February, 2011

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The High Cost Of Liberty

Monday, February 28th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The High Cost Of Liberty

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

The author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson once penned the following regarding armed revolution:

We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s [sic] liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.[i]

Despite this incendiary rhetoric and all of his contributions to the founding of the United States of America, Jefferson never shed a drop of his own blood to create or defend liberty.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

The recent unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and other despotically ruled nations once more shows the innate human desire for freedom from tyranny. It remains to be seen whether these protests will produce political situations where freedom may flourish. Yet on a higher level the Lord Jesus Christ “preached freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed” through the shedding of His own blood (Luke 4:18; Eph. 1:7.) He was willing to suffer the heinous torture of crucifixion in order to free repentant sinners. Rather than sending others to die for spiritual liberty, Christ Himself gave His life on the cross. By pouring out His blood He paid the redemption price to liberate people from the tyranny of sin, Satan, the grave, and hell. His resurrection shows that the rescue has been accomplished. Only the Lord Jesus can grant true eternal freedom to lost sinners.

To obtain “a better resurrection” many of the Lord Jesus’ followers have suffered physically and emotionally (Heb. 11:35.) Old Testament Israel experienced tremendous oppression from numerous occupying powers. As a nation Israel currently disbelieves in their true Messiah Jesus (“Yeshua” as His name is in Hebrew); for them the “times of the Gentiles” continue (Lk. 21:24.) They will not recognize Him until He comes to defend and rescue them from the ire of the nations at the end of the Tribulation period (Zech. 12:1-13:1; Matt. 23:37-39.)

Freedom Worth Suffering For

Today millions of Christians around the world continue to suffer and die for their faith; yet their stories often go unreported in the western media. Nonetheless, one day the great Deliverer the Lord Jesus Christ will come to rescue His servants from those who mercilessly persecute them (2 Thes. 1:4-10.) What is more, He will liberate both them and the creation itself from the bondage and pain that sin produces in this world (Rom. 8:14-24.) The freedom that Jefferson and other people pine for is but a pale reflection of the far greater program of liberty that God will inaugurate through His peerless Son. His work will encompass every nation and extend far beyond this planet as it currently is (Rev. 21-22; Isa. 9:6-7.) If you have never done so, call on Him for salvation, confessing your hopeless condition as a sinner, and He will save you (Rom. 10:9.) Or if you already have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, continue on in the struggle – “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12)! The kingdom that God will establish in the age to come is worth suffering the loss of everything in this age (Acts 14:21-22; Matt. 16:24-27; Mk. 10:30.)[ii]


[i] Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to William S. Smith, 13 November 1787;” accessed here on 2/28/11: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl64.htm ; emphasis mine.

[ii] An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared on the Carryduff Gospel Hall website (http://www.carryduff.org/ ) the week of February 21, 2011.

The School Of Adversity

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: Adversity

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

Paul was probably the most effective Christian missionary in history. His dynamic evangelistic and Bible teaching ministry resulted in many conversions and the subsequent formation of several Asian and European churches. Far from robbing the apostle of his effectiveness his imprisonment actually led to the advancement of the gospel. First, Paul diligently witnessed to his captors who were taken from the ranks of the elite palace guard (Phil. 1:13; in this verse “palace” is literally Praetorium, i.e. the place of the powerful  royal bodyguards.) Second, the curtailment of his public preaching ministry, coupled with his resolute courage in the face of danger, motivated other Christians to begin proclaiming the good news of Christ in place of the incarcerated apostle.

Paul’s example leads one to ask oneself: Am I willing to suffer that the gospel may progress to lost souls? Do the problems of life open up avenues to glorify the Lord? Christians must pray to discern how they may use every occasion to witness to the lost, as well as grow in personal dependence on the Lord. A good friend once told me how terminal cancer opened doors for him to share the good news of Christ with many people that he otherwise would not have met. I can testify that my personal affliction of cerebral palsy has taught me much about the Lord’s powerful mercy, as well as providing numerous opportunities to share Christ with people who suffer physically. Praise God that He sovereignly uses the hard things of life to bless and save people!

Originally published on www.carryduff.org (The website of Carryduff Gospel Hall, Carryduff, Northern Ireland.)

Only one will not do…How many have you?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE:Only one will not do

Today, February 9th, is the birthday of notable historical figures such as the 9th President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, and the 18th century philosopher and political agitator – not to mention inveterate infidel – Thomas Paine.  Contemporary figures such as Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, the diminutive actor Joe Pesci, and the actress Mia Farrow were also born on this date.  More pertinent to my situation: 38 years ago today I was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA.  This birth was somewhat surprising because I arrived 3 months early (I’ve always been partial to dramatic entrances!)  The local doctors looked at this scrawny baby who weighed a mere 2 pounds 7 ounces and opined that I only had a 30% chance of surviving.  Happily, there is a God who rules over all and determines the times appointed for men.  Thus, in His sovereign mercy He spared my life.

A Mother’s Faith & A Faithful God

Although premature and suffering from cerebral palsy – which would go undiagnosed until I was nearly two – I enjoyed many blessings.  My chief advantage was to be born into a household where the parents were devout Christians who had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and knew the value of intercessory prayer.  Anyone who has met my parents knows that my father is louder, larger, and much more forceful than my mother.  Nonetheless, in the early moments of my life it was my faithful Christian mother who offered a “Hannah prayer” to the Lord.  Those unfamiliar with this great woman of faith, Hannah, can consult 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.  Hannah prayed that the Lord would give her a son so that she could give him back to the Almighty for His service.  Similarly, my mother said, “Lord if you spare the boy’s life, I’ll give him back to You for Your work”.  I did not learn of this prayer for many years.  It was only after I began preaching and teaching from the Word of God that she told me of her “bargain” with the Lord.  In His grace, He honored that prayer and I have now been preaching His Word for over 20 years, spending nearly 12 of those in full time service for His glory.

Of course, my second birthday occurred 7 years after my first.  Thanks to the faithful witness of my parents as well as countless sermons heard in our local church, I was well-acquainted with the story of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I knew that there is a God who sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for sinners (1 Tim. 1:15.)  I also knew that not having the Son of God as my Savior left me in the dreadful state of being under the righteous condemnation of God for my sins (John 3:36.)  As a boy of 7, alone on my cousin’s porch, I simply asked the Lord to save me based on what His Word said: that His Son died for me and rose again so that I could be given eternal life.  John 3 famously describes the conversion experience as being “born again”.  It could also be translated “born anew” or “born from above”.  2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.  On that summer’s day I passed from a state of spiritual death – that is alienation from God and His life – to a state of spiritual life – knowing God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:24; John 17:3.)

Happy Birthday To Me (Twice)

So on this day, my 38th birthday, I give thanks to God for His mercy and grace towards me: for allowing me to receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior and serve Him throughout my adolescence and adult life.  In my local church when someone has a birthday, we often sing a second verse to the well-known birthday chorus; the lyrics are as follows:

Happy birthday to you, only one will not do!

Born again means salvation, how many have you?

I am so thankful to write that I have 2 birthdays.  The natural one on February 9th, and the spiritual one on a specific day whose date I have forgotten from the summer of 1980.  Nonetheless, Christ lives within me and I live in Him (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:1.)  If you cannot say that you have two, I urge you to read John 3 and consider where you stand with the Lord.  If you are to be saved from your sin and gain eternal life, you must receive the Lord Jesus Christ or to put it as He did, “you must be born again” (John 3:7.)

Another gem from the past: “The True Grace of God Wherein We Stand” by J.N.D.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The True Grace of God wherein we stand

1 Peter 5: 12.

God is made known to us as the “God of all Grace,” and the position in which we are set is that of “tasting that He is gracious.” How hard it is for us to believe this, that the Lord is gracious. The natural feeling of our hearts is, “I know that thou art an austere man”; there is the want in all of us naturally of the understanding of the Grace of God.

There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God’s passing over sin, but no, grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing that God cannot tolerate it: were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways, and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord’s being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing that, man being a sinner, his state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace will do for him – can meet his need.

We must learn what God is to us, not by our own thoughts, but by what He has revealed Himself to be, and that is, “The God of all Grace.” The moment I understand that I am a sinful man, and yet that it was because the Lord knew the full extent of my sin, and what its hatefulness was, that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin, and not that my sin is greater than God. . . . The Lord that I have known as laying down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life, and all His dealings with me are on the same principles of grace. The great secret of growth is, the looking up to the Lord as gracious. How precious, how strengthening it is to know that Jesus is at this moment feeling and exercising the same love towards me as when He died on the cross for me.

This is a truth that should be used by us in the most common everyday circumstances of life. Suppose, for instance, I find an evil temper in myself, which I feel it difficult to overcome; let me bring it to Jesus as my Friend, virtue goes out of Him for my need. Faith should be ever thus in exercise against temptations, and not simply my own effort; my own effort against it will never be sufficient. The source of real strength is in the sense of the Lord’s being gracious. The natural man in us always disbelieves Christ as the only source of strength and of every blessing. Suppose my soul is out of communion, the natural heart says, “I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ,” but He is gracious; and knowing this, the way is to return to Him at once, just as we are, and then humble ourselves deeply before Him. It is only in Him and from Him that we shall find that which will restore our souls. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If we own ourselves in His presence to be just what we are, we shall find that He will show us nothing but grace. . . .

It is Jesus who gives abiding rest to our souls, and not what our thoughts about ourselves may be. Faith never thinks about that which is in ourselves as its ground of rest; it receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed, and what are God’s thoughts about Jesus, in whom is His rest. As knowing Jesus to be precious to our souls, our eyes and our hearts being occupied with Him, they will be effectually prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around; and this too will be our strength against the sin and corruption of our own hearts. Whatever I see in myself that is not in Him is sin, but then it is not thinking of my own sins, and my own vileness, and being occupied with them, that will humble me, but thinking of the Lord Jesus, dwelling upon the excellency in Him. It is well to be done with ourselves, and to be taken up with Jesus. We are entitled to forget ourselves, we are entitled to forget our sins, we are entitled to forget all but Jesus.

There is nothing so hard for our hearts as to abide in the sense of grace, to continue practically conscious that we are not under law but under grace; it is by grace that the heart is “established,” but then there is nothing more difficult for us really to comprehend than the fulness of grace, that “Grace of God wherein we stand,” and to walk in the power and consciousness of it. . . . It is only in the presence of God that we can know it, and there it is our privilege to be. The moment we get away from the presence of God, there will always be certain workings of our own thoughts within us, and our own thoughts can never reach up to the thoughts of God about us, to the “Grace of God.”

Anything that I had the smallest possible right to expect could not be pure, free grace – could not be the “Grace of God.” . . It is alone when in communion with Him that we are able to measure everything according to His grace. . . . It is impossible, when we are abiding in the sense of God’s presence, for anything, be what it may – even the state of the Church – to shake us, for we count on God, and then all things become a sphere and scene for the operation of His grace.

The having very simple thoughts of grace is the true source of our strength as Christians; and the abiding in the sense of grace, in the presence of God, is the secret of all holiness, peace, and quietness of spirit.

The “Grace of God” is so unlimited, so full, so perfect, that if we get for a moment out of the presence of God, we cannot have the true consciousness of it, we have no strength to apprehend it; and if we attempt to know it out of His presence, we shall only turn it to licentiousness. If we look at the simple fact of what grace is, it has no limits, no bounds. Be we what we may (and we cannot be worse than we are), in spite of all that, what God is towards us is LOVE. Neither our joy nor our peace is dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us, and this is grace.

Grace supposes all the sin and evil that is in us, and is the blessed revelation that, through Jesus, all this sin and evil has been put away. A single sin is more horrible to God than a thousand sins – nay, than all the sins in the world are to us; and yet, with the fullest consciousness of what we are, all that God is pleased to be towards us is LOVE.

In Rom. 7 the state described is that of a person quickened, but whose whole set of reasonings centre in himself . . . he stops short of grace, of the simple fact that, whatever be his state, let him be as bad as he may, GOD IS LOVE, and only love towards him. Instead of looking at God, it is all “I,” “I,” “I.” Faith looks at God, as He has revealed Himself in Grace. . . . Let me ask you, “Am I – or is my state the object of faith?” No. faith never makes what is in my heart its object, but God’s revelation of Himself in grace.

Grace has reference to what GOD is, and not to what we are, except indeed that the very greatness of our sins does but magnify the extent of the “Grace of God.” At the same time, we must remember that the object and necessary effect of grace is to bring our souls into communion with God – to sanctify us, by bringing the soul to know God, and to love Him; therefore the knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification.

The triumph of grace is seen in this, that when man’s enmity had cast out Jesus from the earth, God’s love had brought in salvation by that very act – came in to atone for the sin of those who had rejected Him. In the view of the fullest development of man’s sin, faith sees the fullest development of God’s grace. . . . I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God’s love. I shall then be saying, “I am unhappy because I am not what I should like to be”: that is not the question. The real question is, whether God is what we should like Him to be, whether Jesus is all we could wish. If the consciousness of what we are – of what we find in ourselves, has any other effect than, while it humbles us, to increase our adoration of what God is, we are off the ground of pure grace. . . . Is there distress and distrust in your minds? See if it be not because you are still saying “I,” “I,” and losing sight of God’s grace.

It is better to be thinking of what God is than of what we are. This looking at ourselves, at the bottom is really pride, a want of the thorough consciousness that we are good for nothing. Till we see this we never look quite away from self to God. . . . In looking to Christ, it is our privilege to forget ourselves. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of ourselves, as in not thinking of ourselves at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about. What

I want is, to forget myself and to look to God, who is indeed worth all my thoughts. Is there need of being humbled about ourselves? We may be quite sure that will do it.

Beloved, if we can say as in Rom. 7, “In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing,” we have thought quite long enough about ourselves; let us then think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good and not of evil, long before we had thought of ourselves at all. Let us see what His thoughts of grace about us are, and take up the words of faith, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

J.N. Darby, “The True Grace of God wherein we stand,” Similar to, perhaps extracted from, ‘Why do I groan?’ C.W. 12 Evangelical vol. 1, page 186, electronic ed.: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/New8_95/38True_Grace.html Accessed on 2/5/11.