Search Results: grace
In His message of the kingdom, Jesus announced the overwhelming, amazing wonder of God’s sovereign grace reaching down to reclaim sinful people for Himself. But no one emphasized as strongly as Jesus the need for people touched by God’s grace to respond with radical, world-renouncing obedience. Both the gracious initiative of God and the grateful response of human beings are necessary aspects of the gospel.
A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.
A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day, as we need it.
The sinner in hell does not become morally neutral upon his sentence to hell. We must not imagine the damned sinner displaying gospel repentance and longing for the presence of Christ. The damned indeed are longing for an escape from punishment, but they are not “new creations.” They do not, in hell, love the Lord their God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Instead, they are now handed over to the full display of their natures apart from grace, natures that are satanic (John 8:44). Thus, the condemnation continues forever and ever and ever, with no end in view either for the sin or the punishment thereof.
God’s grace to His people is continuous and is never exhausted. Grace knows no interruption and no limit. In contrast with the Law it stresses the dynamic character of the Christian life. Law can be mastered. A man may acquire merit by conforming to it. He knows the precise requirements that are demanded of him. But grace is always an adventure. No man can say where grace will lead him.
God is tirelessly on our side. He never falters in respect of our needs, He always has more grace at hand for us. He is never less than sufficient, He always has more and yet more to give. Whatever we may forfeit when we put self first, we cannot forfeit our salvation, for there is always more grace. No matter what we do to Him, he is never beaten. We may play false to the grace of election, contradict the grace of reconciliation, overlook the grace of indwelling – but he gives more grace. Even we were to turn to him and say, “What I have received so far is much less than enough,” He would reply, “Well, you may have more.” His resources are never at an end, His patience is never exhausted, His initiative never stops, His generosity knows no limit: He gives more grace.
God is the author of the Bible, and only the truth it contains will lead people to true happiness. A Christian should read this precious Book every day with earnest prayer and meditation. But like many believers, I preferred to read the works of uninspired men rather than the oracles of the living God. Consequently, I remained a spiritual baby both in knowledge and grace.
Christians do not practically remember that while we are saved by grace, altogether by grace, so that in the matter of salvation works are altogether excluded; yet that so far as the rewards of grace are concerned, in the world to come, there is an intimate connection between the life of the Christian here and the enjoyment and the glory in the day of Christ’s appearing.
In trial and weakness and trouble, He seeks to bring us low, until we learn that His grace is all, and to take pleasure in the very thing that brings us and keeps us low. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes the secret of humility that need never fail. The humble man has learned the secret of abiding gladness. The weaker he feels, the lower he sinks, and the greater his humiliations appear, the more power and the presence of Christ are his portion.
God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of his will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.
To deny the special love of God, and to believe that Christ loves all men equally, is to suppose that Christ has done no more for those the Father has given to Him than for mankind at large. But if Christians are no more loved than those who will finally be lost, the decisive factor in salvation becomes, not God’s grace and love, but something in them, and their perseverance becomes dependent upon themselves.
We believe that the Scriptures distinguish between a general work of conviction by the Spirit – such as may make an Esau weep and a Felix tremble – and the special, life-conferring call, given by the grace of a sovereign God to those whom He has chosen. Only those who are predestinated receive this call and it is clearly stated not to follow justifying faith but to precede it (Rom. 8:30; Acts 13:48, etc.) and to secure the consent of those to whom it is given (John 6:36, 37; Eph. 2:1-8). It is those who are born again who “see the kingdom of God” and thus believe the gospel.
There is no conflict between the gratification of desire and the enhancement of man’s pleasure, on the one hand, and fulfillment of God’s command on the other… The tension that often exists within us between a sense of duty and wholehearted spontaneity is a tension that arises from sin and a disobedient will. No such tension would have invaded the heart of unfallen man. And the operations of saving grace are directed to the end of removing the tension so that there may be, as there was with man at the beginning, the perfect complementation of duty and pleasure, of commandment and love.
God didn’t dictate the whole Bible the way an executive mechanically dictates letters to his secretary. The human authors’ personalities are like musical instruments. If I play the same tune on a number of wind instruments, each will sound different even if I play the exact melody in the same key and even though it’s all coming from the same breath – mine. If I play “Amazing Grace” on a tuba, baritone, trombone, French horn, trumpet, oboe, clarinet, and flute, it is all “Andy- breathed” or “Andy-produced,” but it goes through the “personality” of the instrument. In one sense that’s how God produced the Bible through human authors.
If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer – His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.
I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.
I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon good works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.
And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.
The Lord’s commands to His people are not arbitrary appointments; but that, so far as they are conscientiously complied with, they have an evident tendency and suitableness to promote our own advantage. He requires us to acknowledge Him…for our own sakes; not because He has need of our poor services, but because we have need of His blessing, and without the influence of His grace (which is promised to all who seek it) are sure to be unhappy in ourselves and in all our connections.
The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.
Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honoring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honor and comfort those who thus honor Him. Seasons will occur in which you shall know, and probably your neighbors shall be constrained to take notice, that He has not bid you seek Him in vain. If you meet with troubles, they shall be accompanied by supports, and followed by deliverance; and you shall upon many occasions experience, that God is your protector, preserving you and yours from the evils by which you will see others suffering around you.
A measure of trials is necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world.
They who avow the doctrines distinguished by the name of Calvinistic, ought, if consistent with their own principles, to be most gentle and forbearing of all men, in meekness instructing them that oppose. With us, it is a fundamental maxim, that a man can receive nothing but what is given him from heaven (John 3:27). If, therefore, it has pleased God to give us the knowledge of some truths, which are hidden from others, who have the same outward means of information; it is a just reason for thankfulness to Him, but will not justify our being angry with them; for we are no better or wiser than they in ourselves, and might have opposed the truths which we now prize, with the same eagerness and obstinacy, if His grace had not made us to differ. If the man, mentioned in John 9, who was born blind, on whom our Lord graciously bestowed the blessing of sight, had taken a cudgel and beat all the blind men he met, because they would not see, his conduct would have greatly resembled that of an angry Calvinist.
Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, as Jesus Himself touches us through His truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. For example: The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9). The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16). The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16). The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23). The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2). The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what could be more basic than that? If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t disregard the culture. But churches where the doctrine and culture converge bear living witness to the power of Jesus.
There are basically two ways to read the Bible — as a book of law, or as a book of promise. Our natural religious psychology wants to read the Bible as law: “God is explaining here how I can win his favor.” A law-hermeneutic is the pre-understanding we naturally bring to our Bible reading, every page. But in Galatians 3 Paul explains that he reads the Bible as a book of promise, and he wants us to as well. He sees every page of the Bible as gracious promise from God to undeserving sinners. Is there law in the Bible? Yes. But it was “added” (v. 19). Law was inserted after the promises to Abraham were established. It is promise that comes first (Genesis 12), then law comes later (Exodus 20). It is promise, therefore, that defines the all-encompassing framework within which we are to read everything else in the Bible… Every page [in the Bible], most deeply understood, shines forth as a promise of grace to sinners in Christ.
Our real problem is not our sins. If our sins were the problem, we might muster the will-power to pull out of this nose dive. But the good news of the gospel begins with some really bad news. Our sins only provoke a bigger problem: the wrath of God. Our real problem is not our sins but God. He is angry, He isn’t going away, and there is nothing we can do about it. If God is against us, who can be for us? But here is the good news. God has made God our salvation. He did it at the cross. God has provided a way of escape from God: in God. We run from His wrath by running toward His grace in Christ. And if God is for us, who can be against us?
Busyness can be a drug. It makes us feel important and needed. Fruitfulness is another matter. It is a miracle of God’s grace through His Word, imparted to a heart that stays quiet and low before Him, set upon doing His will only.
Reformed theology is all about grace deciding to treat people better than they deserve, for the sheer glory of it all. Sometimes Reformed culture doesn’t look like that, feel like that, taste like that. It gives people exactly what they deserve, as judged by the Reformed person. But who exalted him as judge in the first place? Our true Judge stepped down to become our Friend. That theology of grace must translate into the sociology of grace as we treat one another better than anyone deserves, for the sheer glory of it all.
Christian living goes by the same ground rules as Christian conversion. Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone apart from all our works — that’s how we enter, that’s how we live. We never advance beyond grace. We never graduate to “deeper things.” Sanctification gets traction from the positive energy of justification.
The remedy is to turn back to the cross. Our Lord proved to us the redemptive power of suffering for His sake. But we have to choose it. We are constantly tempted to withdraw into self-protection and anger and defensiveness. But looking to the Lord moment by moment, we can embrace the cross with its pain and see Him use us to communicate more grace to people who aren’t even asking for it. We didn’t ask, and He suffered for us anyway. That kind of love was the only power that could get through to us. And it did.
If God finds incentives for grace within Himself, then nothing in us can disqualify us from His grace – nothing except a proud unwillingness to be loved on terms of grace alone.
The grace of Christ is not an excuse for weakness; He is an endless resource for strength.
The One whose mercy flows freely to the undeserving is not a machine. He is not a mechanical Grace Dispenser. He is a Person. His smile is not an all-approving grin. He has moral sensitivities. We please Him, and we displease Him, moment by moment. Within the gospel framework of His grace, inside the relationship of His fatherly acceptance, He is fully capable of confronting us. Not rejecting us, not casting us off, but correcting us. Because He’s a good Father. I’ll take it further. The One who is for us (Romans 8:31) can also bluntly say, “I have something against you” (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20). The One who will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) is also quite capable of saying to us, “We need to have a serious talk. It’s time for you to make some changes. If you will listen and follow, I will continue to use you. If you turn away, I will set you aside”… If your theology includes the message of justification by faith alone, I hope you will never back off from that. I hope you will keep that message central. But I also hope your theology includes another message – the grace of obedience fully pleasing to the Father.
Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down… Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline (Victor Edman).
Manners are about respect and thus are rooted in the Christian ethic modeled by Christ – my life for your life. Self-sacrifice, therefore, is at the heart of manners… Manners do not make the man or woman. The radical reorientation that says “my life for your life” can only come from the regenerating work of Christ, who instills His life and ethic in us. Nevertheless, manners teach the need for and complement of the character that Christ’s life gives. Lives that say “my life for yours” are channels of God’s grace to a needy world (Kent and Barbara Hughes).
Any blessing which is bestowed by the Father upon His undeserving children must be considered to be an act of grace. We fail to appreciate the mercy of the Lord if we think that by our doing something we have forced (or even coerced) God to grant that blessing which we have asked for (David Smith).
Nowhere in the New Testament do any of the Greek words translated “fellowship” imply fun times. Rather, they talk of, for example, “The fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4) as sacrificial service and financial aid (see for example, 1 Tim. 6:18). Elsewhere, Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers’ “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5), for he knew that “inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers (same word as fellowship) of my grace” (Phil. 1:7). This sort of fellowship may even bring persecution. We are to emulate Christ’s humility and self-sacrificial love (Phil. 2:5-8) through the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1). In some way known only partially to us, we have the privilege of knowing “the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:10), and even the communion (i.e. fellowship) of the blood…and body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16) (J.D. Morris).
Recently I read again of a woman who simply decided one day to make such a commitment to pray, and my conscience was pricked. But I knew myself well enough to know that something other than resolve was being called for. I began to pray about praying. I expressed to God my frustrated longings, my jaded sense of caution about trying again, my sense of failure over working at being more disciplined and regular. I discovered something surprising happening from such simple praying: I was drawn into the presence of One who had, far more than I did, the power to keep me close. I found my focus subtly shifting away from my efforts to God’s, from rigor to grace, from rigidity to relationship. I soon realized that this was happening regularly. I was praying much more. I became less worried about the mechanics and methods, and in turn I was more motivated. And God so cares for us, I realized anew, that He Himself helps us pray. When we “do not know what we ought to pray for… the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26) (Timothy Jones).
As God’s dear children, we, who are by grace adopted, are called into the fellowship of suffering, soon enough to be followed by stupendous glory, with the only begotten Son. The suffering precedes the glory; the cross precedes the crown, both in the order of experience of the eternal Son of God and also in that of adopted sons and daughters of God (Douglas Kelly).
So few believe in common grace, because the human heart will not admit that a world without common grace is what we deserve (Jeff Hutchinson).
All children, like their parents before them, are rooted in fallen Adam (see Rom. 5:12). The perfect, infallible portrait of every soul who has ever lived was painted by Paul in Romans 3:10-11: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Sin is so rooted in us that every part of the human personality is tainted. This, of course, doesn’t mean that all people are as bad as they can be or that they don’t do good things (see Luke 11:13). But it does mean that apart from God’s grace and the God-ordained graces of human discipline, children will naturally gravitate to sin – quite apart from the tricks of the devil or their “corrupt” little friends (Kent and Barbara Hughes).
Parenting – not politics, not the classroom, not the laboratory, not even the pulpit – is the place of greatest influence. To suppose otherwise is to be captive to the shriveled secular delusion. We must understand that it is through the godly family that God’s grace, a vision of God, a burden for the world, and a Christian character are most powerfully communicated… Parents, don’t abandon your place of influence. It is still true that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Believe it (Kent and Barbara Hughes).
At an early hour in the morning the family was assembled and a portion of Scripture was read from the Old Testament, which was followed by a hymn and a prayer, in which thanks were offered up to the Almighty for preserving them during the silent watches of the night, and for His goodness in permitting them to meet in health of body and soundness of mind; and, at the same time, His grace was implored to defend them amid the dangers and temptations of the day – to make them faithful to every duty, and enable them, in all respects, to walk worthy of their Christian vocation… In the evening, before retiring to rest, the family again assembled, the same form of worship was observed as in the morning, with this difference, that the service was considerably protracted beyond the period which could be conveniently allotted to it in the commencement of the day (Lyman Coleman).
We are all out of our depth in pastoral work. Our confidence must never be in our expertise or training or experience, but in God’s ability to use frail instruments filled with His Spirit. For this reason all pastoral work must be linked with prayer. Without the enabling grace of God, no encouragement, exhortation, admonition, or spiritual counsel will do any good; they must be backed by prayer (cf. Romans 15:5-6) (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg).
When God’s people departed from Him (in the Old Testament biblical accounts) all the more emphasis was put upon His faithfulness, so that the only hope of His wayward people lay not only in His grace and mercy but also in His faithfulness, which stands in marked contrast with the faithlessness and inconstancy of His people (Gaspar Hodge).
God is omniscient and knows everything. He has known everything from the beginning. Nothing is a surprise to God, nor does He ever come into possession of new knowledge. Thus God knows all people. But [foreknowledge] means more than an intellectual knowledge. It means that God knows some in a special way. In grace, in life from eternity. This is the initiative of our salvation. Redemption has its rise to God and not in man (J.P McBeth).
Be not afraid at His sweet, lovely and desirable cross, for although I have not been able because of my wounds to lift up or lay down my head but as I was helped, yet I was never in better case all my life… He has so wonderfully shined on me with the sense of His redeeming, strengthening, assisting, supporting, through-bearing, pardoning and reconciling love, grace and mercy that my soul doth long to be freed of bodily infirmities and earthly organs, so that I may flee to His Royal Palace, even the Heavenly Habitation of my God, where I am sure of a crown put on my head and a palm put in my hand and a new song in my mouth, even the song of Moses and of the Lamb, so that I may bless, praise, magnify and extol Him for what He hath done to me and for me… Farewell, my children, study holiness in all your ways, and praise the Lord for what He hath done for me, and tell all my Christian friends to praise Him on my account. Farewell, sweet Bible, and wanderings and contendings for truth. Welcome, death. Welcome, the City of my God where I shall see Him and be enabled to serve Him eternally with full freedom. Welcome, blessed company, the angels and spirits of just men made perfect. But above all, welcome, welcome, welcome, our glorious and alone God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; into Thy hands I commit my spirit, for Thou art worthy. Amen.
The cure for backsliding is found in the abiding love and mercy of God who remains faithful to His promises of grace in Christ Jesus, whose righteousness and salvation is apprehended through true faith and repentance (Mark Karlberg).
Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century revivalist, sat down at age 17 and penned 21 resolutions by which he would live his life. He added to this list until, by his death, he had 70 resolutions. He put at the top of his list: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions… Remember to read over these resolutions once a week.” Edwards didn’t casually make New Year’s resolutions with an expectation of eventually breaking them. Each week he did a self-check. He regularly summed up how he was doing and sought God’s help in the process.
Grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated (Francis Turretin).
When grace penetrates into the depth of an anguished soul, joy in the Lord anchors faith (William VanGemeren).
Grace comes to those who have no other alternative than to accept it (Bernard B. Scott).
What, then, does submission and respect look like for a woman in a dating relationship? Here are some guidelines:
1. A woman should allow the man to initiate the relationship. This does not mean that she does nothing. She helps! If she thinks there is a good possibility for a relationship, she makes herself accessible to him and helps him to make conversation, putting him at ease and encouraging him as opportunities arise (she does the opposite when she does not have interest in a relationship with a man). A godly woman will not try to manipulate the start of a relationship, but will respond to the interest and approaches of a man in a godly, encouraging way.
2. A godly woman should speak positively and respectfully about her boyfriend, both when with him and when apart.
3. She should give honest attention to his interests and respond to his attention and care by opening up her heart.
4. She should recognize the sexual temptations with which a single man will normally struggle. Knowing this, she will dress attractively but modestly, and will avoid potentially compromising situations. She must resist the temptation to encourage sexual liberties as a way to win his heart.
5. The Christian woman should build up the man with God’s Word and give encouragement to godly leadership. She should allow and seek biblical encouragement from the man she is dating.
6. She should make “helping” and “respecting” the watchwords of her behavior toward a man. She should ask herself, “How can I encourage him, especially in his walk with God?” “How can I provide practical helps that are appropriate to the current place in our relationship?” She should share with him in a way that will enable him to care for her heart, asking, “What can I do or say that will help him to understand who I really am, and how can I participate in the things he cares about?”
7. She must remember that this is a brother in the Lord. She should not be afraid to end an unhealthy relationship, but should seek to do so with charity and grace. Should the relationship not continue forward, the godly woman will ensure that her time with a man will have left him spiritually blessed (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
It was thus in mercy that God cursed the woman and the man, injecting a poison into their relationship for which He alone is the antidote. In the futility of love apart from God, Adam and Eve were to turn back to God, just as we must turn to God today for grace to repent of sin and minister in love. Love between a man and woman simply cannot work without love for God at the center of the relationship; by means of His curses, God mercifully brings this fact to our attention so as to woo us back to Himself (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
The ordinances are the dramatic presentations of the Gospel. They are the moving pictures that represent the spiritual realities of the Gospel, written and directed by Jesus Himself… The ordinances, then, are where we see the Gospel enacted, and our participation in it dramatized. They are where the word of God’s promise is spoken to us in tangible form – we touch and taste the bread and wine; we feel the waters of baptism. They are means of grace instituted by Jesus that God uses to assure His people of the trustworthiness of His Gospel and the reality of our participation in it (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
Remember that grace and truth cannot finally be crucified. Remember that all the high things that make humanity beautiful cannot be forever laid in the dust, spattered with blood. And most of all, remember that He who rose from the dead, rose to pour out His Holy Spirit into human lives, and, by that Spirit, to make available to any individual all the fullness of Himself, twenty-four hours a day (Ray Stedman).
It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point (Fritz – German Monk and contemporary with Martin Luther).
Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge Him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto Him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.
There is only one way to be revived and healed from our backslidings so that we may become fruitful even in old age. We must take a steady look at the glory of Christ in His special character, in His grace and work, as shown to us in the Scripture.
Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things as inconsistent. If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty. But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for one absolutely supposes the other. We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give His grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty!
To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.
If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.
There is an infinite distance between God and His creatures, and it is an act of sheer grace for Him to take notice of earthly things. Christ, as God, is completely self-sufficient in His own eternal blessedness. How great, then, is the glory of His self-humiliation in taking our nature that He might bring us to God! Such humiliation was not forced on Him; He freely chose to do it.
Yet the duties God requires of us are not in proportion to the strength we possess in ourselves. Rather, they are proportional to the resources available to us in Christ. We do not have the ability in ourselves to accomplish the least of God’s tasks. This is a law of grace. When we recognize it is impossible to perform a duty in our own strength, we will discover the secret of its accomplishment. But alas, this is a secret we often fail to discover.
How many millions of sins in every one of the elect, every one of which is enough to condemn them all, hath this love overcome! What mountains of unbelief doth it remove! Look upon the conduct of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities with which his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this is not to be admired. And is not the same towards thousands every day? What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day! This is our Beloved.
A man may love another as his own soul, yet his love may not be able to help him. He may pity him in prison, but not relieve him, bemoan him in misery, but not help him, suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul… But the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effective and fruitful in producing all the good things which He wills for His beloved. He loves life, grace and holiness into us; He loves us into covenant, loves us into heaven.
First, we must admit that we were silly ever to think that any evangelistic technique, however skillful, could of itself guarantee conversions; second, we must recognize that, because man’s heart is impervious to the word of God, it is no cause for surprise if at any time our evangelism fails to result in conversions; third, we must remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not that we should be successful; fourth, we must learn to rest all our hopes of fruit in evangelism upon the omnipotent grace of God.
So far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility – indeed, the certainty – that evangelism will be fruitful. Apart from it, there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.
[The Puritans believed in] the supreme importance of preaching. To the Puritans, the sermon was the liturgical climax of public worship. Nothing, they said, honours God more than the faithful declaration and obedient hearing of His truth. Preaching, under any circumstances, is an act of worship, and must be performed as such. Moreover, preaching is the prime means of grace to the church.
I saw myself standing outside a house looking in on a tremendous party with laughter and joy. The Lord tracked me down and found me. I was surprised by grace. I became an avid Bible reader and my initial doubts soon evaporated in the atmosphere of solid Bible exposition at the Christian Union.
It must by now be apparent that the great Puritan pastor-theologians—Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Howe, Perkins, Sibbes, Brooks, Watson, Gurnall, Flavel, Bunyan, Manton, and others like them—were men of outstanding intellectual power, as well as spiritual insight. In them mental habits fostered by sober scholarship were linked with a flaming zeal for God and a minute acquaintance with the human heart. All their work displays this unique fusion of gifts and graces. In thought and outlook they were radically God-centred. Their appreciation of God’s sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling His written word was deep and constant. They were patient, thorough, and methodical in searching the Scriptures, and their grasp of the various threads and linkages in the web of revealed truth was firm and clear. They understood most richly the ways of God with men, the glory of Christ the Mediator, and the work of the Spirit in the believer and the church.