December 28, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section XIII

Pastor Horatius Bonar continues with a ranging note of encouragement.


'I am the Lord your God,' was God's greeting of love to Israel (Lev 11:44); it is no less now His salutation of grace to every one who has believed on the name of His Son, Christ Jesus. God becomes our God the moment that we receive His testimony of His beloved Son. This new relationship between God and us, in virtue of which He calls us His, and we call Him ours, is the simple result of a believed gospel.

If any one reading these lines is led to ask, How may I become a son? We answer in the words of truth, 'He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.' Nothing less than believing can bring about this sonship; and nothing more is needed. The joy, and the peace, and the love, and the warmth, these are the effects of faith, but they are not faith; they are the fruits of a conscious sonship which has been formed by the belief of the divine testimony to Jesus as the Son of God and the Saviour of the lost. 'As many as received Him, to them gave He the right of being sons of God, even to them that believed on His name' (John 1:12). God's simple message of grace contains peace for the sinner; and the sinner extracts the peace therein contained, not by effort or feeling, but by the simple belief of the true sayings of God. Good news makes glad by being believed, and they refuse to yield up their precious treasure to anything but to simple faith. Believe the tidings of peace from God, and the peace is all your own.

It is not to him that worketh, or feeleth, or loveth, but to him that believeth that God says, 'I am the Lord your God.' And when God used the word believing, He just meant what He said, and intended nothing else than what man means by that word. Had He meant anything else, He would have told us, and not suffered us to be misled or deceived by our misunderstanding of a word of which the Bible is full. Had He meant working, or feeling, or loving, He would have said so, and not allowed us to suppose that believing was really all. What a book of deception and mystery the Bible would be, if 'believing' does not mean 'believing,' but something less or something more! To make it something less, would be to take from God's word as truly as if we had struck out a book from the Bible. To make it something more, would be to add to God's word, as truly and as sinfully as if we had forged another Gospel or another Epistle, or accepted the Apocrypha as part of the inspired record. We make God a liar when we refuse to take Him at His word, or give Him credit for speaking that simple truth, in believing which we are saved; but let us remember the other side of his statement, namely, our being found liars by reason of our adding to His word. 'Every word of God is pure' (Prov 30:5); can we make it purer, or more transparent, or more simple? We add to it, lest it should be too simple, too childlike, too blessed; we put something of our own into it to make it more substantial and complete; and that something (call it feeling, or realizing, or loving) destroys the divine simplicity and transparency of faith. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Prov 30:6). Does casting dust upon the sunbeam improve its quality or make it more like the sun from which it came? Would pouring filth into a cup of pure spring water make it more lucid and refreshing? Whatever we add to believing, tends to destroy its real nature and to mar its effects. If God had said that we are to be saved by believing that the deluge overflowed the earth, and that the sun once stood still in the heavens, we should have understood what He meant by the word. And is there any more difficulty in understanding Him when He says, 'He that believeth is justified from all things'? Does believing mean one thing in Genesis and another in Romans? Does it mean one thing to Abraham and another to us? Does it mean one thing today and another tomorrow? Or is not the formula of salvation, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,' meant to be the simplest and most intelligible of all declarations ever made to man?

We believe the Holy Spirit's testimony, that Jesus died and rose again, 'the Just for the unjust.' That saves. We believe the divine promise annexed to this testimony, that life is the possession of every man who believeth this heavenly testimony; and this belief of the promise (which some call appropriation) assures us, on God's word, that life is ours personally. We do not get life by believing that life is ours; nor do we get Christ by believing that Christ is ours. This is as absurd as the idea of getting our debts paid by believing that they are paid. But we get life and Christ by believing God's glad tidings concerning Jesus and His finished work upon the cross. There is enough in Christ to pay every man's debt; but no man's debt is actually paid until he has taken God at His word, and believed the record which God has given of His Son.

It is the blood that pacifies my conscience. The sight of it is all I need to remove fear and impart confidence. It is not my 'seeing that I see it' that gives me boldness, but my direct and simple sight of it. My guilt passes away from me so soon as I believe; and I don't need to wait till I believe in my own act of believing before becoming conscious of this deliverance. The blood contains my pardon and my peace; and by looking at it I extract the pardon and the peace. I don't need to look at my looking; I need only to look at the blood. If I cannot extract from it pardon and peace, I never shall be able to extract them from my own act of seeing. I am to believe in Jesus; not in my own faith, nor in my own feelings. I am to look to the cross, not to my own convictions or repentance. The well of peace is not within me; and to let down my bucket into my own heart for the purpose of drawing up the water of peace, is mockery as well as foolishness. I do not fill the cup of peace out of anything that is in myself. Christ has filled that cup already,--long, long ago--and in love He presses it to my parched lips. Let me drink at once of it, for all the peace of God, the peace of heaven is there.

When God said to Israel, 'I am the Lord your God,' He added this, 'Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves; and ye shall be holy, for I am holy' (Lev 11:44); and He added this also, 'I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy' (Lev 11:45).

God calls us to be holy. He becomes our God to make us like Himself. 'He calls us to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' He expects that we should represent Him among our fellow-men by our resemblance to Himself.

The carrying out of this holiness is His own work,--the operation of His Spirit. Whether our perfection in holiness is to be wrought gradually or instantaneously, is a question to be determined solely by His word, and not by any theories of our own. That God could make each soul perfect the moment he believes, we admit;--that He may have wise reasons for not doing this, wise reasons for gradual growth, --will not be denied. He has given us no instance in the Bible of any one made instantaneously sinless, either at his conversion or during his after life. All the men of faith and holiness, the men 'full of the Holy Ghost,' which He presents to us as our models, are imperfect men to the end of their days, needing forgiveness and cleansing constantly. He glorifies Himself in our imperfect bodies; in an imperfect Church, on an imperfect earth. His object here is to glorify Himself in imperfection and growth, as He is hereafter to glorify Himself in perfection and completeness of every kind. Gradual growth is the law of all things here,--man, beasts, trees, and flowers,--so that unless we had some very notable example in Scripture of a sinless man, or of miraculous and instantaneous perfection by an act of faith, we are not disposed to accept the theory of instantaneous sinlessness, as that to which we are called in believing; even though that be veiled under the specious name of 'entire consecration,' or accompanied with the profession of personal unworthiness,--a 'personal unworthiness' which, however, does not seem to require any actual confession of sin.

Yet God calls us to be holy. He expects us to grow in unlikeness to this world, and in likeness to that world which is to come. He expects us to follow Him who did no sin, even though the attainment of perfection should not be in a day or a year, but the growth of a lifetime. It is for want of daily growth, not for want of complete and constant sinlessness, that God so often challenges His own.

Let us grow. Let us bring forth fruit. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. What is the use of taking so long to make us sinless?--some may say. I answer, Go and ask God. What was the use of taking six days to bring creation to perfection? Why did He let sin enter our world when He could have kept it out? What was the use of not making the whole Church perfect at once? Why did He not make Abraham or David or Paul perfect at once? He could have done so. Why did He not?

Let us study soberly and truly the word of God in regard to the past history of His saints, lest it be said to some in our day who think themselves on a far 'higher platform' than others,--more perfect than Paul or John,--'Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?' Let us grow. The impatience that demands instantaneous perfection is unbelief, refusing to recognize God's spiritual laws in the new creation. The gradual evolution of the heavenly life in a lifelong course of conflict and imperfection, is the way in which sin is unfolded, the human heart exposed to view, the power of the cross tested, the efficacy of the blood manifested, and the power as well as the love of Father, Son, and Spirit magnified. God's purpose is not simply to reveal Himself, but to reveal man,--not simply man dead in trespasses and sin, but man after he has been made alive unto righteousness, to exhibit, step by step, and day by day, that most solemn and humbling of all processes, namely, that by which 'the inward man is renewed day by day' (2 Cor 4:16): while the strength of the human will for evil is manifested, the awful tenacity of sin shown forth, and the absolute hopelessness of any sinner's salvation demonstrated, save by the omnipotence of God Himself.

Let us grow daily and hourly. Let us grow down; let us grow up. Let us strike our roots deeper; let us spread out our branches more widely. Let us not only 'blossom and bud,' but let us bring forth fruit, ripe and plentiful, on every bough. 'Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples' (John 15:8).

December 23, 2008

Follow The Lamb - Section XII

Pastor Bonar reminds us of our heart's true longing... to see Jesus.


He that loves Christ will long to see Him, and will not be content with the interviews which faith gives. The lover seeks the absent loved one, the wife the husband, the child the mother; so do you your Lord. It is not enough that you can communicate with Him daily by the epistles which faith brings and carries; you must see Him face to face, otherwise there is a blank in your life, a void in your existence, a cloud over your love, and a faltering in your song. The saved one desires to meet his Saviour, and feels that his joy must be imperfect till then. It is the mark of a disciple that he 'waits for the Son of God from heaven' (1 Thess 1:10); that he loves, looks for, longs for the appearance of Christ. Let this mark be seen on you; and be like the Corinthian saints, of whom it was told by their apostle, 'Ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Cor 1:7). 'Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:13).

December 20, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section XI

Here is the next section from Pastor Bonar's little work on the Christian life. Great counsel in a brief space. "You may not be able to do much but do something; work while it is day." I hear in this a caution to those of us inclined to read much and act little. I do not purpose to frame my life as one who did nothing for my Lord.


You were neither born nor reborn for yourselves alone. You may not be able to do much, but do something; work while it is day. You may not be able to give much, but give something; according to your ability, remembering that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver. Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for the love of money is the root of all evil. Whenever worldliness comes in, in any shape, whether it be love of money or love of pleasure, you cease to be faithful to Christ, and are trying to serve both God and mammon.

Do something, then, for God, while time lasts. It may not be long; for the day goeth away, and the shadows of evening are stretched out. Do something every day. Work, and throw your heart into the work. Work joyfully and with a right good will, as men who love both their work and their master. Be not weary in well-doing. Work, and work in faith. Work in love, and patience, and hope. Don't shrink from hard labour or disagreeable duties, or a post trying to flesh and blood. 'Endure hardness, as a good soldier in Jesus Christ' (2 Tim 2:3). Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58). Don't fold your hands, or lay aside your staff, or sheathe your sword. Don't give way to slothfulness and flesh-pleasing, saying to yourselves, 'I can get to heaven without working.'

Your gifts may be small, your time not much, your opportunities few; but work, and do it quietly, without bustle, or self-importance, not as pleasing men, but God; not seeking the honour that cometh from men, but that which cometh from God. The day of honour is coming, and the Master's 'Well done' will make up for all hardship and labour here. When the Son of man shall come in His glory, with all His holy angels, and when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, it will be blessed to be set upon His right hand, and acknowledged as those who have fed Him, and clothed and visited Him in prison; and it would be a bitter thing, indeed, to be 'saved so as by fire,' namely: barely saved, and no more; saved (if such a thing can be thought of) without doing anything for Him that saved us; having given Him no water when He was thirsty, no food when He was hungry, no clothes when He was naked, and when in prison having never once come nigh Him.

Free Bible Reading Schedule Offer

For several years I have used The Berean Bible Schedule to ensure I'm truly reading through the entire Bible and not simply rereading familiar passages repeatedly. As an encouragement and tool for you to use in reading your Bible regularly, I would be happy to send you a printed copy of The Berean Bible Schedule. This schedule is extensive and adaptable to the needs and opportunity of the individual. You can choose to follow the full schedule or only use a portion of it to focus on one section, for example the New Testament. The Berean Bible Schedule will walk you through the New Testament twice in one year.

If you are interested, email your snail mail address to and I will mail you one. Your email is confidential and will not be shared with anyone. I dislike spam as much as the next netizen.

December 13, 2008

Of Evangelicals, Bibles and Blogs

"Do you still read your Bible?"

Brothers and Sisters,
Do you? Why would I ask such a question? There are so many influences that impact our daily habits. We can't and won't explore all of them in this small space, but there is one that we can touch on today.

For the last five years there has been an explosion of blogs on the net. While most are personal in nature and intended for family and friends, their use continues to evolve. Blogs are not simply about the summer trip to the Spam Museum anymore. Blogging is increasingly used as a publishing means for social and religious commentary, shared in relatively brief snippets. Twenty years ago, there was no means for 'everyman' to publish their thoughts to a worldwide audience. Not so now. Blogs give a platform to every opinion and viewpoint under the sun.

Certainly this mish-mash of hoi polloi writing has its low points, inane ramblings, and downright nastiness. If you watch where you step and exercise a little discrimination in your reading, you can find hundreds of helpful weblogs. But you already know this. In fact, I'm willing to bet you watch numerous blogs which you find interesting, informative, or challenging.

What does this have to do with reading your Bible? Well... do you? You know... actually read your Bible anymore? Or have Christian blogs taken the place of regular Bible reading in your everyday life?

Oh, I know. It's not like you deliberately set out to abandon daily, regular, habitual feeding on God's Word. And after all, you're spending that time reading Christian blogs that talk about, explore, and apply the Bible; right? I'm sure it was never your intent to let your Bible gather dust. There is so much good information, teaching, instruction, and reflection out there. It's all so interesting. But at what cost, dear friends? Are we using wisdom when we pour our lives into endless reading of commentary on the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself and learning directly from the Master?

"Do you still read your Bible?"

Are you convicted by the question? If you are, here are a few suggestions that might help.

  • We must realize that, while God does call pastors, teachers, and theologians to serve the church, there is no command that we must read everything that every good and godly writer has to say. In fact, it is impossible to do so.
  • We must realize that blog posts take inordinantly more time to read than we account for. This is akin to the old timewarp phrase resulting in multiple hours spent at your computer, "I just need to check my email." Yeah, right. Like we just need to throw away a year of our life.
  • We must realize that the internet and blogs are a relatively recent development and we are not conscious of the invasive and dominating impact they are having on our lives. There has not yet been a broad and intentional development of good and right use of them in everyday life. There are indications that more people are starting to acknowledge these personal challenges raised by the new media.
  • Pare down your blog 'watch list' to a handful. Stop trying to be omniscient or Solomon in the breadth of your knowledge. You can't be, and you're not.
  • Finally, put down the mouse and go read your Bible today.

December 9, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section X


There are few things more dangerous or more likely to lead into open error. Take care, for instance, of misunderstanding what the Scripture says about the old man and the new man, the flesh and the spirit, and so making void your own personal responsibility for all you say and do, and also setting aside the necessity for the blood of Christ, as daily needed for our whole person, and the power of the Spirit, as needed constantly for our whole being, as long as we live.

Our Lord and His apostles use many figures to show the greatness of the change produced by being begotten again. They speak of this change as being an actual indwelling of Christ Himself personally. 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col 1:27); 'Christ liveth in me' (Gal 2:20); that 'Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith' (Eph 3:17). But this living and indwelling of Christ does not make us the same as Christ, or Christ the same as we; nor does it make the blood and the Spirit less necessary. It does not make Christ responsible for our sins, nor does it make us sinless. It does not lead us to say: You need not care what you do, for Christ dwells in you, and all you do is His doing.

Again, on the other hand, Scripture speaks of our 'being in Christ' (2 Cor 5:17; 1 Cor 1:30). But our being in Christ does not mean that we (that is, our whole man, body, soul, and spirit) are actually put into Christ as water is put into a vessel. This would destroy the sense; and besides, it would either make us sinless, or it would make Christ the author of our sins, and the doer of all that we do. These figures do mean that there is such a wonderful nearness between Christ and us, such a living connection, that we receive His power and fulness; but they do not mean that we and Christ are no longer two persons, but one,--no longer two bodies, but one--no longer two souls, but one.

Again, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit says, 'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh' (Ezek 36:26). This does not mean that an actual stone, whether of granite or marble, is taken out of us, and an actual piece of flesh (created in heaven) is inserted instead. Nor does it mean that the whole of our old nature is at once taken out of us, leaving no part behind, and that a complete new nature is substituted, so that there shall be absolutely nothing in us but what is perfect and divine. If this be the meaning of the figure, then every conversion must be the passing into instantaneous perfection, no fragment of the old nature being left behind, and no feature of the new nature being left unperfected or undeveloped. Thus there could be no conflict, no difficulty, no declension, no possibility of backsliding. The change thus figured to us is certainly a very great one, but it cannot mean the changing of one person into another, nor the transformation of a man into an angel.

Again, our Lord says to Nicodemus, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God' (John 3:3). Nicodemus took Him literally, and so destroyed the whole meaning of this divine symbol. Those in our day who maintain that actually and literally a new created thing is dropped into us at conversion, which they call the new man, are saying exactly what Nicodemus said, 'Can a man enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?' The new birth does not mean a new person. Christ did not mean that Nicodemus was no longer to be Nicodemus, or that Peter was no longer to be Peter, after conversion; but that such a spiritual work was to take place as to change their whole spiritual nature and character, while leaving them still Nicodemus and Peter, with all their original and proper personalities and humanities. Our Lord does not say, Except a part of a man is born again; but, Except a man is born again. The change may not be perfect at first, but it affects the whole man: so that he cannot say of himself, A part of me is born again, and a part of me is not born again; but, I am born again.

Connected with this there are the statements regarding the new creature: 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature' (or, 'there is a new creation'): 'old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new' (2 Cor 5:17). It is not that a new creature has been put into a man, like new wine into old vessels; but the whole man is the new creature, and is regarded as such by God from the day of his being born again. That the transformation is perfect and complete from the outset, the figure does not imply; that it will one day be all that is thus symbolized, it assures us beyond a doubt. So with regard to the flesh and the spirit, the old man and the new. The flesh is the man (call him Peter or Paul), with the remnants of his former self about him; the spirit is the same man (it may be Peter or Paul), with the new life unfolding itself within him. The figure names two men, the old and the new; but we are not, like Nicodemus, to take the words in a carnal or ultraliteral sense; for, after all, the man is but one all the while.

For thus the apostle speaks: 'I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me' (Gal 2:19,20). He does not say here, My old man is dead, but, I myself am dead; not, My old man is crucified, but, I myself am crucified; and this same person (I myself) who is dead and crucified still liveth. He does not say, one section of me is dead, and another is living; but, I myself am dead, and I myself am living: I, the same person, am both a dead and a living man. This is the real sense of the figure. This conflict, not between two persons, but between two parts (or conditions) of one person, is that which the apostle brings out in the 7th of the Romans: 'I was alive...I died...I am carnal, sold under sin...That which I do I allow not...what I would, that do I not...what I hate, that do I...In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good will is present with me; how to perform I find not...The good that I would I do not: the evil which I would not, that I do...It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me...When I would do good, evil is present with me...I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members...Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' It is Paul himself, speaking for himself, speaking as one delighting in the law of God, that utters these strange things, these seeming contradictions. It is not a perfect part of Paul fighting against an imperfect part of Paul; but it is Paul himself fighting against Paul himself. The one Paul, the one person, has two conflicting elements within him, each striving for the mastery. 'The inward man,' says he, 'is renewed day by day' (2 Cor 4:16). This process of daily renewal is that which goes on within him. The light and the darkness struggle together, but the light conquers, and shines more and more unto the perfect day.

Beware specially of this one-sidedness in everything connected with Christ Himself. Faith connects us with the Person of Christ in all its parts and aspects. It connects us with the whole work of Christ from the cradle to the throne, from Bethlehem to the heaven of heavens. It connects us with His birth, His life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension and glory. Out of all these it draws life and strength. Life in a crucified Christ, life in a risen Christ, life in a glorified Christ,-- this is the heritage of faith. Out of death, the death of that cross where He was crucified through weakness, come life and power to us; and down from the throne on which He now sits, the possessor and dispenser of that Spirit of promise, these same blessings come. In the cross is power. In the resurrection is power. In the throne of that glory there is power. It is as the glorified Christ (John 7:39) that He has received for us the Spirit with all His gifts (Psa 68:18; Eph 4:7-13). It is with the glorified Christ that we are linked by faith, for blessing, for power, for life, for consolation. 'Because I live, ye shall live also.'

December 8, 2008

16 Years

16 Years
by Diane Sherrill

I'll never forget
the day
you came into my life
three weeks early
your bright eyes
looking into mine

The love I felt
intense, instant
it took me
by suprise
nothing has ever compared

Such a good baby
pokes and tests
at six weeks
even surgery
hospital stays
your eyes shown bright
as you squeezed
my finger
as if to say
"I trust you mom,
I love you"

Alone and struggling
just you and me
my one and only
the reason
I kept going

You needed me
I needed you more

My stubborn
willful girl
potty training was a struggle
then one day
"I big girl now"
and it was done

The years go by
we cope
many moves
people come
and go
broken promises

I made choices
that weren't the best
for us
for you
I pray that
you know
I thought it was right
at the time

Some people say
I spoil you
I say
I love you

A man came into
our lives
my husband
he took you in
called you his own
love, trust
where once
was only pain

Through the years
you have been
my joy
my Gem
tried my patience
and believed in me
like no other

16 years
laughter and tears
good times
and bad
but always

I don't know
what the years
will bring
for you
for me
for us
for our family

I do know
you will always be
my heart
my joy
my one and only
baby girl

I believe in you
you have a big heart
a delicate soul
a treasure of kindness
an innocence that I hope
never goes away
a way of looking at the world
I pray never changes

I wish you
self control

I love you
XOXO mom

December 3, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section IX

Pastor Bonar urges us to be on the lookout. We have an enemy lurking, looking for someone to eat.


He is above all others your enemy; he, the 'old serpent,' the 'dragon,' the 'liar and murderer' from the beginning. It is with him that you are to fight. 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood [that is, earthly foes, men like ourselves], but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph 6:12). The world tries to bewitch and beguile us; but it is the 'god of this world,' the 'prince of this world,' the 'prince of the power of the air,' that so especially lays snares for us, making use of the world's beauty, and pleasure, and vanity for leading us captive at his will. 'O how [as one has written] are thou entrenched, O Satan--how art thou entrenched in thy beautiful deceptions; thou hast played thy part well in these last days; thou art all but the Holy One, thou consummate deceiver!' It is this that gives to the ballroom, and the dance, and the theatre, and the voluptuous music their special power to harm; for these are Satan's baits and nets, by means of which he allures the unwary, and leads back the believer to unbelieving ground, disarming our watchfulness, dazzling our vision, reviving our worldliness, and perhaps, for a season, lulling us wholly asleep. We know that through his successful wiles, perilous times are to come, when many, while lovers of self, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure, are still to have the 'form of godliness' (2 Tim 3:1-4); and we know that the last days are to be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26-32), days of revelling, and banqueting, and luxury. Let us be wary, lest, standing as we do on the edge of these days, we be drawn away into the sins of an age led captive by Satan at his will.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Fight the good fight of faith against him and his hosts. Watch unto prayer. 'Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour' (1 Peter 5:8). In these last days he will lay his snares more cunningly than ever, to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. He is coming down, having great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time (Rev 12:12).

November 28, 2008

Hearts, Minds, and the Cross of Christ

"What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?"

I shudder to even ask. I fear the closest many church goers will come this Sunday to a word about the cross will be a crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper. No mention of the cross in the speech given from the stage. Not a whiff of the stink raised in God's nostrils from our sin. No groping to describe the total darkness sin has left us in. No recognition of the havoc wreaked on every level of creation by sin. No biblical scalpel wielded by the pastor to remove the malignant, terminal tumor of sin entwined in our hearts and minds. And certainly no mention of the bloody and shameful death of the Messiah on the cruel cross at the hands of hate-filled sinners.

"What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?"

Everyone recognizes they aren't happy, so we tell them that God will make them happy. Everyone recognizes there are tragedies in the world, so we tell them God never wanted the tragedies to happen. Everyone recognizes life isn't fair, so we tell them God will bring blessings into their lives. Everyone worries, so we tell them that God is on their side.

Where is the cross? It's not on display in many churches. It's not mentioned in the "sermon" (which is actually more of an inspirational talk in many cases). But it's exactly what Paul preached.

"What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?" Does the sin-bearing life and death of Christ deserve any reflection? Does the one answer to sin's slaughter of mankind merit any consideration? Does the pinnacle of God's message to man ascend before our notice?

A reality check for modern man.

November 27, 2008

God and god - The Irony of the Watchtower Jesus, part 1

Christians believe, on biblical grounds, that there is one God. This belief is nicknamed 'monotheism'. God is the unique being over all. In essence, God is the creator of everything and everyone else. He alone is uncreated. He alone is God. Anyone else who claims godhood is a mere pretender to the throne. Throughout the history of both old and new testaments, people have been constantly pursuing gods other than God. God has condemned this pursuit repeatedly.

For example:

  • "You shall have no other gods before Me." - Exodus 20:3, NAU
  • "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him." - Deuteronomy 4:35, NAU
  • "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;" - Isaiah 45:5, NAU
  • "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." - I Timothy 1:17, NAU

Jehovah's Witness beliefs differ from historic Christianity in several areas. One critical difference lies in their presentation of Jesus as 'a god' instead of God the Son. They believe that Jehovah is Almighty God and Jesus is a created being who fills the role of Mighty God. In defense of this, they feel compelled to justify the existence of 'a god' apart from Jehovah but there is an inescapable irony to their defense of this dual-god doctrine.

In their pamphlet on the Trinity, they make the following claim:

"Thousands of times throughout the Bible, God is spoken of as one person. When he speaks, it is as one undivided individual. The Bible could not be any clearer in this. ... I am Yahweh your God . . . You shall have no gods except me." —Exodus 20:2,3, JB. (

"You shall have no gods except me." Now wait a minute. What did God say? Read it again. "... no gods". But doesn't the Watchtower teach Jehovah's Witnesses that there is both God and a god ruling the universe? How does that make sense in light of God's prohibition against having any god other than him? Jehovah's Witnesses want to have God and a god. God denies that this is possible.

The Watchtower did get something right. "The Bible could not be any clearer on this." It's ironic that Jehovah's Witnesses believe something that is opposite from what the Bible teaches so clearly.

To be continued...

Jesus Keeping the Sabbath

Leon Morris writes concerning a healing sign that Jesus performed on the Sabbath in the Gospel of John.

That the miracle was performed on the Sabbath stamped Jesus as an evildoer in the eyes of Pharisaic officialdom. The sign is Jesus' assertion that he could do on the Sabbath things that the Pharisees could not do. His relationship to God differs from theirs. Apart from God Jesus is helpless (vv. 19, 30), so that the healing of the man must not be seen as simple a magnificent human achievement. As John relatesit, it is a deed in which God set his seal on the work of his Son. ......

We are told of four Rabbis challenged to explain why God commands Israel to abstain from work on the Sabbath while he himself does not do so. They asked, "Is not a man permitted to carry on the Sabbath in his own courtyard?" and pointed out that both "the higher and lower regions are the courtyard of God", so that in his own way God is keeping the Sabbath. Only it is not the way earthlings keep it. Jesus is saying that he observes the Sabbath in the same way the Father does. The Jews recognized that his claim meant that he was asserting that God was his own Father, his Father in a special sense, for he was "making himself equal to God" (5:18). But Jesus did not mean this in the sense that he was a second god, a being quite separate from the Father. He says that he is quite unable to do anything from himself, and that what the Father does the Son does (5:19). He does not say that he does similar things, but that he does the same things. (Morris, Jesus Is The Christ, pp. 28-29)

Again, Jesus does not say that he does similar things. He does
the same things! Glory to our Lord and Savior.

The Terrors of Hell

Charles Hodge writes concerning sin in The Way of Life. He spotlights its pervasive and deadly impact on the human race and the outcome of God's judgment on sinners. Many times I have heard hardened sinners deny a fear of hell because it will be a great party with all of their friends. Hodge caught my attention with the following. I was struck with the sheer terrors of hell, considering the progressive degradation that will occur everlastingly. Hodge writes:

"Whatever explanation may be given of the terms employed in these and many similar passages, there can be no doubt that they are intended to convey the idea of endless and hopeless misery. Whence this misery shall arise, or wherein it shall consist are questions of minor importance. It is sufficient that the Scriptures teach that the sufferings here spoken of, are in degree inconceivably great and in duration endless. The most feaful exhibition given of the future state of the impenitent, is that which presents them as reprobates, as abandoned to the unrestrained dominion of evil. The repressing influence of conscience, of a probationary state, of a regard to character, of good example, and above all of the Holy Spirit, will be withdrawn, and unmingled malignity, impurity and violence constitute the character and condition of those who finally perish. The wicked are represented as constantly blaspheming God, while they gnaw their tongues with pain."
What a fearsome state. What a deliverance our Savior has won for us!

The Stewardship of Pain

I taught my adult Sunday School through a series based on Jerry Bridges' book The Joy of Fearing God. Brothers and Sisters, here is a practical guide for living.

Bridges writes of a duty in the Christian life that is rarely seen as a stewardship - the stewardship of pain.

“It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable.” —Jerry Bridges

Our typical reactions when encountering adversity:
  • God didn’t have anything to do with this

  • Get angry with God

  • Bear it in our own strength

Another path—the stewardship of pain

  • Trust Him in your pain

  • Ask for His sustaining grace

  • Testify to the sufficiency of His sustaining grace

  • Ask God for opportunities of ministry that our pain may bring up

If there is something this old world never seems short of, it is pain. That the Lord would have a purpose for it is one of the great sources of strength and endurance for the pilgrim walking the rocky path. If you are not in the midst of trouble now, you will be. When it comes, how will you greet it? How will you endure its visit, whether protracted or extended?

I cannot do Bridges justice in this small space. I can only hand it to the next weary walker of this guilty sod.

On Public Worship

We need to talk. About the corporate worship of the church. Not just any church. Your church. What are your Sunday mornings like? Do you look forward to joining with the assembled saints and worshipping God?

Before you answer, I have an important announcement. I have decided to participate as a contestant in the 2012 London Olympics. I have selected the 10,000 meter long-distance race as the contest to enter. I have started resting up in preparation for the competition. According to the website for the olympics, I have around 1,400 days to rest up. That seems like an adequate time for an intense schedule of resting, laying around, napping, and otherwise saving my energy until the starter's pistol fires. I didn't feel that I had enough time to rest up for the Beijing games. I believe 1,400 days of rest will position me for a strong, gold-medal performance in London.

What? Why are you looking at me like that? You don't think 1,400 days of rest will bring me to London totally prepared for victory? I need to train and run marathons to prepare for the Olympics? Hmmm... let me think about that. In the mean time...

Back to the question about corporate worship at your church. Are you exercising your soul in private worship of God regularly throughout the week? The psalmist wrote, "I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Private worship will prime your heart for the corporate services of your church. To apply the olympic illustration above, you need to train your heart and mind throughout the week if you are to engage in whole-souled worship with God's assembled people. Busying yourself throughout the week with insta-urgent demands from sun up to sun down, never leaving time to cultivate your relationship with the Lord or worshipping will leave you feeling empty come Sunday morning. It's hardly reasonable to expect that you can turn on your heart affections for a few minutes on Sunday morning and feel that you've worshipped the Father in spirit and in truth.

I'm left wondering if the wonders of modern life are not robbing what little piety we evangelicals have left. At the very least, the younger strata of the evangelical culture is heavily impacted by the hyperdrive lifestyle. The middle-agers and seniors among us have an opportunity to model a devotional lifestyle before these dear young people.

I know there are many who visit here who do practice private worship throughout the week. The comments section is open. Please share your practice and ideas for pursuing the Lord in private worship throughout the week. This is a means to spur your brothers and sisters on to greater works of love in service to the Lord.

A Brief Definition of the Trinity

This brief article by James R. White may prove useful if you are new to the challenges offered by the cults. I highly recommend his doctoral thesis on the Trinity, published in popular form as The Forgotten Trinity.

John 1:1, Colwell, and Mass/Count Nouns

"The purpose of this article... is first to clearly articulate what has become known as Colwell’s rule, including its abuse, then to enunciate a revolutionary method by which to better understand the Colwell construction. This latter will be accomplished by the utilizing of the mass/count noun distinction. Finally we wish to apply these results to the New Testament as a whole, then to the Gospel of John in particular as a case study. It is hoped that this method can aid in a more scientific approach to this grammatical construction and assist in making a more surer semantic determination... ." - Donald Hartley, Th. M.

More Thoughts on Hell

Are we as bad as we could be? I don't believe so, due to several restraining influences on our evil. Which ones can you think of? Some that come to mind are:

  • The Holy Spirit's restraint
  • The rule of government by law
  • Societal influence
  • Hope for future resolution
  • The testimony of the church
  • People who were good examples in your life

How many of these influences will remain in hell? None. Thoughts and urges towards evil will know no restraint. It is a fearful thing to consider the hopeless eternity facing millions of people apart from Christ. Oh, the hardening of rebellious hearts as the centuries roll through eternity. The fury and hatred of God that will grow in the hearts of the damned, unmitigated by any hope and untempered by time.

Flee to the Savior! Cling to the cross of Christ.

Clones and Confusion, Watchtower Style

Ok... this is a theoretical circumstance and I know some of you may not like it. But whether you like it or not, we're staring down the barrel of modern medicine and questions like this need to be discussed.

Concerning the resurrection, the Watchtower holds that there is no continuity of existence from one plane to the next. In other words, if a Jehovah's Witness (we'll call him Joe) dies today he completely and totally ceases to exist. Joe is no more. There is nothing left of Joe. There are only fond memories... or not-so-fond memories, depending on your relationship with Joe.

At a future time, Jehovah decides to 'resurrect' Joe. To do this, he creates a physical body, breathes life into it, and infuses it with all of the memories, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, and somesuch that Joe had when he was alive the first time around. This new creature is now considered to be Joe, although he is not directly connected to the first existence of Joe in any way. In other words, he is a really good copy of Joe. In today's technospeak, we could call him Joe v2.0. According to the Watchtower, Joe v2.0 is as Joe as he can be. He is exactly like the original Joe. This constitutes a 'resurrection' of Joe in the Watchtower vernacular.

Which leads me to the theoretical scenario. Let's say that sometime in the next 50 years, human cloning is achieved. Through a rigorous selection process, they select someone who has led an exemplary life concerning their physical body and habits. That someone could be named Sally. Sally is a Jehovah's Witness. What if... and this is a huge 'what if', Sally v2.0 has the same memories, mannerisms, habits, physical tics, etc as Sally?According to the Watchtower, has Sally been resurrected? What if Sally is still alive? If the definition the Watchtower articulates regularly concerning resurrection is the true biblical picture, then I believe we will have a real dilemma on our hands. Sally will be resurrected in Sally v2.0, whether or not Sally is dead and resurrection will have been accomplished by science apart from Jehovah's raising of Sally.

Theoretical? Undoubtedly. Confusing? Again, undoubtedly.

Jesus and JW Angels

A friend wrote:
I am talking to a JW that tells me that Jesus and the angels (Lucifer) are all called "morning star[s]". Jesus is called the [Bright] morning star in Rev 22 and he is (I think) called "morning star" in Rev 2:28. I have looked on the web, but I can't find a good answer to give him that Jesus isn't an angel even though he is called a morning star too. Can you help me on this?To which I replied:

Dear Friend,Thank you for writing. I can offer some comments that might help you. However, I also must pause to reflect that there is rarely 'a good answer' to give to someone who is committed to a religion. Since Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses both hold to the Bible as their source for religious truth, there are precious few arguments you could present that the JW isn't already prepared for. Given that... onward and upwards.

The references in Rev 2 and 22 could be taken to be a reference to Christ. The JW will be quick to group all the angels in with this and try to draw a strong inference that this indicates Jesus is also an angel. It is common for sound Christian commentators to see a reference to Jesus and to angels in these and other verses. Take note that it does not say in these verses that 'Jesus is an angel' or that 'Jesus is one of many angels'. The JW tries to frame their argument to make it appear to be that clear and strong, but it isn't. This is figurative language so we need to be cautious about pressing figurative descriptions as if they were explicit declarations.Then how do you know that Jesus is not just another one of the angels?

  • John 1:1 affirms that he is God, not merely an angel.
  • John 1:3 affirms that Jesus made everything that has been created, again affirming that he is God and not a creature (angel or otherwise).
  • Colossians 1:16 affirms that Christ created ALL things, visible and invisible, affirming that he is God and not a creature.
  • Hebrews chapter 1 in it's entirety contrasts Christ with the angels profoundly, indicating that he is above them as God.

The strength of these clear and explicit affirmations concerning Jesus is more than enough to destroy all speculation founded upon interpretations of implicit verses that utilize figurative imagery.

I hope this helps answer your question. You can certainly
study up on these verses and prepare yourself to dialog with your Jehovah's Witness friend but do not be surprised if they are able to shrug off these clear statements as if they were less than worthy of consideration. After all, to do so would overturn their commitment to the JW religion. False religion ensnares people in complex ways. There can be components of pride (I know I'm right this time), fear (if I leave, I will lose my family/job/home/etc.), loyalty (they have helped me through so much) and many other factors. Pray for your friend. Only our Triune God can set them free from this blinding spiritual darkness.

Follow the Lamb - Section VIII

Pastor Bonar puts the scalpel to idolatrous self-love and boasting. We must recognize that idolatry is the last sin to be rooted out of the heart, especially when the idol is our favorite one - Me Me Me. If the Christian life is a battle, there is a frontline in the war that walks with us every single day of our journey here.


God's aim in all His doings of grace is to 'hide pride from man'; to hinder boasting; to keep the sinner humble. All that the old Christian can say is, 'By the grace of God I am what I am'; and the youngest has no other confidence or boast. All 'confidence in the flesh' (Phil 3:1,3), all trust in self, all reliance on the creature, are set aside by that great work of the Divine Substitute, who did all for us, and left us nothing to do, out of which it would be possible to extract a boast (2 Cor 12:9; Gal 6:14; Isa 41:16; 45:25).

The sinner's first act of believing is his consenting to be treated as a sinner, and simply as such; indebted for nothing to himself, in any shape or in any sense, but wholly to God and to His free love, in Christ Jesus our Lord. This was the laying down of all pride and boastfulness. Then he knew the meaning of the words, 'Glory ye in His holy name' (1 Chron 16:10); for the name in which he then began to glory was the name revealed in Exodus (Exo 34:6); the name that assured him of the love of that God with whom he had to do.

Self was set aside, and Christ came in, to do and to be all that self had hitherto been supposed to be and to do. What things before were gain to us, these we then counted loss for Christ; and we ceased for ever to glory in the flesh, or to be debtors to anything but the blood and righteousness of the Son of God. We learned to say, 'God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Gal 6:14).

We ceased to work for salvation, for we had got it without working; and we had got it, not in order that we might indulge in sin because grace abounded, but in order that, having our legal bonds all loosed and our prison opened, we might henceforth serve God with our whole heart and soul. We thus became debtors, 'not to the flesh, to live after the flesh' (Rom 8:12);--for the flesh had done nothing for us, and we owed it nothing;-- but debtors to God and to His love: not to self or the old man, for these had brought us only sin and evil; but to Jesus Christ and His precious blood: not to law, for it only condemned us, and held us in bondage; but to that 'free Spirit' (Psa 51:12), that 'good Spirit' (Neh 9:20), that 'Spirit of life which makes us free from the law of sin and death' (Rom 8:2). Thus everything that could cause pride was swept away at the outset; and that not by law, but by the very necessity of the case, by the very nature of that salvation which was brought to us; not through anything which we either could or could not do, but through the love, and work, and blood of another. Let us fling away self-esteem and high-mindedness, for it is the very essence of unbelief, as the prophet told Israel, 'Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken' (Jer 13:15). Be meek, be poor in spirit, be humble; be teachable, be gentle, and easy to be entreated; putting away all high thoughts and lofty imaginations, either about what we are or what we can do; content to take the obscurest corner and the lowest seat; and this, not to indulge in a false lowliness, or in 'the pride that apes humility,' feeding our vanity with the thought that we are martyrs, and puffing up our fleshly mind with the idea of our wonderful condescension, or by brooding over our supposed wrongs and trials. Let us be truly humble, as was the Son of God: content to live unknown, and to do our work unnoticed, as a work not for the eye of man, but of God.

Put away all envy, and jealousy of others, as well as all malice and evil-speaking (Eph 4:31). Love to hear of a brother's prosperity. Don't grudge him a few words of honest praise; nor try maliciously to turn the edge of it, by an envious 'but,' or a grave silence, or a wise shake of the head; unless you have very special reasons for disallowing the eulogy. Remember that Solomon's 'wicked man' is one that 'winketh with his eyes, and speaketh with his feet, and teacheth with his fingers' (Prov 6:13; 10:10). Have a care of detraction and backbiting; speak of a person's faults only to himself and to God. Be not censorious or uncharitable, in thought or word.. Inconsistent Christians are often more censorious than the world; for they need to apologize to themselves for their inconsistencies by detracting from the excellencies of those who are more consistent than themselves, and by trying to believe that good men are no better than others.

Some love to speak; and show their pride in this way, both in private and in public. If you are young, and newly led out of your former ignorance, beware of this snare. Remember Paul's advice--'Not a novice [that is, one newly converted], lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil' (1 Tim 3:6). If you have gifts, use them quietly and modestly, not ostentatiously. Do not be forward to tell your experience, or give your opinion, or to take rank above your seniors. Do not think that all zeal or wisdom is confined to you and a few about you. Do not condemn others because they don't go quite along with you in all things; nor speak of them as cold, and dead, and unspiritual. Do not think that no one cares for souls but yourselves; that no one can state the gospel or pray like you; or that God is not likely to bless any one so much as you. Be lowly; and show this, not by always speaking evil of yourselves to others, or by using the conceited phrase 'in my humble opinion' (as some do in order to show their humility), but by not speaking of yourselves at all. Keep self in the background, and don't say or do anything that looks like baiting your hook for a little praise.

Some love to rule and manage. So did Diotrephes (3 John 9). They are not happy, unless they are at the head of everything--the originators of all plans, the presidents of societies, the speakers at meetings. Beware of this love of pre-eminence, as ruinous to your own soul and injurious to the Church of God. If God puts work into your hands, do it; and do it faithfully, through good report or bad report. Bear to be contradicted and spoken against. Do not fret when things go wrong with you or your schemes; nor get 'petted' like a spoilt child when you don't get your own way; nor fling up everything in disgust when you happen to be thwarted. Do not take yourself for Solomon, or suppose that wisdom will die with you (Job 12:2). If called to preside or manage, do it; and do it with energy and authority, as one who has a trust to fulfil. 'But mind not high things' (Rom 12:16); 'Seek not great things for thyself' (Jer 45:5); 'He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve' (Luke 22:26); 'All of you be subject one to another' (I Peter 5:5); 'In honour preferring one another' (Rom 12:10).

Yet be discriminating. Do not call error truth for the sake of charity. Do not praise earnest men merely because they are earnest. To be earnest in truth is one thing; to be earnest in error is another. The first is blessed, not so much because of the earnestness, but because of the truth; the second is hateful to God, and ought to be shunned by you. Remember how the Lord Jesus from heaven spoke concerning error: 'which thing I hate' (Rev 2:6-15; 1 Tim 6:4,5). True spiritual discernment is much lost sight of as a real Christian grace; discernment between the evil and the good, the false and the true. 'Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world' (1 John 4:1). This 'discernment,' which belongs to every one who is taught of God, is the very opposite of that which is called in our day by the boastful name of 'liberality.' Spiritual discernment and 'liberal thought' have little in common with each other. 'Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good' (Rom 12:9). The 'liberality which puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter' (Isa 5:20), is a very different thing from the 'charity which thinketh no evil' (1 Cor 13:5). Truth is a mighty thing in the eyes of God, whatever it may be in those of men. All error is, more or less, whether directly or indirectly, a misrepresentation of God's character, and a subversion of His revelation (Rev 22:18,19).

A Captivating Read

I am about one fourth of the way through Tom Schreiner's book
Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ. This is the first time I've read a Pauline theology. I've hesitated to tackle works like these. I have been reluctant because I thought that an academic book like this could be quite dry. To my relief, I have found it to be an engaging work that is very hard to put down. Schreiner is a good writer. He hasn't kiln-dried Paul and made him dry as dust. No, Schreiner uses a broad Biblical brush and vivid life-tones to paint a very human picture of Paul. Paul's life is a source of both courage and encouragement. A book like this helps focus our attention on the different aspects of the Lord's ministry through Paul. Personally, I need help focusing. I'm thankful Schreiner put in the effort to write this book. I have several ideas to write about, as the seeds of Schreiner's work fall from the pages.

I think I will need to make a few passes through the book to mine all the gold out of it. This first time through I am reading it fairly quickly.

One thing is obvious in the first 100 pages. Schreiner makes a very clear case concerning Paul's suffering and the role it plays in his life and mission. For those of you who are Joel Osteen'ed to death, read this. Paul provides a much needed, and very obvious, correction to the 'successful life' model that is so terribly popular in evangelical circles these days.

November 25, 2008

Twelve Ordinary Men - One Extraordinary Book

John MacArthur's study in the lives and personalities of the twelve disciples is a fascinating book. I had a wonderful opportunity this summer to read this while sitting outdoors. It was a beautiful day. There was a light breeze. The temperature was perfect. I was primed for a heart-warming look at the Savior and his friends. I could not have found a better book for a better day. I still smile when I remember what a great time it was. In a very ordinary context, a ministry of grace was poured out that day.

I am using the book as the framework for an adult Bible study in our church on Sunday mornings. Several people in the study have commented how it brings the biblical characters to life right before their very eyes. Unlike many of MacArthur's doctrinal works, this one is written in a warm, free-flowing style that is much more conversational and informal in tone. It is a pleasure to read. In fact, if you get as engrossed in it as I did, you'll finish it the same day you start reading it. It's that good.

I get the impression while reading it that the cup of MacArthur's pastoral compassion for everyday Christians was spilling over as he wrote. You can smell the sea of Galilee and hear the fishermen working as they mend their nets. Into this common scene walks the Lord of the universe in order to call them to follow him. They aren't desirable above their brothers. Far from it. They are as ordinary as can be. If it's possible to be extraordinarily ordinary, Jesus found disciples who were precisely that.

MacArthur brings out many facets of the character of these men, both before their conversion and as they walk with Jesus. While I can't guarantee you'll have great weather cooperating with your reading schedule, I highly recommend this book to disciples at all stages in their Christian life.

I know many of you teach Bible studies and are always on the lookout for good material. This one is a goodie. It is solidly Biblical, easily adaptable, faith-building and heart-warming. It will engage your fellow disciples as they see Jesus using people just like them to do great things for Him.

November 21, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section VII

Pastor Bonar warns us to live carefully. How many burning coals do we clutch and cling to, even after they have burned us repeatedly?


Beware, not merely of falling, but of stumbling. 'Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise'; like men in an enemy's country, or like travellers climbing a hill, slippery with ice, and terrible with precipices, where every step may be a fall, and every fall a plunge into a chasm. Beware of little slips, slight inconsistencies, as they are called; they are the beginning of all backsliding, and they are in themselves evil, as well as hateful to God. Keep your garments undefiled (Rev 3:4); beware of small spots as well as larger stains or rents; and the moment you discover any speck, however small, go wash in the fountain, that your 'garments may be always white,' and so pleasing in the eyes of Him, whose you are, and whom you serve. 'Crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts' (Gal 5:24). 'Mortify your members which are upon the earth' (Col 3:5).

Remember the Lord's words to His Church, 'Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.' Stand aloof from the world's gaiety, and be jealous of what are called 'harmless amusements.' I do not condemn all amusements, but I ask that they should be useful and profitable, not merely harmless. Dancing and card playing are the world's devices for killing time. They are bits of the world and the world's ways which will ensnare your feet and lead you away from the cross. Let them alone. Keep away from the ballroom, the opera, the oratorio, the theatre. Dress, finery, and display, are deadly snares. Put away levity and frivolity; all silly conversation, or gossip; remembering the apostle's words, 'Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting which are not convenient' (Eph 5:4); and, 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers; and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption' (Eph 4:29,30).

'Flee youthful lusts,' if you be young men or women; flee all lusts, whether you be young or old. Shun light company, and take no pleasure in the conversation of 'vain persons.' 'Abstain from all appearance of evil.' Be thou a Christian in little things as well as great. Dread little sins, little errors, little omissions of duty. Beware of false steps; and if betrayed into one, retrace it soon as discovered. If persevered in, the consequences may be months of sorrow.

That cherished sin, 'twill cost thee dear.

Remember, as a French writer remarks, that, sooner or later, 'every crown of flowers becomes a crown of thorns.'

Redeem the time: much of your progress depends on this. Be men of 'method and punctuality'; waste no moments; have always something to do, and do it; use up the little spaces of life, the little intervals between engagements. I knew a friend who, one winter, read through some five or six octavo volumes, by making use of the brief interval between family worship and breakfast. Pack up your life well; your trunk will contain twice as much if well packed; attend, then, to the packing of each day and hour. You may save years by this. How many have 'slipped' and 'fallen' through idleness! How many begin a score of things and end nothing, 'dawdle' away their morning or their evening hours, sleep longer than is needful, trifle through their duties, hurrying about from work to work, or from book to book, or from meeting to meeting, instead of being calm, methodical, energetic! Thus life is loitered away, and each sun sets upon twelve wasted hours, and an uneasy, dissatisfied conscience. Be punctual and regular in all duties and engagements. Keep no man waiting. Be honest as to time, both with yourselves and others, lest you get into a state of chronic flurry and excitement; so destructive of peace and progress; so grieving to the Spirit, whose very nature is calmness and rest.

These may seem small things, but they are the roots of great. Resist beginnings. 'Seize time by the forelock.' Live while you live. Watch your steps; count your minutes; live as men who are pressing on to a kingdom, and who fear, not only open apostasy, but the smallest measure of coming short, the slightest stain upon the garment of a saint, the faintest slur upon the name of a disciple (Heb 4:1; Jude 23).

Watch against special sins; or things that have 'the appearance of evil'; or things that lead into evil, and discredit 'that worthy name by which you are called' (1 Thess 5:22; James 2:7). If you have a bad temper, watch against that. If you have a rude way of speech, a cold, distant, repulsive manner, or are ill to please, look well to these, and 'be courteous' (1 Peter 3:8). If you are covetous in disposition, or shabby in your dwellings, or niggardly in your givings, take care; 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' If you are slovenly in your dress, or untidy in your person, or unpolite in your demeanour, set yourself to rectify these blemishes. If you are lazy, luxurious, given to the good things of this life, or selfish, disobliging, unneighbourly, rude, blunt, unbrotherly, look to your Pattern, and see if these things were in Him. If you are fickle, and frivolous, and flippant, greedy of jokes, carried away with immoderate laughter, be upon your guard. If you are romantic and sentimental, take care lest the indulgence of such a temperament should land you in peevishness, self pity, and a cowardly avoidance of the common duties of life. If you are censorious, captious, fault finding, proud, domineering, supercilious, and sulky, get the unclean spirit cast out forthwith. If you be a gossip, or a gadabout, or a busybody in other men's matters, take care, for at such crevices Satan creeps in. If you be secretive and cunning, with a certain littleness or slyness in your nature, which never lets you forget your own interests, beware! Christ was not such; Paul was not such. Be frank, open, manly. Remember the summing up of David's picture of the blessed man, 'in whose spirit there is no guile' (Psa 32:2). Be not 'Jacob,' a man of guile; but Israel, a noble prince--'an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile' (John 1:48).

Walk 'straight up,' along the path of life, like a forgiven man, with God at your side (Gen 5:24, 6:9), and with the joy of the Lord for your strength (Neh 8:9; Eccl 9:7); doing heartily your daily work, whether sacred or common, with an unshaded brow and an earnest but cheerful face. In short, watch against your old self at every point.

Do not evade these remarks by saying that some of the things spoken of are trifles, and beneath notice. Nothing should be too small for a Christian to notice, either of right or wrong. Remember the Master's words about denying self--every part of self; be not a servant of self, or a worshipper of self, or a 'lover of self' (2 Tim 3:1,2) in any form. Take up your cross, and follow your Lord (Matt 16:24); as it is written, 'Even Christ pleased not Himself' (Rom 15:3).

November 19, 2008

Why I Labor

Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I have an apologetics ministry primarily directed towards the Jehovah's Witnesses. For many years I have researched, responded to, and evangelized them. I have burned many days of my life in this pursuit. Why? Why do I do it? Why do I burn so much time pursuing a people-group that is radically opposed to the gospel, that is indoctrinated endlessly to reject the biblical God-man who is their one and only hope for salvation, that is convinced wholesale that I am a pawn of Satan trying to deceive them?

Before I tell you why, let me rehearse for you a few reasons why I do not do this.

1. Fame - The JWs have been around a long time. In apologetics circles, it is certainly not one of the up-and-coming groups that has a lot of excitement surrounding it. They are 'old news' in the modern clamor of the 10-second sound-bite.

2. Money - This is not my job. It may be one of my passions, but I don't make a dime from it. I have a regular job, a family to care for, and a church to serve. Plenty on my plate before I ever get time to work on this.

3. Hatred - I don't hate the dear people I am trying to reach. They are deceived and are walking to their doom in denying Christ, just as I was before Jesus saved me.

4. Success - If defined in terms of converts, I am a miserable failure. JWs are not lining up on my doorstep ready to walk away from everything they know in order to embrace Christ.

So why do I do it? What has brought me through so many long years of labor?

1. Jesus - He calls me to the harvest field. No matter the size of the harvest, how can I refuse him? He has given me a desire to serve this way, given me a brain to use as he commands, and provided the resources that give me opportunity to pursue his purpose in this.

2. Truth - It must be spoken in the company of the lost. No matter the protestations made by the organization called The Watchtower that it alone possesses the truth - they have missed the true Jesus and he's exactly the one that Jehovah's Witnesses need to know.

3. An Evident Need - There are few Christians reaching out to Jehovah's Witnesses. The reasons for the lack are numerous. Evangelizing this group raises some very specific challenges which everyone is not well-equipped to handle. By God's mercy I have become equipped to meet these challenges.

4. Love - I find a fountain supplied by Christ in my life that spills over in concern and love for the dear people ensnared in the false religion of the Watchtower. I can't quite explain it... but it is there nonetheless. I believe this is also part of the Lord's equipping me for this work.

Those are some of the reasons why I labor as I do. Ultimately, I believe this is one very small part of God's grand design in working out his purposes among men and women, boys and girls. Don't get me wrong. It hasn't been easy. There have been plenty of times when I have wanted to walk away from this ministry but the Lord leads me back to it, heart and mind. It's not for everyone and I have tried to be careful in my teaching opportunities to make this clear to my students. Oh that I would be faithful in the harvest: plowing, sowing, and reaping as He enables me for the rest of my days.

November 16, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section VI

Pastor Bonar continues to encourage helpful and necessary growth in the Christian life. He says a few simple things that should raise eyebrows at every evangelical publisher.


Do not skim it or read it, but study it, every word of it; study the whole Bible, Old Testament and New; not your favourite chapters merely, but the complete Word of God from beginning to end. Do not trouble yourself with commentators; they may be of use if kept in their place, but they are not your guides; your guide is 'the Interpreter,' the one among a thousand (Job 33:23), who will lead you into all truth, and keep you from all error.

Not that you are to read no book but the Bible. All that is true and good is worth the reading, if you have time for it; and all, if properly used, will help you in your study of the Scriptures. A Christian does not shut his eyes to the natural scenes of beauty spread around him. He does not cease to admire the hills, or plains, or rivers, or forests of earth, because he has learned to love the God that made them; nor does he turn away from books of science or true poetry, because he has discovered one book truer, more precious, and more poetical than all the rest together. Besides, the soul can no more continue in one posture than the body. The eye must be relieved by variety of objects and the limbs by motion; so must the soul by change of subject and position. 'All truth is precious, though not all divine.'

In so far, then, as time allows or opportunity presents, let us 'seek and search out by word concerning all things that are done under heaven.' But let the Bible be to us the book of books, the one book in all the world, whose every wisdom is truth, and whose every verse is wisdom. In studying it, be sure to take it for what it really is, the revelation of the thoughts of God given us in the words of God. Were it only the book of divine thoughts and human words, it would profit little, for we never could be sure whether the words really represented the thoughts; nay, we might be quite sure that man would fail in his words when attempting to embody divine thoughts; and that, therefore, if we have only man's words, that is, man's translation of the divine thoughts, we shall have one of the poorest and most incorrect of all books, just as we should have in the case of Homer or Plato done into English by a first year's schoolboy. But, knowing that we have divine thoughts embodied in divine words, through the inspiration of an unerring translator, we sit down to the study of the heavenly volume, assured that we shall find in all its teachings the perfection of wisdom, and in its language the most accurate expression of that wisdom that the finite speech of man can utter.

Every word of God is as perfect as it is pure (Psa 19:7; 12:6). Let us read and reread the Scriptures, meditating on them day and night. They never grow old, they never lose their sap, they never run dry. Though it is right and profitable, as I have said, to read other books, if they are true and good, yet beware of reading too many. Do not let man's book thrust God's book into a corner. Do not let commentaries smother the text; nor let the true and the good shut out the truer and the better.

Specially beware of light reading. Shun novels; they are the literary curse of the age; they are to the soul what ardent spirits are to the body. If you be a parent, keep novels out of the way of your children. But whether you be a parent or not, neither read them yourself, nor set an example of novel-reading to others. Don't let novels lie on your table, or be seen in your hand, even in a railway carriage. The 'light reading for the rail' has done deep injury to many a young man and woman. The light literature of the day is working a world of harm; vitiating the taste of the young, enervating their minds, unfitting them for life's plain work, eating out their love of the Bible, teaching them a false morality, and creating in the soul an unreal standard of truth, and beauty, and love. Don't be too fond of the newspaper. Yet read it, that you may know both what man is doing and what God is doing; and extract out of all you read matter for thought and prayer. Avoid works which jest with what is right or wrong, lest you unconsciously adopt a false test of truth and duty, namely, ridicule, and so become afraid to do right for right's sake alone; dreading the world's sneer, and undervaluing a good conscience and the approving smile of God. Let your reading be always select; and whatever you read, begin with seeking God's blessing on it. But see that your relish for the Bible be above every other enjoyment, and the moment you begin to feel greater relish for any other book, lay it down till you have sought deliverance from such a snare, and obtained from the Holy Spirit an intenser relish, a keener appetite for the Word of God (Jer 15:16; Psa 19:7-10).

November 14, 2008

Follow the Lamb - Section V


Intimacy with God is the very essence of religion, and the foundation of discipleship. It is in intercourse with Father, Son, and Spirit that the most real parts of our lives are lived; and all parts that are not lived in fellowship with Him, 'in whom we live, and move, and have our being,' are unreal, untrue, unsuccessful, and unsatisfying. The understanding of doctrine is one thing, and intimacy with God is another. They ought always to go together; but they are often seen asunder; and, when there is the former without the latter, there is a hard, proud, hollow religion. Get your teaching from God (Job 36:22; Jer 23:30); take your doctrine from His lips; learn truth upon your knees. Beware of opinions and speculations: they become idols, and nourish pride of intellect; they furnish no food to the soul; they make you sapless and heartless; they are like winter frostwork on your windowpane, shutting out the warm sun.

Let God be your companion, your bosom-friend, your instructor, your counselor. Take Him into the closet with you, into the study, into the shop, into the marketplace, into the railway carriage, into the boat. When you make a feast and call guests, invite Him as one of them. He is always willing to come; and there is no company like His. When you are in perplexity, and are taking advice from friends, let Him be one of your 'friends in counsel.' When you feel lonely, make Him the 'companion of your solitude.' And if you are known to be one given to the divine companionship, you will be saved from much idle and wasteful society and conversation. You will not feel at home with worldly men, nor they with you. You will not choose the half-and-half Christian, or the formalist, or the servant of two masters, for your friend; nor will any of these seek your fellowship. When thrown into worldly society, from your business or your relationships, as you may sometimes be, do not cease to be the Christian; nor try to make excuses for the worldliness of those with whom you are obliged to associate; for that is just making excuses for yourself in associating with them. Do not try to make yourself or them believe that they are religious when they are not; but show them whose disciples you are; not necessarily in words, but by a line of conduct more expressive and efficacious than words. Do not conform to the world in order to please men or to save yourself from their taunt or jest. Be not afraid to ask a blessing at meals, or to have family worship, or to enter into religious conversation, because a worldly man is present. Keep constant company with the great God of heaven and earth; and let every other companionship be regulated by His. Go where you please, if you can take Him with you; go nowhere if He cannot be admitted, or if you are obliged for the time to conceal or disguise your divine discipleship. When Joseph went down to Egypt, he took the young child with him (Matt 2:21); so, wherever you go, take the young child with you.

Beware of declension in prayer. --Whenever you feel the closet becoming a dull place, you may be sure something is wrong. Backsliding has begun. Go straight to God that He may 'heal it' (Hosea 14:4). Do not trifle with it; nor resort to other expedients to relieve the dullness, such as shortening the time, or getting some lively religious books to take off the weariness; go at once to the Great Quickener with the cry, 'Quicken us, and we will call on Thy name' (Psa 80:18). Beware of going through prayer in a careless or perfunctory way, like a hireling doing his work in order to get done with it. 'Pray in the Holy Ghost' (Jude 20). 'Pray without ceasing.' Pray with honest fervour and simple faith, as men who really want what they ask for, and expect to get it all. Few things tend more to deaden the soul, to harden the heart, to drive out spirituality, than cold, formal prayer. It will eat as doth a canker. Dread it and shun it. Do not mock God by asking what you don't want, or by pretending to desire what you don't care for. 'The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer' (1 Peter 4:7).

Be much alone with God. Do not put Him off with a quarter of an hour morning and evening. Take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Converse over everything with Him. Unbosom yourself wholly--every thought, feeling, wish, plan, doubt--to Him. He wants converse with His creatures; shall His creatures not want converse with Him? He wants, not merely to be on 'good terms' with you, if one may use man's phrase, but to be intimate; shall you decline the intimacy, and be satisfied with mere acquaintance? What! intimate with the world, with friends, with neighbours, with politicians, with philosophers, with naturalists, or with poets; but not with God! That would look ill indeed. Folly, to prefer the clay to the potter, the marble to the sculptor, this little earth and its lesser creatures to the mighty Maker of the universe, the great 'All and in all!'

Do not shrink from being alone. Much of a true man's true life must be so spent. David Brainerd thus writes:--'My state of solitude does not make the hours hang heavy upon my hands. Oh, what reason of thankfulness have I on account of this retirement! I find that I do not, and it seems I cannot, lead a Christian life when I am abroad, and cannot spend time in devotion, in conversation, and serious meditation, as I should do. These weeks that I am obliged now to be from home, in order to learn the Indian tongue, are mostly spent in perplexity and barrenness, without much relish of divine things; and I feel myself a stranger at the throne of grace for want of a more frequent and continued retirement.' Do not suppose that such retirement for divine converse will hinder work. It will greatly help it. Much private fellowship with God will give you sevenfold success. Pray much if you would work much; and if you want to work more, pray more. Luther used to say, when an unusual press of business came upon him, 'I must pray more today.' Be like him in the day of work or trial. Do not think that mere working will keep you right or set you right. The watch won't go till the spring is mended. Work will do nothing for you till you have gone to God for a working heart. Trying to work yourself into a better frame of feeling is not only hopeless, but injurious. You say, I want to feel more and to love more. It is well. But you can't work yourself into these. I do not say to any one who feels his coldness, 'Go and work.' Work, if done heartlessly, will only make you colder. You must go straight to Jesus with that cold heart, and warm it at His cross; then work will be at once a necessity, a delight, and a success.