Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Schaeffer Resources

I've recently been listening to a lecture course from Covenant Seminary on the life of Francis Schaeffer by Jerram Barrs. The follow up course is available free here. These lectures have really refreshed my heart and opened me up to the effective power of God. It seems to me that many Christians live in depression all because they believe that sin is too big. Instead we all need to realise to a greater degree that God's Spirit in us, is greater than Satanic threats, activity, temptations, and demonic attacks (1 John 4:4).

Schaeffer's life is one of compassion and orthodoxy- often a rare combination. He was lovingly determined to fight for a theologically pure church. He took a stand against modernism and Unitarianism, without neglecting to love people, serve his congregation, and have an exemplary marriage to Edith Schaeffer.

Schaeffer is better known for being a great apologist. After feeling God's call he started a work in Switzerland named L'Abri. L'Abri (french for shelter) was designed to be a non-judgemental environment for people to visit and explore questions about God and life. The centre still runs today to carry on the work and legacy of Francis and Edith for Jesus glory!
The Tapestry- Edith Shaeffer's account of her and Francis' life and work.
True Spirituality- a great book that defines biblical Christianity and looks at the gospel's life implications.

How should we then live?- an analysis of historic western culture with conclusions on how these lessons should effect our lives today.

The God Who is There- in this book Schaeffer looks at different historical viewpoints regarding belief in God, and then draws his own conclusions.
Francis Schaeffer: The Early Years, and Francis Schaeffer: The Later Years- free lectures by Jerram Barrs (same links as above)

Also see Lane's Youtube channel for (cheesy!) Schaffer videos

Saturday, 26 December 2009

C. S. Lewis on the Search for Beauty

'Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself.

...We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted... Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is... the truest index of our real situation.'

- C. S. Lewis, taken from The Weight of Glory

Jesus for the Moral and Immoral

Over the last few days I've been reading The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. It's such a good book! Keller has skill in revealing the true meaning of the scriptures while applying them faithfully and relevantly to contemporary culture.

In case you don't know, the book is firstly about God. The Prodigal God. What does that mean? Isn't a prodigal someone who lives recklessly, rejects authority and spends all he has? Exactly. God is a prodigal God. God came down in Jesus and lived a life of offensive recklessness in the eyes of the religious leaders (the Pharisees hated Christ). Jesus doesn't reject authority but rather surrenders every right He has to be authoritative and be treated fairly, even to the extent of being nailed to a splintered bit of wood. What about spending all He has? Yes. Ultimate generosity is expressed in God giving Himself to mankind, living the life we could not live and dieing the death we should have died all to bring us back to Himself (1 Peter 3:18).

The book centers Christ's parable as recorded in Luke 15:11-31. In this parable we see two sons and a generous Father representing God. One Son is good, keeping the rules of the Father while the other Son rejects the Father, asks for His inheritance and runs off without a thought for the dignity of his family. On the surface it seems that we are taught to make a clear distinction between good and bad from the parable. This is not the case. Jesus is actually exposing the heart of the elder 'good' Son. His obedience is full of pride- He's driven by the pleasure of knowing that he is good in comparison with his reckless brother, an attitude that is despicable. The older brother doesn't love his Father. He loves to feel distinct from his runaway brother.
What's the message? You can reject Jesus by being good or bad. You can reject all the rules or keep them all to push away Christ. You can live morally or immorally without God. Keller explains that religious people avoid Jesus. The same people who are sitting in churches every Sunday (like the elder son in the home of his father), despising the lifestyles of those outside the church are avoiding Jesus by trusting in their own goodness. They don't need Jesus because they think they have their own goodness. Instead Christ wants all of us, moral and immoral, to trust in His goodness. When we trust in our own goodness to make us acceptable we are calling ourselves God, this is the essence of sin.
'Sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Saviour, Lord, and judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life' (pg. 43)

'It is only when you see the desire to be your own Saviour and Lord- lying beneath your sins and your moral goodness- that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything: how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue. It's called the new birth because it's so radical'. (pg. 78)
More to come...

Pleasure and Duty

Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before;
Since we have seen his beauty,
Are joined to part no more:

It is our highest pleasure,
No less than duty’s call;
To love him beyond measure,
And serve him with our all.
-John Newton

Monday, 21 December 2009

God's Kingdom of Grace

'Nothing matters in the Kingdom [of God] but the grace of God... God has a different way of looking at things. He does not see as men do; He does not compute as they do; it is all grace from beginning to end... He impresses the truth upon us by saying: 'That many that are last shall be first and the first last'. We have to cease thinking in a carnal fleshly manner. In the Kingdom of God and of Christ the standpoint is that of grace, and of grace alone; and it cuts across all other regulations. It is His grace that matters- 'by the grace of God I am what I am'. So stop looking at what you have not done and the years you have missed and realise that in His Kingdom it is His grace alone that matters.'

-Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression, pg 89
Race, gender, ethnicity, IQ, EQ, introvert, extrovert, rich, poor, labour, conservative, lib dem- none of this matters in God's Kingdom. Everyone and anyone who wants to enter God's spiritual society is welcome. Receiving grace makes everyone equal.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Jesus and the Old Testament

Have a read through this quote by Tim Keller on how the Old Testament relates to Jesus....
  • Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

  • Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.

  • Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar, and go out into the void, not knowing whither he went, to create a new people of God.

  • Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his Father on the mount,but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “now I know you love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, now we can look at God, taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing Him, and say,” now we know that you love us, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from us.”

  • Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserve, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

  • Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold Him, and uses His new power to save them.

  • Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

  • Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who was struck with the rod of God’s justice, and now gives us water in the desert.

  • Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

  • Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

  • Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

  • Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast out into the storm so we could be brought in.

  • Jesus is the real passover lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so that the angel of death would pass over us.

Amazing! The whole of the Old Testament works to point us to Jesus...

'[The scriptures] testify to me' John 5:39

HT: Ed Goode

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

How Precious is the Gospel?

This precious:

'But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.'
Galatians 1:8
The gospel is the most precious message in existence because it is guarded by the greatest consequence. It is is more wonderful than anyone has ever imagined, prayed, or thought. In Paul's mind getting the gospel wrong- preaching a false gospel- tarnishes its treasure, reducing it to insignificance in the eyes of others. The consequence of doing this is anathema.
'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'
Matthew 13:44

Sunday, 25 October 2009

5 Rational Beliefs Unproven by Science

William Lane Craig explains:

1) Logic and Mathematics
2) Metaphysical truths
3) Ethical beliefs
4) Aesthetic judgments
5) Science itself

Update: I don't like the title of this video. The purpose of apologetics is not to 'humiliate' people or even show them that they have a wrong worldview. Apologetics should be used to break down the barriers that keep people from the gospel. This is to be done with respect and love.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Free Tim Keller Sermons

Until recently Redeemer Presbyterian Church charged for most of their sermons. Now they have a released 150 of Tim Keller's sermons for free! Download them here.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

God's Will for your Life...

Lots of people talk about God's will. It seems that much of the time we think of God's will as a maze. We become scared of making a wrong decision- moving to the wrong location, studying at the wrong university, marrying the wrong person- just in case we fall out of 'God's perfect will for our lives' lost in the maze, displeasing God...

If you're like me and tend to think in this way, Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something will refresh you. The subtitle is true, doing something is a 'liberating approach to finding God's will'. I'm not going to say too much now as I hope to blog a book review when I've finished it. Here's a quote to give you a taste of DeYoung's point:

'Here's the real heart of the matter: Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God's hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time... God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision... we should stop thinking of God's will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull's-eye, or a choose your own adventure novel.'- Page 24.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Tozer on Textualism

'The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions.

It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul's epistles as divinely inspired. The Bible tells us how to be saved, but textualism goes on to make it tells us that we are saved, something which in the very nature of things it cannot do. Assurance of individual salvation is thus no more than a logical conclusion drawn from doctrinal premises, and the experience wholly mental.'

-A. W. Tozer, Leaning into the Wind, pages 20-21

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

TV: Servant or Master?

'A good test of whether television is servant or master is, when your children have watched something, do they then go out and do something related to what they have seen? Is their imagination stimulated? Television is a servant when your children can watch a program then say, “Well that was fascinating. Let's go and play Robin Hood," or “Let's go and do this thing."- Jerram Barrs

I presume that most people reading this post haven't got any children. The principle still applies: Do we watch TV to stimulate us and serve us? Or are we allowing it to master us?
TV as a master
Culture wants us to watch telly passively, allowing every idea change our thinking. Jesus wants us to be transformed by having our minds renewed with scripture (Rom 12:2, John 17:17). Active watchers of TV think critically: 'What is this programme telling me about God, myself and the world?' The problem is that television hasn't been designed to be engaged with actively. Most programmes exist to be accepted and enjoyed without hesitation. Passive viewers of TV are likely to let the telly become a master. It can become a God: whenever the television speaks we listen, the television commands we obey.

TV as a slave
I believe television is a redeemable gift from God. Largely the TV has become a master, it rules and reigns in many homes, but by God's grace Christians have the power to use television in a sinless way for good. Here are a few ways I think this can be done:

1) Watch TV and praise God for His creation- watch nature programmes that cause you to thank God for what He has made

2) Watch TV and praise God for narratives - God made us to be story lovers, hence scripture is written mainly in narrative. Through grace God has given many non-Christians with gifts in story writing. Praise God for those gifts by enjoying their work.

3) Watch TV and fear hell- the wrath of God is worse than any calamity ever captured in a disaster movie
4) Watch TV to understand the world- TV represents the worlds views and opinions. Watch the TV to understand culture and reason against it with non-Christian friends/family

5) Watch TV to learn contextualisation- watch TV looking for the gospel. Many programmes contain themes of redemption, atonement and reconciliation. TV can be an evangelistic tool in being a bridge to the gospel .

6) Watch TV to care about the world- God cares about our fallen world. Watch the news and grieve over sin and its effects.

7) Watch TV to provoke prayer- as you see and grieve over the effects of sin in the world pray for spiritual and physical restoration.

8) Watch TV to show self-control- Christians should be examples to the world of how to enjoy TV righteously. Christian lives should make the gospel attractive.

The TV can be a good slave or a terrible master.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

More Musings

It's been a while since I've blogged. It seems the bug left me for a while, but now I think it's back. I like to use my blog as a place where I can accurately express my thoughts and theology in words. I often have lots of different ideas floating around in my head that I feel will benefit me (and maybe others) more if I choose to write them down. Here are a few things that God has been teaching/re-affirming in me recently.

1) God loves to use weak people
Time and time again, over the last few months, I've found that my natural instinct, to depend on myself doesn't really help anyone I believe God has been bringing me to a place where He's been showing me how my own skills and abilities have failed to attain the calling that He has placed on my life. It's only when He does this that we really see, in a crystal clear way, how much we need Him every day. In the times when I've felt useless, confessing this uselessness has glorified the power of God in ways I haven't seen before. Depending on God is the opposite of pride, relying on Him contradicts the desires of the flesh, acknowledging our weakness displays His strength.

2) The pursuit of my own happiness is essential to glorify God
Credit goes to Piper for expressing this truth in Desiring God. I was on holiday in Greece when I read this book from cover-to-cover, it blew me away. When I first read that God commands my happiness (Psalm 37:4), I thought 'Really? Does He actually want me to be satisfied? Isn't this self-centred? I mean, aren't I stealing the attention away from God's glory and towards my own satisfaction?' After wrestling with questions like these individually and with friends, I'm now sure that Christan Hedonism is a God-centered principle to live by.

Some disagree with Piper's articulation of Christian Hedonism. I was talking to a Pastor the other day who rejects Christian Hedonism because, in his eyes, it seems to make man's own desires god. Christian Hedonism does not make the chief end of man the fulfillment of man's desires. Christian Hedonism answers the question: how can God be most glorified in me? To say it another way: How should I live, in order to magnify the worth of God? Both questions are individual. Both questions are looking for a way of life for man to live. How can God be most glorified in me? Christian Hedonism says: 'God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him' and 'God's worth and splendour will be most manifested in your life when you are completely overwhelmed with His goodness. Christian Hedonism doesn't make human desires a god. Christian hedonism makes the fulfillment of our Spirit-filled desires (satisfaction/ happiness) the only way to glorify God individually.
I was reminded again about this truth as I spoke about the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44), to a group of international students. A man goes out into a field, sees the treasure, sells all he has and buys that field. Why does he buy the field? He buys the field for the sake of his happiness. 'For joy' he sells all he has. The man in the parable is not stupid like an investor who puts money into dodgy stocks. The man is in touch with reality. He looks at the worth of all he has and compares it with the worth of the treasure. The treasure out-weighs all he has. So from a heart that sincerely desires his own benefit, he buys that field. We must come to Christ for our own pleasure. The pursuit of my own joy in God massively glorifies Him!

3) Everything Christian is about Faith and Love
I preached in January on Deuteronomy 8:1 'Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers'. It was my first sermon, I loved preaching every minute of it (mp3 is available here). The sermon became an expression of most of my theology. Despite this I tried to centre the sermon around our obligations to obey God as Christians. Why should we obey God? What's in it for us? How does God motivate us to obey Him? are all questions I tried to answer in the sermon.

In preparing I was able to spend time thinking about Galatians 5:6 'In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.' Paul is making the point that anything we do (however Christian we may think it is) is absolutely worthless without faith working through love. That's powerful and shocking to the ego. What even reading a Christan book or fasting? Yup. Everything is nothing without faith and love. Faith being a continual trust in the reality that the gospel pronounces over every believers life. Love being a continual outpouring of desire fixed in the beauty of God.

Without faith and love I am sinning and my obedience is counted as nothing. 'Whatever is not of faith is sin' according to Romans 14:23. Sin is not necessarily an action that is wrong in God eyes, rather it is a God-debasing mindset that trusts in everything outside of Him.

'Without love I am nothing' is Paul's message to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-3). Isn't God always pleased with martyrs? No, 'though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing' (v3). Actions that are void of faith and love are sinful and empty in God's eyes. The whole Christian life is about faith and love- it's so simple and profound! the greatest Christians are those who love the hardest and believe the most.

That's enough for tonight. More thoughts to follow.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Best Manning for the Brand's

Last Saturday marked the wedding day of my good friends Tom and Natalie. I was privileged enough to be the best man!
Below is the speech I gave...

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are all well and enjoying this very special day. My name is Simon and I am the very honoured best man to Mr and Mrs Thomas Brand.

Until early 2008 Tom had described himself as a ‘bachelor to the rapture’. He was adamant that female companionship wasn’t for him…

And then there was Natalie. He came back from Bryntyrian, Wales to Brighton for the weekend in January 2008 with a glazed look on his face. Almost like someone had shot him with a tranquilliser dart. That dart was love. The shooter very skillful and still is as Tom describes her as the perfect woman (reminding me on several occasions not to read too theologically into that statement).

So I feel privileged to first be here with you as we celebrate the fruit of your love and doubly privileged as I get to shame you, Tom for a few minutes in front of 150 people.

I first met Tom at our church- Montpelier Place four years ago. I had heard about him previous to our meeting. He had caused quite a stir amongst the more mature members of the congregation with his ripped jeans and long hair. To quote one lady reflecting on seeing Tom from behind:‘I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl’. And another commenting on his ripped jeans: ‘we must be in the end times’. In case you’re not familiar with the phrase, ‘end times’ refers to serious moral and spiritual decay.

Tom did change his look. He cut his hair (it looks very nice…) and decided to go to the other extreme with the jeans. Instead of them being baggy one pair imparticular looks very very tight… painfully tight… anyway let’s move on from Tom’s appearance to his brain…

Is Tom an intellectual? I can honestly say that in the years I've known him, no one has ever questioned Tom's intelligence. In fact, I've never heard anyone even mention it. Obviously that’s a joke. Tom studied theology at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) achieving a 2:1 degree and he has definitely used his knowledge during his time working for the church this year. In a sermon on John 14:1 where Jesus says: ‘Let not your hearts, be troubled; you believe in God believe also in me’ two out of Tom’s four points in his sermon were ….bearing in mind that Baptist churches like three points, three simple statements or words starting with the same letter… perichoresis and consubstantiality. The note takers in the church weren’t looking too pleased with the choice of words…

Tom’s articulation and vocabulary are also impressive. Previous to meeting Tom I spoke not many words and bad pro-non-see-ation also it was that my grammar was like very…. like bad. Tom helped- and told wot I had to do to be a person who uses their mouth …like better. After gaining audible help from Tom my own spoken English has improved incredibly.

Natalie, firstly you look wonderful, and secondly I have for you five pieces of advice concerning Tom that I think you’ll find helpful for married life:

1) Expect unexpected requests
Tom once asked his mother if he could have a toilet placed in the middle of the garden so that he could watch the planes going past whilst doing his business…

2) Keep your jewellery secure
From the age of about seven Tom developed a habit for collecting women’s jewellery, nice stones and chains. He even had his own special little box to keep his collection safe. I haven’t seen the box but I have been told that it is very fetching.

3) By deceiving Tom you can gain a large Star Wars figure collection
Natalie, here is a tried and tested formula (tried and tested by his brothers) that should work in giving you a large Star Wars collection.

a) Get Tom focused on a single figure
b) Talk to Tom about the good points of that figure
c) Watch as Tom offers practically every figure in his collection to gain new figure

4) Encourage Tom to use conventional ways of opening doors
In the past Tom has been known to try and open his brothers door using a canon. As a seven year old he would batter Robert’s door down with his wooden model.

5) Avoid telling Tom off near waist-high walls
When on a family holiday one year in Sardinia; Tom exposed a bit too much of himself. Standing near a waist-high wall next to his brother and sister Robert and Sarah, whilst being told off by his parents; Tom decided to pull a moony at his siblings. They tried desperately hard to keep a straight face in front of David and Angela with Tom’s rear in view!

On a more serious note Tom, here is some advice from Matthew Henry on why marriage is not misogynism or feminism but equality:

‘Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.’

Being a friend of both Tom and Natalie has enabled me to see how much Christ means to them as a couple. They are Christians. And they do not use this phrase lightly. I see in both Tom and Natalie’s life remarkable evidence that God is with them. They live in light of God’s love. They’ve realised the depth and the ugliness of their own and each other’s sin. But they don’t live in guilt or shame. Why? Because they know that there is a God who loves with such intensity it produces his own pain.
In that Jesus died for them. He was crucified. He took their punishment- He stood in their place. And God offers forgiveness through what Jesus did and hope to everyone in this room if you haven’t yet experienced it. He offers freedom from sin and life in Himself- real life.

This wedding has been and will continue to be a happy time. But it’s not the ultimate wedding. This wedding has been a day to celebrate the beautiful love that Tom and Natalie have for one another. The ultimate wedding will be bigger and better. It will be when Jesus marries His people to reflect His awesome love for them. Jesus invites you not just to attend this ultimate wedding, but to be the bride. Jesus welcomes us into perfect love and relationship with Him. I’m praying that we all would know and live in that love as Tom and Natalie clearly do.

I’d like to propose a toast ‘to the joy of love reflected in marriage’

Thank you

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Ways to stir each other up to love and good works

Hebrews 10:24 says 'let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.' When preaching on this verse the other Sunday I gave ten practical ways to obey this command. Here are the first five...

1) Get a prayer/accountability partner

Find someone who you have a good relationship with and arrange to meet with them every week to talk about your personal struggles and difficulties. James says that we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other (5:16). Use this time to humbly acknowledge to the other person that you're a sinner in need of practical and godly counsel. Every member of the church has something to teach another member. Encourage each other and bear each others burdens (Gal 6:2).

2) Be an example for everyone
Paul tells Timothy to be an example for everyone despite age: ‘Let no one despise your youth but be an example to the believers in word in conduct, in love, in Spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Tim 4:12). Live your life in a godly way to show other Christians that godliness is real gain (1 Tim 6:6). Christians are encouraged to live godly lifes when they their brothers and sisters displaying the happiness that comes from living in God's presence.

3) Acknowledge evidences of grace
Here's one I got from C J Mahaney. Go up to Christians you know and tell them about the grace you see God pouring out in their lives. If you see humility, acknowledge it to the glory of God. If you see patience in a friend, tell him or her. Change in a person is easier seen by others than by yourself. Encourage others by explaining how you see God changing them.

4) Acknowledge gifts
When Jesus ascended He gave gifts to all men (Eph 4). Everyone in the church has a gift essential for the proper functioning and life of the church. Tell people about how you see God using them. Explain to people what gifts their skills might dictate that they have. Stir up each others gifts and don't neglect the gift that is in you (2 Tim 1).

5) Suggest books for people to read
There are loads of great books to read that have had a massive impact on Christians of the past and present. Suggest books for your friends to read that have changed and challenged you. Encourage each other to read books that are full of deep doctrine and at the same time are written in a heart-felt way.

To be continued...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Gospel Community

Here's the structure of the sermon I'm preaching this sunday evening (God willing) at MPBC titled 'The Gospel Community'...

Hebrews 10:24-25:
'And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.’

-The gospel empowers loving consideration not neglect: ‘let us consider one another’

-The gospel empowers personal spiritual nurturing: ‘let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works’

-The gospel empowers commitment to people and a community: ‘let us consider one another… not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some’

-The gospel empowers Christians to lovingly challenge each other: ‘let us consider one another… exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the day approaching’

*Update: Direct link to the mp3 sermon here*

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Church Prayer

My notes for a talk I'm giving tonight at the MPBC prayer meeting...

Acts 4:23-31
23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[a] have said:

‘ Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.’[b]

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

1) Prayer is a church activity

Prayer is individual... and also largely corporate:

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said….

There’s accountability- the church are living in each others lives
There’s corporate response: ‘they raised there voice to God in one accord’
They all agree, they all care
Prayer is unifying- we show each other they we are concerned with the same issues

2) Prayer uses God’s words

“Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[a] have said:
‘ Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.’[b]

When the church pray they pray with truth in biblical ways
The church in Acts was Bible-saturated, they prayed quoting scripture

3) Prayer asks big things

‘Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

They ask for miracles to confirm their message
They ask for boldness to speak the word- remember they had been previously threatened and tried by the Sanhedrin

4) Prayer makes an impact

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

They were filled with the Spirit: they felt God’s presence and God’s confirmation.
The room shaking!

They spoke the word of God. How many of them? Just the Apostles?
No, the whole church spoke the word with boldness.

God came close and empowered the church!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Bible by the Beach

Bible by the Beach - a new conference coming to Eastbourne

1st-4th May 2009 - £50 adult, £1 children- Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

Speakers include: Wallace Benn, Terry Virgo, Paul Williams, Kent & Barbara Hughes, Ben Kwashi, Phil Moon, Mike Ovey, Andrew Baughen, Stef Liston

Music by: Stuart Townend, Phatfish and Simon Brading

Monday, 9 March 2009

Joy and Evangelism Part 2

In 'Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners' Bunyan describes how the joy of other Christians helped him to see how much he needed God:

'But upon a day the good providence of God called me to Bedford to work at my calling, and in one of the streets of that town I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun talking about the things of God: and being now willing to hear their discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker of myself in the matters of religion; but I may say I heard, but understood not, for they were far above out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts, as also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked bow God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil; moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular, and told to each other by what means they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart and of their unbelief, and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.

And methought they spoke as if joy did make them speak; they spoke with such pleasantness of scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world-as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbors. At this I felt my own heart begin to shake and mistrust my condition to be naught, for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation the new birth did never enter my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them, neither did I understand what Satan's temptations were, nor how they were to be withstood and resisted.'

Joy made these ladies speak! As they spoke Bunyan was challenged. He saw the pleasure of knowing God in these Christians. He saw their joy; their experience of Christ's beauty outwardly manifested. The happiness of these Christians were bright lights exposing Bunyan to the darkeness of his nature.

Bunyan and Suffering

John Bunyan comments on 2 Corinthians 1:9 'We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead':

‘By this scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Joy and Evangelism

'Restore to me the joy of Your salvation... Then... sinners shall be converted to You.' Psalm 51:12-13

Knowing the gospel is not enough. Evangelism doesn't work when we are satisfied with knowing the gospel. People need to see that we enjoy the gospel. They need to see that we've fallen in love with a beautiful God through the gospel. The attractiveness of Christ is the substance of our joy in God. If the world can't see that Christians are delighted with the gospel they will be forced to assume that Christ is not attractive. And if Christ is not attractive He doesn't need to be and shouldn't be worshipped.

That's why David seeks his happiness in God: 'restore to me the joy of your salvation'. Sinners are converted when Christians rejoice in salvation. Sinners see the beauty of Christ through the joy of Christ's people.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Preach to Yourself

'I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you in the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s [David in Psalms 42:5, 11] treatment is this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.” Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have had but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: “Why art thou cast down” - what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” - instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and What God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.

- Martyn Lloyd Jones, pg 20-21 of Spiritual Depression

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Cross Hurts Proud People

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? I think it means this: First, that the gruesome death of the all-glorious, innocent, loving Son of God for my sin is the most radical indictment of my hopeless condition imaginable. The crucifixion of Jesus is the open display of my hellish nature. And, second, when I see this and believe that he really died for me, then my old proud self which loves to display its power by climbing ladders of morality and intellect and beauty and daring dies. Self-reliance and self-confidence cannot live at the foot of the cross. Therefore, when Christ died, I died.'

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

What God's been saying to me

The biggest thing that God's been speaking to me about over the last month is summed up well by Calvin:

'The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but in that we want it too much'

I know it's not particularly profound but I need to be taught this lesson every day.

Peace and Truth

'Peace and friendship amongst men is a wonderful thing... At the same time however, God's truth ought to be so precious to us that even if we had to set the whole world on fire in order to promote it, we should be willing to do so!'
-John Calvin

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sarah Edwards

'They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him—that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever…. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this great God has manifested himself to her mind…. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.'
-Jonathon Edwards on his wife Sarah

That's what I call a woman!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

How to be content without money

To be content without money you need to find something of greater value than money; you need to pursue a greater pleasure.

'Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?''

Hebrews 13:5-6
God doesn't ask Christians to stop loving money as an end in itself. He asks Christian to stop loving money by seeking greater contentment elsewhere. He commands Christians to seek Him as the root of all meaningful contentment. When God is your satisfaction money doesn't need to be. He is better than money. He will never leave us or abandon us. He will always be our guide and rock. Money provides a temporal basis for contentment. God provdies and offers Himself to humanity as the source of all deep life, joy and contentment.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Wisdom and Romance

'The problems we see in relationships today- the impatience, the lack of purpose, and the misguided emotions- are all expressions of foolishness. We need wisdom. Wisdom complements romance. Like the string attached to the kite, wisdom enables a romance to really soar. It anchors it, disciplines it, and brings it to its highest potential... When the emotional winds get dangerously strong, wisdom pulls the kite down to safety so it won't get destroyed... You're ready to start a courtship when you can match romance with wisdom.'
-Josh Harris, page 58 of Boy meets Girl

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Receiving Christ

Here are my notes from a devotion I gave at Olivet english language school last week...

'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'
John 1:12-13

1) Receiving Jesus requires:
a) Recognising who you are
i) Jesus is the light and we are the darkness-
We naturally hate the light:
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it’ (1:5)
‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own but His own did not receive Him’ (1:10-11)

b) Recognising Him- you need to recognise Jesus
i) He’s God- Jesus is God (1v1)
ii) Everything was made by Him (1v3)
iii) In Him was life (1v4)- Life is all about Jesus- if you don’t know Jesus you don’t have life- you haven’t experienced beauty - He came to bring abundance of life (10:10)
iv) Jesus came to earth- the word became flesh (1v10)

You need to see that Jesus is valuable
You need to see that He is wonderful and worth following whatever happens to you!

c) Relying on Him
You need to trust who He is and what He says: He gives the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Receiving Jesus is believing in Him

2) Receiving Jesus shows that God’s given birth to you. Receiving Jesus shows that God's given you life.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Were born = past tense
In these verse John makes a distinction between being 'born' and 'receiving Christ'
First: Born by the Spirit
Secondly: Receive Christ = Believe on Him

These two things might be very close together or years apart

a) Receiving Christ is your decision
This is why Peter preached at Pentecost: ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 2:38)

When Jesus said ‘make disciples’ part of that = ‘Get people to receive me’

We’re called to gather people- people come to Jesus by hearing the gospel and being saved

b) Being born of God was God’s decision, not yours
When you were born naturally it wasn't your decision. You only responded to the act.
You then responded with trust and love towards your parent

V13: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
i) Not of the will of man= You didn’t decide =
Something happened that you didn’t ask for

ii) Not of the will of the flesh = This birth wasn't something that your sinful nature wanted.
The flesh loves sin not Jesus

iii) Not of blood = Doesn’t come through family
Just because you’re parents are born-again doesn’t mean that you will be

This birth is a re-orientation of who you are.
It’s a change of what you:
Crave for
Cling on to
Lust after

The Spirit gives birth to you and changes your desires

Once the Spirit’s done that you choose Christ because you finds Him attractive

3) Receiving Jesus gives you ‘God-rights’
We don’t deserve anything from God.
We've all sinned-
You might say: ‘But I’m a really good person, God will have to accept me’ = Your problem is pride

You are without hope if you like to yourself- you have no rights before God
I John 1:8 ‘If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.’
Why? Because God’s character is perfectly white meaning He can see how black you are.
We are dirty with sin- you like filthy to God until Jesus comes in

So we are without rights before God because of sin- we have nothing to claim off God
Society allows you to claim goodness from them – you have civil rights – you don’t before God
But God changes that- He offers us a right- something to claim off Him- access to His goodness- it only happens if you receive Jesus
What’s the right you receive? ‘He gave the right to become children of God’

4) Receiving Jesus makes you a Child of God

God says: I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” (2 Cor 16:8)

The God you’ve offended wants to be your Dad
You are His enemy and now He wants to be a good Father

All of Heaven praises Him, angels worship and say ‘Holy, holy, holy’…
And He chooses us to join them

Gal 4:3-7
‘Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.’

If you’re a son whatever you inherit what He has. We inherit God through Christ.

5) Receiving Jesus is the only way to become a Child of God
Some think that everyone is a child of God this is not true.
Everyone is an enemy of God not a child
To become a child we need to receive Jesus

Christianity teaches that Jesus exclusively saves
Islam doesn’t save- I need to say that because I care about Muslims

There are 2 ways to reject God:
Religion- doing the right thing, keeping the rules, getting proud and being damned for it in the name of God
Irreligion- rejection of God's standards

We need Jesus who kept the perfect standards of God for us. When we receive Him we receive His perfection (righteousness) this enables us to come to God and enjoy Him. The enjoyment of God is the worship that God demands from all of us forever.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

There's Hope- Jesus Died

I had a great time singing this hymn earlier:

There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
shall never lose its power
till all the ransomed church of God
be saved, to sin no more.

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
thy flowing wounds supply,
redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing thy power to save,
when this poor lisping, stammering tongue
lies silent in the grave.

By William Cowper

It's a hymn filled with hope. Jesus died to wash away our filth! He did to cleanse us from everything that we naturally love. Through His death we are released from our enslavement to sin and into beautiful sonship. He's provided for us. There's more of Jesus' blood to wash away your sin than there is your sin to be washed away. God is more gracious than you are sinful! Guilty stains are replaced with pure white! Jesus takes away our disobedience and gives us His obedience The gospel is amazing!

Saturday, 31 January 2009


'If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed'
Jesus, John 8:36

Pray for Sussex CU's mission week

Evolution: Fact or Fiction?

John Blanchard visited MPBC last night to discuss the topic of evolution.

Download the talk along with the Q+A session here.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Proud People Don't Sleep Well

You're not indispensable. The Church will survive if you take a day off. God's Kingdom will not collapse without you:

'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it... It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.'
Psalm 127:1-2
God does His building through you and without you. He builds when you labour and He builds when you sleep. So don't get up too early and sit up really late thinking that your work is doing God a favour. You need to sleep because sleep has faith in the fact that God works when you're inactive. Sleep humbles because you realise that God doesn't actually need you. Proud people don't sleep well.

Don't Be Too Easily Pleased

'Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.'

Jesus is better than sin!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Receive Jesus to call God 'Dad'

'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name' John 1:12

We don't deserve anything from God. But God gives, He's gracious. John 1:12 says that God offers us rights in His courtroom. In other words: God is able to give us a claim on His goodness. Once you have 'God-rights' you can make a claim. You get 'God-rights' by receiving Christ; believing and relying on Jesus.

When we have a right to God's goodness God is bound to respond out of His own joy. God offers us the right to become His children. He asks us to receive Christ and call Him Dad. He wants us to enjoy His Fathering.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

First Sermon

Preaching is the most awesome experience. Mainly because preaching demands you to prepare, which gives you more exposure to the gospel. More exposure to the gospel results in a greater experience of God's infectious life-giving power only if you want it.

Listen to my first sermon titled 'Obey, because God is for you' here.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Friday, 23 January 2009

Gratitude and Hope in relation to Obedience

My sermon on Sunday evening is all about obeying God. In my first point I hope to explain the difference between Hope and Gratitude as different motives for obedience.

Gratitude is the produce of seeing and experiencing past grace. In Exodus 20:2-3 God says: 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.' God is encouraging the Israelites to obey Him based on grace He has already given, the deliverance from the house of bondage.

Hope is the produce of seeing and experiencing promised grace. In Deuteronomy 8:6-7 the Lord motivates obedience by reminding the Israelites of the good land He has promised to them. 'Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills'

It's then that I looked up what Piper had to say and found this:

Piper's argument is this: God is more glorified when the Christan is motivated by hope to obedience because hope requires more relying faith than the faith required in gratitude. Gratitude requires a simple accepting faith. The faith we have in past events, that have happened by God's grace, is a not relying faith it is only an accepting faith. Something like this: 'I thank you God that you did this or that for me and I believe that it was for my good and your glory.'

Hope say things to God like: 'I thank you God that I will be like you (1 John 3:2)' Saying this requires more faith than that of gratitude because I'm yet to experience the grace for which I'm trusting God for. I'm simply trusting that I will be like Him. This trusting is based upon God's faithfulness displayed in promised grace.

If then hope is the main motive for Christian obedience, is hope the main motive for other types of obedience? How do you get a child to eats it dinner? You would never say to that child 'Don't you remember what I got you for Christmas?' You would say something like 'Remember that Christmas is coming soon. I've got presents for you.' By using the second statement the child is more likely to eat his or her dinner and the parent is seen to be greater because the child has expressed a trust in the promise of the parent.

So what God is doing in asking us to be mainly motivated to obedience by hope is firstly, glorifying Himself and secondly, setting our hearts on a future enjoyment of His goodness. Gratitude makes us thankful and appreciative people but gratitude lacks vision and courage. Hope makes us an expectant, lively, excited, people to more of a God-glorifying degree.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Gospel Not Rules

Here's a handy little quote from TK that I've managed to slip into Sunday's sermon on obedience.

"You can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently... the gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligon, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservativism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along the spectrum between two poles - it is something else altogether."

- Tim Keller, The Prodigal God

The gospel is all about loving, adoring, being happy in, and praising Jesus! Hooray!!

HT: Dave Bish
Update: The sermon can be found here

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

It is Well with My Soul

I was chatting with a friend yesterday about this hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It's an amazing hymn of confidence in God when times are hard. When writing this hymn Horatio Spafford was dealing with the loss of four of his daughters from a boat collision. His wife Anna and survived and sent him a telegram reading 'SAVED ALONE'. In 1881 Spafford and his wife founded the 'American Colony' an outreach mission in Jerusalem to benefit the poor.

My favourite verse is verse three: 'My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord'. Spafford's joy was found in God. For Him happiness derived itself from what Jesus had already done- being condemned by the Father for Spafford's sin.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Being a Happy Christian

‘The greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church… Unhappy Christians are, to say the least a poor recommendation for the Christian Faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity.’
- MLJ, taken from the foreword of Spiritual Depression

Saturday, 17 January 2009

God Satisfies

'The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.... If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly pleasures, and on the other, never to mistake them for something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.'

-C. S. Lewis, taken from book 3 and chapter 10 of Mere Christianity

Get Baptised in the Spirit

Thursday, 15 January 2009

'All Things For Good' by Thomas Watson

If there is one promise in scripture which throughout all time given hope to the saints it is likely to be Romans 8:28:

‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’

It is for this reason that Thomas Watson’s work ‘All things for Good’ based on this text was originally published in 1663 named ‘A Divine Cordial’. The book is exactly that: A divine cordial. It has a medicinal affect on spiritual health. It sooths anxiety, it arouses affection towards God, it comforts the soul, it seeks to crucify unbelief, and it strengths the root of faith in the precious doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

Watson in the preface explains his intent: 'To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction, water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.'

Watson is concerned with our joy. He wants us to see God. To see God’s love in ordering all events to bring us closer to Him- the source of goodness. Watson wants us to attack every doubt which claims ‘God is not for you’ and replace it with God’s promises. Promises like: ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.’ (Psalm 34:19) and “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).

God is for us. This is the premise of the book. He works all things (recessions, deaths, persecution, unemployment, discouragement, traffic lights and bad postal services-even sin!) for our good. Watson writes: 'All the various dealings of God with His children do by a special providence turn to their good'. But how so we know that they work for our good? This knowing is experience more than intellect. Knowing that God is for us is not a deduction processed by our minds but a compulsion we feel. 'The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths upon the heart as with the point of a diamond…The Lord does not leave His people at uncertainties in matters of salvation. The apostle says, ‘We know’. We have arrived at holy confidence. We have both the Spirit of God, and our own experience, setting seal to it.’ (pg10)

Watson adopts a typical puritan manner when writing about the text. It’s systematic, clear, structured and more importantly: thorough. The book is relatively short but very comprehensive; he deals with text as puritans do.

‘The best things work for good to the godly’ is the title of the first chapter. Watson spells out the most treasured spiritual realities and duties to convince his reader. God is good and He works for our good. He’s the Father and master of perfect giving and good gifts (James 1:17). The promises of God work for our good. John 10:29 ‘My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.’ Watson argues the promises of God are ‘food for faith’ and ‘springs of joy’ (pg 17). ‘There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world to perplex.’ The graces of the Spirit work for our good. Grace makes the soul elegant and beautiful. The virtuous wife will do her husband good all the days of her life (Prov 31:12). The angels work for our good. They are ‘ministering Spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation’ (Heb1:14). Fellowship, the intercession of Christ, and the payers of the saints- all these things work for our good!! J

Chapter two examines how the worst things work for our good. Affliction works for our good: 'In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon.' (pg 27). Afflictions give happiness in God: ‘The saints in affliction have had such sweet raptures of joy, that they thought themselves in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.’ (pg 30).

Temptation works for our good. Watson quotes Luther who said ‘there are three things that make a Christian – prayer, meditation, and temptation.’ Temptations stirs up Christians to desire Heaven as Heaven is a place without temptation. Temptation helps us to fear sin: ‘The more a child of God is tempted, the more he fights against the temptation. The more Satan tempts to blasphemy, the more a saint trembles at such thoughts, and says, ‘Get thee hence Satan.’ (pg35)

There are times in the Christian life when God is distant from us. ‘When God withholds the sweet manifestations of His favour, He does not look with such a pleasant aspect, but veils His face, and seems to be quite gone from the soul.’ (pg 39) It is at these times when you pray and you can’t feel anything. Or you commit sin and can’t feel the conviction. It’s those times when the heart goes cold that are the most treacherous to our own spiritual life. Although these moments are dangerous they do work for our good. The times of loneliness work for our good in that, we identify ourselves as a child of God. When you start to look into your soul and say ‘I can’t see the Spirit’s working and power’ it evidences that once you had the Spirit’s working and power.
Desertion helps a Christian to seek God with more passion. When it feels like God is hiding His face, you beg to see it even more. You crave it and pray until you see Him again. ‘Desertion works for good, as it prepares the saints for future comfort. The nipping frosts prepare for spring flowers. It’s God’s way first to cast down, then to comfort.’ (pg 43)

The fourth point made in this chapter is that ultimate evil of sin works for our good. Sin produces godly sorrow. Psalm 119:136 ‘Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.’ Watson writes: ‘The sins of others work for good, as they make us more earnest in working for our own salvation. When we see wicked men take such pains for hell, this makes us more industrious for heaven.’ (pg 46).
The ultimate proof that sin works for our good is seen in Christ. It was Christ crucified that cleanses our sin. For us to come to God, Jesus had to die. And for Jesus to die there had to be death. For death to exist there had to be sin. Christ was crucified because the Romans committed the greatest sin- the nailing of the son of God to a tree. Sin works for our good. God commanded evil to exist for our everlasting joy and His eternal glory. Within the time line of history and the context of every event sin makes God look good.
In the words of Augustine: ‘God would never have ordained evil if he could not bring good out of it.’

In the following chapters Watson continues to exposit the verse by examining the two qualifications for the privilege of the verse. If all things work together for good to a certain person, this person must also love God and be called according to God’s person.

Watson defines love as ‘an expansion of soul, or the inflaming of the affections, by which a Christian breathes after God as the supreme and sovereign good.’ (pg 66). Love is breathing after God. It should be a normal natural exercise that people constantly engage themselves in. Instead what do we do? We hate him, naturally. Sinners are suffocating themselves from life if they don’t love God.
Love for God needs to be a passionate love. We need to love all of God with all that we can. ‘God, who is the chief of our happiness, must have the chief of our affections. The creature may have the milk of our love but God must have the cream.’ (pg 71)

Watson then devotes a chapter to writing about the tests of love. How do we know we love God? How can detect our love for God? His tests are as follows:
A fruit of love is the musing mind upon God
A fruit of love is desire of communion
A fruit of love is grief (for sin)
A fruit of love is magnanimity (14C word which denotes a greatness of soul, heart and mind. A sort of courage and zeal that sustains someone with peace during trouble)
A fruit of love is sensitivity
A fruit of love is hatred against sin
A fruit of loving is crucifixion
A fruit of love is fear
A fruit of love is loving what God loves
A fruit of love is the entertaining of good thoughts abut God
A fruit of love is obedience
A fruit of love is the desire to exalt God in the eyes of others
A fruit of love is to long for Christ’s appearing
A fruit of love is humility

Watson continues on to give twenty reasons why we should love God. Twenty!
Here are a few:
‘4) God is the most adequate and complete object of our love. All the excellencies that lie scattered in the creatures are united to Him. He is wisdom, beauty love, yea the very essence of goodness.’ (pg 89)
8) Love to God is the best self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God, we forward our own salvation. (pg 91)
‘14) Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart’ (pg 96)

Effectual calling is the second qualification. This calling is a double calling and is received by every Christians. There is an outward call. That is hearing the gospel. Hearing about Jesus. Hearing that God is angry with you in your sin and yet is offering you love and acceptance through Jesus. The gospel is the objective work of what Christ did on the cross. It’s an offer and an invitation. It’s the expression of God’s heart to a broken generation: ‘We implore you on Christ’s behalf be reconciled to God!’ (2 Cor 5:20).

The inward call is something different. The inward call is the sensing of God for the first time in your soul. He says ‘Live!’ and you are born. Then you respond by receiving Christ as wonderfully attractive and needed. Both of these calls are needed for salvation. The inward call is irresistible. We didn’t ask to be born. In the same we didn’t ask to be born-again. God does it and then we respond. It’s not that we ask God to start working in us and then he takes up the offer. He starts working in us while we are dead in sin. The Spirit makes us alive. The Spirit gives life!!

‘Take notice what a mighty power God puts forth in calling sinners! God does so call as to draw (John 6:44)… A man can no more convert himself than a dead man can raise himself. It is called a creation (Col 3:10). To create is above the power of nature.’ (pg 113)

The last part of the text is ‘according to His purpose’ (Rom 8:28). God does it because He wants to. The pleasure of God in His own will is the ground of the text. It is God’s pleasure to save some and not others. That’s a serious statement. It exalts God and offends men. Watson isn’t afraid to say what the text really means, he writes:
‘If it be God’s purpose that saves, then it is not free-will. Pelagians are strenuous asserters of free-will. They tell us that a man has an innate power to effect his own conversion but this text confutes it. Our calling is ‘according to God’s purpose.’… All depends upon the purpose of God. When the prisoner is cast at the bar [convicted in a court of law], there is no saving him, unless the king has a purpose to save him. God’s purpose is His prerogative royal.’ (pg 125)

‘All things for good’ is a great read. It’s an easy introduction to the Puritan mindset and literature. But most of all it’s a book of humbling comfort. Comfort because our God is large enough to order everything for our benefit and humbling because we don’t deserve that. We deserve Hell not blessing. All things work for our good. Nothing is a threat anymore to our eternal well-being. Even the sin rooted deep in us that we lust after every day works for our good. Praise God!