Thursday, June 23, 2016

simeon on the gospel

I'm enjoying reading An Exhibition of the Law, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, by Charles Simeon (1759-1836).  This is a selection of sermon outlines taken from his Horae Homileticae Commentary (21 volumes).  Simeon served faithfully as pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge (UK) for 53 years.  The many trials and oppositions he faced are related by John Piper in "Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering"  Bishop Handley Moule's biography of Simeon can be downloaded for very little cost.  It's a very readable account of the life of Charles Simeon, who is an outstanding example of faithfulness in ministry, as well as, a preacher of great simplicity, clarity, and power.  

Here are some highlights from Simeon's teaching on the gospel...

It is the pride of the human heart which interposes the great obstacle to men's reception of the Gospel. They are averse to see the extent of their necessities: they will contend for some remnant of goodness or power in themselves, that shall lessen their obligations to the grace of God. But let a man acknowledge himself as wholly and for ever lost, and then he will be prepared to hear of a Saviour, and to embrace the salvation that is provided for him in the Gospel.

The first thought which occurs to men is, that they must do something to merit and to earn salvation.

The truth is, as the first gift of a Saviour sprang altogether from the sovereign grace of God, so must salvation in all its parts; seeing that "we have not of ourselves a sufficiency even to think a good thought." (2 Cor. 3:5) It is by faith alone that the good work of salvation must be wrought in us. We must first believe God's record respecting his dear Son: then, in the exercise of the same faith, we must look to his Son for the communication of his purchased benefits. So, throughout our whole continuance on earth, "the life which we live in the flesh, we must live by faith in the Son of God, who has loved us, and given himself for us." (Gal. 2:20)

Let any one reflect, for a moment. What other way is there for any soul of man to participate the benefits which God has treasured up for us in his dear Son? Is there any other way of our being united to him, "as branches of the living Vine;" or of our "receiving out of his fullness the grace" that we stand in need of? is there any other way, I say, than by faith? If we look into the Scriptures, we shall find that faith is continually represented as the means whereby alone we can either receive from God any spiritual blessing, (John 1:12) or perform unto him any acceptable service. (Heb. 11:6)

I grant, that we must repent. But repentance will neither atone for past sin, nor stand in the place of future obedience: and even repentance itself must be given us by the Lord Jesus Christ, "who is exalted to the right hand of God, to give repentance, no less than remission of sins." (Acts 5:31) I grant, also, that when we have believed in Christ, we must walk in his ways, and yield obedience to his commandments. But this obedience cannot supersede the necessity of faith: on the contrary, it can exist only as the fruit of faith: and, instead of purchasing salvation for us, it is itself a part of that very salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ purchased for us upon the cross. Now these truths have been greatly controverted, in every age of the Church.

There is nothing under heaven more plain and simple than the way of salvation as prescribed for us in the Gospel.

For his guilt [the believer] applies to himself the atoning blood of Christ: for his pollution and weakness, he looks to the Holy Spirit to begin and carry on a work of grace within him. By looking to Christ, he obtains peace with God and in his own conscience: and, by yielding himself to the influences of God's Holy Spirit, he becomes renewed and sanctified in all his powers. His renovated health begins immediately to appear.

We must feel, and deeply mourn over, our lost estate. "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick:" and the remedy can be of no use to us, if we be not sensible of our disease.

We must look to Christ for the justification, and to the Holy Spirit for the sanctification, of our souls.

No higher honor can be conferred on mortal man than to be sent forth by God to minister unto his fellow-sinners "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God."

Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge

Monday, June 13, 2016

salvation in a person

"But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus..." (Ephesians 4:20-21 ESV)

What does it mean, "you learned Christ"?  Here are some highlights from Martyn Lloyd-Jones' sermon on this passage: 

"Christianity is not a vague, indefinite, nebulous kind of feeling or experience; patently it is something which can be defined and described; it is primarily a matter of knowledge."

"The Christian therefore, by definition, is a man whose eyes have been opened, while the unbeliever is still blinded by the god of this world." 

"How then has it all happened?  There is only one explanation-- this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing else, nobody else, can do this but the Holy Spirit.  It is His special, His peculiar work.  It is He alone who can remove the veil from the heart."

"This truth is the most glorious thing we can ever realize together.  It is not primarily man's natural ability that matters.  That must not be discounted, but to become a Christian does not depend upon one's natural ability and understanding.  Thank God for that!"

"The learning that is given to believers is not merely a learning about doctrine and theology in a purely intellectual and theoretical manner.  Such learning is of no value to us at all, indeed it may be a curse to us."

"A man cannot be a Christian without doctrine; he does not know what he believes otherwise; but you can have it in your mind, you can have it in theory, but as such it will be of no value to you at all; it is outside you, it has not moved you, it has not gripped your life, it has not changed you, it has not made you more and more conformable to the pattern and the example of the Lord Jesus Christ."

"We must not think of salvation in loose, vague terms; we must not talk about some great cosmic Christ who exerts an influence upon men in the world; we must not hold to salvation merely as an idea and as a concept and as a thought.  Not at all!  The Apostle says we must think it all out in terms of Jesus.  Now this Apostle of all men is fond of using the full term the Lord Jesus Christ, but here he says, 'as the truth is in Jesus'. And for this good reason, that the Christian is not saved by a philosophy of redemption; he is saved by the historic Person, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God!"

"God forbid, I say again, that we should ever separate our doctrine from His Person!  God forbid that we should become academic and theoretical and detached, and forget even for a second that salvation has come in a Person, in this particular Person, Jesus, in whom God has stored all the treasures of His own wisdom and His own knowledge."  

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Knowledge of the Truth" in Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17--5:17 (Baker Books, 1982)

Hear the original sermon in full here: "The Knowledge of the Truth"

Monday, June 6, 2016

darkness and light

"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!"  (Ephesians 4:17-20 ESV)

"...and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."  (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 ESV)

"The great philosopher has no advantage over the pagan in this matter of the gospel.  Until both of them come under the influence and the power of the Holy Spirit of God, neither will see it.  But thank God, when the Holy Spirit comes upon both, both will see it; not only the philosopher, not only the pagan, but both together! ... It is not a matter of intellectual ability, be it small or great; it is a matter of this power of vision; man has lost it, his understanding is darkened, and that is the effect of the Fall." 

"Do we recognize the cause of the trouble, that it is this appalling darkness that has come over and enshrouded the understanding?  And even though we do everything we can, it will avail nothing.  There is only one thing that can move the mist, and take away the pall, and that is the gale of the Spirit.  We have tried almost everything else, have we not?  We have organized and arranged and used means and methods that even we ourselves have felt to be doubtful..."

"No human agency can do it.  But the Spirit can -- 'in demonstration of the Spirit and of power'... We are only Christians because the Spirit of God has opened our blind eyes, and has taken away the darkness."

"Men 'walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened'.  Poor, benighted fools, despite their sophistication and cleverness, their arguments and disputes on the wireless [radio] and the television, and their articles and their books!  How brilliant!  But it is the brilliance of a bubble!  There is nothing in it.  And their blindness is the result of darkness.  Have compassion upon them.  Do not be content with denouncing them, pray for them.  Above all, pray that the Spirit of God may come in such power that their darkness may be removed and their eyes opened." 

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17--5:17 (Baker Books, 1982), pp. 48-51.

Hear the sermon "Darkness and Light" here. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

darkened minds

"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart." (Ephesians 4:17-18 ESV) 

"Now go through the whole of your Bible and you will find that this is what it says everywhere about man in sin and about man outside Christ.  It describes the kind of life people live, and then it asks its question, Why do they live like that?  There is, says the Bible, only one explanation: the failure is in their minds, their intellects, and their understanding.  The highest faculty in man has become blunted and blinded; he cannot see because of this pall that has descended upon him; he is surrounded by darkness.  But let me put this a little more theologically.  The most disastrous effect that the Fall of Man produced upon man was in his understanding.  That is the whole of the biblical explanation of why man is as he is and why the world is as it is.  God created man perfect, endowed him with amazing faculties, made him lord of creation and of the universe; and yet we see something so entirely different. Why the difference?  What has happened is that man sinned, he disobeyed God, and he fell.  And the Fall has had the most disastrous consequences upon man and upon his whole life and living; and of all its terrible effects the most disastrous and devastating is upon the mind of man.  It has darkened his understanding."
~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17--5:17 (Baker Books, 1982), p. 42.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

the church's primary task

"The church’s task primarily is to evangelize, and to bring people to a knowledge of God. Then, having done that, she is to teach them how to live their life under God as His people. The church is not here to reform the world, for the world cannot be reformed. The business of the church is to evangelize, to preach the Gospel of salvation to men who are blinded by sin and under the domination and the power of the devil. The moment the church begins to enter into the details of politics and economics, she is doing something that militates against her primary task of evangelism."

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work: An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1973), pp. 318–19.