Thursday, February 2, 2012

Is God 'all wise' even in Sufferings? A Quote from J.I.Packer

I have been listing to JI Packer's audio book, 'Knowing God' as I taxi Jonathan back and forth to work, TAFE etc. I was very challenged by the chapter on 'God only wise' and came home to look up a particular section that I wanted to go over in the book. My book is yellow/brown with age, I first read it something like 26 years ago, which proves I must be at least middle aged! I was after the end of chapter 9 - and there tucked away was the tiniest little snippet of paper, a little blue book mark in exactly the same place as I was going to for re-reading now. Twenty Six years and the same subject matter pulls on my heart....

 ...the same wisdom which ordered the paths which God's saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian life today. We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Why, simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly.
Perhaps He means to strengthen us in patience, good humour, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under specially difficult positions. Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps His purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with Him; for it is often the case, as all the Saints know, the fellowship with the Father and the Son is the most vivid and sweet and Christian joy is greatest when the cross is heaviest. (Remember Samuel Rutherford!) Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.
Paul saw part of the reason for his own affiliations in the fact that God ‘comforteth us in our tribulations that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God’ (2Corinthians 1:4) Even the Lord Jesus learned…obedience by the things which He suffered, ‘And so was ‘made perfect’ for His high priestly ministry of sympathy and help to His hard pressed disciples’ (Hebrews 5:8f) Which means that, as on the one hand He is able to uphold us and make us more than conquerors in all our troubles and distresses, so on the other hand we must not be surprised if He calls to follow in His steps, and to let ourselves be prepared for service of others by painful experiences which are quite undeserved. ‘He knows the way He taketh’, even if for the moment we do not. We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what He is doing, and what He is after in His handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, He is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here. (Job in heaven knows the full reason why he was afflicted, though he never knew that in his life.) Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust His wisdom even when he leaves us in the dark.
But how are we to meet these baffling and trying situations if we cannot for the moment see God’s purpose in them? First, by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us; second by seeing God’s face specifically about them. If we do these two things, we shall never find ourselves wholly in the dark as to God’s purpose to our troubles. We shall always be able to see at least as much purpose in them as Paul was enabled to see his thorn in the flesh (whatever it was). It came to him, as he tells us, as a ‘messenger of Satan’, tempting him to hard thoughts of God. He resisted his temptation and sought Christ’s face three times, asking that it might be removed. The only answer he had was this, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ On reflection he perceived a reason why he should have been thus afflicted: it was to keep him humble, ‘lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations.’ This thought, and Christ’s word, were enough for him. He looked no further. Here is his final attitude: ‘most gladly therefore will I rather glorify in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
This attitude of Paul is a model for us. Whatever further purpose a Christian’s troubles may or not have in a equipping him for future service, they will also have at least the purpose which Paul’s thorn in the flesh had: they will have been sent us to make and keep us humble, and to give us a new opportunity of showing forth the power of Christ in our mortal lives. And do we ever need to know any more about them then that? Is this not enough of itself to convince us of the wisdom of God in them? Once Paul saw that his trouble was sent to enable him to glorify Christ, he accepted it as wisely appointed, and rejoice in it. God give us grace, in our own troubles, to go and do likewise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dim or indistinct views of sin (Grace Gems)

(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots" 1879)

He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness--must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low--if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness--are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption.

The plain truth is, that a right understanding of SIN lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind.

The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner!

Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day! If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease--you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief needs of the contemporary church has been, and is--clearer, fuller teaching about sin!

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We have published James Smith's 2 page article, "The Sinless Sin-bearer".

Monday, January 30, 2012

Psalm 103

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
22 Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Holiness, J.C. Ryle

And some other books to read

No Cross, No Crown
This is so well worth reading! More than worth the time it takes to read! A must read!  Etc, etc! Don't be tempted to skip this gem! :-) 

True Christianity is a fight!

True Christianity is a fight! (From Grace Gems)

(J.C. Ryle, "The Fight!")

"Fight the good fight of faith." 1 Timothy 6:12

True Christianity is a fight!

True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a "profession" of faith in Christ. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.

But you never see any "fight" about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self-denial and watching and warring--they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is "a fight!"

The principal fight of the Christian is with . . .
  the world,
  the flesh, and
  the devil.
These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world--he must either "fight" or be lost!

To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil--is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction! We have no choice or option. We must either fight--or be lost!

It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank or class or age can plead exemption, or escape the battle--all alike must carry arms and go to war.
All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness and sin!
All are living in a world beset with snares, traps and pitfalls for the soul.
All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
All, from the queen in her palace down to the pauper in the workhouse--all must fight, if they would be saved.

We may take comfort about our souls, if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness.

The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week. But of the great spiritual warfare--its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests--of all this they appear to know nothing at all.
   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~
You might want to read the whole of Ryle very challenging article, "The Fight!"

Earth is crammed with Heaven....

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning “Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

May our hearts turn in awe to our Lord as we enjoy His awesome creation that surounds us.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Borrowed Prayer, author forgotten/unknown

Give me, O Lord,

that quietness of heart that makes the most of labor and of rest. Save me from passionate excitement, petulant fretfulness, and idle fear, keeping me ever in the restful presence of your love.

Teach me to be alert and wise in all responsibilities, without hurry and without neglect. Tame and rule my tongue, that i may not transgress your law of love. When others censure, may i seek your image in others, judging with charity, as one who shall bejudged.

Banish envy and hatred from my thoughts.

Help me to be content amid the strife of tongues, with my unspoken thought. When anxious cares threaten my peace, help me to run to you, that i may find my rest and be made strong for calm endurance and valiant service. Amen.