Let us ASK:

Here is another good post from Ray Ortland:

“The Church’s ever-living Head knows how to usher in creative epochs, to rally His people to some converging point through the lapse of centuries, and to gather up under this powerful influence isolated opinions into one consistent whole. . . .

The praying attitude of the Church in the first days after the Ascension, when the disciples waited for the Spirit, should be the Church’s attitude still. . . . And no more mischievous and misleading theory could be propounded, nor any one more dishonoring to the Holy Spirit, than the principle . . . that because the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, the Church has no need and no warrant to pray any more for the effusion [outpouring] of the Spirit of God.  On the contrary, the more the Church asks the Spirit and waits for His communication, the more she receives.”

George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh, 1974), pages 285, 288-289.

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Complaining? Grace Defeats Complaining

Ray Ortland has this post:

John Flavel, the Puritan pastor, helps us get past our complaining when we find it hard to obey Christ.  He re-creates in his theological imagination the conversation between the Father and the Son in eternity past, when the Son accepted hard obedience for us:

“Father:  My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lie open to my justice!  Justice demands satisfaction for them or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them.  What shall be done for these souls?

Son:  O my Father, such is my love to and pity for them that, rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety.  Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee.  Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them.  At my hand shalt thou require it.  I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it.  Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father:  But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite [cent].  Expect no abatements [discounts].  If I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son:  Content, Father.  Let it be so.  Charge it all upon me.  I am able to discharge it.  And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.”

Then Flavel makes his point: “Blush, ungrateful believers.  O let shame cover your faces.  Judge in yourselves now, hath Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties and complain, ‘This is hard, and that is harsh’?  O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension to you, you could not do it.”

John Flavel, Works (London, 1820), I:61.

Grace defeats complaining.

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Are You Born Again?

Are You Born Again?

by

J. C. Ryle
(1816-1900)


Are you born again? This is one of life’s most important questions. Jesus Christ said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

It is not enough to reply, “I belong to the church; I suppose I’m a Christian.” Thousands of nominal Christians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us—many listed in the First Epistle of John.

First of all, John wrote: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (I John 3:9). “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (5:18).

A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.

If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (I John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing in both his words and his actions. He knows that “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Second, John wrote: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (I John 5:1).

A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can pardon his soul, that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ’s finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God’s sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm.

He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Third, John wrote: “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (I John 2:29).

The man who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God and to avoid the things that God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour and to prove himself to be Christ’s friend by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself that is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.

Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fourth, John wrote: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).

A man who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company.

He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers, fighting against the same enemy. They are his fellow travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways—in rank, in station and in wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father’s sons and daughters and he cannot help loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fifth, John wrote: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (I John 5:4).

A man who is born again does not use the world’s opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world’s ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him they seem foolish and unworthy of an immortal being.

He loves God’s praise more than man’s praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is to please God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Sixth, John wrote: “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself’ (I John 5:18).

A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that evil communications corrupt the heart and that evil is more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chief desire is to spend it profitable.

He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country—to wear his armor continually and to be prepared for temptation. He is diligent to be watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

These are the six great marks of a born again Christian.

There is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in different people. In some they are faint and hardly noticeable. In others they are bold, plain and unmistakable, so anyone may read them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person.

But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God.

How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion—only those who are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not have these marks are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us to come. Do you have these characteristics? Are you born again?

HT: Pastor Andy

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Let’s not forget…

 

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Keep this in mind as you read the Bible this year…

Here is some wisdom from Charles Simeon as you begin a new year of reading scripture.

“I have long pursued the study of scripture with a desire to be impartial.  In the beginning of my inquiries I said to myself ‘I am a fool, of that I am quite certain.  One thing I know assuredly is that in religion, of myself, I know nothing.  I do not therefore sit down to the perusal of scripture in order to impose a sense on the inspired writers but rather to receive one as they give it to me.  I pretend I claim not to teach them, I wish like a child to be taught by them.”

“My endeavour is to bring out of scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there.  I have a great jealousy on this head, never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the spirit in the passage I am expounding.”

Charles Simeon 1759-1836

We enjoy so much listening to someone speak who agrees with our point of view.   In the case of scripture we sometimes add our own presuppositions into the text we are reading, so that it will tidily fit within our system.   Let’s make it our goal to be taught by scripture instead of imposing our own ideas upon it.  May the Holy Spirit incline our hearts to the word of God.

 

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But…

Isaiah 8 ends with “…And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (v22).  This ends two chapters (7-8) which display the failures of the human king on David’s throne and the hardened hearts of the people.  They failed to turn to the LORD for help, instead fearing their enemies more than the Lord (8:13).

Back in 7:11, after king Ahaz received word that two of his enemy nations were coming to wage war, the Lord gave him an opportunity to ask for a sign.  He even said, in effect, make it as big as you like, “let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven”.   Ahaz refused to put his trust in the Lord (his flimsy reason of not putting the Lord to the test notwithstanding).  In response, the Lord declared that HE will give a sign.

Isn’t this the continuing story of scripture?  Trials come, the Lord presents himself to man and asks him to trust, and man fails to do so.  Then, the Lord initiates the redemption.  He is always the initiator in his relationship with mankind.  It is never the other way.  Man is never the initiator with God.  How foolish of us to think that we initiate anything–especially our redemption–with God.

We know what that sign was…”a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (7:14) Whether this prophecy had partial fulfillment in Isaiah’s day or not, we know that it was ultimately fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, as Matthew quotes this passage in reference to him.

But in Chapter 8 we see the recurring cycle of the Old Testament.  The failure of man and the resulting judgment.  The chapter ends with a display of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites and the darkness and gloom that results.  The situation is hopeless.  This cycle has only one end–the just judgment and condemnation of a righteous God.

“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry.  And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.”  (v21)

This is a picture of the natural, fallen human heart toward God.   Enraged against God when the layers of comfort are removed.  Speech filled with contempt toward their Creator.  As things get worse, the contempt and hatred grow stronger. Revelation gives us a clear picture of this being played out in the last days:

“They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues.  They did not repent and give him glory.  The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.   People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores.  they did not repent of their deeds.”  (Rev 16:9-11)

Human beings apart from God are not so much “lost” as they are by nature enemies of the God of heaven (mainly because fallen man wants to be God).  Because of the blessings God has given us in this life, unregenerate men may not appear to be at enmity with their Creator, but when the pillars of this world collapse, the natural human heart flows forth with utter contempt and unrestrained hatred toward God.  As the heat is turned up, the fire of this contempt grows brighter.

Thus, as we come back to Isaiah 8:22, we see that there is really no hope for the human heart apart from God.  Verse 22 says, “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into darkness. ”

That is where the all-important word “But” comes in.  The very next word proclaims God’s intervention into human history.   9:1 says”But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.”  Verse 2 continues,”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”

A few verses later comes the familiar passage…”For unto us a child is born…”

From deep darkness and the gloom of anguish…came a light that would change the world forever.  It brings hope to the human heart.   In order to understand the light, we need to realize the depth of the darkness.  In order to comprehend the jubilation of salvation, we must know the gloom of the anguish of our alienation from God.

When you see a portrait of the manger scene or the angels singing, and the artist renders that unnatural-looking light around the child or the angels or the stable, don’t be quick to dismiss it as unrealistic.  Instead,  know that there is a significant reality in that rendering.  Light has come into the darkness.  There is hope, because God took the initiative.   Thank you Father, for sending your Son.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:4-14 ESV)

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Calvin on Man’s Denying God His Due

From Institutes, I.V.4

“They have within themselves a workshop graced with God’s unnumbered works…They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride…

They see such exquisite workmanship in their individual members, from mouth and eyes even to their very toenails.  Here also they substitute nature for God…

Shall we think ourselves the inventors of so many arts and useful things that God may be defrauded of his praise even though experience sufficiently teaches that what we have has been unequally distributed among us from another source?

Let us therefore remember, whenever each of us contemplates his own nature, that there is one God who so governs all natures that he would have us look unto him, direct our faith to him, and worship and call upon him.  For nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us, yet to overlook the Author who gives them to us at our asking.”

 

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