Pastor Michael Drichile in South Sudan at Arabic Borehole point.
Contents:1.Exhortations from Spurgeon and Bonar. 2. Gospel Quotes 3. Truths to Live By by Justin Buzzard 4. Prosperity Teaching: Deadly and Deceitful by John Piper. 5. Adversity by Terry Johnson. 6. Man's Will-Free Yet Bound by Walter Chantry. 7. Gospel Driven Sanctification by Jerry Bridges. 8. Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof. 9. God's Part and Man's Part in Salvation by John G. Reisinger. 10. A Godly Man is a Humble Man by Thomas Watson
A great exhortation from C.H. Spurgeon and Bonar~Jacob Lee
“When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, “Whither the Forerunner is for us entered.” Heb. 6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?—“He appears in the presence of God for us.” Heb. 9:24.
Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through His blood; if you are justified, it is through His righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because He is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in Him. Thus Jesus is magnified—for all is in Him and by Him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us—for it is obtained in Him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved “in whom” we have obtained all." ~C.H. Spurgeon
"If, in teaching the gospel, we tell the sinner what he has to do before we tell him what God has done; if we tell him to examine his own heart before we tell him to study the cross of Christ; we take out the whole gladness from the glad tidings, and preach another gospel." ~Bonar
“The whole gospel is contained in Christ.” (John Calvin)
“Whenever the gospel is preached it is as if God himself came into the midst of us.” (John Calvin)
“There is nothing attractive about the gospel to the natural man; the only man who finds the gospel attractive is the man who is convicted of sin.” (Oswald Chambers)
“A gospel that elevates man and dethrones God is not the gospel.” (Will Metzger)
“The world has many religions; it has but one gospel.” (George Owen)
“The man who does not glory in the gospel can surely know little of the plague of sin that is within him. (J.C. Ryle)
“The revelation of the gospel is to a world that is already under indictment for its universal rejection of God the Father.” (R.C. Sproul)
“If the Lord’s bearing our sin for us is not the gospel, I have no gospel to preach.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
“The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
“The gospel is a glorious declaration of the mighty acts of God when he invaded this earth in the person of his eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (John Blanchard)
“The gospel is not ‘God loves us,’ but ‘God loves us at the cost of his Son.’” (Derek Thomas)
“As there is only one God, so there can be only one gospel.” (James Denney)
“The church is the fruit of the gospel.” (Hywel R. Jones)
“We have an unchanging gospel, which is not today green grass and tomorrow dry hay; but always the abiding truth of the immutable Jehovah.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
“The gospel begins and ends with what God is, not what we want or think we need.” (Tom Houston)
“When we preach Christ crucified, we have no reason to stammer, or stutter, or hesitate, or apologize; there is nothing in the gospel of which we have any cause to be ashamed.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
3 Truths That Change Your Life
by Justin BuzzardThis fall I’ve been thinking through 3 truths. These 3 truths have been changing my life. If only one or two of these truths were true, the change wouldn’t be dynamic—you need all 3 to be true for the power of fear, anxiety, and insecurity to shrink in your life.
#1. God is Sovereign
God is sovereign. Nearly every page of the Bible proclaims God’s absolute sovereignty, his supremacy and power over all things. Every detail of your life, the decisions of kings and presidents, the lifespan of sparrows, swine flu, today’s weather, and each passing second of human history takes place under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. God is in control of everything. Nothing is outside of God’s control.
If a single circumstance in the universe could occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then God is not God and he cannot be trusted. But the Scriptures reveal that God is completely sovereign and can be completely trusted.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps (Psalm 135:5-6).
#2 God is Wise
God is wise. Nearly every page of the Bible speaks of God’s infinite wisdom. God looks down upon the galaxies and upon your problems, plans, and prayers with perfect perspective. God is never confused, worried, or uncertain about the course of this world or the course of your future. God never makes mistakes. Yesterday God governed the universe with infallible wisdom. Today God is doing the same. Tomorrow and forever God will govern the galaxies and the ghettos with absolute wisdom.
If God were sovereign, but not wise, we could not trust him. We’d always be worried about him making a mistake, always thinking we know better than God. But from Genesis to Revelation we encounter the portrait of a completely sovereign and completely wise God who can be completely trusted.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:5-7a).
#3 God is Good
God is good. Nearly every page of the Bible testifies that God is good, that God is loving. Not an inch of evil, deceit, or indifference dwells in God. God is love. God abounds in steadfast goodness, love, mercy, and grace. The Bible tells a single story of a good God taking relentless action to love, rescue, and bless people who don’t deserve it. God has always been good and always will be good. God’s goodness is not a mood. God’s goodness is not a mood that changes based upon your performance or circumstances, his loving goodness is an eternally-solid attribute that the fires of hell cannot melt.
If God were sovereign and wise, but not good, you could not trust him. People who are powerful and smart, but not loving, scare me. We’d live endlessly insecure lives if we knew God to be sovereign and wise, but not also good. But the Bible consistently presents a threefold picture of God as totally sovereign, wise, and good, as one who can be totally trusted.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Psalm 145:8-9).
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).
Preach These 3 Truths to Yourself
For the past few months I’ve been preaching these 3 truths to myself over and over again.
I do this because, by default, I don’t navigate life as though God is sovereign, wise, and good. Over the past year I’ve been convicted that my actions and attitudes reveal that I operate as though God ismostly sovereign, somewhat wise, and kind of good. I would never say I believe this, but my living reveals that I’ve built much of my life of a vision of God that is much smaller than the Bible’s gigantic vision of God as completely sovereign, wise, and good.
I feel Satan has been quick to attack me in this season, quick to lodge in my mind doubts about God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. And I imagine, in these uncertain times, Satan is quick to attack many of you, quick to tempt you to view God through your circumstances rather than view your circumstances through a biblical lens.
So, join me. Fight back. When you wake up in the morning, when you feel anxious or discouraged, when you’re driving home from work, preach to yourself: “God is Sovereign! God is Wise! God is Good!” Say this to yourself over and over again. Choose to live by faith, rather than by sight.
Forget your past. Forget how you used to operate, how you used to be a prisoner to your circumstances and feelings. Build your life on the truth. Preach more gospel to yourself. Tell yourself every hour that God is sovereign, wise, and good. The truth will set you free. Your emotions will begin to come in line with the truth.
Doubt your old doubts and saturate yourself in the Scriptures. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Read and meditate on and pray through your Bible with this threefold lens, always on the hunt for indications of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Meditate on Romans 8 or Matthew 6 or Psalm 139. Soak in a book like Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God.
Let your imagination begin to be filled with true images of God. See him as sovereign. See him sitting on his throne, wise and good. See Jesus—behold what he did for you at the cross, the place where God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness show in clearest expression. Never again think of yourself or your problems or your plans without Jesus and his blood shed for you in clear view. Let the Spirit sanctify you and your brain chemistry as you rebuild your life on a true vision of God.
God is Sovereign. God is Wise. God is Good.
These 3 truths have been changing my life. God is changing my life. May he change yours.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Justin Buzzard is a pastor at Central Peninsula Church in San Francisco and Editor-in-Chief of Commit magazine.__________________________________________________________________________
Prosperity teaching distorts and disfigures the glorious gospel of Christ.This message by John Piper teaches us why! ~Jacob Lee
Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly
By John PiperFebruary 14, 2007
Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.
1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).
My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?
2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?
3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?
4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.
Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?
5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?
6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?
7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.
The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).
What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.
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What should be our response to adversity in our lives? The message below highlights the Bibles answer to this very important question.~Jacob Lee
Romans 8:26-39; Genesis 50:15-21
In 1858, a gifted young Presbyterian missionary named John G. Paton sailed with his wife and infant son to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific to begin missionary work among the islanders. Within a few months of arrival, both his infant son and his wife had died, leaving him to labor alone.
In August 1876, a gifted young theologian names Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and his bride were honeymooning in Germany. While sightseeing in the Black Forest region, they were suddenly caught in a severe storm, and something that was never quite explained happened to his bride, rendering her an invalid for the rest of their lives together.
In the 1950s the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah congregation called a young preacher to take the reigns of a very divided church. He came with his wife and their five children, the youngest only three years old. Within a year and a half, Anton Van Puffelen developed a brain tumor, and in just over two years after he started his work in Savannah the Rev. Van Puffelen was dead.
How do you explain these things? Perhaps just as baffling, how do you explain the responses of these individuals? John G. Patton stayed on the field and reaped a great harvest, later saying:
I built the grave round and round with coral blocks, and covered the top with beautiful white coral, broken small gravel; and that spot became my sacred and much frequented shrine, during all the following months and years when I labored on for the salvation of these savage Islanders amidst difficulties, dangers and deaths. Whensoever Tanna turns to the Lord, and is won for Christ, man in after-days will find the memory of that spot still green – where with ceaseless prayers and tears I claimed that the land for God in which I hand ‘buried my dead’ with faith and hope.
Warfield cared for his wife the remaining forty years of their adult life together, humbly, submissively, without complaint, without self-pity, without justifying a need for his own fulfillment, fulfilling his marital vows, doing his duty toward his wife.
‘Mrs. Van,’ as she was known in Savannah, gentle and meek on the surface, touch as nails underneath, began to teach in the Independent Presbyterian Day School and reared her five children at tremendous self-sacrifice, again without complaint.
What was the key in each of these situations? The key is that each believed in the sovereignty of God. Each understood God’s justice, His mercy, His absolute rule, and each received their circumstances as from his hand for their good and submitted to it.
Still, how do you explain adversity? How do you deal with the suffering that is in the world? Granted that it takes time for our emotions to catch up with our minds, that there are no ‘easy’ answers, and that when we answer the ‘why’ question we must do so not simplistically or matter of factly; yet we do have an explanation for suffering that works and makes room for comfort in the world of pain.
The Problem of Pleasure
From our point of view, much of the discussion of the ‘problem of pain’ and suffering gets started on the wrong foot. As we saw in our consideration of predestination, there is a tendency to begin with the assumption of human innocence. Adversity then is viewed as an unfair or unjust intrusion into the life of one who is undeserving. This is implicit in almost all of the popular discussions of the subject. Thus we regularly question, ‘Why would God have allowed this to happen to such a fine (and undeserving) family?’
The Biblical place to begin any consideration of suffering is not with innocence but guilt. At the beginning of the Bible is an account of what is called the ‘Fall of Man’. It is there to remind us that we live in a ‘fallen’ world, a world in disarray and under God’s curse. The response to God to the sin of Adam and the sins of his progeny is judgment. God promised death ‘in the day that you shall eat of it’. ‘Death’ in a final sense, however, was postponed. In the meantime, life consists of multiple mini-judgments which are visited upon us because of the sin of Adam and our own sins, as previews of the final judgment. These mini-judgments, because they fall short of eternal death in hell, and, in effect, gracious stays of execution.
What we are saying is that each moment that each of us exists on this side of hell is a problem. How is it that a just and true God can tolerate evil and let it go on existing? How can he delay his warning that ‘the soul that sins, it shall die’ (Ezek. 18:4)? The problem is not a problem of pain but of pleasure. Strict justice lands each of us in hell. Anything less than that – sickness, injury, poverty, hunger, or heartbreak – is mercy.
Consider Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question about the helpless Galileans who had been butchered by Pilate (Luke 13:2). They wanted to know if ‘these Galileans we greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate’. The question is an old one. Do those who suffer suffer because they are more sinful than other people? Can we say that suffering is directly proportionate to sin? The popular answer is to say, ‘No,’ and this answer is correct. We can accurately cite job as an example of a man who was not suffering for his personal sin. Jesus, indeed, says, ‘I tell you, no…’ Jesus agrees with the popular answer in saying that these folks were not necessarily more deserving of suffering than others. They did not die because they were greater sinners than the rest. We expect Him to go on as we might and talk about how the undeserving suffer. Many times, we would say, the innocent are made to suffer in the world. Often, we say, it is the good who are injured and hurt. But, surprise, this is not what He says at all. Instead of saying that some are innocent sufferers, he says that everyone deserves to suffer in this way. He warns that ‘unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’. In other words, it is not that they were worse than others, but this is what every sinner deserves and will get unless he repents. Jesus focuses not on the tragedy that has befallen the few, but on the grace by which the majority are spared.
Similarly, Jesus went on to speak of the eighteen on whom the ‘ tower of Siloam fell and killed’. He asks, ‘were (they) worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?’ Can we deduce from the amount of suffering people endure, who is righteous and who is sinful? No, He says. But again, does this mean that they might be undeserving? No. They got what everyone deserves but some are spared.
“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:5)
Thus, the problem of suffering as Jesus interprets it is not a problem of paid at all. Pain can be explained easily. We live in a fallen world that is under judgment. All of life’s picnics have ants. On our honeymoon, Emily and I set aside a day for the beach. About the time we arrived, it started to rain. Not being the theologian of the family, she asked, ‘Why would God do this to us?’ My sensitive response was, ‘Why hasn’t it rained everyday? Why would he allow us to come here at all?’ She was not amused. Of course there is suffering. The remarkable thing is not that there is pain but there is pleasure. Once one understands the doctrine of the Fall and of the depravity of man the philosophical problem is not that of explaining why God allows suffering but why He shows mercy and grace. As Jeremiah adds, ‘Why should any living moral, or any man, offer complaint in view of sins’ (Lam. 3:29). Any paid and suffering less than the flames of eternal fire in hell is a merciful reprieve from God. I can understand why we suffer. I can’t understand why we don’t suffer more.
Sovereignty and Pain
In previous chapters we have seen that the sovereignty of God extends over every molecule of existence. He has decreed and planned ‘whatsoever comes to pass’. Don’t then, think for a moment that your pain is excluded. When I was in seminary, a very promising young Christian, a Cal tech student gifted with a brilliant mind, was heading for the mission field with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He fell on a hiking trip and was tragically killed. A world famous evangelical theologian said at his funeral, “This was not the will of God.” At a funeral in Savannah a few years ago, a similar statement was made of the unexpected death of a relatively young mother: ‘God did not want this to happen.’ This is also the position taken in the very popular Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. The author lost his teenage daughter to leukemia. He wrestled with explaining how God could have allowed it to happen. Notice his frame of reference. There are ‘good’ (read ‘innocent’) people who don’t deserve to have bad things happen to them. The answer that he settled on was that god is good, but there is nothing He can do about suffering. He can’t interfere. His hands are tied. He is not at fault. He is not to be blamed. We can be sure that He still loves us because He is not the one who did this awful thing to us.
What can we say to this? In our view, this explanation offers no consolation whatsoever and, indeed, is horrifying. Why? Consider the following:
First, if there is a God, what happens must be His will. If anything happens that is not His will, He is not God, and we are in trouble. If there are stray molecules wandering around doing things that He has not ordained, then God has a competitor out there equal to Himself, and He is not God as the bible describes Him. For god to be God He must be sovereign. For Him to be sovereign at all he must be sovereign of all.
Let me see if I can clarify what I mean. All who believe in god believe God foresees all things. Once you give up believing in foreknowledge, you’ve really stopped believing in God. What he foreknows is certain to happen. So when God foreknows a thing and decides to allow it to happen, He does so because it suits His purposes. It fits His plan. The alternative is to say that he foresees things and allows them even though they don’t suit His purposes, which is clearly illogical and silly. It doesn’t mean he ‘likes’ what he foresees, just that He allows it to happen because He finds some positive purpose and reason for it. The good God permits to happen what He permits to happen because it suits His purposes; and His purposes are good.
Sometimes people try to evade the implications of this by appealing to foreknowledge, saying that God merely ‘foresees’ all things, He doesn’t actually will them. But as we can see, this distinction won’t hold up. What an omnipotent god foreknows and permits, He wills and ordains.
Second, events either have God-given meaning or they have no meaning at all. In an attempt to get God ‘off the hook’, people end up emptying their tragedies of meaning, so rendering them truly tragic. It needs to be recognized that you can’t have it both ways. Either God is in it, or He isn’t. If He isn’t, then it is just the devil, bad ‘luck’, fate, or chance.
When I was a youth minister in Miami we experienced two tragic deaths of fathers with young teenagers. One was my wife Emily’s father who suffered a heart attack when she was just sixteen. The other was also a sixteen-year-old girl, but the circumstances were different Whereas Emily’s father died suddenly, this man, the Rev. J. R. Richardson’s son, Dr. John Richardson, died very gradually over a period of nearly two years. The final days were unlike anything I had seen before of have seen since. He died at home surrounded by his family. His last moments were spent with his youngest daughter snuggled up next to him on one side, another daughter at his feet, his wife on the other side, his sons seated beside the bed. It was the saddest and sweetest death I have ever seen. A few weeks later, that youngest daughter came to me and asked, ‘Why would God allow this?’ My answer was to gently say, ‘Oh, but He did, and he has good reasons,’ and then to go on and say, ‘and we cling to this because the only alternative is to say that God didn’t allow this and there are no reasons and it is just a tragedy devoid of any purpose.’ Now what must you do? Trust Him! Say God isn’t responsible, and you remove the opportunity to trust Him.
‘God is great and God is good.’ That was he first prayer that I learned. It also expresses the problem of suffering. Why does a great God allow evil when He could stop it? Why does a good God allow evil when He hates it? Deny either side of the equation and you solve the problem of evil. One might say god is good but not great; He would like to prevent evil, but he is weak. Alternatively one might say God is great but not good; he doesn’t want to prevent evil because he delights in it. Obviously these solutions are no solutions, making either a monster or weakling.
Since Augustine (remember we are ‘Augustinians’), Christians have been saying that god permits evil for the greater good. The paradigm is found in the crucifixion. When man did the greatest evil, God brought from it the greatest good. But the crucifixion was carried out by the ‘predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God’ (Acts 2:23). God was in it; He had ordained it. Likewise, He is in our suffering. Because He is in it, it has a purpose, it has meaning.
Christ and Pain
Finally we come to the answers found in Romans 8. The wonder of our adoption and eventual glorification lead the apostle Paul to speak of the path to glory which is the path of suffering. We are ‘fellow-heirs with Christ,’ he says, ‘if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him’ (Romans 8:17). Again, he joins suffering and glory saying, ‘For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us’ (Rom 8:18). He speaks of our ‘groaning’ and contrasts it with ‘our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body’ (Rom. 8:23). He urges the need of ‘hope’ and ‘perseverance’ (Rom. 8:24, 25). He promises the help of the Spirit when we pray ‘with groanings too deep for words’ (v. 26). Then comes the crown jewel of Bible promises: ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Rom. 8:28). The Apostle Paul exults in a God who is in all things causing all things to work for the good of those who love Him. And just in case you might pause and doubt if you love God sufficiently, he adds, ‘to those who are called according to His purpose.’ Machen said of these verses:
…how little comfort these would be in those words if the verse stopped there – if we had been told merely that all things work together for good to them that love God, and then we had been left to kindle that love of God in our cold, dead hearts. But, that God, the verse does not end there. The verse does not just say: All things work together for good to them that love God.’ No it says: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.’ There, my friends, is the true ground of all our comfort – not in our love, not in our faith, not in anything that is in us, but in that mysterious and eternal counsel of God from which comes all faith, all love, all that we have and are and can be in this world and in the world to come.
The ones who love God are the ones who are called. The called are the ones who are foreknown (which means foreloved) and predestined. The ‘golden chain’ is laid out in verse 30: ‘and whom He predestined, these he also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these he also glorified’ (Rom 8:30). Those whom God has set His love upon – who have been called to Christ effectually by the gospel, who are justified and glorified (the past tense indicates that the Apostle Paul seen even this as an accomplished fact) – these are promised that everything has a good purpose for them. God Himself guarantees it.
When I was three, my parents absent-mindedly left my sister and me in the family station wagon when we got home from church hone Sunday afternoon. We played. I released the emergency brake. The car began to roll down the driveway. We panicked. My sister jumped out. She was five – she could do that. I fell out and under the front wheel, and our 56’ Plymouth station wagon rolled up my back and next over my head.
When I was fifteen, I was practicing with the varsity football team that included three future college all-Americans, including Vince Feragammo. One afternoon I ran a ‘quick-out’ pattern, caught the ball, turned up field, tried to evade my defender, and in the midst of evading him, suddenly felt a sharp paid in my thigh. All over the field a loud noise like a tree-branch cracking could be heard and I fell, my leg twisted under me, my femur freakishly broken.
Why? I don’t know. I don’t have to know. All I have to know is that God was in it, and he was working it for good.
Some of you have suffered far worse than this. Some of you have lost children and grandchildren to accidents and diseases. Others have been devastated through the deaths of husbands and wives. Friends, relatives, other loved ones have suffered from tragic circumstances. You have cried out, ‘Oh no, not this – anything but this! Lord why? Why would you do this?’ Perhaps you have grown bitter. You have resented God ever since. You’re disillusioned and confused. Know this for certain – in Christ, though the devil, the world. And our enemies have meant your destruction; God was working all things for good.
Consider the life of Joseph. What adversity he suffered! Think of the heartbreak of total rejection by his own brothers who were ready to kill him on the spot. Think of the grief of being sold into slavery, of forcibly leaving his family and not seeing them again for decades. Even in Egypt he had to deal with a false accusation of rape by Potiphar’s wife which landed him in jail. There was in his life plenty of opportunity for bitterness. Think of all that God had allowed to happen. Robbed of his childhood, robbed of his homeland and family, robbed of his good name, why should be not curse God? But what does he say? He sees the sovereign hand of God in it all. First he tells his brothers, ‘Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt’ (Gen 45:8). And a second time he says, ‘And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive’ (gen 50:20). Read it again. ‘God meant it for good,’ he says.
Many times, even most times, we won’t know what good God is bringing from adversity. That is not the critical thing. The critical thing is knowing that God is good and he meant it! When you lost your loved one, He meant it. When you were afflicted with disease, God meant it. When you were hit with financial reversals, God meant it. He promises to bring good from it. Now you must trust Him.
Do the high Calvinistic doctrines really make a difference? Does belief in the sovereignty of God make any practical impact upon life? I hope that you are beginning to see that these doctrines are vital. Only when we understand that God has ordained our suffering can we begin to make sense of it. Only then can we be certain that He has a purpose in it. When tragedy comes, when adversity strikes, we will not be shaken. Yes, we will cry. Yes, we will grieve. But we will move on confidently knowing that God is on His throne, that we are in His hand, that our circumstances are His doing, and He is working them for our good.
Terry L Johnson
- How do you explain adversity and suffering in the world today?
- What are some of the common responses from the world in dealing with the suffering and adversity that they see?
- What should their starting point for such answers be? Is man really an innocent creature?
- What does it mean to live in a ‘fallen world?’ What are the implications?
- I suffering directly proportionate to one’s sin? In other words, bad things happen because you have been especially bad?
- The suggested response is, ‘Why isn’t there more suffering because of our sin? Why does God show mercy and grace at all?’ How do you respond to this view?
- If the world’s response (and some well meaning Christians too) is that it is not God’s will that ‘good’ or ‘innocent’ people suffer, how then do we find comfort in times of adversity?
- What are the suggested two ways that help us understand this problem?
- What is the key to understanding the Romans 8:28 passage?
- Does knowing that God has a purpose and a plan, even in adversity, give you more comfort or does it make you bitter? How will you deal with adversity?
Adversity is chapter 4 from the book When Grace Comes Home by Terry L Johnson. Posted with Permission.
There is much confusion and controversy over man's will in salvation. The article below is a clear and Biblical message on man's will in salvation. ~Jacob Lee
Man's Will- Free Yet BoundFor more than fifteen hundred years the Church has engaged in a heated debate over the freedom of man's will. The major issues came to general attention in the early fifth century when Augustine and Pelagius did battle on the subject. Through medieval times the nature of man's freedom received a great deal of attention. As they studied the Scriptures, Bernard and Anselm made significant contributions to the doctrine of the human will. In the sixteenth century the freedom or bondage of the will was one of the chief issues dividing Reformers and Roman Catholics. To the mind of Martin Luther, it was the key to his dispute with Rome. In the seventeenth century the nature of man's freedom was at the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. The conflict surfaced again in the eighteenth century during the Great Awakening. Finney's approach to revival in the nineteenth century led the church astray through a misunderstanding of the human will. So too the nature of man's will continues to bring intense disagreement between Reformed and Fundamentalist believers.
by Walter J. Chantry
by Walter J. Chantry
A proper understanding of the content of the gospel and the use of GOD-honouring methods in evangelism are dependent on one's grasp of this issue.
Some theologians, both Arminian and Calvinistic, have been quite lucid in their discussions concerning man's will. Others, for example, Jonathan Edwards, have soared into the lofty clouds of philosophy where many a believer faints in the thin air of difficult logic and complex thought. But none is so refreshingly clear as our holy LORD. His instruction on the subject is laced with vivid illustrations to assist our groping minds:
Matthew 12.33-37 says, 'Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.'
In this passage are three verbal windows through which the light of Christ's lesson passes. Each presents a familiar scene. (1) A tree that has fruit - v. 33. (2) A man who brings treasures out of a chest - v. 35. (3) A stream that overflows from a fountain. This last is rather more obscure than the first two, but it is suggested by our LORD's choice of words in v. 34. The word 'abundance' suggests superfluity or overflow.
I. Man has a will and that will has a certain freedom. Our LORD clearly teaches that man has a power of choice. It is important to begin here to disarm opponents of all the foolish accusations that have been brought against the Biblical doctrine of man's will. Every man has the ability to choose his own words, to decide what his actions will be. We have a faculty of self-determination in the sense that we select our own thoughts, words, and deeds. Man is free to choose what he prefers, what he desires.
No one ties fruit on a tree's branches, not even GOD. The tree bears its own fruit. Evil men sin voluntarily; they take evil treasures out of their chests, that is, evil words and deeds. Righteous men are holy by choice; they select good treasures, that is, good words and works. The person who is speaking and acting is completely responsible for his moral behaviour. This power of the will is a vital part of human personality. It always exists in you and me and in all to whom we witness or preach.
GOD never forces men to act against their wills. By workings of outward providence or of inward grace, the LORD may change men's minds, but He will not coerce a human being into thoughts, words or actions. When GOD in His holy wrath sent the Israelites to drive the Canaanites from their land, He also sent hornets against them. There is a children's song which tells the story of these hornets stinging the Canaanites, causing the pagans to flee the land. The chorus then sings:
GOD never compels us to go, Oh no,
He never compels us to go;
GOD does not compel us to go 'gainst our will,
but He just makes us willing to go.
When Saul was converted, the LORD did not compel him to edify the church instead of persecuting it. He added a new factor of inward grace in his soul, consequently Paul changed his decision. GOD may renew the will but He never coerces it.
The Westminster Confession is very careful to assert the liberty of the human will. When it speaks of GOD's eternal decrees, we are told, 'GOD from all eternity did . . . freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is GOD the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.' When discussing Free Will, the Confession begins, 'GOD hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil.' Neither by creation nor by subsequent acts of GOD are man's decisions made for him; he is free to choose for himself.
This sort of freedom of the will is essential to responsibility! Having a will is a necessary ingredient to being morally accountable. This is clearly implied in our LORD's words in verses 36 and 37: 'I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.' A man can be condemned only because the words are his own. He was free to bring them out of his treasure chest. They were the overflow of the fountain of his own heart. They are the fruits of his own tree of nature. No one imposed the words on his lips. He chose them. Society, companions, parents cannot be blamed. Idle words are the product of the man's own will.
It is vital for every minister to appreciate the importance of man's will. For in evangelism the will must be addressed. In preaching the gospel we are not only to shine the light of truth upon darkened minds. We are also to appeal to men's perverted wills to choose Christ. Faith is as much an act of the will as it is of the mind. When by the Spirit a mind understands essential truths, by the same Spirit the will must trust Christ. Repentance is a selecting of good and a refusing of evil. Volition is central to faith and repentance.
Indeed, in conversion, a man must make a decision. We shy away from that term because in modern jargon a 'decision' has come to be identified with an outward expression, such as raising the hand or going forward to the front. While such external acts have nothing to do with forgiveness of sins, the heart must make a decision to be saved.
When Christ stood to cry 'If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink,' He was soliciting a willing choice of Himself as satisfying drink for the soul. GOD urges all sinners to come just because they mayduty to embrace the Saviour.
The great guilt of sinners under the gospel is that they will not come. Christ complained in John come. And it is our duty to inform the sinner that he has a warrant, a right to choose Christ. Beyond this, we must assure him that he has a positive
5.40: 'Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.' And to Jerusalem He sobbed, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not !' There is in the unregenerate hearer of the gospel an obstinate, wilful choice not to come. Hence it is that in flaming fire Christ will come to take vengeance on them that obey not the gospel [2 Thess 1.8]. In the free exercise of their uncoerced wills men have rejected the Son of GOD.
In speaking of responsibility we have implied nothing regarding ability, as will be seen below. But the point is that men have wills which must be addressed as powerfully and directly as their minds and emotions in gospel preaching. Men must be confronted with their responsibility. 'This is the work of GOD, that ye believe into Him whom He hath sent' [John 6.29].
II. Man's Will is not a Sovereign Faculty. Although man does have a will, it is neither independent of all influences nor supreme over all other parts of his personality. This is the next point to be seen in our LORD's teaching.
Pelagians, Roman Catholics, Arminians and Finneyites have all held one common view of the nature of man. They suggest that the will of man is in some way neutral, that it exists in a state of moral suspension. It is their understanding that with equal ease the will can choose good or evil; it can receive or reject Christ. With only degrees of difference and variety of explanation, this is their common opinion. Pelagians have taught that the will is neutral because man's heart is morally neutral. Arminians, on the other hand, acknowledge the human heart to be evil. But they suggest that prevenient grace has hung the will upon a 'sky hook' of neutrality from which it can swing either to receive or to reject the gospel. The common ground, however, is this idea of neutrality. The will, they tell us, is disinterested. Ultimately this controls their entire view of conversion and of sanctification.
It will be noted that our Master taught that the human will is not free from the other faculties of the heart. Far from the will reigning over a man, the will is determined by the man's own character. It is not raised to a position of dominance over the entire man.
Man is like a tree. His heart, not his will alone, is the root. There is no possible way by which the will can choose to produce fruit contrary to the character of the root. If the root is bad, the tree is bound by its very nature to produce evil fruit. Man is like a person standing alongside his treasure chest. There is no possibility of bringing pure gold out of a box filled only with rusty steel. The contents of the heart determine what words and deeds may be brought out. Far from being neutral, the will must reach into the heart for its choices. Every thought, word and deed will partake of the nature of the treasure within. Man is like a stream which cannot rise above its source. If the fountain is polluted, the outflow will be evil. If the source be sweet, the stream will not be bitter and cannot choose to be so.
These three illustrations alike contain the same lesson. What a man is determines what he chooses. Choices of the will always reveal the character of the heart, because the heart determines the choices. Men are not sinners because they choose to sin; they choose to sin because they are sinners. If this were not so, we could never know a tree by its fruits, nor could we judge a man's character by his acts.
In modern times we observe rockets fired so that they escape from the earth's gravity. To accomplish this there is a great complex of electrical wires all woven into one control centre, called in the U.S. 'Mission Control.'
According to the Bible, the heart is the Mission Control of a man's life. The heart is the motivational complex of a man, the basic disposition, the entire bent of character, the moral inclination. The mind, emotions, desires, and will are all wires which we observe; none is independent but all are welded into a common circuit. If mission control is wired for evil, the will cannot make the rockets of life travel on the path of righteousness. The will cannot escape the direction of thoughts, feelings, longings and habits to produce behaviour of an opposite moral quality. 'Will' may be the button which launches the spacecraft. But the launching button does not determine the direction. Direction is dependent upon the complex wiring system.
If the will were able to make decisions contrary to reason, and to the likes and desires of the heart, it would be a monster. You would find yourself in a restaurant ordering all the foods you detest. You would find yourself selecting the company you loathe. But the will is not a monster. It cannot choose without consulting your intelligence, reflecting your feelings, and taking account of your desires. You are free to be yourself. The will cannot transform you into someone else.
This is most profoundly true in the moral and religious realms. When the mind is at war with GOD, denying His truth; when the emotions hate Christ His Son; when the desires wish GOD's law and gospel were exterminated from the earth; the will cannot be in a position to choose Christ. If it were, a man would not be truly free to be himself. Here is the tragic truth about man's will. While free from outward coercion, it is in a state of bondage. It is not in a stated neutrality. It is not a lever with which to move a man's personality from sin to righteousness, from unbelief to faith. This brings us to the third element in Christ's words.
III. Man's Will is in Bondage to Sin. The chains which bind a man's will to sin do not result from the actions of the Omnipotent GOD. The binding chains are the man's own depraved faculties. The prison is his own nature.
Our LORD's rhetorical question in verse 34 brings this home with force: 'O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things ?' Our wise LORD is suggesting that a man must speak as he does because of what he is. To sinners He was saying 'You are unable to choose good words because you possess an evil heart. If the tree is bad, if the treasure chest is filled with evil things alone, if the fountain is bitter, your will cannot produce good words [fruits, treasures, overflow].'
At this point there are very many scriptures which attest to a man's bondage to sin by his own nature. To mention but a few - Jeremiah 13.23: 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil;' John 6.44: 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;' Romans 8.7: 'The carnal mind . . . is not subject to the law of GOD, neither indeed can be.'
Pelagian, Arminian and modern Fundamentalist support for the moral and spiritual freedom of the will usually centres on one point. We have admitted that man has a responsible freedom. He is free to be himself. He is held accountable for his words and deeds, especially for his receiving or rejecting Christ. On all of this we agree. They use this toehold to argue that the will is not in bondage to sin but has the power of contrary choice. It can do either good or evil, at least when confronted with the gospel. They insist that the responsibility of the will to choose Christ implies ability of the will to choose Christ.
There is no scriptural defence of this belief, none that I have ever seen in print. The argument is completely philosophical. It runs as follows: If a man cannot do good, it would be unjust to punish him as evil. Furthermore, if a sinner cannot repent, it would be foolish to command all men everywhere to repent. GOD is not foolish and He has commanded repentance. Therefore men are able to repent.
We can only reply that those who applaud the powers of the will with such arguments have not read the Bible very carefully. To maintain their philosophical premises they will have to argue with Christ their LORD. For our Prophet tells us in verses 36 and 37 of our text that in the day of judgment men will be held responsible for their evil words. Yet in verse 34 our Teacher tells the very same men that they cannot speak good words because they are bound by their evil character.
Lazarus in his tomb had no ability to respond when our LORD commanded, 'Come forth.' The man who had been impotent for 38 years had no native ability to obey when Jesus commanded him to take up his bed and walk. Nor have modern sinners ability to believe when we preach. 'This is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ' [I John 3.23].
When a sinner refuses to come to Christ, he is guilty because he has made a free choice. It reflects his own state of mind, feeling and attitude toward GOD and His Son. He has acted voluntarily without coercion. It is his decision. But the poor sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, could not do otherwise, being evil. It is not necessary for him to have a neutral will, or the ability to do both good and evil, for his action to be held accountable before the Judge of all hearts.
Anselm is very helpful on this matter. This medieval theologian points out that if ability to sin is necessary to true liberty or responsibility, then GOD is neither free nor praiseworthy. For the scriptures teach us that GOD cannot lie. Similarly, saints in glory will be neither free nor responsible; for in eternity the LORD's people have confirmed righteousness. Anselm goes on to show the Biblical emphasis of freedom. True liberty rests in the ability to do good whereas he that does sin is the slave of sin. If true liberty rests in the ability to do good in GOD's sight, then the highest liberty rests in the inability to do otherwise. This highest freedom belongs to the sons of GOD in glory. How Biblical were Anselm's insights!
No doubt Anselm's thinking has influenced the Westminster Confession's wording in the chapter 'Of Free Will.' For it says that Adam 'had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and wellpleasing to GOD.' Yet this freedom was mutable, subject to change. Man could and did lose his liberty in the sense of being able to do good. This is not the same as a man's liberty to be himself. 'Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or prepare himself thereto.'
Bernard was very near the truth when he wrote of our condition in Adam: 'The soul, in some strange and evil way, is held under this kind of voluntary, yet sadly free necessity, both bond and free; bond in respect of necessity, free in respect of will: and what is still more strange, and still more miserable, it is guilty because free, and enslaved because guilty, and therefore enslaved because free.'
We have seen that man is free to be himself and therefore is enslaved to sin by a wicked heart. And this brings us to the most profound truth regarding the salvation of souls. It is crucial to our preaching. It is vital to saving impressions in our hearers.
IV. Man's Will is not his Hope. Our LORD has taught that the tree must be made good. Man must be renewed in his entire character. He must have a new heart to bring forth good fruit; the will cannot make the tree good; it may only exercise liberty to be what the tree already is. The will cannot reload the treasure chest with a new kind of goods; it may only freely bring forth what is there. The will cannot cleanse the fountainhead; it may overflow only with the waters available in the soul.
Any gospel preaching that relies upon an act of the human will for the conversion of sinners has missed the mark. Any sinner who supposes that his will has the strength to do any good accompanying salvation is greatly deluded and far from the kingdom. We are cast back upon the regenerating work of the Spirit of the living GOD to make the tree good. Unless GOD does something in the sinner, unless GOD creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit within man, there is no hope of a saving change.
While we address the wills of men in gospel preaching, they are wills bound in the grave clothes of an evil heart. But as we speak, and the LORD owns His word, sinners are quickened to life by divine power. His people are made willing in the day of His power [Psa 110.3]. All who are adopted as sons of GOD were 'born not of the will of man, but of GOD.' [John 1. 13] We stand to preach with no power to make the tree good. The 'trees' before us cannot make themselves good, so no gimmicks or policies of men can persuade them to make the change. But our glorious GOD, by inward, secret, transforming power, can make the tree good, the treasures good, the fountain good. Thus all glory be to GOD and to the Lamb! Salvation is of the LORD!
“ This article reproduced by permission from THE BANNER OF TRUTH magazine, Issue 140, May 1975.”
This is a great message! ~Jacob Lee
It is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us
Early in my Christian life I heard someone say, "The Bible was not given to increase your knowledge but to guide your conduct." Later I came to realize that this statement was simplistic at best and erroneous at worst. The Bible is far more than a rulebook to follow. It is primarily the message of God's saving grace through Jesus Christ, with everything in Scripture before the cross pointing to God's redemptive work and everything after the cross--including our sanctification--flowing from that work.
There is an element of truth in this statement, however, and the Holy Spirit used it to help me to see that the Bible is not to be read just to gain knowledge. It is, indeed, to be obeyed and practically applied in our daily lives. As James says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).
With my new insight, I prayed that God would use the Bible to guide my conduct. Then I began diligently to seek to obey it. I had never heard the phrase "the pursuit of holiness," but that became my primary goal in life. Unfortunately, I made two mistakes. First, I assumed the Bible was something of a rulebook and that all I needed to do was to learn what it says and go do it. I knew nothing of the necessity of depending on the Holy Spirit for his guidance and enablement.
Still worse, I assumed that God's acceptance of me and his blessing in my life depended on how well I did. I knew I was saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from any works. I had assurance of my salvation and expected to go to heaven when I died. But in my daily life, I thought God's blessing depended on the practice of certain spiritual disciplines, such as having a daily quiet time and not knowingly committing any sin. I did not think this out but just unconsciously assumed it, given the Christian culture in which I lived. Yet it determined my attitude toward the Christian life.
My story is not unusual. Evangelicals commonly think today that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once we're inside the kingdom's door, we need the gospel only in order to share it with those who are still outside. Now, as believers, we need to hear the message of discipleship. We need to learn how to live the Christian life and be challenged to go do it. That's what I believed and practiced in my life and ministry for some time. It is what most Christians seem to believe.
As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God's blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.
Most Christians have a baseline of acceptable performance by which they gauge their acceptance by God. For many, this baseline is no more than regular church attendance and the avoidance of major sins. Such Christians are often characterized by some degree of self-righteousness. After all, they don't indulge in the major sins we see happening around us. Such Christians would not think they need the gospel anymore. They would say the gospel is only for sinners.
For committed Christians, the baseline is much higher. It includes regular practice of spiritual disciplines, obedience to God's Word, and involvement in some form of ministry. Here again, if we focus on outward behavior, many score fairly well. But these Christians are even more vulnerable to self-righteousness, for they can look down their spiritual noses not only at the sinful society around them but even at other believers who are not as committed as they are. These Christians don't need the gospel either. For them, Christian growth means more discipline and more commitment.
Then there is a third group. The baseline of this group includes more than the outward performance of disciplines, obedience, and ministry. These Christians also recognize the need to deal with sins of the heart like a critical spirit, pride, selfishness, envy, resentment, and anxiety. They see their inconsistency in having their quiet times, their failure to witness at every opportunity, and their frequent failures in dealing with sins of the heart. This group of Christians is far more likely to be plagued by a sense of guilt because group members have not met their own expectations. And because they think God's acceptance of them is based on their performance, they have little joy in their Christian lives. For them, life is like a treadmill on which they keep slipping farther and farther behind. This group needs the gospel, but they don't realize it is for them. I know, because I was in this group.
The Gospel Is for Believers
Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6," All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," and then say, "Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you."
I came to see that Paul's statement in Galatians 2:20, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me," was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: "The life I now live ...." Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.
Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds--our spiritual sacrifices--are acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ's "performance" as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.
So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.
Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ's work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
No "Easy Believism"
But doesn't this idea that our acceptance with God is based solely on Christ's work apart from our performance lead to a type of "easy believism"? In its most basic form, this is the notion that "Since I asked Christ to be my Savior, I am on my way to heaven regardless of how I live. It doesn't matter if I continue in my sinful lifestyle. God loves and will accept me anyway."
By a similar way of thinking, the claim that God's acceptance and blessing are based solely on Christ's work could be taken to mean that it really doesn't matter how I live right now. If Jesus has already "performed" in my place, then why go through all the effort and pain of dealing with sin in my life? Why bother with the spiritual disciplines and why expend any physical and emotional energy to serve God during this earthly life if everything depends on Christ?
The Apostle Paul anticipated such "easy believism" in Romans 6:1 when he wrote, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" His response in Romans 6:2, "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" answers the question, "Why bother?" Paul was not responding with "How could you be so ungrateful as to think such a thing?" No, instead he is saying, in effect, "You don't understand the gospel. Don't you realize that you died to sin and if you died to sin, it's impossible for you to continue to live in it" (see Rom. 6:3-14).
We Died to Sin
Now, however, we come to a big question. What does Paul mean when he says we died to sin? It's fairly obvious he doesn't mean we died to the daily committal of sin. If that were true, no honest person could claim to be justified because we all sin daily. None of us truly loves God with our whole being and none of us actually loves our neighbor as ourselves (see Matt. 22:35-40). Nor does it mean we have died in the sense of being no longer responsive to sin's temptations, as some have taught. If that were true, Peter's admonition to abstain from the passions of the flesh would be pointless (see 1 Pet. 2:11). So what does Paul mean?
Some Bible commentators believe that Paul means only that we have died to the penalty of sin. That is, because of our union with Christ, when Christ died to sin's penalty we also died to sin's penalty. Well, it certainly means that, but it also means much more. It also means we died to sin's dominion.
What is the dominion of sin? In Romans 5:21, Paul speaks of sin's reign. And in Colossians 1:13, he speaks of the domain of darkness. When Adam sinned in the Garden, we all sinned through our legal union with him (see Rom. 5:12-21). That is, because of our identity with Adam we all suffered the consequence of his sin. And a part of that consequence is to be born into this world under the reign or dominion of sin. Paul describes what it means to be under this dominion in Ephesians 2:1-3. He says we were spiritually dead; we followed the ways of the world and the devil; we lived in the passions of our sinful natures and were, by nature, objects of God's wrath.
This slavery to the dominion of sin then is part of the penalty due to our guilt of sin. Through our union with Christ in his death, however, our guilt both from Adam's and from our own personal sins was forever dealt with. Having died with Christ to the guilt of sin, we also as a consequence died to the dominion of sin. We cannot continue in sin as a dominant way of life because the reign of sin over us has forever been broken.
This death to the dominion of sin over us is known theologically as definitive sanctification. It refers to the decisive break with, or separation from, sin as a ruling power in a believer's life. It is a point-in-time event, occurring simultaneously with justification. It is the fundamental change wrought in us by the monergistic action of the Holy Spirit (that is, by the Spirit acting alone without human permission or assistance) when he delivers us from the kingdom of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of Christ. This definitive break with the dominion of sin occurs in the life of everyone who trusts in Christ as Savior. There is no such thing as justification without definitive sanctification. They both come to us as a result of Christ's work for us.
Consider Yourselves Dead to Sin
So we are free from both the guilt and the dominion of sin. But what use is this information to us? How can it help us live out a gospel-based pursuit of sanctification? Here Paul's instructions in Romans 6:11 are helpful: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
It is important we understand what Paul is saying here because he is not telling us to do something but to believe something. We are to believe that we are dead through Christ to both sin's penalty and its dominion. But this is not something we make come true by believing it. We simply are dead to sin, whether we believe it or not. But the practical effects of our death to sin can be realized only as we believe it to be true.
The fact is that we are guilty in ourselves, but God no longer charges that guilt against us because it has already been borne by Christ as our substitute. The sentence has been served. The penalty has been paid. We have died to sin, both to its guilt and to its dominion. That is why Paul can write, "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin" (Rom. 4:8).
But the question arises, "If I've died to sin's dominion, why do I still struggle with sin patterns in my life?" The answer to that question lies in the word struggle. Unbelievers do not struggle with sin. They may seek to overcome some bad habit, but they do not see that habit as sin. They do not have a sense of sin against a holy God. Believers, on the other hand, struggle with sin as sin. We see our sinful words, thoughts, and deeds as sin against God; and we feel guilty because of it. This is where we must continue to go back to the gospel. To consider ourselves dead to sin is to believe the gospel.
This doesn't mean that we just believe the gospel and live complacently in our sin. Absolutely not! Go back again to Paul's words in Romans 6:1-2. We died both to sin's guilt and its dominion. Though sin can wage war against us (hence our struggle), it cannot reign over us. That is also part of the gospel. But the success of our struggle with sin begins with our believing deep down in our hearts that regardless of our failures and our struggle, we have died to sin's guilt. We must believe that however often we fail, there is no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1).
William Romaine, who was one of the leaders of the eighteenth-century revival in England, wrote, "No sin can be crucified either in heart or life unless it first be pardoned in conscience.... If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power." What Romaine was saying is that if you do not believe you have died to sin's guilt, you cannot trust Christ for the strength to subdue its power in your life. So the place to begin in dealing with sin is to believe the gospel when it says you have died to sin's guilt.
Warring against our sinful habits and seeking to put on Christlike character is usually called sanctification. But because the term definitive sanctification is used to describe the point-in-time deliverance from the dominion of sin, it is helpful to speak of Christian growth in holiness as progressivesanctification. Additionally, the word progressive indicates continual growth in holiness over time. The New Testament writers both assume growth (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 2:19-21; Col. 2:19; 2 Thess. 1:3); and continually urge us to pursue it (see 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14; 2 Pet. 3:18). There is no place in authentic Christianity for stagnant, self-satisfied, and self-righteous Christians. Rather we should be seeking to grow in Christlikeness until we die.
This progressive sanctification always involves our practice of spiritual disciplines, such as reading Scripture, praying, and regularly fellowshipping with other believers. It also involves putting to death the sinful deeds of the body (see Rom. 8:13) and putting on Christlike character (see Col. 3:12-14). And very importantly it involves a desperate dependence on Christ for the power to do these things, for we cannot grow by our own strength.
So sanctification involves hard work and dependence on Christ; what I call dependent effort. And it will always mean we are dissatisfied with our performance. For a growing Christian, desire will always outstrip performance or, at least, perceived performance. What is it then that will keep us going in the face of this tension between desire and performance? The answer is the gospel. It is the assurance in the gospel that we have indeed died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus that will motivate us and keep us going even in the face of this tension.
We must always keep focused on the gospel because it is in the nature of sanctification that as we grow, we see more and more of our sinfulness. Instead of driving us to discouragement, though, this should drive us to the gospel. It is the gospel believed every day that is the only enduring motivation to pursue progressive sanctification even in those times when we don't seem to see progress. That is why I use the expression "gospel-driven sanctification" and that is why we need to "preach the gospel to ourselves every day."
1 [ Back ] The quotation from William Romaine comes from his The Life, Walk and Triumph of Faith (Cambridge, England: James Clarke and Co. Ltd., 1793), p. 280.
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Jerry Bridges is a well-known Christian writer and conference speaker. He is author of several books, including, The Pursuit of Holiness The Pursuit of Godliness, and The Discipline of Grace. He has been on the staff of The Navigators since 1955 and currently serves as a resource person to The Navigators University Students Ministry in the United States. Jerry and his wife Jane live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They have two married children and six grandchildren.
Issue: "Good News: The Gospel for Christians" May/June Vol. 12 No. 3 2003 Pages 13-16
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Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof : http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof_summary.html
The Bible teaches man is 100% responsible and God is 100% sovereign. Reiseinger, in this message, helps explain this Biblical truth ~ Jacob Lee
God's Part and Man's Part in Salvation
John G. Reisinger (Taken from :
http://www.soundofgrace.com/jgr/index005.htm )God and man must both do something before a man can be saved. Hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of human action, and Arminianism denies the true nature of the Divine action. The Bible clearly sets forth both the divine and human essential in God's plan of salvation. This is not to say, as Arminianism does, "God's part is to freely provide salvation for all men, and man's part is to become willing to accept it." This is not what we said above, nor is it what the Bible teaches. In order to understand what God's Word really says, and to try to answer some straw dummy objections, we will establish the subject one point at a time.
ONE: A man must repent and believe the gospel in order to be saved. No one was ever forgiven and made a child of God who did not willingly turn from sin to Christ. Nowhere does the Bible even hint that men can be saved without repentance and faith, but to the contrary, the Word always states these things are essential before a person can be saved. The one and only Bible answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
TWO: Every one who repents and believes the gospel will be saved. Every soul, without any exception, who answers the gospel command to come to Christ will be received and forgiven by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Philip Bliss put the truth to music when he said, "Who-so-ever will, forever must endure..." If we can be absolutely certain about anything, we can be sure that Christ will never void His promise to receive "all who come to Him." As old John Bunyan said, "Come and welcome" is the Savior's eternal word to all sinners.
THREE: Repentance and faith are the free acts of men. Men, with their own mind, heart, and will must renounce sin and receive Christ. God never repented and believed for anyone - and He never will. Turning from sin and reaching out in faith to Christ are the acts of man, and every man who so responds to the gospel call does so because he honestly desires to do so. He wants to be forgiven and he can only be forgiven by repenting and believing. No one, including God, can turn from sin for us, we must do it. No one can trust Christ in our place, but we must personally, knowingly, and willingly trust Him in order to be saved.
Now someone may be thinking, "But isn't that what the Arminian teaches?" My friend, that is what the Bible teaches–and teaches it clearly and dogmatically. "But don't Calvinists deny all three of those points?" I am not talking about or trying to defend Calvinists since they come in a hundred varieties. If you know anyone that denies the above facts, then that person, regardless of what he labels himself, is denying the clear message of the Bible. I can only speak for myself, and I will not deny what God's Word so plainly teaches!
"But haven't you established the doctrine of free-will and disposed of election if you assent man must repent and believe and it is his own act?" No, we have neither proven free-will nor disproved election since it is impossible to do either. We have merely stated exactly what the Bible says a man must do in order to be saved.able to do and what he is not able to do. Let us now look at what the Scripture says a sinner is
FOUR: The same Bible that states man must repent and believe in order to be saved also emphatically states that man, because of his sinful nature, is totally unable to repent and believe. All of man's three faculties of mind, heart, and will, which must be receptive to gospel truth, have neither the ability to receive such truth nor even the desire to have such ability. In fact the exact opposite is true. Man's total being is not only unable to either come, or want to come, to Christ, but every part of his nature is actively opposed to Christ and truth. Rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a passive non-action, but a deliberate volitional choice. It is deliberately choosing to say "No" to Christ and "Yes" to self and sin. No one is neutral in respect to God and His authority. Unbelief is just as much a deliberate act of mind, heart, and will as is faith. This is what Jesus meant in John 5:40 when He said, "You will (you are deliberately making a choice) not to come to me." Yes, unbelief is an act of the will. In fact unbelief is active faith, but unfortunately it is faith in myself.
To believe and preach points one, two, and three, without also preaching number four is to grossly misrepresent the gospel of God's grace. It is to give a totally false picture of the sinner and his true need. It shows only half of the man's sin. It misses the most crucial point of a lost man's need, namely, his lack of power or ability to overcome his sinful nature and its effects. The gospel which is concocted out of this view is only a half gospel. It is at this point that modern evangelism so miserably fails. It confuses man's responsibility with his ability, and falsely assumes that a sinner has the moral ability to perform all that God has commanded. The cannot texts of scripture are either totally ignored or badly twisted by this perversion of the true gospel of God's saving grace.
Please note a few texts of Scripture that dogmatically state some things that a lost man cannot do:
Man cannot see - until he first be born again. John 3:3.
Man cannot understand - until he first be given a new nature. I Cor. 2:14.
Man cannot come - until he first be effectually called by the Holy Spirit. John 6:44,45.
We do not have space to go into all the cannots, but these three are sufficient to show that a sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not will not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That something is what the Bible calls regeneration, or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
FIVE: The new birth, or regeneration, is God giving us the spiritual life that enables us to do what we must do (repent and believe), but CANNOT DO because of our bondage to sin. When the Bible says man is dead in sin, it means that man's mind, heart, and will are all spiritually dead in sin. When the Bible speaks of our being in bondage to sin, it means that our entire being, including our will, is under the bondage and power of sin.
We indeed need Christ to die and pay the penalty of our sin, but we just as desperately need the Holy Spirit to give us a new nature in regeneration. The Son of God frees us legally from the penalty of sin, but only the Holy Spirit can free us from the power and death of our depravity in sin. We need forgiveness in order to be saved, and Christ provides complete forgiveness and righteousness for us in His death. However, we also need spiritual life and ability, and the Holy Spirit provides it for us in regeneration. It is the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration that enables us to savingly receive the atoning work of Christ in true faith.
God is a triune God, and no person can understand "so great salvation" until he sees each blessed Person of the Godhead playing a distinct and necessary part in that salvation. No man can declare the "glorious gospel of grace" and leave out the Father's sovereign electing love and the Holy Spirit's regenerating power as essential parts of God's work in saving sinners. To speak of God's part in salvation as only being one of providing forgiveness and man's part as being willing to accept it is to ignore both the Father's work of election and the Spirit's work of regeneration. This not only makes man a full partner with God in the work of salvation, it credits man with playing the decisive roll in the deal.
How dreadful, and ridiculous, to give Christ the glory for His work on the cross, and then give sinners the credit for the Father's work in eternity (election) and the Spirit's work in our hearts (regeneration). It does great dishonor to the Sovereign Spirit to say, "The Holy Spirit will perform His miraculous work of quickening you unto life as soon as you give Him your permission." That's like standing in a graveyard saying to the dead people, "I will give you life and raise you up from the grave if you will only take the first step of faith and ask me to do it." What a denial of the sinner's total spiritual inability. Amazing!
The root error of the Arminian's gospel of freewill is its failure to see that man's part, repentance and faith, are the fruits and effects of God's work and not the essential ingredient's supplied by the sinner as man's part of the deal. Every man who turns to Christ does so willingly, but that willingness is a direct result of the Father's election and the Holy Spirit's effectual calling. To say, "If you will believe, God will answer your faith with the New Birth," is to misunderstand man's true need and misrepresent God's essential work.
SIX: The Scriptures clearly show that faith and repentance are the evidences and not the cause of regeneration. Suppose a man who had been dead for twenty years greeted you on the street one day. Would you conclude that the man had gotten tired of being dead and decided to ask a great doctor to perform a miracle and give him life? I'm sure you would, instead, exclaim in amazement, "Man, what happened to you? Who brought you back to life?" You would see he was alive because he was walking and breathing, but you would know these were evidences of a miracle having been performed on him from without and not the results of his own power or will. Just so when a spiritually dead man begins to perform spiritual acts such as repentance and faith; these spiritual fruits show that the miracle of the new birth has taken place.
Let me illustrate this with a biblical example. Acts 16:14 is a clear proof of the above. By the way, as far as I know, this is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase opened heart, and the Bible gives the whole credit for this opening to God's power and not to man's will. Modern evangelism does the exact opposite and credits the opening of the heart to the power of man's free will. Remember that we are not discussing whether man must be willing to open his heart. We settled that under points One, Two, and Three. We are now looking for the source of power that enabled man to perform that spiritual act. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth.
Let us examine the one text in Scripture that uses the phrase "opened heart" and see if it agrees with our previous points:
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (Acts 16:14)
The NIV says:
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
First of all we note that Lydia did indeed attend or listen to the words of Paul. She gladly heard and willingly believed his message. As we have already shown, she had to do this in order to benefit from the gospel and be saved. Lydia's attending, or hearing and believing, illustrates points One, Two, and Three above, and refutes Hyper-Calvinism (which says the elect will be saved regardless of whether they hear and believe the gospel or not). Lydia did indeed choose to believe, and she did it only because she wholeheartedly wanted to. She did not do it unwillingly nor did God hear and believe for her. It was her own response and it was a most willing response.
Next, we notice exactly what God did. We see here demonstrated what God must do before Lydia can be saved. (l) He provided a salvation of "by grace through faith" that could be preached. Obviously the things spoken by Paul were the gospel facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and surely this Lamb is God's gracious provision. (2) God also brought the message of His provision to Lydia. He sent a preacher to tell her about this great plan of salvation. God went to a lot of trouble to provide such a gospel - He gave His only begotten Son. He went to great ends to provide such a preacher as Paul - read about it in Paul's testimony in Act 22.
It is at this point that Arminianism departs from the Bible and proceeds to apply human logic to the above truths. They tragically fail to look at the rest of the biblical text and see that God must do something else. (3) God must open Lydia's heart (or give her spiritual life) so she will be able to believe. Her natural mind is blind, her natural heart is averse to God, and her will is in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this graveyard of spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. If you do not see that in this text then you simply cannot read:
....whose heart the LORD OPENED...
Notice also how clearly the Holy Spirit teaches us the relationship between the cause and the effect in the conversion of Lydia. God was the One Who opened Lydia's heart, that is the cause, and He did so in order that she might be able to attend to the truths that Paul preached, that is the effect. Now that is what the Word of God says! Do not bluster about dead theology or throw Calvin's name around in derision, just read the words themselves in the Bible. If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's free will as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God.
God's grace not only provides salvation, but His power also gives us the ability to both desire and receive it. He works in us both to will and to do. His working in us to will is the new birth, and, I say again, this work of regeneration is totally the work of the Holy Spirit.
The moment we lose sight of this distinction between being saved by faith (the act of man) and being born again by the Holy Spirit (the act of God), we are heading for confusion and trouble. We will be convinced that man is able to do what the Bible emphatically states he is unable to do. The necessity of the Holy Spirit's work being thus theologically denied, it will not be long before it is ignored in actual practice. This is the plight of modern day evangelism. Since they are convinced that the new birth is within the power and ability of man's will, their man made methodology has become far more important than the theology of the Bible. Organization and advertising become the absolute essentials to success while the necessary work of the Holy Ghost is all but forgotten. It is true that lip service is given to the need to "Pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance," and cards asking people to promise to pray every day are always sent out months in advance of the big campaign. However, some people are not sure if the promise to pray or the other pledge (to give money) which is always included (only your gifts can make this great campaign possible) is the most important to the success of the campaign.
But that's another subject for another day.
A great message on humility.~ Jacob Lee
GODLY MAN IS A HUMBLE MAN
Question: How may a Christian know that he is humble and
...by Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
Answer 1: A humble soul is emptied of all swelling thoughts of himself. Bernard calls humility a self-annihilation. `Thou wilt save the humble' (Job 22:29). In the Hebrew it is `him that is of low eyes'. A humble man has lower thoughts of himself than others can have of him. David, though a king, still looked upon himself as a worm: `I am a worm, and no man' (Psa. 22:6). Bradford, a martyr, still subscribes himself a sinner. `If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head' (Job 10:15) – like the violet which is a sweet flower, but hangs down the head.
Answer 2: A humble soul thinks better of others than of himself: `let each esteem other better than themselves' (Phil. 2:3). A humble man values others at a higher rate than himself, and the reason is because he can see his own heart better than he can another's. He sees his own corruption and thinks surely it is not so with others; their graces are not so weak as his; their corruptions are not so strong. `Surely', he thinks, `they have better hearts than I.' A humble Christian studies his own infirmities and another's excellences and that makes him put a higher value upon others than himself. `Surely I am more brutish than any man' (Prov. 30:2). And Paul, though he was the chief of the apostles, still calls himself `less than the least of all saints' (Eph. 3:8).
Answer 3: A humble soul has a low esteem of his duties. Pride is apt to breed in our holy things as the worm breeds in the sweetest fruit and froth comes from the most generous wine. A humble person bemoans not only his sins but also his duties. When he has prayed and wept, `Alas,' he says, `how little I have done! God might damn me for all this.' He says, like good Nehemiah, `Remember me, 0 my God, concerning this also, and spare me' (Neh. 13:22). `Remember, Lord, how I have poured out my soul, but spare me and pardon me.' He sees that his best duties weigh many grains too light; therefore he desires that Christ's merits may be put into the scales. The humble saint blushes when he looks at his copy. He sees he cannot write evenly, nor without blotting. This humbles him to think that his best duties run to seed. He drops poison upon his sacrifice. `Oh,' he says, `I dare not say I have prayed or wept; those which I write down as duties, God might write down as sins.'
Answer 4: A humble man is always preferring bills of indictment against himself. He complains, not of his condition, but of his heart. `Oh, this evil heart of unbelief!'
'Lord,' says Hooper, `I am hell, but thou art heaven.' A hypocrite is for ever telling how good he is. A humble soul is for ever saying how bad he is. Paul, that highflown saint, was caught up into the third heaven, but how this bird of paradise bemoans his corruptions! `0 wretched man that I am! . . . ' (Rom. 7:24). Holy Bradford sub-scribes himself, `the hardhearted sinner'. The more know-ledge a humble Christian has, the more he complains of ignorance; the more faith, the more he bewails his unbelief.
Answer 5: A humble man will justify God in an afflicted condition: `Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us' (Neh. 9:33). If men oppress and calumniate, the humble soul acknowledges God's righteousness in the midst of severity: Lo, I have sinned' (2 Sam. 24:17). `Lord, my pride, my barrenness, my sermon surfeiting have been the procuring cause of all these judgments.' When clouds are round about God, yet `righteousness is the habitation of his throne' (Psa. 97:2).
Answer 6: A humble soul is a Christ-magnifier (Phil. 1:20). He gives the glory of all his actions to Christ and free grace. King Canute took the crown off his own head and set it upon a crucifix. So a humble saint takes the crown of honour from his own head and sets it upon Christ's. And the reason is the love that he bears to Christ. Love can part with anything to the object loved. Isaac loved Rebekah and he gave away his jewels to her (Gen. 24:53). The humble saint loves Christ entirely, therefore can part with anything to him. He gives away to Christ the honour and praise of all he does. Let Christ wear those jewels.
Answer 7: A humble soul is willing to take a reproof for sin. A wicked man is too high to stoop to a reproof. The prophet Micaiah used to tell King Ahab of his sin, and the King said, `I hate him' (I Kings 22:8). Reproof to a proud man is like pouring water on lime, which grows the hotter. A gracious soul loves the one who reproves: `rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee' (Prov. 9:8). The humble-spirited Christian can bear the reproach of an enemy and the reproof of a friend.
Answer 8: A humble man is willing to have his name and gifts eclipsed, so that God's glory may be increased. He is content to be outshone by others in gifts and esteem, so that the crown of Christ may shine the brighter. This is the humble man's motto: `Let me decrease; let Christ increase.' It is his desire that Christ should be exalted, and if this is effected, whoever is the instrument, he rejoices. `Some preach Christ of envy' (Phil. 1:15). They preached to take away some of Paul's hearers. `Well,' says he, `Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice' (v.18). A humble Christian is content to be laid aside if God has any other tools to work with which may bring him more glory.
Answer 9: A humble saint likes that condition which God sees best for him. A proud man complains that he has no more; a humble man wonders that he has so much: `I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies' (Gen. 32:10). When the heart lies low, it can stoop to a low condition. A Christian looking at his sins wonders that it is no worse with him; he does not say his mercies are small, but his sins are great. He knows that the worst piece God carves him is better than he deserves; therefore he takes it thankfully upon his knees.
Answer 10: A humble Christian will stoop to the meanest person and the lowest office; he will visit the poorest member of Christ. Lazarus' sores are more precious to him than Dives' purple. He does not say, `Stand by, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou' (Isa. 65:5), but `condescends to men of low estate' (Rom. 12:16).
[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson, Section II,
a Puritan Paperback edition published by the Banner of Truth.]