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

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.

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Contentment through humility (Burroughs)…

Christ teaches the soul this, so that, as in the presence of God on a real sight of itself, it can say: ‘Lord, I am nothing, Lord, I deserve nothing, Lord, I can do nothing, I can receive nothing, and can make use of nothing, I am worse than nothing, and if I come to nothing and perish I will be no loss at all and therefore is it such a great thing for me to be cut short here?’ A man who is little in his own eyes will account every affliction as little, and every mercy as great. Consider Saul: There was a time, the Scripture says, when he was little in his own eyes, and then his afflictions were but little to him: when some would not have had him to be King but spoke contemptuously of him, he held his peace; but when Saul began to be big in his own eyes, then the affliction began to be great to him.

There was never any man or woman so contented as a self-denying man or woman. No-one ever denied himself as much as Jesus Christ did: he gave his cheeks to the smiters, he opened not his mouth, he was as a lamb when he was led to the slaughter, he made no noise in the street. He denied himself above all, and was willing to empty himself, and so he was the most contented that ever any was in the world; and the nearer we come to learning to deny ourselves as Christ did, the more contented shall we be, and by knowing much of our own vileness we shall learn to justify God.

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Underlying contentment…

There is a great mystery and art in what way a Christian comes to contentment. By what has been already opened to you there will appear some mystery and art, as that a man should be content with his affliction, and yet thoroughly sensible of his affliction too; to be thoroughly sensible of an affliction, and to endeavor to remove it by all lawful means, and yet to be content: there is a mystery in that. How to join these two together: to be sensible of an affliction as much as a man or woman who is not content; I am sensible of it as fully as they, and I seek ways to be delivered from it as well as they, and yet still my heart abides content—this is, I say, a mystery that is very hard for a carnal heart to understand. But grace teaches such a mixture, teaches us how to make a mixture of sorrow and a mixture of joy together; and that makes contentment, the mingling of joy and sorrow, of gracious joy and gracious sorrow together. Grace teaches us how to moderate and to order an affliction so that there shall be a sense of it, and yet for all that contentment under it.

-Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Our "local" #giftedcommunicator will not do hospital visits or funerals…

Perry Noble, self-proclaimed #giftedcommunicator, will not do hospital visits or funerals for his church members owners. You may think it is because he is too busy researching pop-culture references for his sermons or because his congregation is too large being spread across all of South Carolina…but it is more of a historical and theological decision for Noble. He accuses those who would ask him to conduct a funeral of being rapers of the Bride of Christ. Interpreting such a request as proof that someone hasn’t come to Christ, he insists that they either “get saved or get out.” See it for yourself…

There is much that could be said about each and every sentence of Perry Noble’s godless rant…but here’s one… Any pastor who has done more than five minutes of ministry understands that hospital visits and funerals are the best times for fruitful ministry. As men and women contemplate their mortality—whether they are suffering in their own body in the hospital or putting a loved one in the ground to await the resurrection—they are often sufficiently humble for the first time in their lives: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Hospital visits and funerals require pastoral sensitivity and wisdom…real world, hand-holding, grieving with those who grieve sensitivity…not made for TV, safe, distant, cool t-shirt, you are on my turf, hireling sensitivity.

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

Self-denial, which brings contentment…

It is a hard lesson. You know that when a child is first taught, he complains: This is hard; it is just like that. I remember Bradford the martyr said, ‘Whoever has not learned the lesson of the cross, has not learned his ABC in Christianity.’ This is where Christ begins with his scholars, and those in the lowest form must begin with this; if you mean to be Christians at all, you must buckle to this or you can never be Christian. Just as no-one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABC, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment. That is the first lesson that Christ teaches any soul, self-denial, which brings contentment, which brings down and softens a man’s heart. You know how when you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise; so with the hearts of men who are full of themselves, and hardened with self-love, if they receive a stroke they make a noise, but a self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand, and makes no noise. When you strike a woolsack it makes no noise because it yields to the stroke; so a self-denying heart yields to the stroke and thereby comes to this contentment.

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Contentment…

Oh, take heed you do not speak in a scornful way of the ways of God; grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies. Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good.

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Another day of witness and an invitation…

I have very little doubt that my brothers in the Presbyterian Church in America would state privately that abortion is a modern genocide. Yet when it comes to prophetic ministry to state that truth publicly, there is more silence than talk. Will our Lord judge us well for such inconsistency?

Along with a number of people from Trinity, I drive for over thirty minutes to stand at the gates of hell, telling the residents of Greenville that children are being murdered within her gates, that she has a death-camp in her midst. I do so one day of the six days a week the abortuary is open. I invite my brothers and pastors from the PCA to put some flesh on those theological bones by practicing true religion outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

Would you consider being there one of those six days? Will you join us?

Let the contemplations of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (as told by Eric Metaxas) inspire you…

The Scriptures said that faith without works is dead, that faith “is the evidence of things not seen.” Bonhoeffer knew that one could see some things only with the eyes of faith, but they were no less real and true than the things one saw with one’s physical eyes. But the eyes of faith had a moral component. To see that it was against God’s will to persecute Jews, one must choose to open one’s eyes. And then one would face another uncomfortable choice: whether to act as God required.

Bonhoeffer strove to see what God wanted to show and then to do what God asked in response. That was the obedient Christian life, the call of the disciple. And it came with a cost, which explained why so many were afraid to open their eyes in the first place. It was the antithesis of the “cheap grace” that required nothing more than an easy mental assent, which he wrote about in Discipleship (Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, 278-279).

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