20 January 2019

Soaked

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 27, sermon number 1,578, "Taught the we may teach."







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"We are to be impartial in our study of the word, and to be universal in its reception." 





Set your whole heart on the word. Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my hand in several chapters. 

Oh, to bathe in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! The man who has read many books is not always a learned man; but he is a strong man who has read three or four books over and over till he has mastered them. He knows something. He has a grasp of thoughts and expressions, and these will build up his life. 

Set your heart upon God’s word! It is the only way to know it thoroughly: let your whole nature be plunged into it as cloth into a dye.


13 January 2019

Call upon, stir up, take hold


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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 23, sermon number 1,377, "Taking hold upon God."


"There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee." 
Isaiah 64:7

"We have in these days a race of time servers and word spinners to succeed the real men."

I do not know that the condition of the church of God at the present time is quite so bad as that which is here described. It would be wrong to boast of our condition, but it would be worse to despair of it. It would not be honest to apply the words of our text to the church of the present day.

Blessed be God, we could not say, “There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee,” for there are many who plead day and night for the prosperity of Zion. Yet in a measure we are somewhat in the same plight as that which is described by the prophet, and there is much to mourn over. 

Prayer languishes in many churches, power in intercession is by no means a common attainment, and meetings for prayer are, as a rule, thinly attended, and not much thought of. Sin abounds, empty profession is common, hypocrisy is plentiful, and the life of God in the soul is but little esteemed.

Notice carefully that according to our text the prophet traces much of the evil which he deplored to the lack of prayer. After he has compared their righteousnesses to filthy rags he adds, “there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee.” 

When there is a degeneracy of public manners, you may be sure that there has also occurred a serious decline of secret devotion. When the outward service of the church begins to flag and her holiness declines, you may be sure that her communion with God has been sadly suspended. Devotion to God will be found to be the basis of holiness and the buttress of integrity. 

If you backslide in secret before God, you will soon err in public before men. You may judge yourselves, my dear hearers, as to your spiritual state by the condition of your hearts in the matter of prayer. How are you at the mercy seat? for that is what you really are. 

Are the consolations of God small with you? That is a minor matter; look deeper,Is there not a restraining of prayer before the living God? Do you find yourself weak in the presence of
temptation? That is important; but search below the surface, and you will find that you have grown lax in supplication, and have failed to keep up continual communion with God.

07 January 2019

Owing Nothing to Anyone

by Hohn Cho



or my handful of regular readers, I apologize for the extended silence. November and December are always my busiest months of the year, and this year it was even more hectic than usual. Happily, things are calming down quite a bit, and I'm determined to keep calm and blog on. And lately, I've been meditating quite a bit on Romans 13, both the first seven verses on the topic of submitting to government, and for the topic of this post, Romans 13:8, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."

On a horizontal level, precisely because of this verse, my desire is to owe nothing to anyone except love. This is something which the Scriptures command and exhort us to do. And thus it is—at least conceptually—something possible for us to do, to some extent. Now, when I say that my desire is to owe nothing to anyone, I don't say this in an arms-folded, "I got mine and everyone else can go pound sand" kind of way, but rather in an earnest way that makes the paying of debts and the fulfilling of commitments an affirmative burden on my conscience.

And so it is that the (increasingly rare) occasions I have an empty inbox and task list are a source of great satisfaction for me, as is my gradually dwindling list of financial obligations. Accordingly, it is at best disconcerting when certain people point their fingers at me, and others like me, and claim that we owe them something, when to the best of my knowledge and recollection, I owe nothing to these folks. In many cases, I've never even met them before!

How and when does this happen? Well, in the United States, we often see it in the context of discussions about "privilege" and social justice. The vastly simplified argument goes something like this: Some people were born into more privilege than others, and some of the folks with the least privilege (with ethnicity being the most common category cited by many "social justice" advocates here) even have the deck systemically stacked against them by society. This is fundamentally unfair, and so the ones with less privilege are owed something, with the payors being society, or the more privileged, or both.

My response to these arguments has been that they appear to be based (whether knowingly or unknowingly) on concepts borrowed from secular Critical Race Theory rather than drawn from the Bible. I think Kevin DeYoung said it well in a blog post last year:

I have my concerns with the term "social justice" and with all that it connotes. But what if we press for a less culturally controlled and more biblically defined understanding? Several years ago, I worked my way through the major justice passages in the Bible: Leviticus 19, Leviticus 25, Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22, Amos 5, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46, and Luke 4. My less-than-exciting conclusion was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God's care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you (emphasis added).

Having independently studied many of the same Scriptures and concepts, I agree with DeYoung's conclusions entirely, and in considering what "doing justice" means, it's important to note that his entire list consists of individual actions and not systemic or societal or collective actions. And most of those individual actions are quite mundane, such as following the law, neither breaking the law nor taking advantage of people, and as we also see in Romans 13:8, paying what you promised, what you actually owe.

But wait wait wait, you say, DeYoung also mentions showing impartiality, aha, what about that? Well, I've written on this issue before, and the great majority of the secular attempts to address past partiality, such as affirmative action, are prime examples, in and of themselves, of unbiblical partiality.

The reality is that all of us are born with certain privileges, or to use a more biblical word, blessings. Similarly, all of us are born with certain trials. God has assigned those blessings and trials, and as a Christian, I'm called (in James 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and elsewhere) to be joyful and thankful for both the blessings and the trials. Now, if God has especially blessed the circumstances of a person's birth, there's certainly a Scriptural argument to be made that that person is more accountable before the Lord for his or her blessings (see, e.g., The Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30, and Luke 12:48b, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more"). But being held accountable by the Lord for one's blessings is entirely different from being held accountable by a stranger who claims you owe him or her something.

And this brings us to the second half of Romans 13:8, on love. As I strive to love my neighbors, my desire will always be to do so proactively and lavishly, and particularly toward the people for whom I'm most responsible. Scripturally, that's my immediate family per 1 Timothy 5:8. It's my fellow Christian brothers and sisters even more so than non-Christians per Galatians 6:10. It's the specific believers in my own local body per Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2. It's the people who cross my path per Luke 10:30-37. It's the people who actually ask me for help per Luke 6:30.

That last example reinforces the point I'm trying to make, I believe. An earnest request for help, genuinely needed and without expectation or presumption, is a humble act. And my loving desire will certainly be to help that person, within the bounds of capacity and wisdom. Perhaps I can meet the need fully, perhaps I can meet it partially, perhaps I can't meet it at all. Regardless, I'm going to be much more inclined to help a person like that, because God gives grace to the humble as we see in 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6, and in His rich mercy, God often chooses to use His servants to provide that grace.

In contrast, an angry demand, a sense of entitlement, or even a false claim that I owe someone something, when in fact I owe that person nothing except love, are all signs of pride, which God opposes with military fervor in those same verses of 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6. And while I might not (although perhaps I might) send even that person away with nothing at all—because after all, I am no better than that person, and God was gracious to me even when I was His enemy—anything I give would be an unmerited act of grace and mercy and charity. What it would not be, however, is an act of justice, or a discharging of a debt or obligation.

Understanding this very key difference between justice and mercy is of great importance to the "social justice" debate, along with other distinctions such as the Gospel itself versus an outworking of the Gospel, and the line dividing an appropriate attempt to exhort others via Scripture from a pharisaical attempt to bind others' consciences on a matter of Christian liberty. Regardless, if I haven't borrowed from or made a promise to someone, if I haven't directly wronged someone giving rise to an obligation of restitution to that person, I don't owe that person anything, even if he or she was born in a far less advantageous position, or has fallen upon hard times of late. Even if I might have been assigned five or two talents by my Master, while the other was assigned only one. No, the only thing I owe that person is love. It's not a small thing, certainly, but neither is it a guilt-inducing debt under the law. And as we conclude Romans 13:8, we see how that very same love actually destroys the law's burden of shame, "for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."

So when strangers try to tell you that you owe them something, a helpful question to ask in response might be, "How, specifically, have I personally wronged you?" And if the answer is a bunch of spluttering rhetoric about indirect systemic catchphrases, I can say with some degree of confidence that you probably haven't wronged them at all; they're merely trying to sell you something, specifically a sense of guilt and shame for circumstances of birth completely beyond your control, all of which has been fully paid for on the Cross in any event, for those truly purchased by the blood of Christ.

As I've written before, the Word is crystal clear in places such as Acts 23:1, Acts 24:16, Romans 9:1, 1 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Timothy 1:19, 2 Timothy 1:3, and 1 Peter 3:16 that a Christian is capable of maintaining a clear conscience toward certain people and on various issues. By all means, ensure your conscience is properly formed by the Scriptures, take care to examine yourself, and don't just blithely give yourself a pass. But if your conscience is indeed clear on matters such as these, heed Galatians 5:1 by not letting any person subject you again to a yoke of slavery, especially when Christ has set you free.


Hohn's signature

06 January 2019

Held

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,031, "David dancing before the Ark because of his election."
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"Dear brethren, there is great power in the truth of election
when a man can grasp it."

Personally, I have overflowing joy in the doctrines of eternal, unchanging love. It is bliss to know that the Lord has chosen me. When I am down very low in spirit, I crave for those old books which, like the Lord Jesus, are full of grace and truth. 

You who are at ease in Zion can do with the chaffy modern theology; but when your heart is heavy, and especially when your conscience is under a sense of sin, you will want these two dishes on the tablefree grace and dying love, and you cannot do without them. 

We must have an atoning sacrifice, and free grace to make us partakers thereof. I cannot give up the doctrines of grace, for they are my life. I do not so much hold them as they hold me. The five fingers of the great doctrines of grace have enclosed my heart. 

I can die; but I cannot deny the imperishable truth. The doctrine of the eternal choice gives forth joy as myrrh and cassia give forth perfume. May you all know it! 

01 January 2019

Onward!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from the metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 19, sermon number 1,114, "Onward!"
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"Never mind though you have run so far, you must let the space which lies between you and the goal engross all your thoughts and command all your powers."

Some people seem to have very good memories as to what they have performed. They used to serve God wonderfully when they were young! They began early and were full of zeal! They can tell you all about it with much pleasure.

In middle life they wrought marvels, and achieved great wonders; but now they rest on their oars, they are giving other people an opportunity to distinguish themselves—their own heroic age is over. Dear brother, as long as ever you are in this world forget what you have already done, and go forward to other service!

Living on the past is one of the faults of old churches. We, for instance, as a church, may begin to congratulate ourselves upon the great things God has done by us, for we shall be sure to put it in that pretty shape, although we shall probably mean the great things we have done ourselves. After praising ourselves thus we shall gain no further blessing, but shall decline by little and little.

The same is true of denominations. What acclamations are heard when allusion is made to what our fathers did! Oh, the name of Carey, and Knibb, and Fuller! We Baptists think we have nothing to do now but to go upstairs and go to bed, for we have achieved eternal glory through the names of these good men; and as for our Wesleyan friends, how apt they are to harp upon Wesley, Fletcher, Nelson, and other great men!

Thank God for them: they were grand men; but the right thing is to forget the past, and pray for another set of men to carry on the work. We should never be content, but “On, on, on,” should be our cry!

When they asked Napoleon why he continually made wars, he said, “I am the child of war; conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” The Christian church is the child of spiritual war; she only lives as she fights, and rides forth conquering and to conquer.

God deliver us from the self-congratulatory spirit, however it may come, and make us long and pine after something better!