Characteristics of Truth Faith, Pt 1

There are many misconceptions about faith these days. Some think of it as a commodity, saying ‘I wish I had your faith.’ Others think of it simply as the means of salvation to deliver us from hell. Much of the evangelistic preaching in recent years has been directed in that way. ‘Believe and on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ they say, then a decision is made and it is as if there were no further implications for an ongoing life of obedience. Many are under the impression that their exercise of faith frees them from the law; ‘Once saved, always saved’ after all. Such faith is superficial.

Is this the faith that is so highly extolled in Hebrews 11? In that eulogy on faith, Abraham is given the chief place. He is more fully portrayed that anyone else in the gallery as the father of the faithful. Reference is made to him some ninety times in the New Testament. He is the pattern that we are to follow.

There are three things in particular in his life that demonstrate the nature of true faith–

True Faith Changes our Entire Perspective

In God’s Dealings with Abraham, we have the beginning of the redemptive activity that will lead to the unfolding of the covenant of grace. We see three things:

The Divine Initiative– Abraham is a shining example of the divine initiative. At the time of his call he was living in the Ur of The Chaldees, ‘worshiping other gods’ (Joshua 24:2), and in pagan darkness. He had no thought of the true God.

Suddenly, as we are told in Acts 7:2, by the martyr Stephen, ‘the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesapotamia’. He is described as ‘the God of glory’ because his glory is his self-manifestation. What kind of reaction this must have produced in Abraham’s mind! It was like the revelation that Isaiah had in the temple, a sovereign revelation and call, and he was given grace to respond to it. So it is for everyone that is ‘born of the Spirit’.

Absolute Obedience– ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called… obeyed’ (Hebrews 11:8). It was an efficacious call. He had not fulfilled the purpose of his creation– to glorify God. He had rather dethroned the living God and set up idols of his own imagination. God’s call was to bring Abraham back to allegiance to himself and there must be an immediate and unqualified response. He had to come out from among the pagan worshipers and make God his own God and his inheritance. The Word of God became everything to him and he did nothing that was not by the command of God. As Thomas Manton observes: ‘Faith is the life of our lives, the soul that animates the whole body of obedience’.
Separation to God– Abraham’s entire perspective changed. He was formerly living for the riches and honours of this life, but he began to live life in terms of his final destiny. He was set free from the desire to make this world his home because God promised him an inheritance. This inheritance was a ‘better country’ and ‘a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God’. It is the fatherland or the homeland where God dwells. He has prepared it for people and he is their ultimate inheritance. The whole plan is beautifully portrayed in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, where we see Christian fleeing from the City of Destruction and journeying on to the Celestial City. – to be continued

– John J. Murray

No Holiness, No Heaven

The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people,
not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.
– Charles Spurgeon

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference,
in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe
that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.
– J. C. Ryle

Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately kind, fixed upright.
– Charles Spurgeon

Blind zeal is soon put to a shameful retreat, while holy resolution, built on fast principles,
lifts up its head like a rock in the midst of the waves.
– William Gurnall

The well-defined spiritual life is not only the highest life, but it is also the most easily lived.
The whole cross is more easily carried than the half. It is the man who tries to make the best of both
worlds who makes nothing of either. And he who seeks to serve two masters misses the benediction of both.
– Henry Drummond

“If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry in which to go to hell.
– C. H. Spurgeon

Spiritual Drowsiness, Pt 2

The way to avoid sleeping when poisonous gas fills the room is to run for fresh air and to breathe deeply. We owe it to God and to our salvation to run for fresh oxygen for the soul in this present crisis. What is to stop us all from a radical re-appraisal of our present life-style?

Sleep is a remarkable phenomenon. It is a kind of animated death. In sleep we are
oblivious to the real world. The thief may be at the door, or the fire already running
up the curtains of the bedroom. But when asleep we neither notice, or know, or care.
On the other hand, in the dreams of sleep, we care for what is unreal and delusive.
Men flee from savage beasts, or fall from cliffs, or sail to treasure islands. Our attention
is taken up with what is fictional and fictitious.

Just so is the sleep which comes upon men’s souls in ages when the gospel is weak. Armies of heresies threaten the church and people of God; but the church’s watchmen are so fast in slumber that they neither realise nor care. When here and there a faithful voice is raised in warning, there is a general outcry and a demand for the maintenance of silence. Or there may happen some scandalous abuse which threatens to mar the church’s reputation and her credibility. But when sleep has laid the faculties of the soul to rest, men resent the unpopular question and seek to smother the healthy spirit of enquiry. Nothing is so unwelcome to a sleepy man as the alarm which summons him from his bed.

When soul-drowsiness is widespread, men are all taken up with childish dreams and empty trifles. They make great sound and bluster about small matters of procedure and right order. But they may as easily overlook the great matters of justice, mercy and truth as those Pharisees who ‘strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel’ (Matt. 23:24). The cry is for more sleep, and woe be to him who tries to wake them!

None who is even half-awake needs to wonder what the explanation is for the state of our modern societies. True religion is banished from the schoolroom and from the media. The slaughter of aborted infants proceeds like a daily holocaust, Governments meet to legislate away the Sabbath and to decriminalise sodomy. Leprosy is breaking out in every limb of the body politic and there is no physician to heal us. Scarcely a voice is raised in high places to call us to repentance. Such voices as there are are either not heard or else not heeded. Poor nations! Alas, that so great a civilisation as ours should be so deep in spiritual slumber!

It is not surprising that evangelical Christians at this hour should feel numb with battle fatigue. It is no great miracle if they too, catching the general spirit of drowsiness, are tempted to give in to unresisted slumber at this hour. But this is what we must at all costs refuse to do.

By some means or other Christians must contrive to stay awake and on their feet in these days. If, in order to do so, we must cast out the television set or cut off our right arm, we had better do so. To fall asleep at this hour is treason to Christ and to our own souls. It is to lose our ‘full reward’ (2 John 8), or, worse still, to lose our reward and our soul altogether.

The way to avoid sleeping when poisonous gas fills the room is to run for fresh air and to breathe deeply. We owe it to God and to our salvation to run for fresh oxygen for the soul in this present crisis. What is to stop us all from a radical re-appraisal of our present life-style?

Instead of meeting for merely social purposes, might we not as Christians meet to read good books to one another? The time which we have formerly devoted to easy viewing and listening, might we not devote, in part at least, to secret prayer or family prayer or neighbourhood prayer? The hours which have been spent cruelly criticising the preacher could in future be put to better use in the careful study of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Some of the energy formerly spent in excessive recreation and socialising might be more productively spent visiting the widows in their affliction ( James 1:27) and in comforting the downcast.

Above all others, preachers must cry to heaven for grace to stay awake at this hour. Let them plunge their heads in the cold waters of God’s truth till their dreams of worldly ease are thrown aside. Never did the world more urgently need an awakening ministry than now. Never was there a more crucial hour for lifting high and blowing loud on the gospel trumpet. All heaven watches as we strive to keep awake while all others sleep. It will stand to our eternal credit if we keep at our post. Sooner than we think perhaps may come the dawning of a new and better day. The wakeful servant must one day sit in honor at his Master’s table (Luke 12:37).

— Maurice Roberts

Spiritual Drowsiness

There are not lacking here and there signs that good Christians are suffering from a kind of spiritual mental fatigue. In our fellowships, iron rarely sharpens iron any longer. Much preaching that is orthodox lacks that ring of conviction which is needed to thrust it home into sinners’ consciences. A guilty tameness smothers our zeal. Prayers are hum-drum and predictable. The apostolic fire has died down and looks like dying away. The gospel, even where it is preached at all, is clothed with the impeding garments of excessive politeness and respectability. Our sermons are frequently no more than a gentle homily or a quiet talk about good religious ideas. Slowly and imperceptibly evangelical people are coming to terms, emotionally and intellectually, with the spirit of the age. Though we should not care to say so, we nonetheless betray our inner despair of ever seeing revival, or even a reversal of the present trend downwards.
This weariness of soul is not difficult to explain. A deep-seated disappointment has paralysed many Christian people in our day. Both preachers and hearers are disheartened. The recovery of the doctrines of purer orthodoxy some thirty years ago has not yet been matched by a recovery of spiritual power or influence in society. The world passes by the doors of many excellent churches with as much unconcern today as it did when the old theological liberalism reigned in them, and before new and biblical ministries began in them. Preachers who deserve to be listened to by a thousand have to be content with less than fifty hearers.

The vision which many had only a few years ago has not been realised. The mirage has not yet become a pool of water. The promises of God are seemingly at variance with his providences. A bewilderment and a confusion has come upon us. There is a widespread feeling that something has gone wrong. Meanwhile we all grow older. There is an unspoken agreement that the fight is too hard for us. When shall we be able to withdraw from the scene of battle with at least some semblance of honour?

Spiritual drowsiness is very catching. The air soon becomes heavy with it. Active life and movement, once so noticeable, gradually dies down as one after another succumbs to the spirit of drowsiness. As the voices of young children in a nursery die down one by one at their rest time, so the once active testimonies of God’s people become gradually silent in a sleepy time.

The Bible portrays for us times when the people of God enter into a period of collective sleepiness. The age in which Moses was born was such a time. Israel had settled down in Egypt. Even their hard servitude did not take from them a love of the Egyptian life-style. They were very loath to follow Moses out into the wilderness. They had dreamed too many this-worldly dreams to want to give up the leeks, the onions and the garlic for the uncertain prospect of receiving their ‘Promised land’. Four hundred years in Egypt had sent Israel fast asleep.

The days of the Judges were another period in which the church of God was largely asleep. It is amazing to us as we read the Old Testament to see how flagrantly Israel was disobeying God’s Word at the period of the Judges. They appear to have been blind to the plainest teachings given so recently by God through Moses. Even some of the Judges themselves had serious blemishes in their faith and conduct. ‘Every man did that which was right in his own eyes’. If we require an explanation for the state of life at that time, we must surely put it down to a widespread and almost universal soul-sleep.

One might have hoped better of the church in New Testament times. But it was not to be so. For a thousand years, till Luther woke up with a start in Germany, the European church slept soundly while Bible, gospel and grace lay hidden out of popular sight. Only here and there was there a warning cry from some remote Italian valley or passing Lollard preacher. Europe, however, as a whole slept on. Dark night covered the one continent of mankind which ought to have carried the torch of gospel truth to every corner of the globe.

It is solemn, too, to recall the words of Christ which inform us, evidently, that the very last period of world history will again be characterised by widespread spiritual sleepiness: ‘They all slumbered and slept’ (Matt. 25:5). Not only the nominal church, represented by the five foolish virgins, will be asleep when the Bridegroom returns; but also the true church herself, though certainly prepared, will have sunk down with weariness and drowsiness just before the wedding day dawns.

The above instances – not the only ones we could cite – are evidence enough to remind us that a blanket of sleep may fall across large parts of the visible church in some ages. This is a sheer fact of history and one which the Word of God presents to us for our warning. No doubt there are many who sleep in the best ages of the gospel and under the liveliest of preaching. No doubt society is at best little more than half-awake at any time to the moral and spiritual duties of God’s Word. Nevertheless, it would seem to be a clear lesson of Scripture that some ages are marked by a sleep that is well-nigh universal.

– to be continued

Maurice Roberts

Plough deep in Me: A Puritan Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, and a dread of its approach. Help me to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but what Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing except what I receive from Thee. I can be nothing except what grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Robert Chapman, Pt 2

Robert Chapman was not a noted orator, but he became a good preacher; he was not known as a theologian, but he was a thorough student of the Bible; he was not famous as a hymn writer, but many of his hymns are still sung. What then made Chapman so beloved and effective in his time? Quite simply, his utter devotion to Christ and his determination to live Christ. These were the driving forces in his life. From these flowed his other attributes, his balanced outlook, and most of all, the love for which he was best known. In return, people loved him and God honored him with good health, a long life, and inward peace.

– Robert Peterson

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman became one of the most respected Christians of nineteenth-century Britain. He was a lifelong friend and mentor to George Müller, the founder of the large orphanage system at Bristol. He was an advisor to J. Hudson Taylor, who used him as a referee for China Inland Mission. His acquaintance C.H. Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man I ever knew.”

An Anglican clergyman wrote after a stay at Chapman’s rest home, “For the first time, I heard Robert Chapman expound the Scriptures. Deep called to deep as he warmed to his subject. The impression made on my mind is almost all that I can remember, as I took no notes; but as his Bible closed, I felt like an infant in the knowledge of God, compared with a giant like this.”

– Robert Peterson (Robert Chapman: Apostle of Love, Lewis & Roth Publishers, Colorado Springs, CO; 1995)

Solomon not a Good Example for Us

In reading through 1 Kings again, I am reminded that Solomon’s life and experience was astounding, by any standard of measurement. When the Lord told David that, even though it was a good thing that he had it in his heart to build a temple, he would not be allowed to because of his history of bloody wars in battle. It would be Solomon who would complete the task David began. So Solomon replaces David as king.

As a result, when Solomon asked God for wisdom to be a proper king, God gave him that and much more. The beginning chapters of 1 Kings reflects Solomon’s beginnings and extravagant kingdom. When you offer a formal sacrifice of 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep in one single sacrifice, you can begin to grasp the extravagant extent of Solomon’s reign and wealth. Reading 1 Kings chapters 1-10 reflects this in an overview of specifics to show how exceedingly great Solomon’s life and kingdom were.

Scripture also tells us that he wrote 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs. People came widely to hear his famous lectures on trees and animal life. His wisdom exceeded all men past, present and future, and is credited as being the wisest man who ever lived. “The wisdom of Solomon” is now an enduring proverb that simply means someone is exceedingly wise.

But when you finish reading the first 10 chapters, you come to the word BUT; that is the first word in 1 Kings 11. BUT Solomon loved many foreign women. What? Say it ain’t so!, as the old saying goes. No, no, please Solomon, why did you go there? Why did you not keep taking heed to God’s word and heritage that had come through your father, David? Seven hundred wives and 300 concubines? And we are supposed to believe the more modern interpretation that Song of Solomon is his faithful love narrative for his bride? I don’t believe for a moment that the Song of Songs is about marital romance, but about Christ and the church.

Be that as it may, one of the enduring and most important lessons we can draw from Solomon is that there is nothing on this earth that insures persevering in the faith except one thing. Solomon had every personal benefit– a godly father, a godly heritage, phenomenal opportunity, the highest position, extreme wealth, and wisdom from God that no one else was ever given. He was the single man in the earth that led the true people of God, Israel.

Yet none of it kept Solomon from departing from the living God. The only assurance of continuing to go on with God in faith is to go on with God. Going on with God is the only genuine and final evidence of truly persevering in the faith. Continuing to love and walk with Christ is the only evidence that you love and walk with Christ now. The only proof and certainty of election and being a child of God is true perseverance in the faith to the end. Our perseverance in the faith is not what keeps us saved–it is proof and evidence of being saved.

Was Solomon truly saved? It seems, unlike Saul the first king of Israel, that he was. God told David at the end of his life that He would not remove his love from Solomon, as he did from Saul. God’s certain promise of his love for Solomon continued. Yet his end was not exemplary. Some mystery remains about how Solomon can begin so good and end not so good. But there is no mystery about one thing. Running well spiritually to the end is the only goal any believer should have. And we cannot presume on the past–our spiritual heritage, experience, knowledge, wealth, position in life or ministry, or even relationships–we cannot presume that any of those things are proof of a healthy spiritual life. Nor can we presume that anything that is earthly can insure our perseverance in the faith. Going on with God to the end of life means enduring to the end. And Jesus said those are the only ones who will ultimately prove to be saved.

— Mack Tomlinson

What an Example! – The Leisurely Christ

Privacy was difficult to obtain. Yet Jesus was always leisurely; He never hurried. Even when an urgent message came from Bethany that Lazarus was dead, ‘He abode two days still in the same place.’ He required and took sufficient time for His plan of action to mature. Interruptions never distracted Him. He accepted them as opportunities of a richer service. Interruptions were the occasion of some of His most gracious deeds and most revealing words. He lived intensely, yet entirely without tension.

– G. H. Morling