Calvin on the “empty excuse” of baptism and the gospel…

“…once we have placed our full trust in Him, we call upon Him for every need, we are patient when He chooses to chastise us with the rod, and we deal uprightly with our neighbor. At the same time we should continually invoke Him in prayer and be always praising Him for His blessings. When we have that kind of fear, we may be sure that God will be faithful to us to the very end. Let us not, however, advance the empty excuse that we have been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and have the gospel as our possession. Let us rather serve God who has called us with a pure heart, and let our manner of life and our conduct among men be honest, so that we may truly show that we are the children of Him who is pleased to be a Father to us.”

-Calvin in a sermon on Luke 1:49-51

Chrysostom's "Letters to the Fallen Theodore"

53854.pI was digging through some old files and came across this paper written on Chrysostom and his letters to a young man struggling with sin. It’s a long read as far as blog posts go but perhaps someone will find it interesting…and make it to the end.

Biography

In the fourth-century, the great city of Antioch, located in the southern region of modern Turkey, was positioned on an important commercial highway, possessed an intense intellectual tradition, was home to an important Roman military headquarters (serving as a base of operations against the Persians), and was populated by mostly Christian citizens, although paganism (especially in the intellectual circles) and Judaism were tenaciously practiced by many.1 Because of the good climate and amenities of Antioch (and its aforementioned military importance) Emperors frequently visited, including the following during the fourth-century: Constantius II, Gallus, Julian, Jovian, and Valens. No doubt the “amenities” which attracted many to Antioch included various worldly pursuits: baths, gaming, and the theatre. Perhaps in reaction to such worldliness, an extreme asceticism developed in the area with its adherents withdrawing from the city to set up communities in the surrounding countryside. Kelly describes the bifurcated cultural climate in this way:

The citizens of Antioch had a reputation for pleasure-seeking, worldliness, fickleness and cynicism; among other diversions they had a passion for horse-racing and the theatre, and in spring and summer they streamed out to Daphne for relaxation or amusement. By contrast the desert regions near the city, the higher slopes and peaks of Mount Silpios and the other mountains on its outskirts, were becoming populated by hermits and monks who, in obedience to what they conceived to be the call of Christ, had turned their backs on civilization and the vanities of the world.

Additionally, the results of the Council of Nicea (325) were still being worked out in the cities of the world, including Antioch. For many years, bishops sympathetic to Arianism controlled Antioch. But a small faction, lead by Diodore and Flavian, were promoting the Nicene doctrines. In other words, Antioch, like many cities of this time, was deeply divided between proponents and opponents of Nicene orthodoxy.

It was into this cultural climate that John Chrysostom was born—somewhere around 3492—to Secundus, a civil servant to the military governor of Syria, and Anthousa, a Christian woman… Continue reading

Contentment springs from love to God…

 If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love, but when I am contented with the hand of God, and am willing to be at his disposal, that comes from my love to God. In having my desire satisfied, I am contented through self-love, but through the grace of contentment I come to be contented out of love to God, and is it not better to be contented out of love to God, than from a principle of self-love?

-Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Persecution then and now…

PersecutionTo understand persecution today read about persecution in the early church. My friends at ClearNote Church have recently reissued Herbert Workman’s Persecution in the Early Church. Here’s a bit to whet your appetite:

In opposition to the infant Church there arose the might of Rome. The conflict was inevitable, the direct result of the genius of Christianity. A Christianity which had ceased to be aggressive would speedily have ceased to exist. Christ came not to send peace on earth but a sword; against the restless and resistless force of the new religion the gates of hell should not prevail. But polytheism could not be dethroned without a struggle; nor mankind regenerated without a baptism of blood. Persecution, in fact, is the other side of aggression, the inevitable outcome of a truly missionary spirit; the two are linked together as action and reaction.

Buy the book and read it to gain some understanding about the persecution of Christians well under way in our country…

Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones on sin, man, and tolerance…

Here’s an example of boldness and faith in Jesus Christ. Pay particular attention to what Lloyd-Jones says about tolerance. Lloyd-Jones’ comments are particularly poignant as the Roman Catholic Church discusses whether or not to come out of the closet (though I don’t trust CNN and many other news sources to be reporting what’s happening in the Vatican with any understanding). (HT: Gary Knapp)

Sickness by J.C. Ryle…

jcryle12Good words from J.C. Ryle on the benefits of sickness…

He whom thou lovest is sick. — John 11:3

The chapter from which this text is taken is well known to all Bible readers. In life-like description, in touching interest, in sublime simplicity, there is no writing in existence that will bear comparison with that chapter. A narrative like this is to my own mind one of the great proofs of the inspiration of Scripture. When I read the story of Bethany, I feel “There is something here which the infidel can never account for.” — “This is nothing else but the finger of God.”

The words which I specially dwell upon in this chapter are singularly affecting and instructive. They record the message which Martha and Mary sent to Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick: “Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick,” That message was short and simple. Yet almost every word is deeply suggestive.

Mark the child-like faith of these holy women. They turned to the Lord Jesus in their hour of need, as the frightened infant turns to its mother, or the compass-needle turns to the Pole. They turned to Him as their Shepherd, their almighty Friend, their Brother born for adversity. Different as they were in natural temperament, the two sisters in this matter were entirely agreed. Christ’s help was their first thought in the day of trouble. Christ was the refuge to which they fled in the hour of need. Blessed are all they that do likewise!

Mark the simple humility of their language about Lazarus. They call Him “He whom Thou lovest.” They do not say, “He who loves Thee, believes in Thee, serves Thee,” but “He whom Thou lovest.” Martha and Mary were deeply taught of God. They had learned that Christ’s love towards us, and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and true foundation of hope. Blessed, again, are all they that are taught likewise! To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ’s love towards us is peace.

Mark, lastly, the touching circumstance which the message of Martha and Mary reveals: “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” Lazarus was a good man, converted, believing, renewed, sanctified, a friend of Christ, and an heir of glory. And yet Lazarus was sick! Then sickness is no sign that God is displeased. Sickness is intended to be a blessing to us, and not a curse. “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.” “All things are yours,—life, death, things present, or things to come: for ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 3:22-23). Blessed, I say again, are they that have learned this! Happy are they who can say, when they are ill, “This is my Father’s doing. It must be well.”

I invite the attention of my readers to the subject of sickness. The subject is one which we ought frequently to look in the face. We cannot avoid it. It needs no prophet’s eye to see sickness coming to each of us in turn one day. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Let us turn aside for a few moments, and consider sickness as Christians. The consideration will not hasten its coming, and by God’s blessing may teach us wisdom.

In considering the subject of sickness, three points appear to me to demand attention. On each I shall say a few words.

  1. The universal prevalence of sickness and disease.
  2. The general benefits which sickness confers on mankind.
  3. The special duties to which sickness calls us.

Continue reading

More on contentment (Burroughs)…

Before your conversion, before God wrought upon your souls, you were contented with the world without grace, though you had no interest in God nor Christ; why cannot you now be contented with grace and spiritual things without the world? If you yourselves were content with the world without grace, there is reason you should be content with grace without the world. Certainly there is infinitely more reason. You see that many men of the world have a kind of contentment; they do not murmur or repine with the world, though they have no interest in God and Christ. Then cannot you have as much contentment with God and Christ, without the world, as they can, with the world, without God and Christ? It is an infinite shame that this should be so.

-Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

How to attain contentment (Burroughs)…

We should consider, in all our wants and inclinations to discontent, the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the meanness of the things we lack. The things we lack, if we are godly, are things of very small moment in comparison to the things we have, and the things we have are things of very great moment. For the most part, the things for the want of which people are discontented and murmur are such things as reprobates have, or may have. Why should you be troubled so much for the want of something which a man or woman may have and yet be a reprobate? as, that your wealth is not so great, your health not so perfect, your credit not so much; you may have all those things and still be a reprobate! Now will you be discontented for what a reprobate may have? I will give you the example of a couple of godly men, meeting together, Anthony and Didymus: Didymus was blind, and yet a man of very excellent gifts and graces: Anthony asked him if he was not troubled at his want of sight. He confessed he was, ‘But’, he said, ‘should you be troubled at the want of what flies and dogs have, and not rather rejoice and be thankful that you have what angels have?’ God has given you those good things that make angels glorious; is not that enough for you, though you lack what a fly has? And so a Christian should reason the case with himself: what am I discontented for? I am discontented for want of what a dog may have, what a devil may have, what a reprobate may have; shall I be discontented for not having that, when God has given me what makes angels glorious? ‘Blessed be God,’ says the Apostle in Ephesians 1:3, ‘who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.’ It may be you have not such great blessings in earthly places as some others have, but if the Lord has blessed you in heavenly places, that should content you. There are blessings in heaven, and he has set you here for the present, as it were in heaven, in a heavenly place. The consideration of the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the littleness of the things that God has denied us, is a very powerful consideration to work this grace of contentment.

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Hunger after righteousness…

What an encouragement is this to hunger after righteousness! Such shall be filled. God charges us to fill the hungry (Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6). And do we think he will be slack in that which he blames us for not doing? Oh come with hungerings after Christ and be assured of satisfaction. God keeps open house for hungry sinners. He invites his guests and bids them come without money (Isaiah 55:1, 2). God’s nature inclines him and his promise obliges him to fill the hungry. Consider, why did Christ receive ‘the Spirit without measure’? (John 3:34). It was not for himself. He was infinitely full before. But he was filled with the holy unction for this end, that he might distil his grace upon the hungry soul. Are you ignorant? Christ was filled with wisdom that he might teach you. Are you polluted? Christ was filled with grace that he might cleanse you. Shall not the soul then come to Christ who was filled on purpose to fill the hungry? We love to knock at a rich man’s door. In our Father’s house there is bread enough. Come with desire and you shall go away with comfort. You shall have the virtues of Christ’s blood, the influences of his Spirit, the communications of his love.

-Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes