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The Wonders of Grace (Spurgeon on the Savior’s interaction with the Centurion)

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.” Matthew 8:10-13

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“. . . [I]n the narrative before us, he marvelled at the faith of the centurion. From this we learn that we ought not to be so engrossed with the wonders of science and of art, or even with the wonders of creation and of providence, as to become indifferent to the marvels of grace. These should occupy the very highest place in our estimation. The seven wonders of the world are nothing when compared with the countless wonders of grace. That man must be foolish who does not admire the works of God in nature; he is frivolous who does not trace with awe the hand of God in history; and he is even more unwise who despises the masterpieces of divine skill and wisdom which are to be seen in the empire of grace. In the kingdom of God the wise man only wonders once in his life, but that is always: fools think not so, but they are void of understanding. The museum of grace is richer than that of nature. A heart broken on account of sin is a far greater wonder than the rarest fossil, whatever it may tell of ancient floods of the sea or convulsions of the land. An eye that glistens with the tears of penitence is a greater marvel than the cataract of Niagara, or the fountains of the Nile. Faith that humbly links itself to Christ has in it as great a beauty as the rainbow, and the confidence which looks alone to Jesus, and so irradiates the soul, is as much an object for admiration as is the sun when he shineth in his strength. Talk not of the pyramids, the Colossus, the golden house of Nero, or the temple of Ephesus, for the living temple of God’s church is fairer far. Let others glory in the marvels they have seen but be it mine to say unto my Lord, ‘I will praise thee, for thou hast done wonderful things. Thy love to me was wonderful. Surely I will remember thy wonders of old.’”

C. H. Spurgeon, “A Blessed Wonder,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on June 12, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 337–338.

* Paolo Veronese, “Jesus & The Centurion,” in The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain; public domain; accessed on 10/23/17 here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jes%C3%BAs_y_el_centuri%C3%B3n_(El_Veron%C3%A9s).jpg

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

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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.

Here Comes The Son

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Antarctic sunrise

  The Atlantic magazine’s website recently ran a story on the return of the sun to Antarctica after 90 days of night.[i] Antonio Litterio, a researcher at the Concordia Research Station, eloquently described this event, personifying the sun in this way:

I knew that today you’d come looking for me. Over these past few nights, I’ve looked out of the window, captivated by the beautiful starry sky. But in my mind I was thinking of you and how I would soon see you again. Human beings need light to feel calm and to live: light really is life. Wanting to see you again was not about wanting to feel closer to the end of my time here; it was about recharging my batteries. Over the past few days, even that warm glow has given me so much energy. Seeing you now, entering my bedroom in the morning, is a beautiful awakening…Today, seeing the light after so long, for those few minutes the Sun lingered above the horizon, I felt something that was a mixture of a mother’s caress, the warmth of a hug, and the peace and energy radiating from someone important to you. At the precise moment when the Sun reached the end of its arc, settling on the horizon, we looked at each other and there was nothing left to say. I’ve missed you…[ii]

On the basic level of human emotion these are beautiful and understandable sentiments. If one has been bereft of sunlight for three months, it is bound to depress one’s mood. Conversely, that bright orb’s return would naturally be greeted with joy by any right thinking person. Having said that, Litterio’s comments echoed other famous words that speak of a higher light than the burning mass of hydrogen that naturally illuminates planet earth and the surrounding solar system. As John the beloved apostle wrote: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4.)

Trees, Life, & Light

Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John makes frequent use of images from the Pentateuch[iii] – especially the Tabernacle of Exodus (e.g. Rev. 1:12; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 8:3; the symbolism of the table of showbread underlies Jn. 6:32-33, etc.) The lampstand, the only light-source for the Holy place, evokes arboreal imagery. Like a tree it has branches, fruit, buds, and flowers (Ex. 25:31-40.) The imagery hearkens back to the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden (Gen. 2:9, 17.) It unites life and light in one object. John draws on this to describe the role of Christ as both life-giver and light-giver. But what do life and light really mean?

The Light Of The World

Life and light are vitally connected. Life in the Bible transcends mere existence. The goal of life is relational. One commentator makes the essential connection in Christ that John 1:4 speaks of:

He was the well-spring of life, from which every form of life—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal,—flows.…Creation leads on to life, and life leads on to light. Without life creation would be unintelligible; without light all but the lowest forms of life would be impossible…the one true Light, absolute Truth both intellectual and moral, free from ignorance and free from stain. The Source of Life is the Source of Light: He gives the power to know what is morally good.[iv]

The real meaning of life entails knowing one’s creator. As Christ says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3.) Likewise, light connotes both truth and purity in the Bible (Ps. 119:130.) “…In your light we see light,” says the Psalmist (Ps. 36:9.) The true God wants people to know Him; therefore, He has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18.)

He wants His creatures to walk with Him in pure and true fellowship (1 Jn. 1:5-7.) Elsewhere John writes: “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:2-4.) Knowing truth depends upon knowing God and sharing in His life.

Wandering In The Dark

Life is to be lived in the light of God’s truth and holiness. He is the One who reveals how the world actually is, and what mankind ought to live for. Until one knows Christ by faith, spiritual darkness is one’s inevitable lot (Mt. 6:23; Jn. 1:5.) In fact, people love darkness (Jn. 3:19.) Apart from Christ’s saving work, the human mind is darkened (Rom. 1:21) and alienated from the righteous thought patterns of its Maker (Eph. 4:18.) Spurgeon powerfully depicts the lost man’s darkness:

Now, the power of sin is just like that. It hides from the human mind what that mind ought to see. The man is lost, but he does not know it; he cannot see the rocks that are just ahead. The man has soon to stand before the bar of God and receive his sentence, but he does not know it; I mean his heart does not know it. He trifles on, caring for none of these things…No matter how rich may be the mercy, nor how pure the consolation, he knows nothing at all about them, for he is in the dark. It is all dark, dark, dark with him, amid the blaze of noon.[v]

But after trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer is delivered from “the power of darkness and conveyed [them] into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13.) Conder poetically puts it thus:

Brightness of uncreated light;

The heart of God revealed:

Divine, O Son of God, art Thou,

In Thee God’s fulness find we now.[vi]

The Lord directly states it this way: “…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12, boldface mine.) As McGee explains: “This world today is in spiritual darkness, and the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the only light there is in the world. He is the light.”[vii] Ryle agrees in these words: “There has never been any spiritual life or light enjoyed by men, excepting from Christ.”[viii]

Out Of The Darkness Into The Light

Mr. Litterio was correct in connecting life and light, but he failed to note that this principle works on a higher level as well. The sun was created by the Creator of all life. He providentially uses it for mankind’s good (Mt. 5:45.) Until one knows the Son of God, however, life is unremitting night. It involves unceasingly groping in the darkness, perpetually wondering what is behind the dim unknown.[ix] To die without the Lord is to enter the eternal night of outer darkness (Mt. 25:30.) Thankfully, the Lord Jesus offers Himself as “the light of the world” to whoever will believe. As a classic hymn urges us:

Come to the Light,

‘Tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me.

Once I was blind, but now I can see –

The Light of the world is Jesus.[x]

 


[i] Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Sun rises again over Antarctica,” The Atlantic, published 13 August, 2013; found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/the-sun-rises-again-over-antarctica/278620/ Accessed on 13 August 2013.

[ii] Antonio Literrio, “Return to sunlight,” blog post, 12 August, 2013; Found here: http://blogs.esa.int/concordia/2013/08/12/return-to-sunlight/ Accessed on 8/13/13. [Boldface mine.]

[iii] The first 5 books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.

[iv] A. Plummer, The Gospel According to S. John, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 65-66.

[v] C. H. Spurgeon, “Deliverance from the power of darkness,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LIX. Originally preached on November 29, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 376–377.

[vi] Josiah Conder, “Thou art the everlasting word”; located here: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/h/59#ixzz2bxfSfR1c Accessed on 8/14/13.

[vii] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, comment on Jn. 1:4, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 373.

[viii] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 12.

[ix]

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis,” located here: http://www.bartleby.com/42/805.html Accessed on 8/14/13. [Boldface mine.]

[x] P.P. Bliss, “The Light of the world is Jesus,” located here: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/w/lworldij.htm Accessed on 8/14/13.

*Photo found here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/u/TvyamNb-BivtNwcoxtkc5xGBuGkIMh_nj4UJHQKupC5SSBpr5b0RJGiewoNVqo45CZ4QLkuljpza/ Accessed on 8/15/13.

Classic Expositions From The Past: “Come; Take; Learn” by Hamilton Smith

Monday, April 4th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE IN PDF., CLICK HERE:  Come, Take, Learn – H. Smith

“Come”; “Take”; “Learn”
Matthew 11: 25-30

There are certain passages in the Word of God that are especially endeared to the hearts of all
that love our Lord Jesus, inasmuch as they very definitely set forth the loveliness of Christ.
Among such portions we may well include the six closing verses of Matthew 11, for in these
verses we see the perfection of Christ shining out in one of the darkest moments of His earthly
pathway.
The passage opens with the words, “At that time.” We may well pause to enquire, what was
“that time”? The preceding chapters bring before us the Lord’s ministry in the midst of Israel. He
had presented Himself in all the glory of His Person as Emmanuel — God with us — cleansing
the leper with a touch, healing the centurion’s servant with a word, and commanding the demons
to depart (8). He had revealed the grace of His heart in forgiving sins, in sitting down to eat with
sinners, in raising the dead, opening the eyes of the blind, and in making the dumb to speak. He
had revealed the tender love of His heart by suffering in His spirit the sorrows that He took away
by His power, and had expressed His compassions for those who were scattered abroad as sheep
having no shepherd. He had shown the lowly grace of His heart by entering the humble home of
a fisherman, by preaching the gospel to the poor, and by becoming so poor that He had nowhere
to lay His head.
What response did the nation give to the One who expressed His grace by becoming poor in
order to show forth His love and power on behalf of sinful men in relieving them of every sorrow
and pressure, even of death itself?
Alas! Some besought Him to depart; others said “This man blasphemeth.” Again there were
those who laughed Him to scorn; others said He was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber. The
leaders said “He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” They insulted Him, defamed
Him, and thus speaking and acting against Him, they fulfilled His own touching words, “They
have rewarded Me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Ps. 109: 5). It thus becomes clear that
“that time” was the time of His utter rejection by the nation of Israel.
This then was the answer the nation gave to all His love and grace. But what answer did the
Lord give to all the insults and scorn that men heaped upon Him? Did He assert His sovereign
rights, and fall back upon His royal power by which He could have silenced every opposer and
crushed every foe? He had, indeed, warned the nation of the judgment that would overtake them,
but He utters no word of resentment, He uses no threats, He is not moved to any act of revenge.
In like spirit, a little later, in the last closing scenes, in the presence of false witnesses, “Jesus
held His peace.” Before Pilate, when accused by the chief priests, “He answered him to never a
word”; and yet again, before the mocking Herod, “He answered him nothing.”
If then He was silent, if He took no revenge upon His enemies, was it that He had no resource?
Far from it; but His resource was not to vilify His enemies and turn upon His foes, but to turn to
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the Father in prayer. As He can say, “For my love they are my adversaries; but I give myself
unto prayer” (Ps. 109: 4). So Peter can write of the Lord, in his Epistle, “Who when He was
reviled, reviled not again: when He suffered He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him
that judgeth righteously.” The answer then to all the insults men heaped upon Him is seen in the
threefold perfection that it called forth from the Lord.
First, “that time” brought to light His perfect and unshaken confidence in the Father’s love. He
finds His resource in turning in prayer to the Father — the One who loves Him, and who has all
power as the Lord of heaven and earth. No circumstances, however terrible, are allowed for one
moment to call in question the Father’s love, or the power of the Lord of heaven and earth. Nor
does the Lord turn to the Father, calling for revenge upon His enemies, but with thanks that, in
spite of all the hatred and opposition of men and devils, divine love and divine power are
carrying out the Father’s purposes. These counsels of love pass by those who by their wisdom
know not God, and proclaim the gospel to the poor who have no resources, and make known the
Father to the babes who make no pretension.
Moreover, a second great perfection comes to light. With perfect confidence in the Father’s love
and power, the Lord perfectly submits to the Father’s will. Thus He can say, “Even so Father: for
so it seemed good in Thy sight.” If carrying out the Father’s will entails the hatred and scorn of
men, He will submit. A little later, Peter, in his fleshly zeal, may draw a sword to resist those
who oppose His Master; but, the Lord, Himself, can say, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the
cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it”? (John 18: 11).
Furthermore, the sorrowful circumstances bring into prominence a third perfection of the Lord,
for He can say, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” In perfect meekness He gave way rather than
assert His rights, and in perfect lowliness He refused to exalt Himself. As He passed through this
world he ignored self in order to serve others in love.
Thus the darkest moment of His pathway becomes the occasion of bringing into display the
moral excellencies of Christ, as seen in His perfect confidence in the Father’s love; His perfect
submission to the Father’s will, and the meekness and lowliness of heart that could think of
everything, and everyone but self.
Thus, in a threefold way the loveliness of Christ shines forth. If, however, we are to profit by
Christ as our perfect pattern it will not be enough to admire His excellencies, we must also give
heed to His three exhortations: First, “Come unto Me”; Secondly, “Take my yoke,” and, Thirdly,
“Learn of Me.”
“Come unto Me.” Israel’s rejection of Christ cannot stay the grace of God: indeed, it becomes
the occasion for that grace to flow out to all, Jew and Gentile alike. Therefore the Lord can say,
“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” However great the burden of sins we are
welcome to come, even as the woman who was a sinner found in the house of Simon, and as a
poor thief found when nailed on a cross. As another has written, it is as if the Lord said, “If you
are a poor woman, not fit to face any of your fellow creatures, come to Me; I will have you, trust
Me: if you are hanging on a cross for your crimes, you shall go up today with Me to paradise.
My blood is enough to put your crimes away: my heart is open to receive you.” Weary with our
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vain efforts to meet our condition, and burdened with our sins, how good to hear His words of
love, “Come unto Me,” and, in His presence, discover that He knows the worst about us, and yet
He loves us. Then to learn that loving us He has died for us, and that the holy God is so satisfied
with what Christ has done that He has raised Him from the dead and seated Him in the glory, and
that the one that believes in Him is justified from all things, and is as clear of the judgment that
his sins deserve as Christ, Himself, in the glory. Thus it is He brings peace to the conscience, and
we realise the truth of His words, “I will give you rest.”
“Take My yoke.” The yoke implies service taken up in submission to the will of another. With
our natural tendency to self-importance we may seek to be among the Lord’s people as those that
rule and exercise lordship, but He could say, “1 am among you as He that serveth.” Moreover, it
is not service according to our own wills, or doing what we think best; but service according to
His thoughts and in obedience to His will. It is not simply “a yoke” that we are asked to take, but
“His yoke.” Coming to Him as needy sinners He will give us rest; taking His yoke as believers
we shall find rest. Martha, who served the Lord according to her thoughts was distracted and
“cumbered about much serving.”
“Learn of Me.” If, then, our service is to be according to His will and pleasure we shall need to
remember the Lord’s third great exhortation, “Learn of Me.” This involves, not only that we
learn the service He would have us to take up, but that we learn His blessed character, so that we
not only do the right thing, but we do it in the right spirit. Therefore the Lord’s desire is first, that
we should take up His service in submitting to His yoke; secondly, that we should exhibit His
character as the One Who is “meek and lowly in heart.”
We can learn of one another; we can learn by the prayerful study of the word; but to learn of
Him implies that we are in His presence and keep His company. As the Lord could say a little
later, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me” (John 12: 26). It is not, indeed, that He will give
us any fresh revelation beyond that which is made known to us in the word; but, in His presence
we learn the blessed reality of all that the word reveals. Paul can write to Timothy, “Consider
what 1 say: and the Lord will give thee understanding” (2 Tim. 2: 7). An Apostle may be used to
reveal the truth, but the Lord alone can give understanding of the truth revealed. It is good indeed
to have the doctrine set forth with all the authority of God’s written word; but good, also, when
the written word turns us to the living Word to see the truth set forth in all its perfection in HIM.
In His Person there is brought before us, in a way that must deeply affect us, all the moral
excellencies and spiritual graces that marked every step of His path of devoted service. We look
up to Him in the glory as our object and our hope, but we look back to His perfect pathway to
learn in Him the spirit that should mark His people as they pass through this world. In Him we
see our perfect example, for He was “meek and lowly in heart.” It is still possible, like Mary of
old, to sit at His feet and hear His word, and learning of Him we shall catch something of His
spirit and express something of His lovely character. It has been truly said, “There is so much
Christian service in the world which lacks true strength and beauty, because it stands too little
connected with the source of all service, with Christ Himself, and is too little founded on the
word of God. There are so many believers who like Martha, are busied about many things, but
alas! have neither the desire, nor quietness enough, to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His
precious word. To spend an hour alone with the Lord would be to them far more difficult than to
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labour the whole day about all sorts of things. And whence comes this? It demands a far more
spiritual mind to tarry in His presence than to be occupied with service. In the latter even nature
can find some satisfaction, while in His presence it must be entirely set aside.”
Furthermore, if we learn of Him, we shall not only take up His service in His spirit, but, in the
presence of all the sorrows and trials of life, the desertions and disappointments, the insults and
malice we may have to meet, we shall act as He acted. We shall not allow any of these things to
call in question the Father’s love, but, like Christ, we shall make them the occasion of turning to
the Father in prayer, of confiding in the Father’s love, and submitting to the Father’s will. In the
spirit of meekness we shall be quiet in the presence of every insult. With the lowly mind we shall
refuse to exalt self and seek, rather, to ignore self while seeking to serve others in love. Thus
acting like the Master we shall find rest to our souls.
Then seek to please Him, whatsoever He bids thee,
Whether to do, to suffer, or be still;
‘Twill matter little by what path He leads us,
If in it all we sought to do His will.
Taken from: http://stempublishing.com/magazines/OSW/51-60/osw52e.html Accessed on
4/1/11.

 

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.