Sunday, May 31, 2015

the process of history

hearing the Spirit

At Basics this year I picked up a book by Christopher Ash, entitled Hearing the Spirit.  An excellent -- and greatly needed study -- on the relationship of the Holy Spirit and God's Word.  And it's a vital corrective to many who are trying to "hear the Spirit" apart from God's word.  

A couple of highlights: 

"The Spirit breathes into our hearts the Word He first breathed out from the Father.  There is a stable meaning in the text. What it said, it says.  What God spoke, He speaks.  It has a fixed meaning."

"So the Spirit does not supplement the sufficiency of the word, but He works in us the efficacy of the word.  He renders the word effective.  The Spirit is, in a sense, mute without the word.  But on the other hand the word is inactive without the Spirit.  The word does not work on its own, as it were ex opere operato; it works as the Spirit renders it effective."

-- Christopher Ash, Hearing The Spirit (Christian Focus, 2011)

Friday, May 22, 2015

the glory of Christ

"Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."  (John 17:24 ESV)

"A continual contemplation of the glory of Christ, in his person, work, and grace will carry us cheerfully, peaceably, and victoriously through life and death, and through all our struggles in either of them."  (John Owen, The Glory of Christ)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

letting the Bible read you

You read the Bible, but are you letting the Bible read you?  

What I mean by that is, we may search the Scriptures, but we must also take time for the Scriptures to search us. We need to look intently at the word and not merely glance and then forget...
"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:23-25 ESV)
We come to the Bible not to gain content only, but for growth in our relationship with Christ.  We come for his life, the life we need...    
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:39-40)
The Word of God is the present and living voice of the Holy Spirit who inspired it. The Scriptures are alive, active, shining, piercing... 
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)
God's Word was given to us not just to increase the content of our knowledge of God or to give us personal comfort, but also for "teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness." (2 Tim 3:17)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks of this in Experiencing the New Birth... 
The gospel takes up the entire person, not just one part of us, not merely our head or our will or our heart. The gospel takes up the whole, the mind and heart and will.
We must read the Bible in the Spirit. We need to be prepared to read the Bible; we must pray before we read the Bible; we must pray for the Spirit of God to come upon us... The whole object of reading the Bible is so we may get at the spirit of the teaching and so the spirit of the teaching may get hold of us.
It is essential that we should take our time in reading the Bible. Take time to look quietly, calmly, persistently into “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25), and let it examine you and search you... The world makes us so busy, our agendas are so crowded—newspapers, journals, books, television, radio, meetings, and all this and that. We are here, there, and everywhere, and we never stop and think. 
“Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6). That is what God demands, not superficial, glib knowledge.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

already spoken

"Many of us want a word from God, but we don’t want the Word of God." 

(Howard Hendricks)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

he must increase, but I must decrease

John [the Baptist] answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:27-30 ESV)

Here are some reading highlights from Lloyd-Jones on this verse...

“'He must increase, but I must decrease.' Are you proud of your religion? Are you proud of the good life you are living? Believe me, once you know something about this you will hate all that; it will have to go, decrease, disappear."

"The greatest enemy in the Christian life is self. By that I mean the greatest enemy within us."

"The Law has been given very definitely in order to show us exactly what we are. 'The law . . . was added,' says Paul to the Galatians, 'because of transgressions' (Gal. 3:19). It came to pinpoint sin, to convict us, to show us the truth about ourselves."

"There is nothing more humbling than the law, for it shows us exactly where we are."

"Self-centeredness is the bane of the Christian life, the curse, the main relic of sin and of the fall in every one of us, even as Christians. Your battle with self is really just beginning when you are converted."

"God forbid that we should reduce this glorious gospel of the blessed God to something that is merely an agency to provide particular blessings for us."

"It is the failure to realize that we are “dead” [having died with Christ] that accounts for this persisting self and this self-sensitiveness, self-protectiveness, and self-defensiveness."

-- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Experiencing the New Birth (Crossway, 2015)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

a review of Experiencing the New Birth

I am always interested in any new publication of the works of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, with the hope that his sermons might be introduced to new readers and new generations.  

I was first introduced to Lloyd-Jones -- the physician-turned-evangelist -- in 1996 through a collection of messages called Knowing the Times.  I soon moved on to reading many more sermons by Lloyd-Jones, as well as his biography.  I was amazed at his grasp of the gospel, his depth of wisdom in applying biblical truth, the breadth of his understanding of history, and his prescient understanding of where our western world is heading. He was able to communicate all this in a plain and straight-forward manner from the pulpit.

Experiencing the New Birth is a collection of sermons on John 3, preached in 1966 at Westminster Chapel. This is a most timely book, and quite needed today among professing Christians, many of whom take the new birth for granted.  Evangelical offerings published recently have been strong on the issues of justification and related gospel-centered topics, but this book brings forth helpful, biblical answers related to what it means to be born again.  What does the work of God look like, when bringing a person from darkness to light, from death to life?  How can we judge ourselves in this?  With careful diagnosis Lloyd-Jones gives biblical insight as to the meaning of "the fullness of life" in Jesus. His preaching is passionate but logical, giving the reader a practical basis for diagnosing his own heart.  It's a kind of Religious Affections for modern man. 

These messages are searching, and were at points uncomfortable for me, which only served to drive me to seek the Lord for more grace. Lloyd-Jones had a somewhat unique view regarding the direct assurance which the Holy Spirit gives the believer, which he relates to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I found these sermons very helpful for understanding his view of this ministry. Though I'm not sure I'm in complete agreement on his interpretation, I was certainly enlarged in my thinking about the powerful and wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to the Jesus. 

Overall, this book kindled afresh in me the joy of knowing that I have life in the Lord Jesus. My thanks, also, to Crossway who provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. 

the ascension

"Parts of the church celebrate Ascension Day. We must never lose sight of the ascension. We worship the One who has conquered all enemies—death, the Devil, and hell. And he has risen; he has passed through the heavens. There he is in glorious power; there is nothing he cannot do for you. You must start with that. If you think of your Christianity in terms of your little life, you will have nothing. But if you look at him and realize who he is, that there is literally no limit and that there are endless possibilities, then you will begin to receive his fullness. The Christian church is as she is because she has become uncertain about her Lord."

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Experiencing the New Birth (Crossway, 2015)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Jesus never sought to amuse

My friend Harry transcribed the following from a recent sermon by Alistair Begg:

And it is by means of this Word being sown says Jesus that the Kingdom of God will come to it's fulfillment. This is an important principle in all of time and in every era. 

In the 19th century in Great Britain in London when Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the foremost preacher of the day he had as a contemporary a man by the name of Archibald G. Brown. Archibald had been first one of his students and then became one of his peers. Brown was a very effective minister and at one point in his ministry began to bemoan what he referred to as quote "the Devil's mission of entertainment." 

And what Brown was referring to was the fact that in his own day in the 19th century many of the churches and many of the ministers of the time appeared to be seeking to put crowds together gathering people in their congregation by means of seeking to entertain them and amuse them. 

And Brown, observing from the Bible that when Jesus made his teaching very clear many people turned away. The searching nature of the teaching of Jesus was such that people said: "Oh, if that's what you mean then I'm really not interested at all." 

And Brown makes the observation, he says, "I do not find that there was any attempt to increase a diminished congregation by resorting to something more pleasant." And he goes on to write as follows: 
I do not hear Jesus saying we must keep up the gatherings anyway. So run after those friends Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something very short and attractive with little if any preaching. Today was a service for God but tomorrow we will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it and have a happy hour. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow if not by Gospel then by nonsense.  No this was not how he argued. Gazing in sorrow on those who would not hear the word he simply turned to the twelve and asked, "Will you also go away?"  Jesus pitied sinners, pleaded with them, sighed over them, warned them, and wept over them, but he never sought to amuse them. 
Never sought to amuse them. I fear that too many in our day are interested in attending a place of worship because the invitation that is extended to them is: "I think you will find this highly amusing." Well, if that has been your expectation this morning I hope to disappoint you greatly. Indeed, I hope we already have. 

Now we most notice that the confidence of Heaven is in the Word of God itself. The confidence of Heaven is in the Word and the sower sows the Word.

-- Alistair Begg 


Begg is quoting from Brown's sermon "The Devil's Mission of Amusement", which can be found here or in PDF from here.  The photo above is from ChurchProduction website.