leash yet treads in the very steps that God ordained him to tread in as certainly as though manacles had bound him to the spot! Man chooses his own seat, selects his own position; guided by his will, he chooses sin, or guided by divine grace, he chooses right. And yet in His choice God sits as sovereign on the throne, not disturbing but still overruling and proving Himself to be as able to deal with free creatures as with creatures without freedom. As able to effect His purpose when He has endowed men with thought and reason and judgment, as when He had only to deal with the solid rocks and with the imbedded sea.

     O Christians! You will never be able to fathom this, but you may wonder at it. I know there is an easy way of getting out of this great deep either by denying predestination altogether or by denying free agency altogether. But you can hold the two: You can say, “Yes, my consciousness teaches me that man does as he wills, but my faith teaches me that God does as He wills, and these two are not contrary the one to the other. And yet I cannot tell how it is. I cannot tell how God effects His end. I can only wonder, and say, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!’” (Romans 11:33). Every creature is free and doing as it wills, yet God is freer still and doing as He wills not only in heaven, but also among the inhabitants of this lower earth. 

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose

The debate has raged for years: predestination vs. freewill. 

People will sometimes ask me, “Are you a Calvinist (predestination) or an Arminian (freewill)?” And I always give the same answer, “Yes, I am a solid Cal-minian!” As with most things that are difficult for our finite, human minds to grasp about God’s nature, the answer is not either-or but it’s both-and.

C.S. Lewis captured the same sentiments as Spurgeon. Lewis always said the best course between two immovable ideas was right between them. He added, “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem” (emphasis mine).

Spurgeon would agree—there never was any problem, at least not with God. Any problems of understanding are in ourselves, not in Him. So far better than choosing one over the other, choose the both-and, and then stand in awe and wonder and worship that our infinite God is sovereign over all. Even over our puny, limited theologies and doctrines. 

6 Quotes From “Do More Better”

Tim Challies has a highly practical guide to helping you learn how to be more productive for God’s glory. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your purpose.” 

“Your good works make God look great before a watching world.” [see Titus 3:8; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Matthew 5:16] 

“What is productivity? Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” 

“The absence of productivity or the presence of woefully diminished productivity is first a theological problem.” 

“You do not exist in this world to get things done. You exist to glorify God by benefiting others.” 

“Idolatry: taking on the tasks that glorify us, not the tasks that glorify God.” 

Life In The Spirit Study Bible (book review)

I love to read, averaging about 30 books per year. In addition to books, I have a lot of news feeds that I check daily. But hands down, everything else comes in a distant second place to my number-one read: the Bible. 

I read the Bible for myself. I read the Bible to prepare my Sunday messages. I read the Bible to teach classes. I read the Bible to confirm or refute what I am reading in other books and news feeds. And with all that Bible reading, I have also gravitated toward my favorite study Bible—The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. 

At one time people referred to this Bible as “the fire Bible” because of the graphic on the front cover depicting the fire that fell on praying Christians at the Pentecost celebration immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven. That fire still falls in my heart every time I read God’s Word!

The study notes in this Bible are fantastic! But don’t be deceived by the name: these are not study notes that focus on the Holy Spirit out of proportion; rather, the role of the Spirit is merely noted where others have ignored it. Far too many people don’t ponder very much about the Holy Spirit’s involvement, except for perhaps the Book of Acts and maybe Paul’s instruction on the operational gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. The Life In The Spirit Study Bible simply seeks to make us aware of the Spirit’s involvement. 

In addition to the short commentary notes at the bottom of each page, there are several insightful and scholarly articles throughout this whole book that will make the Scripture come alive in new ways. 

This is my “preaching Bible” that I take with me for every sermon I deliver, which means it is the Bible I am diving deep into each day as I study. I cannot recommend this Bible to you highly enough. 

Soul And Spirit

If I were to ask you to define the material/physical part of you versus the immaterial part of you, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Obviously, we can touch the physical part but we cannot touch the immaterial part. 

But human as a three-part being—we have a body, a soul, and a spirit. So if I were to now ask you to describe the “dividing line” between the two immaterial parts of us (the soul and the spirit), you would probably have a more difficult time coming up with a definition. 

Both terms are used throughout the Bible. Sometimes it seems the words soul and spirit are almost used interchangeably, but they are most assuredly two separate parts of what makes us us. 

Please check out this chart that I shared with my friends at Calvary Assembly of God, and perhaps even take a few minutes to watch the video below. If you would like to download a PDF version of this chart, you may do so by clicking here → Soul and spirit side-by-side

Verses referenced—Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 4:12

9 Quotes From “Surprised By Paradox”

Jen Pollock Michel has given us a thought-provoking look into her thoughts of some of the and solutions to the either-or challenges many Christians face. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Allowing for paradox does not represent a weakened approach to theological understanding. On the contrary, it allows for a robust theology, one that is filled with the sort of awe that not only regards God as unimaginably wondrous but also awakens in us the same desire Moses had to see Him as He is.” 

“As psychologists have described it, awe is ‘the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our world to accommodate it.’ Awe is our slack-jawed response to natural phenomena like waterfalls and childbirth. To feel awe is to confirm a beautiful, wild universe, a world we neither made nor control. … For those of us inclined to religious belief, awe nurtures our certainty about God.”

“Modernity gave us more certainty than uncertainty—or at the very least certainty in certainty. We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle. We are no longer victims of the unknowable: we are masters of our own understanding. The great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” 

“It is an old sin seduced by an old lie that we can be like God, perfectly knowing as He knows.… As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship Him as He is.” 

“I also get tricked into thinking that the world must quiet around me if I mean to meet God. I forget the paradox of the burning bush: that Moses met God at Horeb on an unspectacular day, that his encounter with God was less planned and more happenstance. God did not speak to Moses as the prophet sat cross-legged and silent, his hands folded in reverent to prayer. God blazed up in the landscape of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. This seems to be how it goes with God: a spiritual life is a material one.” 

“The paradox of God’s story is that He’s chosen to write its timelessness in the ticking heart of His Son and that He’s choosing to write it in our ticking hearts too.” 

“If the kingdom is good news, it surely isn’t safe. Because there is no square inch of our lives Jesus doesn’t intend to rule.” 

“To define grace apart from the Cross would be to say that God is simply given to leniency. It would be to essentially say that there are rules which we break and break badly, but God reassures us kindly that ‘it’s no big deal.’… The Cross speaks a thundering word about the cosmic big deal that is sin.” 

“To receive grace, we need humility. The only prerequisite for grace is empty hands. We have done nothing to make God notice us, and He is not impressed by us.” 

The Essential Jonathan Edwards (book review)

Some have called Jonathan Edwards the greatest American theologian, and I think it would be very hard to dispute that. Not only was he a brilliant thinker, but Edwards was also a prolific speaker and writer. So Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney have taken on a monumental challenge in attempting to give us an accurate glimpse of this important man in their book The Essential Jonathan Edwards. 

The first part of the book is a short biography of Edwards’ life. The biography is told alternating between the biography of Strachan and Sweeney and the words Edwards recounted in his sermons and memoirs. 

The remainder of the book attempts to give the reader a sense of Edwards’ thoughts on topics such as the beauty of God’s creation, the joy of experiencing God’s pleasure, the essential nature of the Christian life, and the after-life. These topics are covered in the same way as the biographical portion—alternating between the actual words of Jonathan Edwards and the summation of Strachan and Sweeney. 

I found this book a bit frustrating. I would have preferred a more traditional biography of this great man or a collection of Edwards’ sermons verbatim. But the alternation between Edwards’ words and Strachan and Sweeney’s thoughts didn’t flow very well for me. 

My recommendation would be to either read George Marsden’s full or shortened biographies of Edwards, or simply read a collection of Edwards’ sermons. 

I am a Moody Press book reviewer.

10 Quotes From “Yours, Jack”

Reading the collection of letters in Yours, Jack was a real treat, helping me to get to know the personality of the man behind so many of my favorite books. To read my full book review on these letters from C.S. Lewis, please click here. 

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’” 

“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil—the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathize or ‘agree’: His sympathy with my real will makes that impossible.” 

“The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. … Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.” 

“So few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.” 

“The practical problem about charity (in our prayers) is very hard work, isn’t it? When you pray for Hitler and Stalin, how do you actually teach yourself to make the prayer real? The two things that help me are (A) A continual grasp of the idea that one is only joining one’s feeble little voice to the perpetual intercession of Christ, who died for those very men (B) A recollection, as firm as one can make it, of all one’s own cruelty which might have blossomed, under different conditions, into something terrible. You and I are not, at bottom, so different from these ghastly creatures.” 

“No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we noticed the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.” 

“I think we are meant to enjoy our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the bird’s song and the frosty sunrise.” 

“Keep clear of psychiatrists unless you know that they are also Christians. Otherwise they start with the assumption that your religion is an illusion and try to ‘cure’ it: and this assumption they make not as professional psychologists but as amateur philosophers. Often they have never given the question any serious thought.” 

Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heavens. So it would be impious to call ourselves ‘miserable.’ On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy.” 

“Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married? I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” 

More C.S. Lewis quotes coming soon. And you can also check out some of the quotes I’m sharing on Tumblr and Facebook. 

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