Sin cannot dethrone God. That is what sin aims to do, but it misses its mark. Sin brings guilt to a man, but it does not bring him one ounce of sovereignty. God rules even when men imagine they are defying Him.
The god-who-serves-ME requires flattery, not worship.
It is not right to credit salvation to good works. It is right and necessary, however, to expect good works to follow salvation. Salvation is not the result of good works, but good works are the result of salvation.
The New Covenant is the bond between God and man, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, under which all who have been effectively called to God in all ages have been formed into the one body of Christ in New Testament times, in order to come under His law during this age and to remain under His authority forever.
God does not merely save from hell, God saves from sin as well. We may put this another way. An obedient walk is not a cause of salvation, it is an effect of God’s working in the soul. The cause of our salvation is God’s mercy, God’s grace. One result of our salvation – or, one part of our salvation – is our beginning to walk as God wants us to walk. We do not take our steps perfectly. We fail in some instances and in some circumstances. Far too many! But, if we are truly believers, our lives are characteristically right.
One might think that shame would now drive us to our task (of missions). Do the commands of our Lord mean so little to us? Are we indifferent to Him? Or, if not shame, pity on those who have not heard. Are we unconcerned at the cries of the heathen? Can we weep at television drama and sit dry-eyed before the needs of the lost? Such questions shame us, yet I know that shame will not move us as we ought to be moved. We will need a larger motive than our own humiliation to finish the task. Even the spiritual poverty of the pagan will not do it. We must have a grander vision…a new vision of God. And that vision is majestic, glorious.
There are no magic formulas for revival. We cannot command it. We may await it with longing, and we are bound to express our longing in prayer.
If I trust in Christ, I believe in the wisdom of His commands as well as in the sincerity of His promises. God does not command me to believe in this or that promise of Christ. No, He tells me I must believe in the Lord Jesus Himself.
What, then, is a “carnal’ Christian”? Is it biblical to divide believers into “spiritual men” and “carnal men”? There is, I think, a better way. It would be better to say that each believer is both spiritual and carnal. Even that, however, is not quite what the New Testament teaches. It is best to emphasize what the Bible emphasizes: Christians are habitually, or characteristically, spiritual men and women. If a man is not characteristically spiritual he is not a Christian at all. No amount of profession will make up for his ungodliness. But it is true of genuine believers, in a sense, that we are carnal. It is true, I mean, that we still sometimes sin. We are in constant need of God’s mercy. We are always candidates for God’s grace.
The Christian is a God-explorer. The Christian vision is the vision of God. The missionary vision is the vision of God also. It is not something different from the Christian vision. It is the same vision being shared rather than merely enjoyed. It is the same vision being shared with men who have no natural taste for it, in the hope that God will create that taste so that they too will become “God-admirers.” Sharing the vision of God- that is the work of missions.
The Bible plainly teaches that God works in His people to keep them from habitually walking apart from Him. In a believer, a carnal or fleshly walk can only be temporary and partial. There is no such thing as a characteristically carnal Christian. That would be a contradiction in terms.
But what if we look to God for our success? And what if God has “a great multitude, which no man could number” in His eye and on His heart? Why then, we ought to take courage. Who knows what God may do? The missionary is not alone. He is accompanied by the God who has determined to have a people for Himself. And God has made up His mind to take them from “all nations, and kindreds, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). Here is the missionary’s hope. It is not in himself. It is in God.
We must not treat that knowledge simply as a source of delight. We must do something more. We must follow in the train of those who, knowing God, have proclaimed Him. Here is our task. Here is an additional delight. This knowledge, like all knowledge, is enjoyed best when it is shared. And this knowledge of God, like no other knowledge, will bring life and health to a sin-sick world. It is the glory of the Christian to tell out the glory of God. God made us for this. Let us arise and do it with all our might!
Growth in holiness will lead a man to see more and more of his own sinfulness.
Adam the sinner furthered the purposes of God to the same degree as Adam the righteous… What Adam aimed to do and what Adam actually managed to do are not the same. In a different way, but in the same degree, Adam carried forward the purpose of God. Adam’s act was sinful because he did not aim to please God. His motive was wrong, and God judged him for it. But God meant to use even that evil to advance His own glory.
You must not think that the Lord must work harder to use people in little known places. You must not say, “Well, yes, I guess God could figure out a way to use even me where I am.” “Aim at My glory,” the Lord says, “and I am using you. Aim to please Me, and you are My minister, right where you are, in whatever you are doing!”
There is a direct line that runs from our doctrine to our actions, from what is in our minds to what is in our words and ways… The heart spills over into life. Thoughts of God, and of all else, erupt into acts. The filling of the heart with wise thoughts of God becomes the most important, the most practical, business in the world.
Let us look at the world of fallen spirits, at Satan and his hosts. Surely here, if anywhere, are purposes veiled from the eye of God. Here are plans wrapped in thick folds of darkness, away from the sight of the Almighty. But no! God sees it all. The blackest counsels of hell shine as noonday before the understanding of God.
The mere inclination to call God “Father”, apart from a sense of my own deep sinfulness, is not the work of the Spirit of God. Note this carefully. It is extremely important. Nothing is easier than to teach men to address God as “Father”. But the Spirit’s work is different in this way: the Spirit teaches men to call God “Father”, who would otherwise fear to do so because of what they know of their own sin.
Worship is a response to greatness. A man does not become a worshipper merely by saying, “Now I shall become a worshipper.” That is impossible. That cannot be done. A man becomes a worshipper when he sees something great that calls forth his admiration or his worship. That is the only way worshippers are made. Worship answers to greatness.
To see the world’s rebels turned into friends of God is, after all, a God-centered goal. It looks beyond benefit to men. For in coming to Christ their hearts will be changed. They will be made new men throughout. As friends they will do what they would not do as foes. They will lay down their arms and raise their songs of praise: they will worship their Creator. They will adore Him whom they once despised. They will praise the Lord!
Under the New Covenant, however, it undergoes a subtle variation in that Christ sets Himself forward as the comprehensive Lord, a position that we understand can only be accorded to God Himself. The justification for this remarkable claim by Christ is twofold: first, by very nature He was God and second, His person as the God-man was awarded the full title “Lord” (i.e. Yahweh) upon the completion of His mission in this world (Phil. 2:9-11). We should not be surprised, then, to hear Him say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matt. 28:18).
Men can see the greatest miracles and miss the glory of God. What generation was ever favored with miracles as Jesus’ generations was? Yet that generation crucified the Son of God!
Christ will reward His people with varying duties and responsibilities when He returns. Will these differences be significant? Yes and no! In themselves, yes; one reward will be quite different from another. But compared with the fate of the lost – compared with the hell that would have been ours, if Christ had not redeemed us – they will be relatively small. Our common experience of salvation will tower over all the differences left between us!
It will do no good to say, “God can do it, if they will only let Him.” I can do great things with men, if they will “let” me. The law of God could have done great things with men if they had “let” it. The law was good. The law was holy. But by itself it could not give men the inclination of heart to follow it. Only God could to that through Christ.
The Christian rejoices in the wisdom of God. Heartache comes to him as it does to all men. Puzzles about the world situation perplex him too. He has no inside information on the day-to-day acts of God. But the Christian has something better: he has faith in the wisdom of God. The Christian knows that God knows what He is doing.
He has told us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). And if we have ever prayed that prayer and meant it – even once – we have ourselves shut the door on thousands of things for which we might foolishly ask.
What, then, is fruit? In the New Testament we find that fruit is all the things that we may reasonably expect to follow upon our knowing Christ. The good works and godly attitudes that spring form our salvation are our fruit. And the Spirit who fills us is their author. Paul gives us a partial list in Galatians 5:22-23.
This God, who is King, is worthy to be known and to be proclaimed for who He is. The missionary who proclaims this God cannot fail. If his message extols the sovereign God, it will be significant even supposing it is never the means of winning one soul. The message will not be lost. It cannot be lost. It will remain as something precious. Before men and angels – yes, and before the demons of hell – it will be praise to God! “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Profession and possession [of faith] are not the same thing.
[God] is not at a loss when He moves to bring us back to Himself. He can woo or whip. He can draw or drive. He can work rapidly or slowly, as He pleases. In other words, He is free to be God! And in His own way, at His own pace, He brings us back.
We must always judge our experience by the Word of God. We must never make God’s Word conform to our experience.
What shall we say, then, about the command: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? Doesn’t this imply that Christians are not filled? It looks like it. The verse, however, could as well be translated, “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” And I believe that is the right way. It brings out the force of the verb tense Paul used. But that translation implies that believers are filled with the Spirit. It says this: you are filled, stay filled. Or, more exactly keep being filled.
[The Bible’s] emphasis is on God, and what God is doing. It is not first of all on man and what he ought to do. A false emphasis perverts the truth. In theory we may believe that the Bible is about God while, because of our emphasis, we deny it in practice.
To be Spirit-filled means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. While we are yet in this life we may do things that grieve the Spirit. We may assert our own authority. At such times we are not Spirit-filled; we are self-propelled. But God will not leave us in this state. We are to be spiritual Christians. God is determined about that! And He has His means! By whatever measures are necessary, He forces our hands from the throttles of our lives. He re-asserts control. Once more we are Spirit-filled. We are characteristically Spirit-filled, or we are not Christians at all.
Our songs are not the cause of our loss of the sense of God’s greatness, though songs are surprisingly influential. No, our songs reflect this loss. Singing God-centered hymns is desirable, but more than that is needed. We sing what we feel, what we believe. When once we rediscover the greatness of God, we will sing it. Our song will echo our conviction.
You know why men test gold, why they put it in the fire. They know that if it is gold, fire will not hurt it. Men do not seek to destroy gold with fire. They do not seek to harm it in any way. Instead, they try to prove beyond all doubt that it is gold. And that is what God is doing when He applies the yardstick of His Word to His people. He seeks to show them, and the world, that they are true Christians.
If I am content to go on in sin, I am an enemy, an adversary of God. Hell, not heaven, follows at the end of my life. I must not comfort myself in this state. I must repent!
If God rules only in those places or events where no sin is involved, God does not rule on this earth. If sin can thwart God, His sovereignty is a name and not a fact.
The God who is worthy to be known and served for who He is, is Himself the answer to this world’s longings. And those who know Him best are best equipped to serve Him. He is their message. If we have discovered the glory of God in the face of Christ, we must not hold back. The God of glory must be made known.
For an act to be good, it must arise from good motives. And one of those motives must be the glory of God. Where that motive is missing, every act has a fatal flaw. An unsaved man may have some good motives in what he does. That is, he may do something for the sake of others. That is fine, as far as it goes. We do not want to deny that. But it does not go far enough. God commands, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But each thing the unbeliever does breaks this command. For that reason, he never once pleases God.
Youth is the time when all seems to be within the grasp of the careful student. I have left that time behind. “I don’t know” is on my lips more often now. But so also is “God knows!” – not as a thoughtless expression in conversation, but as the conviction of my heart.