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Christ’s preciousness – A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, September 8th, 2017

“To every sinner who feels his sin, Christ is precious; to every child of God who is saved, the Saviour must forever be fairest among the fair; to every heir of heaven who has experienced the sweetness of his saving grace, Christ must appear to be ‘the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.’ A world destroyed I see if it had not been for a Saviour born; a world for ever cast into hell I see if it had not been for a Saviour dying on the cross. As a Saviour, O earth, thou as yet knowest not his preciousness; as a Saviour, O heaven, thou canst not reach the full merit of his praise. He is precious, then, if you think of him as he is, as God and man, and as a Saviour, in which office the two natures are combined in one.

Brethren, Christ is so precious that he cannot be bought. If a man should give all the substance of his house to purchase an interest in Christ, it would be utterly contemned. Rich men might gather together all their goodly things, yea, India might be exhausted of its wealth, Peru drained of its silver, and California of its gold, but no part nor lot in Christ could be bought, even with sapphires and diamonds. He gives himself away right freely, according to the riches of his grace, but he is utterly unpurchasable, for he is so precious that he cannot even be priced. A whole world can never weigh against him any more than a single grain of dust would weigh against the universe. There is no measuring line with which to form a unit for calculation, with which to measure him; he is infinite, and finite judgments will never be able to comprehend his unutterable value. He is God’s unspeakable gift. Heaven itself is nothing as compared with him, and if a man had to wade breast deep through a thousand hells to come at Christ, it were well worth the venture, if at the last he might but say, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am his.’

Jesus is so precious that he cannot be matched. There is none like him. The fairest of the fair are uncomely and deformed when compared with him. As Rutherford would say, ‘Black sun, black moon, black stars, but, O bright, infinitely bright Lord Jesus.’ ‘He is the express image of his Father’s person, and the brightness of his Father’s glory.’ Ye shall find none that can be likened unto him, if ye ransack time and space. Miss him as your Saviour, and you have lost the only salvation possible; gain him, and you will want no other, for he is made of God unto you ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption,’ and all your souls can want; yea, he himself is all. If heaven and earth were sold, ye could not match Christ in any market if ye gave the price of heaven and earth for his like. If you search eternity, and ransack immensity, there shall ne’er be found one fit to be second to him, he is so precious.

Precious, brethren, he is to us, because he cannot be lost. All the precious things in this world are loseable. The jewels may be stolen, the house may be broken into by the thief, and the casket may be taken away, but Christ is such a jewel that even Satan himself can never rob the soul of him when once it hath him. My heart evermore rejoices in that precious truth. Let Jesus Christ be once mine as the gift of God, I am safe, for ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ The Lord never repents of what he has done, he never plays fast and loose, or takes back a boon which he has once bestowed. Is not Jesus a priceless, precious jewel, since he cannot be lost!

And what is equally as delightful to remember, he cannot be destroyed. Even the diamond can be dissolved; bring but sufficient heat to bear upon it, focus upon it the full rays of the sun, and the sparkling crystal dissolves into a little gas; but though men have tried to focus all the heat of persecution upon the Christian, they have never been able to separate him from the love of Christ; and though earth and hell have stirred up their malice, and the furnace has been heated seven times hotter, and the child of God has been tossed into it, and apparently deserted to the fury of his enemies, yet never in a single case has the precious gem of Christ Jesus in the heart been destroyed, nor the believer’s interest in it; for Jesus and his servants have lived together, according to the glorious promise, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’ See the preciousness, then, of Christ, the intrinsic preciousness, the essential preciousness of Christ, because he cannot be bought, he cannot be priced, he cannot be matched, he cannot be lost, he cannot be destroyed. Happy and rich beyond expression are they who can truly say, ‘Unto us Christ is precious.’” C.H. Spurgeon, “Three Precious Things,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on May 8, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 278-280. [Italics original.]

Missionary Material (A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:36-43

“To crown all, our blessed Lord was one who knew how to die! Oh, when shall we have men and women sent among us who are prepared to die, in order to accomplish their life-work? I have shuddered, and all the more so because I might do no better myself, when I have heard excuses for avoiding risks of life, and reasons for escaping hardships in foreign lands. It has been even questioned in some quarters, whether a man would be right in exposing himself to danger of life in order to preach the gospel. I could say much, but would be sparing of censure. Only this I must say, until grace shall restore to us the ancient apostolic self-sacrifice, we may not expect to see the gospel conquering to any high degree. Zeal for God’s house must eat us up; love of life must yield to love of souls; trials must be counted as nothing for Christ’s sake, and death must be defied, or we shall never capture the world for Jesus. They who wear soft raiment will never win Ireland, or Africa, or India, for Christ. The man who considers himself, and makes provision for the flesh, will do little or nothing. Christ revealed the great secret when it was said of him, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save.’ In proportion as a man saves himself he cannot save others, and only in proportion as he is carried away with self-sacrifice, willing to renounce luxuries, comforts, necessities, and even life itself, only in that proportion will he succeed. I trust that no missionary’s life may be lost, but I trust that if the church can only bring the world to Christ by the deaths of her ministers, all our lives may be sacrificed: for what are we, my brethren, what is any one of us, compared with the accomplishment of our Redeemer’s work? Our sires went to the stake with songs upon their lips. Our ancestors were confessors who dared the barbarous cruelties of Northern hordes, and the refined persecutions of Southern superstition; men who could die, but could not refrain from witnessing for the Lord. We must quit ourselves like men for Christ, and though we may not all be called to make the extreme sacrifice, we must be ready for it, and if we shrink from it we are not the men for such a time as this.

We want men who can toil, men who can pray, men who can weep, men who can die. In fact, we need for Christ’s work men all ablaze with consecrated fervour, men under a divine impulse, like arrows shot from the bow of the Almighty flashing straight to the target; men like thunderbolts launched by the Eternal to go crashing through every difficulty with irresistible energy of aim. We want a divine enthusiasm to fire us, an almighty impetus to urge us on. Only men thus filled with the Holy Ghost shall accomplish largely the work of God.” C. H. Spurgeon, “The Model Home Mission and the Model Home Missionary,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on April 14, 1870.  (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 262. [Italics original.]

Take a look at Mitch Zajac’s new gospel website

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Take a look at Mitch Zajac’s new website: http://mitchzajac.com/

When Darkness Falls

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Today the United States is seized by eclipse-mania, as millions of people across the nation don odd-looking spectacles to observe a rarely glimpsed solar eclipse. Many are traveling large distances to get the best vantage point for the complete – or in some cases near complete – obscuration of the sun. Yet the most dramatic historical darkening of the skies was global, and concealed the central event of human history: Christ’s vicarious, sacrificial death. As the Gospel records it:

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’  Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46 [Boldface mine.]

Degrees Of Torment

When thinking of the Lord’s historical death, modern people tend to concentrate on His physical sufferings. The awful scourging, psychological torment, and beatings that He endured prior to the cross, as well as the nails through His extremities and the physical pain that accompanied crucifixion. This attention to His physiological sufferings likely stems from our own human understanding of sorrow. We can identify with bodily pain; sooner or later, we all endure sickness and corporeal affliction. Accordingly, we can picture Jesus’ physical sufferings.

Without minimizing the physical pain that Christ endured, His spiritual sufferings were the worst part of the cross. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes it: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” During the three dark hours the Lamb of God sacrificially took away the sin of the world by becoming a propitiation where the righteous judge condemned and punished sin but spared and justified believers in Jesus (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 3:23-26.) During that supernatural darkness on the cross, “the Lord . . . laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6.) It was a sight too terrible and too holy for fallen human eyes to behold. As George West Frazer poetically expresses it:

“‘Twas on that night of deepest woe, when darkness round did thicken,
When through deep waters Thou didst go, and for our sins wast stricken;
Thou, Lord, didst seek that we should be with grateful hearts remembering Thee.

How deep the sorrow, who can tell, which was for us endured?
O love divine, that broke the spell which had our hearts allured!
With heart and conscience now set free, it is our joy to think of Thee
.”[i]

The great hymnist and preacher, John Newton adds:

How bitter that cup no heart can conceive,
Which Jesus drank up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher and darker than mine:
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine
?”[ii]

From Darkness To Light

Thankfully, the Lord’s redemptive sufferings are over. He never needs to repeat His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 10:10-18.) The One who endured the deepest darkness, now inhabits unimaginably brilliant light – in keeping with His identity as “the Light” (John 1:4-5; 1 John 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 6:16; Acts 26:13.) After the darkness of the cross and the tomb, He arose from the dead and later ascended back to heaven’s glory (Rom.1:4; Acts 1:2-11.) For those who repent and believe on Christ for salvation, trusting in Him to save them through His finished sacrifice and resurrection, He promises eternal life in His kingdom which knows no darkness (Rom. 10:9; Rev. 21:23.) To ignore or disbelieve His offer of gracious salvation by faith is to remain spiritually lost, under God’s righteous sentence of condemnation (John 3:16-21, 36.) If one leaves this world in that state, they will endure eternal punishment in “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30.)

Solar eclipses are temporary, lasting only a matter of hours across a continent like North America. By contrast, suffering God’s wrath in the lake of fire lasts forever for those who have not trusted the Lord Jesus. Since Christ died for guilty sinners like you and me, there is absolutely no need to eternally perish in this way. As He says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24.)

A Future So Bright

The believer’s bright destiny is well-expressed in a classic hymn:

The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here;
Though clouds may darken o’er me, my Father’s house is near:
If through this barren desert a little while I roam,
The glory shines before me, I am not far from home.

Beyond the storms I’m going, beyond this vale of tears,
Beyond the floods o’erflowing, beyond the changing years:
I’m going to the better land, by faith long since possessed:
The glory shines before me, for this is not my rest.

The Lamb is there the glory! The Lamb is there the light!
Affliction’s grasp but tore me from phantoms of the night:
The voice of Jesus calls me, my race will soon be run;
The glory shines before me, the prize will soon be won.

The glory shines before me, I know that all is well;
My Father’s care is o’er me, his praises I would tell:
The love of Christ constrains me, his blood hath washed me white;
Where Jesus is in glory, ‘Tis home, and love, and light.
[iii]

___________________________________________________________________

[i] G.W. Frazer, “‘Twas on that night of deepest woe,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/188

[ii] John Newton, “I will trust and not be afraid,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?folder=p01&id=pd01601

[iii] Hannah K. Burlingham, “The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?id=pd16544

The Believer’s Position In Christ (A retro-post by Edward Dennett)

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:17-2:6

“We are here taught that the mighty power of God was displayed in the resurrection of Christ, that God came in and took Him out of the grave wherein He lay, raised Him up, and set Him down at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named; and then, more wonderful still — more wonderful because of those who were the objects of this perfection of His grace — that His power to us-ward was ‘according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ.’ And if Ephesians 1 gives us the effect of this mighty power in relation to Christ, Ephesians 2 shows us the effect on His people. The chapter thus commences: ‘And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins.’ And the apostle then points out that the exceeding greatness of God’s power met us in the place where we lay dead in sins (for Christ indeed in grace had come down to us — down to the very depths of our condition of death); and that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us quickened us together with Christ, and raised us (both Jew and Gentile) up together, and made us (Jew and Gentile) sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Christ, for the glory of God, in the accomplishment of His purposes, having identified Himself with His people, God, in response to the One who thus endured all for His glory, came in and wrought, and the effect is seen in a twofold way — in the place Christ occupies, and in the place we occupy in Him — seated in Him in the heavenlies.

But it is objected that we are only in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies in the sense of being seen in Him as the head of the new race. In the first place, Christ is never spoken of as the Head of a race in this epistle: as the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, He is; and we are also told that all things, whether in heaven or in earth, will be ‘headed up’ in the Christ; but this is a very different thing. Secondly, this would imply that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings through, rather than in, Christ. Of course, He is the only medium through which blessings flow to us, as indeed He is God’s only vessel of blessing for us; but, as united to Him, members of His body — and this is the teaching of Ephesians — we are blessed as in Him. This statement, however, its met by the allegation that the members of the body of Christ are on earth, not in heaven. This is not true in the teaching of Ephesians 2. There everything, being on God’s side, or, as we often say, on the side of purpose, is complete. The counsels of God are accomplished, and He has before Him, in Christ, His whole Church, Jew and Gentile alike, all distinctions abolished, seated in Christ. He reveals this to us to show us our true place, the character of our blessings, and the scene in which in spirit He would have us live and move. It may be furthermore objected that Christ is seated at God’s right hand, and that, as this place belongs only to Him, we could not be said to be seated in Him where He is. True, most blessedly true, is it that the right hand of God is the pre-eminent place of our blessed Lord, the place which God delighted to give Him, and the place which the saints rejoice to recognize as His alone. But this in nowise militates against the fact that believers are in Christ where He is. His place at the right of God is positional — the token of His supreme exaltation; and it would indeed be unholy presumption to intrude a claim to this. But while asserting this, is not Christ before God? And is He not there as the head of His body? And are not saints actually united to Him? And is it not true, therefore, that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, has quickened us together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? There is the whole Church now before the eye of God, and He has it there, ‘that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us through (in) Christ Jesus.’ Edward Dennett, “Expository Jottings: What is it to be seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus?” in Christian Friend, Vol. 11, (1884), p. 204; Electronic ed. accessed on 8/17/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/dennett/seathvnl.html

The testimony of Mitch Zajac

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Our friend & brother in Christ, Mitch Zajac’s story may be viewed here; it’s well worth your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf528enUQz8

Scenes Of God’s Glory From The Cancer Ward

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16

*

Authentic Christianity – a living relationship with Christ by faith – is built for real life with all its trials and difficulties. I was practically reminded of this during a recent visit to a believing friend who is currently fighting cancer. Although she is in the hospital in a state far from our home, we were in her area for the preaching of God’s Word, and so decided to visit and encourage her. Even as I type that last phrase, I’m smiling, for what occurred was that my wife, Naomi & I, were the ones who were encouraged. Seeing the reality of the faith of this suffering sister and her devoted husband demonstrated afresh the reality of the Lord’s mercies in the crucible of pain.

From Anger To Praise

Our friend’s cancer was diagnosed shortly after her husband lost his job. Like many of us, this brother was initially dismayed and angry: Why would God allow this to happen now? As he recounted his past bitterness, I thought to myself: “Brother, I’m certain I would’ve harbored hard thoughts too.” Yet our Father “knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14.) It turned out, that the severance package was generous and in God’s good providence, the family insurance continues for a year. What seemed at first to be a major blow, turned out to be the Almighty’s gracious supply for His children’s needs. In addition, the husband was set free from normal working responsibilities in order to care for his wife. Truly, “a man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9.)

Praising From The Sickbed

From her sickbed, this sister repeatedly spoke of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Her husband agreed and could only lament his former doubt. He spoke with the quietness of conviction, affirming that the Lord is to be trusted and is doing all things well. How can people going through such a severe trial praise the Lord? The answer is that it is nothing short of supernatural!

In times of stress and difficulty, Christ’s people have a decided advantage:

  • The Lord promises to never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5.)
  • He died to remove their sins and rose again to give them eternal and abundant life (1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 10:10.)
  • His Spirit lives within them and empowers them to glorify God from the fiery furnaces of this world (John 14:16-18.)
  • They also have the settled assurance that the Lord providentially works all things for good (Rom. 8:28-30.)
  • God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11) and that will is directing history toward the inexorable enthronement of His glorified Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16.)
  • Part of that will also dictates that His people will be eternally with Him, sharing in His glory and serving in His heavenly administration (John 17:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:11-13.)

As Isaac Watts put it:

Plunged in a gulf of dark despair
We wretched sinners lay,
Without one cheerful beam of hope,
Or spark of glimm’ring day.

With pitying eyes the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and, O amazing love!
He ran to our relief.
[i]

Glory, Glory, Glory

Present sufferings cannot compare with believers’ future glory (Rom. 8:18.) The Holy Spirit used Paul to write these words. By his own experience, he was an authority on human suffering. Sorrow may endure for the night time, but for the believer, joy cometh in the morning. The great eternal morning when the Lord will come to receive His saints to Himself (John 14:3.) Bodies that are now afflicted with diseases like cancer, will then be clothed with immortality (1 Cor. 15:42-55; 2 Cor. 4:17-5:8.) Spirits that are plagued by the inward struggle against sin will enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:11, 15-23.) As Robert Murray M’Cheyne poetically envisioned it:

When I stand before the throne

Dressed in beauty not my own,

When I see thee as thou art,

Love thee with unsinning heart,

Then, Lord, shall I fully know—

Not till then—how much I owe.[ii]

______________________________________________________________________

[i] Isaac Watts, The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).

[ii] Robert Murray McCheyne, The Works of the Late Robert Murray McCheyne, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), 360–361.

* J. Hodgson Lobley, “The Special Surgical Auxiliary Hospital At The Star & Garter Hotel,  Richmond (UK)” (1918): Accessed here.

Danse Macabre

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

The timeworn, cynically homespun adage has it that there is nothing certain except for “death and taxes.” Nevertheless, modern science continues its relentlessly optimistic quest to abolish death, with tech entrepreneurs funding ever more ambitious schemes to live forever.[1] End-of-life medical care and the funeral industry – multibillion dollar businesses in North America alone – seek to dull the pain and obscure the ubiquity of death, veiling its grotesqueness under a cosmetically constructed façade of simulated sleep. A more recent concept in mitigating the horror of death came to my attention earlier in the week, appropriately enough in an obituary.

Sunbury, GA Cemetary (Photo by KRK)

The English Approach: Let’s Talk About Death

The late Mr. Jon Underwood of London was a pioneering proponent of the “Death Café” movement. The idea is to gather over tea and cake and discuss one’s own mortality. On the one hand, this is a commendable effort to face reality: death comes to all human beings and it behooves them to face that fact.[2] The only problem is that it does not go far enough in thinking about the matter. This is shown by Mr. Underwood’s comment when asked about his own demise: “It’s not ‘that I’m not scared of dying — I am! . . . But doing this work has given me confidence that whatever happens I will respond with openness and resilience. I know I will cope. That’s really useful!’”[3] Sadly, his Buddhism[4] offers no certainty for what comes after death; of course, that is the momentous issue. What comes after this life determines whether or not one can “cope” with death and its aftermath.

After Death, Eternal Existence, But Where?

The best place to learn about death is to the words of the Creator of life, who vanquished death through resurrection – The Lord Jesus Christ. He has been to the afterlife and returned to tell the tale (1 Cor. 15:3-8.) Death exists in our world because of mankind’s historical and ongoing sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23.) The Lord Jesus came to earth to destroy sin and the Devil who exploits it to human beings’ cost (1 John 3:8.) Not only did Christ physically die, He also suffered and died under the wrath of God for our sin (1 Pet. 3:18.) Thus, He knows what lies beyond this world and has dealt with sin which separates us from our Maker. Those who are trusting Christ for salvation need not fear death, for it is a vanquished foe.[5]

Christ’s words to Martha are revelatory: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26.) He can promise life after death because He has defeated death, as Hebrews 2 explains: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15; boldface mine.)

Elsewhere the Lord Jesus described the fruitfulness of His death and resurrection, saying: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24.) Commenting on His future harvest, one preacher remarked:

“The extent of this fruit-bearing we do not yet see. It is only one here, and another there, whom we see quickened from the death of sin by the all-vivifying power of him who, as the last Adam, is made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). But, in the day of his glorious re-appearing; when he comes with the ten thousand of his saints, those who have slept in him, and those who shall be alive at his return; when he comes to smite Antichrist, to bind Satan, to deliver creation from its groans, to bless Israel, to be a light to the Gentiles, to set up his righteous kingdom, and to make all things new; it shall be seen what he has done by dying. In that day, when he presents to himself the Church of the first-born, the redeemed from among men, without spot or wrinkle, a great multitude that no man can number, we shall learn the extent and excellency of that fruitfulness which he acquired by dying. Heaven and earth, men and angels, shall then see why it was that this corn of wheat fell into the ground and died.”[6]

Christ For Us, With Us, And in Us

To those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are promised His presence through His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:16-23; Col. 1:27.) He lives in them and empowers them for service (John 15:5); even if they should die physically, they are not separated from Him for an instant (2 Cor. 5:1-8.) Their soul and spirit – the incorporeal part of humans – are instantly in glory with Christ (Luke 23:43.) At His coming, their bodies will be raised, transformed into glorified form, and caught up to be with the Lord (Phil. 3:20-21; Psa. 17:15; 1 John 3:1-2.)

If one rejects Christ’s offer to save and transform one into His glorious image, there is nothing left but to suffer a lost eternity of conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire – what people commonly call “hell” (Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15.) The only way to “cope” with life, dying, death and what comes after is to have a living relationship with the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3.)

Ford Maddox Brown, Convalescent, (Portrait of Emma Maddox Brown); https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg

Here are afflictions and trials severe,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here I must part
with the friends I hold dear,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Sweet is the promise
I read in Thy Word:
Blessed are they
who have died in the Lord;
They have been called
to receive their reward;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’

This world of care is
a wilderness state,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
But I must bear from
the world all its hate,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Soon shall I be
from the wicked released;
Soon shall the weary forever be blest;
Soon shall I lean upon Jesus’ breast;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’
[7]

♰        ♰         ♰        ♰         ♰         ♰

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
’Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me.

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
 

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me![8]

______________________________________________________________________

[1] Time, 9/30/13, Cover story: http://time.com/574/google-vs-death/

[2] Heb. 9:27. Of course, Christ promised the notable exception of those believers who are alive when He returns “in the air” to collect His church, 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Even if a believer dies before this event, he will: 1. Not taste of death in the sense that he will never be separated from God’s love in Christ, John 11:25-26; Rom. 8:37-39; Heb. 2:9-13. 2. Be raised to meet the Lord in the sky, 1 Thes. 4:14-16; 1 Cor. 15:20-23.

[3] Quoted in his obituary: Iliana Magra, “Jon Underwood, Founder of Death Café Movement, Dies At 44,” New York Times, 7/11/17, electronic ed. accessed here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/international-home/jon-underwood-dead-death-cafe-movement.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fobituaries&action=click&contentCollection=obituaries&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0 [Boldface mine.]

[4] “As a Buddhist, Mr. Underwood had already contemplated the philosophical questions of dying.” Ibid.; His website also indicates that he was a student at “Jamyang Buddhist Centre,” Accessed here: http://deathcafe.com/profile/2/

[5] As a Puritan writer explained it: “Death to a holy man is nothing but the changing of his grace into glory, his faith into vision, his hope into fruition, and his love into perfect comprehension.” Thomas Brooks, “The Crown & Glory of Christianity,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, Vol. 4. (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 179.

[6] Horatius Bonar, “Sermon XXIII: Life & Fruitfulness Through Death,” in Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 180. In another sermon, he said: “The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realized. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchers is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death,—a land of graves. If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where ‘that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory.’” H. Bonar, “Sermon XLIII: The Mortal & The Immortal,” in Family Sermons, 418-419.

[7] Anon., Believer’s Hymnbook, #72.

[8] Anne Ross Cousin, “O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head,”; electronic ed. accessed on 7/19/17 here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocwbubth.htm

The Present Delay In Christ’s Earthly Enthronement (Horatius Bonar)

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Hebrews 2:8.

“Seeing Jesus now crowned with glory and honour, yet not seeing all things put under Him, but the world lying in wickedness,—the lawless one giving law to the nations, and Satan inspiring the false religions of earth,—we should feel like disappointed men, and be tempted to ask, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ did we not remember that the Church’s posture in the Bridegroom’s absence is that of patient waiting; and that it is God Himself who has taught us this song of hope: ‘Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth.’

This interval or break the apostle designates by the word ‘Now,’—‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour.’ In reference to this interval, he elsewhere uses the same word, in various aspects: ‘Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’ (Heb. 9:24). ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2). ‘The whole creation greaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’ (Rom. 8:22). ‘The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). ‘Even now are there many antichrists’ (1 John 2:18). Of the length of this ‘now,’ little is said; but of its bearings on us, and of its momentous character as the womb of infinite events and eternal issues, much has been written by the Spirit of God. Again and again, for warning, persuasion, instruction, consolation, has He held up to us this interval, so unique in its character, and so marvellous in its results; and made that word ‘now’ to ring in our ears.

An interval so long and gloomy, filled up during so many centuries with revolt, and defiance, and blasphemy, is not what we should have expected. Seeing that all power, on earth as well as in heaven, was given Him as the risen Christ; seeing that He fought the fight, and won the victory upon the cross; we wonder that He should not at once reap the harvest; that He should still be the rejected of men, His Church a minority, His cause upon the losing side, Himself defied by that world which He overcame, that Satan whom He led captive, that death over which He triumphed, that curse, for the enduring of which He took flesh and died.

Under this sore perplexity and disappointment we take refuge where He did, when men turned away from His words: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.’ The purpose of God, as we read it in the light of ages, assumes the necessity for the development of evil, and error, and unbelief, and rebellion; so as to bring out, not merely what the fall did, the frailty of creaturehood, but the depths of Satan and the depths of sin,—the abysses of evil that are to be found in every corner of a human heart. In the sight of God, this development of creature fallibility and evil is a thing of vast moment, and has a far larger space assigned to it in the history of men and devils than our philosophy would deem safe, or our theology account for. The revelation of evil upon earth before Messiah came was fearful; but it was explicable on the fact that the Destroyer of evil had not yet descended. But its far wider range and more malignant type since He came; nay, since He finished His sin-bearing work; nay, since He sat down upon the throne, is more perplexing, and no less appalling. Terrible are these words of His, ‘I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword.’

O sin, sin, what an infinite evil art thou! How exceeding sinful, and how prolific in thy sinfulness; how tenacious of life; how expansive in thy potency; how remorseless in thy cruelty; how all-pervading in thy dominion over creaturehood; one seed of thine, dropt in Paradise, covering earth for six thousand years with its hellish harvest! O heart of man, what a pit, what a sea of wickedness, and lawlessness, and atheism art thou! O Satan, Satan, god of this world, and ruler of its darkness, how vast thy resources of strength, and skill, and cunning; defeated, yet gathering power from defeat; wounded with a deadly wound eighteen hundred years ago, yet still surviving, and mustering thy hosts for battle; still multiplying thy subtle wiles, and seducing sophistries, and strong delusions, and dazzling falsehoods, to deceive if possible the very elect; still forging thy fiery darts and wounding men to death, or leading them captive at will; still warring against truth, hiding the gospel, raging against the Lamb, assailing His cross, His throne, and His saints; still vitalizing the old and sapless idolatries of earth, inventing new infidelities, sending forth new blasphemies, making, not heathendom, nor Moslemdom, but Christendom, thy chief seat and chosen citadel; and exercising a power everywhere that both alarms and perplexes us, as if the Christ of God had not been really crowned, or as if the reins of the universe had snapped asunder in His hands!

This, then, is the fact to which we ask your attention, ‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him.’

The word translated ‘put under’ does not merely intimate abstract right, but actual surrender and obedience. That Christ is Prince of the kings of the earth, and Head over all things, as well as Head of His body the Church, is part of every Christian creed; but to how few,—individuals, Churches, nations,—is it aught beyond a mere abstraction! The recognition of the dogma is accompanied with no acknowledgment of the laws in which it declares itself, and with no subjection, personal, political, or ecclesiastical, to Him for whom the Father claims absolute obedience: ‘Kiss ye the Son.’

The abstract right or prerogative is that which the apostle demonstrates from the eighth psalm: ‘Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak; but one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the work of Thy hands.’ Thus this psalm, which carries us back to the first chapter of Genesis, and embodies God’s original grant of authority over creation to the first Adam, is accepted by the apostle as a proof of God’s purpose to confer on Christ, as the last Adam, the lapsed sovereignty and forfeited sceptre of the first; to perpetuate in the line and dynasty of that race which Adam represented the lordship of His handiwork; not to alienate the inheritance because of the transgression of the first proprietor, but to continue it in the same stock and family; to place, not upon an angelic, but a human brow, creation’s diadem; to confide, not to angelic, but to human hands, the sceptre of the universe.

This grant of dominion to the last Adam the apostle shows to be as wide as God’s creation. For thus he interprets and expands the psalmist’s words, ‘in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him.’ So that as in person the last Adam is more glorious than the first, so is His throne more exalted, and His empire as much larger in compass as is His worthiness of honour and fitness to reign. In Him, as very God and very man, the crowns of heaven and earth are united; and the slain Lamb is He who alone is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and honour, and glory, and blessing, from every creature in heaven, and earth, and sea.

What then? Has God’s purpose failed or changed? Has the rebellion of this present evil world proved stronger than was reckoned on? For the right of dominion and the actual subjection have not been co-extensive. Christ is King of kings, yet Satan is still god of this world, and prince of the power of the air. It is to this point of divergency between the earthly and the heavenly, of conflict between the rightful and the actual, that the apostle brings us when he says, ‘But now we see not yet all things put under Him;’ just as our Lord Himself did in the parable of the nobleman who went into the far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return; but who, in the interval of absence, was but poorly served by some of his servants, and hated by his citizens. The divine meaning of this strange divergency between the upper and lower regions of Messiah’s domain is too large and too profound a subject for present discussion. The reasons for this delay in assimilating the terrestrial to the celestial; in transmuting the universal right into the universal fact; in following up the conferred sovereignty with the accomplished submission, would lead us into the mystery of sin’s first entrance and present sufferance, as well as into the question why a sinner at his conversion is not at once made perfect, and not at once translated into the heavenly glory. Our object is simply to call attention to the state of non-submission to Christ in which we find our world, and which is declared to he specially the characteristic of the interval, or ‘now,’ spoken of by Paul. Man and his world have not yet bent the knee to Him; and the Father has not yet interposed to bring about the submission. ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power,’ is still a futurity both for Israel and for the world.”

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 193–201. [Italics original.]

“As King, Christ is Judge; but the world accepts not His judgment; it believes not in His acquittals and His condemnations, either now or hereafter. His sentences, as moral verdicts of approval or disapproval, they may receive; but as judicial decisions of the highest court of appeal, inferring irreversibly the recompense of a glorious heaven or an unquenchable hell, they repudiate them. In this sense Christ is not Judge, and there is no judgment-day, and no great white throne. All things are not yet put under Him as Judge!

As King, He is Avenger, but the day of recompense has not yet come, and ‘sentence against an evil work’ has not yet been executed. Therefore not only does the world reject Him as the Avenger, but a large section of modern Christianity disowns the very idea of vengeance, as incompatible with love, and the effeminate theologies of the age refuse to believe that the wrath of the Lamb is a reality, that the day of vengeance is in His heart, or the rod of iron in His hand. They have yet to learn the divine antipathy to sin, and the divine determination either to pardon or to punish eternally every sin, and every fragment of a sin, on whomsoever it shall be found. They have yet to understand the meaning of these awful words, ‘I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury.’

As King, He is the Conqueror; but though His great victory is won, His conquest is not yet complete. The routed host still rallies, disputes the field, nay, recovers ground so widely, that men ask, Where is the Conqueror, and where is His victory? Heathendom is as populous and as idolatrous as ever, and Christendom is yet more hostile to Christ and to Christianity than paganism of old. The sway of antichrist is vast; and Satan is not yet bound, but goes to and fro throughout the earth, the inspirer of its false religions, the instigator of its rebellions, the forger of its errors, the soul of antichrist, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

As King, He is Deliverer, the opener of all prisons, and the looser of all chains. But the gates of brass are not yet broken, nor the bars of iron cut asunder. The curse still poisons the soil and troubles its tillers,—the curse of barrenness, disease, pain, weariness, vanity, the sweating toil of man, and the travail-pangs of woman. The wilderness has not yet been glad, nor the desert blossomed as the rose.

As King, He is the Resurrection and the Life; but the dead have not yet risen, the grave has not refunded its ill-gotten treasure. The dust of saints, though precious in His sight, is undistinguishable from the mould of earth; and forms beloved of Him and beloved of us are still the prey of corruption. He has the keys of Hades and death, but He has not unlocked their two-leaved gates, nor said to the prisoners, Go forth. The churchyards of earth have not yet been emptied, nor has the sea delivered up its dead. The worm still feeds on bodies which are parts of Christ’s body, and the Head has not yet interposed. The shroud still wraps forms which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and He who has the residue of the Spirit has not yet rescued one particle of that holy dust. Death still reigns, and ‘he who has the power of death’ still continues to slay. The tomb still holds the countless atoms of redeemed mortality, and this corruptible has not yet put on incorruption. Death, the last enemy, has not yet been destroyed, and the grave can still boast of its victory.

Now we see not yet all things put under Him; but we see Jesus on the Father’s throne, crowned with glory above, in anticipation of the like crown below. For earth’s long rebellion shall come to a ‘perpetual end.’ Each spoiler shall be spoiled, each conqueror conquered, each prison opened, each boaster silenced, each blasphemer confounded, each antichrist smitten, each rival throne overturned, when ‘the Christ’ shall take to Himself His great power and reign.”

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 213–216. [Italics original.]

The Focus Of The Church (A Retro-post by Horatius Bonar)

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:28

“That God may be all in all’ is the basis of all apostolic doctrine, from which it sets out, and into which it returns, and round which it revolves. ‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things,’ is the refrain of the apostle’s songs; a refrain which the whole early Church took up and sung with so loud a harmony, that the sound went over earth, and pagan nations awoke, startled at the name of the one living and true God, King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God, so different from their Jupiter, their Mercury, and other such false and unclean gods. The burden of these doxologies is: Glory to that eternal Jehovah who worketh all in all, who filleth all in all.

God is the doer as well as the purposer of everything connected with the Christ, and of everything relating to the redeemed and their connection with the Christ, who is the centre of all His purposes and desires. The Church is His creation. Each saint is His creation. There is no religion in a man save that which originates with Him, and is consummated by Him. Religion that is self-made, consisting of doctrines, feelings, rites, self-taught and self-wrought, is no better than ancient paganism. ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Eph. 2:10): that is, we are His workmanship, not our own (ver. 8); nay, we are His ‘creation,’1 nay, His creation in and by Christ Jesus; and all this for ‘good works,’ for which God had made all this vast preparation, ‘that we should walk in them.’

Thus God is in Christ purposing concerning us; for Christ and the redeemed are inseparable in the eternal purpose of the Father. That purpose embraces both, and embodies the mutual relationship of the one to the other. It contemplates also, and makes preparation for, the holiness of each redeemed one, as well as for the perfection of the whole Church of God; as it is written, ‘Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Tim. 1:9, 10).

Thus God is in Christ working concerning us; for all His operations for us and in us are in connection with the Christ. From the first touch of His hand, when He arrests us in our folly, to the last, when He finishes the glorious work in the resurrection of our bodies, all His doings concerning us are ‘in Christ.’ ‘He created all things by Jesus Christ,’ is as true of the new creation as of the old. He is the former of all things, the Lord of Hosts is His name. Each hour bears witness to the unceasing and unwearied touches of His hand in moulding us anew after His own image. And all this is the working and the purposing of ‘love,’—the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. And all this to the praise of the glory of His grace, that God may be all in all.

Thus God is in Christ reconciling us to Himself; for the reconciliation comes through this living channel, and this only. God approaches us in Christ, lays hold on us in Christ, looks at us in Christ, makes proposals to us in Christ, links us to Himself in Christ. ‘You hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death’ (Col. 1:22). The reconciliation of the covenant is Christ Jesus our Lord. Save in Him, there is no nearness, no favour, no friendship, no fellowship. The one Mediator is the one reconciler, through whom God says to us, ‘Come unto me;’ and as there is but one mediation, so there is but one atonement, one propitiation, one reconciliation; one cross, one blood, one death, one burial, one resurrection. For in each of these Christ is all. ‘He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’”

1 The words ‘creation’ and ‘workmanship’ remind us of the expressions used in reference to the first creation, ‘His work which God created and made’ (Gen. 2:3).

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 144–147. [Italics original.]