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The Virgin Birth & Naturalism

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

“Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” Glen Scrivener, on his twitter feed, @glenscrivener, 5 January 2014.

*

“We find one virgin birth in the story of the Incarnation:

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:38).

Admittedly, this is out of the ordinary. But criticism without alternative is empty; a hypothesis is only plausible or implausible relative to what alternative hypotheses present themselves. So what exactly is the alternative?

My colleague Professor John Lennox debated another Princeton professor, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential atheists. Lennox challenged him to answer this question: ‘Why are we here?’ And this was Professor Singer’s response:

We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious [explanation].1

Self-replicating molecules somehow emerging out of a primeval soup strikes me as leaving substantial room for mystery. In fact, without further clarification, this theory sounds not dissimilar to a virgin birth. Or take Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe:

‘…the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.’2

But physical matter doesn’t normally materialize out of nothing, so this account also presents itself as outside the realm of the ordinary. Is this a less miraculous birth than the story of Jesus?

Or, finally, consider the position of the prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:

The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing . . . We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.’3

That is a refreshingly honest characterization, but again it is not at all clear why a foundation in nothingness should be viewed as comparatively more reasonable than a foundation in God.

The fact is, we live in a miraculous world. Regardless of a person’s worldview, the extraordinariness of the universe is evident to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. It is therefore not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, but which virgin birth we choose to accept.

We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that is indifferent to us—a universe where ‘there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’4

Alternatively, we can believe in the virgin birth of a God who loves us so deeply that he ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Emmanuel, God with us.”

Ftnt.#1:“Is There a God,” Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2011.

Ftnt.#2: Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2010), 180.

Ftnt.#3: Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4.2., 2000.

Ftnt.#4: Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden (New York: Perseus, 1995), 133.

Vince Vitale, “Everyone Believes In A Virgin Birth,” 6/16/17, on the blog, A Slice of Infinity; electronic ed. accessed on 6/20/17 here: http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/everyone-believes-in-a-virgin-birth/ [Italics original.]

*Art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gabrielle_et_Jean,_by_Pierre-Auguste_Renoir,_from_C2RMF_cropped.jpg [Labelled for noncommercial reuse.]

Christ as the Burnt Offering & The Peace Offering (A comparison by CHM)

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Commenting on Leviticus 1 & Leviticus 3:

“There is something more in the peace-offering than the abstract devotedness of Christ to the will of God. The worshiper is introduced; and that not merely as a spectator, but as a participator—not merely to gaze, but to feed. This gives very marked character to this offering. When I look at the Lord Jesus in the burnt-offering, I see Him as One whose heart was devoted to the one object of glorifying God and accomplishing His will; but when I see Him in the peace-offering, I find One who has a place in His loving heart and on His powerful shoulder for a worthless, helpless sinner. In the burnt-offering, the breast and shoulder, legs and inwards, head and fat, were all burnt on the altar—all went up as a sweet savor to God; but in the peace-offering, the very portion that suits me is left for me. Nor am I left to feed in solitude on that which meets my individual need. By no means. I feed in communion—in communion with God, and in communion with my fellow-priests. I feed in the full and happy intelligence that the self-same sacrifice which feeds my soul has already refreshed the heart of God; and, moreover, that the same portion which feeds me feeds all my fellow-worshipers. Communion is the order here—communion with God—the communion of saints. There was no such thing as isolation in the peace-offering. God had His portion, and so had the priestly family.

Thus it is in connection with the Antitype of the peace-offering. The very same Jesus who is the object of Heaven’s delight, is the spring of joy, of strength, and of comfort to every believing heart; and not only to every heart in particular, but also to the whole Church of God in fellowship. God, in His exceeding grace, has given His people the very same object that He has Himself. ‘Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1). True, our thoughts of Jesus can never rise to the height of God’s thoughts. Our estimation of such an object must ever fall far short of His; and hence, in the type, the house of Aaron could not partake of the fat. But though we can never rise to the standard of the divine estimation of Christ’s Person and sacrifice, it is nevertheless the same object we are occupied with, and therefore the house of Aaron had ‘the wave breast and the heave shoulder.’ All this is replete with comfort and joy to the heart. The Lord Jesus Christ, the One ‘who was dead, but is alive for evermore,’ is now the exclusive object before the eye and thoughts of God; and, in perfect grace, He has given unto us a portion in the same blessed and all-glorious Person. Christ is our object too—the object of our hearts and the theme of our song. ‘Having made peace by the blood of His cross,’ He ascended into heaven, and sent down the Holy Ghost, that ‘other Comforter,’ by whose powerful ministrations we feed upon ‘the breast and shoulder’ of our divine ‘Peace-offering.’ He is indeed our peace; and it is our exceeding joy to know that such is God’s delight in the establishment of our peace, that the sweet odor of our Peace-offering has refreshed His heart. This imparts a peculiar charm to this type. Christ as the Burnt-offering commands the admiration of the heart; Christ as the Peace-offering establishes the peace of the conscience, and meets the deep and manifold necessities of the soul. The sons of Aaron might stand around the altar of burnt-offering; they might behold the flame of that offering ascending to the God of Israel; they might see the sacrifice reduced to ashes; they might, in view of all this, bow their heads and worship; but they carried naught away for themselves. Not so in the peace-offering. In it, they not only beheld that which was capable of emitting a sweet odor to God, but also of yielding a most substantial portion for themselves, on which p 308 they could feed in happy and holy fellowship.

Assuredly it heightens the enjoyment of every true priest to know that God (to use the language of our type) has had His portion ere he gets the breast and the shoulder. The thought of this gives tone and energy, unction and elevation, to the worship and communion; it unfolds the amazing grace of Him who has given us the same object, the same theme, the same joy with Himself. Nothing lower—nothing less than this could satisfy Him. The Father will have the prodigal feeding upon the fatted calf, in fellowship with Himself. He will not assign him a lower place than at His own table, nor any other portion than that on which He feeds Himself. The language of the peace-offering is, ‘It is meet that we should make merry and be glad’—‘Let us eat and be merry.’ Such is the precious grace of God! No doubt we have reason to be glad, as being the partakers of such grace; but when we can hear the blessed God saying, ‘Let us eat and be merry,’ it should call forth from our hearts a continual stream of praise and thanksgiving. God’s joy in the salvation of sinners, and His joy in the communion of saints, may well elicit the admiration of men and angels throughout eternity.” C. H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1972), 307–308. [Italics original.]

*I am indebted to my friend & brother in Christ, Mr. John Morell, for alerting me to this excellent quotation.  -KRK

 

 

 

An excerpt from C.H.M.’s “‘Accepted’ & ‘Acceptable’.”

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

“The blessed apostle knew he was accepted. Did that make him lax, careless, or indolent? Far from it. ‘We labor’ he says, ‘to be acceptable to him.’ The sweet assurance that we are accepted in Him is the ground of our labor to be acceptable to Him. ‘The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. And he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.’ 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.

All this is pre-eminently practical. We are called upon, by every argument which can bear sway over the heart and conscience, to labor diligently to be acceptable to our blessed and adorable Lord. Is there aught of legality in this? Not the slightest tinge. The very reverse. It is the holy superstructure of a devoted life, erected on the solid foundation of our eternal election and perfect acceptance in a risen and glorified Christ at God’s right hand. How could there be the very smallest atom of legality here? Utterly impossible. It is all the pure fruit of God’s free and sovereign grace from first to last.

But ought we not, beloved Christian reader, to rouse ourselves to attend to the claims of Christ as to practical righteousness? Should we not zealously and lovingly aim at giving Him pleasure? Are we to content ourselves with simply talking about our acceptance in Christ, while at the same time there is no real earnest care as to the acceptability of our ways? God forbid! Yea, let us so dwell upon the rich grace that shines in the acceptance of our persons, that we may be led out in diligent and fervent effort to be found acceptable in our ways.

It is greatly to be feared that there is an appalling amount of antinomianism amongst us—an unhallowed traffic in the doctrines of grace, without any godly care as to the application of those doctrines to our practical conduct. How all this is to end, it would be hard to say; but, most assuredly, there is an urgent call upon all who profess to be accepted in Christ to labor fervently to be acceptable to Him.” C.H. Mackintosh, “‘Accepted’ & ‘Acceptable’” in Things New & Old, Vol. 17; quoted in Milk & Honey, April 2017; electronic ed. accessed on 5/13/17 here: http://bibletruthpublishers.com/accepted-and-acceptable/charles-henry-mackintosh-chm/things-new-and-old-volume-17/la50614 [Italics original.]

An Effective Ministry, A Guest-post by Randal Amos

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Paul’s ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2

2:1 – Paul taught his entrance among the Thessalonians was a positive thing.

What qualified the ministry to be counted as positive?

13-16“Ye received it [the word preached] not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God”.  Therefore the Word effectually changed their hearts.  They became followers, not of Jewish religion and its legal practices, but of the other churches of God in Christ Jesus.  And they suffered for this culturally and religiously but kept going on.

Why were the results effective?  Following are 8 things that characterized his ministry. 

#1.   2:2The Right Mentality  (mental toughness)

Paul was jailed and shamed in Philippi.  Yet he and the others did not quit.  They then went on to Thessalonica and “were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention”.  They had the heart of a lamb but the hide of a rhinoceros.

Negative happenings did not change their faithfulness.   

#2.   2:3-4The Right Message

Their message was not religious law, political reform, financial prosperity, a better health-diet or a self-help program but “the gospel of God”.  Their “exhortation was not of deceit” with twisted error or trickery.  It was a message that did not try to please men but only God.  He opened God’s Scriptures and proved the gospel – that Christ suffered fully for our sins to save from our due judgment.  And that this Jesus rose from the dead showing He is that Christ (God’s anointed Lord and Savior), Acts 17:1-3.

Many speakers dynamically motivate but with the wrong message.

#3.   2:5-6The Right Motive

Paul did not wear a “cloke of covetousness”, i.e. pretending on the outside to care and represent God which would mask from them his real reason – being after their money through guilt, greed and gimmicks.  He did not make “merchandise of you” (2Pet. 2:3).

Neither did he flatter their egos to make them feel ok and special the way they were so they would like him.  “Nor of men sought we glory” that would make him a spiritual hero to them thus making it easy for him to take advantage of them.  They, as saved souls, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ were his only glory and joy, 2:19, 20.

He was not in it for self but for God – Who tries the heart, and is a witness of it.  

#4.   2:7, 11The Right Match  (balance)

When Paul was among them he was neither a tyrant nor a wimp.  He had both father and mother qualities to him.  He was “gentle among you” (not harsh) as a nursing mother is with her dear children.  But he also “exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father” does his to children.   He was kind but firm in the things of God.

He had grace and truth like his Lord. 

#5.   2:8, 17-20The Right Moving  (what moved his heart was love, not self)

He had heart affection for the people themselves.  He just didn’t give them the gospel and ‘hit and run’. “Ye were dear unto us”. With desire he tried to return – then wrote them.

He loved the Lord and His people also.  He knew a head has a body – both are cherished.

#6.   2:9The Right Method

It was more than just bringing the saving gospel word to them but he used methods that were strategically meant to reveal God’s character and ways – thus aiding their knowledge of God.  Because they needed the example to work for a living, he, rather than depend on them for financial help (which was his due, 1 Cor. 9), “labouring night and day” with his own hands in hardship to help meet his needs. (Acts 18:3, 20:34).  Thus they would learn not to covet.  Later he could compellingly and un-hypocritically charge from God to the idle busy bodies; “if any would not work, neither should he eat”, (2 Thess. 3:10).

The method in telling the message of God should compliment the God of the message, (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

#7.   2:10The Right Manner of Life

Paul not only told them what was right, he lived what was right.  “How holily, and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”  Holy is piety toward God.  Justly is righteous fairness toward man.  Blameless is public reputation.  Paul was a living example of his message – written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.

Paul not only talked the walk but he also walked the talk. 

#8.   2:12The Right Mark  (aim of ministry to hit – goal)

Paul was not after money or fame.  He was not after stunning numbers but after their walk“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory”.  As he would further write in 4:1; “ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more”.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”, 3John: 4.

May we seek these 8 qualities by His grace in our ministries for the Lord Jesus.

Serve The Lord Where You Are, Believer! (C.H. Spurgeon)

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

“Providence, which arranged your surroundings, appointed them so that, all things being considered, you are in the position in which you can best display the wisdom and the grace of God. Now, if you can once accept this as being a fact, it will make a man of you. My Christian brother, or my dear sister, it will enable you to serve God with a force which you have not yet obtained, for then, instead of panting for spheres to which you will never reach, you will enquire for immediate duty, asking, ‘What does my hand find to do?’ You need not use your feet to traverse half a nation to find work, it lies close at hand. Your calling is near at home; your vocation lies at the door, and within it. What your hand finds to do, do it at once, and with all your might, and you will find such earnest service the best method in which you can glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘A large family,’ says one, ‘what can I do?’ Train them in the fear of God; these children are yours to serve the Lord withal. What nobler service can a mother render to the republic upon earth, and to the kingdom in heaven, than to educate her children for Christ? ‘Working in a large factory with ungodly men, what can I do?’ Needless enquiry! What cannot the salt do when it is cast among the meat? You, as a piece of salt, are just where you should be. Immure Christians in monasteries and nunneries! why it is like putting salt into a strong iron box and burying it in the ground. Nay, but the salt of the earth must be cast all over that which is to be conserved by it, and each of us must be put in a position where our influence as a Christian will be felt. ‘I am sick,’ says another, ‘I am chained to the bed of languishing.’ But, my friend, your patience will magnify the power of grace, and your words of experience will enrich those who listen to you. Your experience will yield a richer wine than ever could have come from you had you not been cast into the wine-press and trodden by the foot of affliction. I tell you, brethren, I cannot go into instances and details, but it is a most certain fact that all about you, though it be a blind eye, a disabled arm, a stammering tongue, a flagging memory, poverty in the house, or sickness in the chamber; though it be derision, and scorn, and contempt, everything about you is yours; and if you know how to use it rightly, you will turn these disadvantages into advantages, and prosper by them.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Things Present,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on May 9, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 273-274.

The Mockery Of The Cross (C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:6-8

He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” Luke 23:48

“Earth never beheld a scene in which so much unrestrained derision and expressive contempt were poured upon one man so unanimously and for so long a time. It must have been hideous to the last degree to have seen so many grinning faces and mocking eyes, and to have heard so many cruel words and scornful shouts. The spectacle was too detestable to be long endured of heaven. Suddenly the sun, shocked at the scene, veiled his face, and for three long hours the ribald crew sat shivering in midday midnight. Meanwhile the earth trembled beneath their feet, the rocks were rent, and the temple, in superstitious defence of whose perpetuity they had committed the murder of the just, had its holy veil rent as though by strong invisible hands. The news of this, and the feeling of horror produced by the darkness, and the earth-tremor, caused a revulsion of feelings; there were no more gibes and jests, no more thrustings out of the tongue and cruel mockeries, but they went their way solitary and alone to their homes, or in little silent groups, while each man alter the manner of Orientals when struck with sodden awe, smote upon his breast. Far different was the procession to the gates of Jerusalem from that march of madness which had come out therefrom. Observe the power which God hath over human minds! See how he can tame the wildest, and make the most malicious and proud to cower down at his feet when he doth but manifest himself in the wonders of nature! How much more cowed and terrified will they be when he makes bare his arm and comes forth in the judgments of his wrath to deal with them according to their deserts!

This sudden and memorable change in so vast a multitude is the apt representative of two other remarkable mental changes. How like it is to the gracious transformation which a sight of the cross has often worked most blessedly in the hearts of men! Many have come under the sound of the gospel resolved to scoff, but they have returned to pray. The idlest and even the basest motives have brought men under the preaching, but when Jesus has been lifted up, they have been savingly drawn to him, and as a consequence have smitten upon their breasts in repentance, and gone their way to serve the Saviour whom they once blasphemed. Oh, the power, the melting, conquering, transforming power of that dear cross of Christ! My brethren, we have but to abide by the preaching of it, we have but constantly to tell abroad the matchless story, and we may expect to see the most remarkable spiritual results. We need despair of no man now that Jesus has died for sinners. With such a hammer as the doctrine of the cross, the most flinty heart will be broken; and with such a fire as the sweet love of Christ, the most mighty iceberg will be melted. We need never despair for the heathenish or superstitious races of men; if we can but find occasion to bring the doctrine of Christ crucified into contact with their natures, it will yet change them, and Christ will be their king.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Mourning at the Sight of the Crucified,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on March 14, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 145–146.

Never more shall God, Jehovah,
Smite the Shepherd with the sword;
Ne’er again shall cruel sinners,
Set at nought our glorious Lord. 
– Robert Cleaver Chapman

For me Thou hast borne the reproaches,
The mockery, hate and disdain;
The blows and the spittings of sinners,
The scourging, the shame and the pain;
To save me from bondage and judgment,
Thou gladly hast suffered for me –
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Savior, to Thee!
 – Ernst C. Homburg; trans. Mrs. F. Bevan

The Lord Jesus Christ As The Word (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:14-18.

“Lest, however, we should imagine Jesus to be a mere utterance, a mere word spoken and forgotten, our apostle is peculiarly careful that we should know that Jesus is a real and true person, and therefore tells us that the divine Word, out of whose fulness we have received, is most assuredly God. No language can be more distinct. He ascribes to him the eternity which belongs to God: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ He peremptorily claims divinity for him: ‘The Word was God.’ He ascribes to him the acts of God: ‘Without him was not anything made that was made.’ He ascribes to him self-existence, which is the essential characteristic of God. ‘In him was life.’ He claims for him a nature peculiar to God: ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,’ and the Word is ‘the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ No writer could be more explicit in his utterances; and beyond all question he sets forth the proper deity of that Blessed One of whom we all must receive if we would obtain eternal salvation.

Yet John does not fail to set forth that our Lord was also man. He saith, ‘the Word was made flesh’—not merely assumed manhood, but was made; and made not merely man, as to his nobler part, his soul, but man as to his flesh, his lower element. Our Lord was not a phantom, but one who, as John declares in his epistle, was touched and handled. ‘The Word dwelt among us.’ He tabernacled with the sons of men—a carpenter’s shed his lowly refuge, and the caves and mountains of the earth his midnight resort in his after life. He dwelt among sinners and sufferers, among mourners and mortals, himself completing his citizenship among us by becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. See, then, my beloved brethren, where God has treasured up the fulness of his grace. It is in a person so august that heaven and earth tremble at the majesty of his presence, and yet in a person so humble that he is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren.’

The apostle, lest we should by any means put a second person in comparison with the one and only Christ, throughout this chapter continually enters caveats and disclaimers against all others. He bars the angels and shuts out cherubim and seraphim by saying, ‘Without him was not anything made that was made!’ At the creation of the world no ministering spirit may intrude a finger; angels may sing over what Jesus creates, but as the builder of all things he stands alone. Further on, the apostle guards the steps of the throne against John, and virtually against all the other witnesses of the Messiah; albeit among those that are born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist, yet, ‘he was not that Light.’ The stars must hide their heads when the sun shines; John must decrease and Christ must increase. Nay, there was one whom all the Jews reverenced and whose name is coupled with that of the Lamb in the triumphant song of heaven; they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. But even he is excluded from the glory of this text, ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ Moses must sit down at the foot of the throne with the tables of stone in his hands, but Jesus sits on the throne and stretches out the silver sceptre to his people. Lest there should remain a supposition that another person yet unmentioned should usurp a place, the apostle adds, ‘No man at any time hath seen the Father.’ The best and holiest have all alike been unable to look into that excellent glory; but the Word has not only seen the Father, but has declared him unto us.

The text is as Tabor to us, and while in its consideration, at the first we see Moses and Elias and all the saints with the Lord Jesus, receiving of his fulness, yet all these vanish from our minds, and our spirit sees ‘no man, but Jesus only.’ Gazing into this text, one feels as John did when the gates of heaven were opened to him and he looked within them, and he declared, ‘I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion.’ He saw other things afterwards, but the first thing that caught his eye and retained his mind was the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Brethren, it becomes us as ministers, to be constantly making much of Christ, to make him indeed the first, the last, and the midst of all our discourses, and it becomes all believers, whenever they deal with matters of salvation, to set Jesus on high and to crown him with many crowns. Give him the best of your thoughts, and works, and affections, for he it is who fills all things, and to whom all things should pay homage.” C.H. Spurgeon, “The Fulness of Jesus the Treasury of Saints,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on February 28, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 122-123.

Beware of the spiritual slide (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; But the LORD weigheth the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2
“Do you not know, brethren and sisters, that very often our ways seem very clean to us when they are not. I have learned by experience, most painful to my own soul, that I am not in the least qualified to judge of my own spiritual health: I have thought myself gradually advancing in the ways of God when I have been going back, and I have had the conceit crossing my mind that I had now overcome a certain besetting sin, when to my surprise I had found it return with greater force than before. Fellow professor, you may be at this moment walking as you think very rightly, and going on very well and comfortably, but let me ask you a few questions: are you not less in private prayer than you used to be? Do you not now hurry over it, do you not sometimes omit it altogether? Do you not frequently come from your closet without really having spoken to God, having merely gone through the form for the sake of quieting yourself? Your way may seem clean, but is it not foul when the mercy-seat becomes neglected?

  How about your Bible, is that read as it once was, and are the promises as sweet to you? Do they ever rise from the page and talk with you? Oh, but if your Bible be neglected, my brother, you may be just as diligent in attending to the house of God as you used to be, but is not yours a sad state of decay? Let me come closer still. Is there the vitality about your profession that there used to be? There are some in this house this morning, who, if they could speak, would tell you that, when to their great sorrow they fell into sin, it was because by little and little their piety began to lose its force and power of life. They have been restored, but their bones still ache where they were once broken, and I am sure they would say to their brethren, ‘Take care of allowing a gracious spirit to evaporate, as it were, by slow degrees. Watch carefully over it, lest, settling upon your lees, and not being emptied from vessel to vessel, you should by-and-by become carnally secure, and afterwards fall into actual sin.

  I ask some of my brethren here, and I ask the question because I have asked it of my own soul and answered it very tearfully, may not some of us be growing hardened in heart with regard to the salvation of our fellow creatures? Do we not love less now, than we used to do, those who are crying to us, ‘Come over and help us’? Do we not think ourselves getting to be experienced saints? We are not the poor sinners we once used to be. We do not come broken-heartedly to the mercy-seat as we did. We begin to judge our fellow Christians, and we think far less of them than we did years ago, when we used almost to love the ground that the Lord’s saints did tread upon, thinking ourselves to be less than nothing in their sight. Now, if it were the case in others, that they were growing proud, or becoming cold, or waxing hard of heart, we should say of them, ‘they are in great danger,’ but what about ourselves, if that be the case with us? For my own self, I dread lest I should come to this pulpit, merely to preach to you, because the time has come, and I must get through an hour, or an hour-and-a-half of worship.

  I dread getting to be a mere preaching machine, without my heart and soul being exercised in this solemn duty; and I dread for you, my dear friends, who hear me constantly, lest it should be a mere piece of clock-work, that you should be in the seats, at certain times in the week, and should sit there, and patiently hear the din which my noise makes in your ears. We must have vital godliness, and the vitality of it must be maintained, and the force and energy of our religion, must go on to increase day by day, or else, though our ways may seem to be very clean, the Lord will soon weigh our spirits to our eternal confusion.

  Do you know that to his people the divine weighing in fatherly chastisement is rough work, for he can put the soul into the scale to our own consciousness, and when we think that it weighs pounds, he can reveal to us that it does not even reach to drachms! ‘There,’ saith he, ‘see what you are!’ and he begins to strip off the veil of self-conceit, and we see the loathsomeness and falsehood of our nature, and we are utterly dismayed. Or perhaps the Lord does worse than that. He suffers a temptation to come when we do not expect it, and then the evil boils up within us, and we, who thought we were next door to the cherubs, find ourselves near akin to the demons; wondering, too, that such a wild beast should have slumbered in the den of our hearts, whereas we ought to have known it was always there, and to have walked humbly with God, and watched and guarded ourselves.

  Rest assured, beloved, great falls and terrible mischief never come to a Christian man at once, they are a work of slow degrees; and be assured, too, that you may glide down the smooth waters of the river and never dream of the Niagara beyond, and yet you may be speeding towards it. An awful crash may yet come to the highest professor among us, that shall make the world to ring with blasphemy against God, and the church to resound with bitter lamentations because the mighty have fallen. God will keep his own, but how if I should turn out not to be his own! He will keep the feet of his saints, but what if I leave off to watch, and my feet should not be kept, and I should turn out to be no saint of his, but a mere intruder into his family, and a pretender to have what I never had! O God, through Christ Jesus, deliver each of us from this.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Unsound Spiritual Trading,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on January 10, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 22-23.

Christ’s resurrection is essential to the Gospel (D.W. Gooding)

Friday, April 14th, 2017

“. . . [T]he story of the body of Christ lies at the very heart of the Christian gospel, does it not? When God set himself to save us fallen human beings, he didn’t remain in his high and lofty heaven. God is spirit; he didn’t remain simply like that, but sent forth his Son who, being God and never ceasing to be God, took upon himself a human body. He took it, not just as a temporary motel in which he might live for a few years and then discard it as irrelevant; he took a human body because a human body is an integral part of a human personality, and for our salvation it meant that he would become truly human like we are. His body was sinless, but listen to what the gospel says: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Pet 2:24). He took upon himself the death we deserved, the penalty and judgment under a holy God for our sin as human beings. ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’—he was really dead, ‘he was buried, but he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ (see again 1 Cor 15:3–4).

  The significance of it is glorious indeed. Take the first thing: The Bible says that Jesus Christ was delivered over to death for our trespasses, dying the just for the unjust, bearing in his sinless body our sins, paying the penalty (see 1 Pet 3:18). But he was raised the third day by God for our justification (Rom 4:25). In raising the body of Jesus Christ, God was saying, ‘It’s this same Jesus that stood before the cross as the representative of all mankind, truly human and therefore with a human body.’ He went to the cross to bear our sins in his body and bear the judgment of God against our sin. ‘And now,’ says God, ‘that judgment is past, the penalty has been paid. And the guarantee and demonstration of it is this, that holy body is raised again from the dead.’ It’s glorious, isn’t it? And Jesus Christ is raised, not as a disembodied spirit, but as a man still: a man who for our sakes died at Calvary, but has been raised as our representative man and received up into glory (1 Tim 3:16) . . .  The other part of the gospel is this, that one day all who trust him shall have a redeemed body, a body transformed to be like our Lord’s glorious body (Phil 3:21). This is not half a salvation; it’s God giving the whole of Christ, body, soul and spirit, for the whole of man, body, soul and spirit. When God’s redemption is finished, it shall not be a collection of disembodied spirits that God will have in heaven; it is a collection of whole men and women, spirits, souls and bodies, redeemed by Christ. A whole Christ for the whole human being . . . And finally, the bodily resurrection of Jesus proclaims him to be God’s Son, and is the evidence of a coming judgment. One day, because he is truly human and remains truly human, and because he is the Son of Man, all judgment shall be committed to him. The day will come when he shall speak the word and ‘those that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and come out, those that have done good to the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to the resurrection of judgment’ (see John 5:25–29). That is the Christian gospel.

  The wonderful thing, perhaps, for us is this. The risen Son of God tells us not merely that one day he will call the physically dead out of their graves to stand before his judgment throne; but the risen Son of God tells us that, even now, he longs to give us the gift of eternal life; imperishable, incorruptible, eternal life. ‘An hour is coming,’ said he, ‘and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ (v. 25).” David W. Gooding, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: ‘The Rattle of Dead Men’s Bones,” A Myrtlefield Transcript. (Coleraine, NI: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 14-15. [Brackets mine.]

The Reason for many modern scientists’ (naturalists) rejection of the miraculous

Friday, April 14th, 2017

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is the fact that many scientists say that; but it’s not their science that forces them to say so. They say it, not because science has forced them to say that miracles are impossible; they say it because they start off with the assumption that there is no God, that all there is in the universe is matter and, if that is so, miracles are impossible. Therefore, the story of the resurrection can’t be true. It’s not that science proves it; it’s their pre-supposition that there’s no God that leads them to conduct their science in such a way as they will tell you science proves the resurrection impossible. Now, don’t just take that from me. I want to read you a recent statement from a scientist. His name is Richard Lewontin,4 one of the leading older scientists in the United States. He was a great personal friend of Carl Sagan,5 the scientist who made it his speciality to use his radio telescopes to listen into space. He did it in the conviction that there must be intelligent beings on other planets trying to get in touch with us. Both Carl Sagan and Richard Lewontin are atheists (Carl Sagan is now dead). This is rather difficult language, but I want you to listen to what this atheist scientist says.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.6

  If you ever hear scientists saying that science has made it impossible for people to believe in God or the resurrection of Jesus Christ, remember what Professor Lewontin says, as an absolute atheist and a world famous scientist. ‘It’s not science that makes it impossible for us to believe in such things as the resurrection of Christ.’ What is it then? ‘It’s our prior commitment to materialism, and we are determined to maintain that standpoint. We’re not prepared for any God to put his foot inside our door.’”

Ftnt. #4: Evolutionary geneticist (born 1929).

Ftnt. #5: American Astronomer (1934–96).

Ftnt. #6: From Lewontin’s review of Carl Sagan’s last book, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, in the New York Review of Books, 1 July 1997 (italics in original).

David W. Gooding, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: ‘The Rattle of Dead Men’s Bones,” A Myrtlefield Transcript. (Coleraine, NI: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 11-12.