Sunday, February 16, 2014

THE PATHOLOGY OF FALSE TEACHERS

by John MacArthur
Throughout history, deadly epidemics have ravaged mankind. In the fourteenth century, the infamous Black Death (an outbreak of bubonic plague) killed millions in Europe. Cholera, diphtheria, malaria, and other sicknesses have ravaged towns and cities. Our generation has witnessed the rapid spread of the fatal disease Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). More deadly than any of those diseases, however, is the plague of false teaching that has afflicted the church throughout its history. While illness may kill the body, false teaching damns the soul.
Like AIDS and the plague, false teaching has a definite, observable pathology—the elements of abnormality that characterize a disease. Scientists study the pathology of a disease to better equip themselves to recognize it and to combat it.
Every leader in the church should be a spiritual pathologist, able to discern deviations from spiritual health. Only then will he be equipped to diagnose the deadly disease of false teaching, and to do what is necessary to check its spread among his people. Paul warned of the subtle danger of satanic lies, describing their purveyors as
false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13–15)
It takes careful discernment to see that the light is really darkness. Paul taught Timothy how to diagnose satanic darkness masquerading as divine light. Here’s how he described the key symptoms that identify those infected with the spiritual disease of false teaching:
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
The first symptom of false teachers is what they affirm. A false teacher “advocates a different doctrine.” False teaching may take many forms. It may deny God’s existence, or teach error about His nature and attributes. It may deny the Trinity. Error about Christ’s Person and work is also common in false systems. Those who deny His virgin birth, sinless perfection, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, or future return show signs of a dangerous infection. False teachers also teach error about the nature, Person, and work of the Holy Spirit. Yet another strain of the disease of false teaching denies the authenticity, inspiration, authority, or inerrancy of Scripture.
At the same time, another mark of false teachers is what they deny. Their teaching not only affirms error, but also “does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:3). False teachers are not in agreement with spiritually wholesome and beneficial words. That believers need to pay attention to sound, healthy teaching is repeatedly emphasized in the Pastoral Epistles (cf. 1 Timothy 1:102 Timothy 1:13Titus 1:9;2:1).
False teachers are not committed to Scripture. They may speak of Jesus and the Father, but the heart of their ministry will not be the Word of God. They will either add to it, take away from it, interpret it in some heretical fashion, add other “revelations” to it, or deny it altogether.
A third symptom of false teachers is their rejection of “the doctrine conforming to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3). The ultimate test of any teaching is whether it produces godliness. Teaching not based on Scripture will result in an unholy life. Instead of godliness, the loves of false teachers will be characterized by sin (cf. 2 Peter 2:10-22; Jude 4, 8-16).
The attitude of false teachers can be summed up in one word: pride. It takes an immense ego to place oneself as judge of the Bible. Such egotism blatantly usurps the place of God. “Conceited” (1 Timothy 6:4) is from tuphoĊ,and it implies arrogance, an inevitable mark of false teachers. To set up one’s own teaching as superior to the Word of God is the epitome of arrogance. False teachers have an overinflated sense of their own importance, not hesitating to rebel against God and His Word. That merely confirms, however, that they are infected with a deadly spiritual disease.
False teachers are also exposed through their mentality. Although a false teacher may be filled with pride over his supposed knowledge, Paul says that in reality “he . . . understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:4). All of his imagined intelligence, pretended scholarship, and supposed deeper insights amounts to mere foolishness to God (Romans 1:221 Corinthians 2:9–16). Lacking insight into spiritual truth, his wisdom “is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). Those who know and believe the Word of God have far more insight into spiritual reality than the most educated heretic.
Instead of focusing on the truth, false teachers have “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:4). They indulge in pseudointellectual theorizing rather than in productive study of and submission to God’s Word.
False teaching also fails in its inability to produce unity (1 Timothy 6:4-5). The word battles of false teachers result in chaos and confusion. “Envy” is the inward discontent with the advantages or popularity enjoyed by others. It results in “strife,” which often manifests itself in the “abusive language” of slander and insult. The net result of false teaching is “constant friction.” False teachers constantly rub each other the wrong way. That helps spread their spiritual disease, much as sheep might rub together and infect each other. False teaching can never produce unity. Only the truth unifies.
The external cause of false teaching is satanic deception (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1). The internal cause, however, is the depraved or unregenerate mind of the false teacher. “The mind set on the flesh,” writes Paul, “is hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). Such a mind does not function normally in the spiritual realm; it does not react normally to truth. Being natural men, false teachers cannot understand the things of God, which seem foolish to them (1 Corinthians 2:14). As a result, “God gives them over to a depraved mind” (Romans 1:28; cf. Ephesians 2:1–3;4:17–19).
The spiritual condition of false teachers is critical; they are in a state of apostasy. “Deprived” (1 Timothy 6:5) indicates that someone or something pulled them away from the truth. That does not imply they were saved, but that they had contact with the truth. Like those described in Hebrews 6:4–6, they were thoroughly exposed to the truth, but rejected it.
Unfortunately, their prognosis is not hopeful. Their spiritual condition is terminal. Those who are deprived of the truth are headed for judgment. Hebrews 6:6 solemnly warns of such men that “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” Peter says that they bring “swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). The severest hell will be reserved for those who, having been exposed to the truth, turned away from it (cf. Hebrews 10:26–31).
Finally, false teachers have a simple motivation: money. They “suppose that godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5, used sarcastically of their false piety) will bring them such gain. Unlike Paul, they cannot say, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes” (Acts 20:33). Put simply, they are not “free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3).
The pathology of false teachers is clear. They deny the truth, and their teaching does not produce godly living. They are arrogant and ignorant of spiritual truth. They spend their time in foolish speculations that lead only to chaos and division. Having forsaken the truth, they face eternal destruction. And they serve money, not God. The church must take extreme care not to allow these men to spread their deadly disease. The resulting epidemic would be tragic.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT PREDESTINATION ~ ROMANS 9:19-29 ~

Sermon 4 of 15 from the Understanding God's Plan (Romans 9-11) series


It has been called the damnable doctrine of predestination. In the history of the Christian church, few doctrines have been so hotly debated as the doctrine of predestination. Throughout the centuries theologians and laypeople have argued over whether this doctrine could possibly be true:
Others have called it the sweetest truth in all of God’s Word.
Whole books have been written to prove that it is not true.
Other books say that if God is God, predestination must be true.
Leaving the rarified air of theological debate, the rest of us face some difficult questions:
If predestination is true, what happens to free will?
Are we just puppets on a string, doing what God ordained in eternity past?
Does God predestine some people to go to heaven?
If so, does he also predestine others to go to hell?
Why bother with evangelism since whoever is going to be saved will be saved eventually?
For that matter, if God predestines some people to hell, how can they be guilty of sin since they are only doing what God predestined them to do?
Admittedly, these are difficult questions. I don’t expect to answer all them in the course of just one message. However, I do want to assert one fact at the very beginning: The Bible does teach predestination. It’s a biblical word, used several times in the New Testament. No one can get around that fact.
Romans 8:29 says that those God foreknew, he “also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
Ephesians 1:5 says that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:11 adds that “in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
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Since predestination is a biblical concept, we must face this doctrine squarely whether we like it or not. It’s in the Bible, therefore we must first seek to understand it and then to ask what difference it makes.
Let me begin with a simple definition.Predestination means that God freely chooses some people to be the special objects of his grace and thus to receive eternal salvation. But I think we can make it even simpler than that: The word predestination is composed to two parts: “Pre” meaning “before” and “destination” meaning “point of final arrival.” To predestine something is to determine beforehand where it will end up. If I take a package to the post office, I don’t tell the people, “Send this wherever you like.” They wouldn’t know what to do with it. I write on the front, “San Francisco.” I have predestined my package to travel from Tupelo to San Francisco. By writing the address, I have predetermined its final arrival point and I have thereby excluded all other possible destinations.
Seen in that light, we can say that predestination means that God chooses those will be saved and determines in advance that their final destination will be heaven.


Predestination and Freewill

Now as soon I write those words someone is sure to ask about predestination and freewill. Like most Christians, I have wrestled greatly with this issue over the years. There is no single statement that can fully bring together the different strands regarding God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. But let me give you something I jotted down a few years ago:
God is in charge of
what happens
when it happens
how it happens
why it happens
And even what happens after it happens
This is true of
all events
in every place
from the beginning of time.
He does this for
our good
and his glory.
He is not the author of sin, yet evil serves his purposes.
He does not violate our free will, yet free will serves his purposes.
We’re not supposed to understand all this.
We’re simply supposed to believe it.
I hope that clears up any misunderstanding! (Actually this statement—brief though it is—does summarize the Christian position on divine sovereignty and human responsibility as it has been developed over the centuries.)
How, then, should we approach a passage such as Romans 9:18-29 with its heavy emphasis on God’s sovereignty in our salvation? In his commentary on Romans, John Stott offers this quote from Charles Simeon, the great British preacher from the early 1800s. Simeon lived at a time when the Calvinist-Arminian controversy was particularly bitter, and he warned his congregation of the dangers of forsaking Scripture in favor of a theological system:
When I come to a text which speaks of election, I delight myself in the doctrine of election. When the apostles exhort me to repentance and obedience, and indicate my freedom of choice and action, I give myself up to that side of the question (Stott, p. 278).
It is possible that some people may simply not like what Paul says in Romans 9. If so, there isn’t much I can do about it. You’ll have to take it up with the great apostle himself. As I thought about it, I recalled a scene from the movie “Analyze This,” where Billy Crystal plays a psychiatrist who against his better judgment takes on a Mafia crime boss (Robert De Niro) who can’t control his emotions and starts crying at odd moments. There is a scene when De Niro’s top henchman (a character named Jelly) comes to fetch Billy Crystal at a very inconvenient moment because the boss is having another breakdown. When Billy Crystal says, “What is this? You think you can call me any time day or night?” Jelly replies, “You’re part of the family now. When the boss needs you, you come.” Billy Crystal starts to protest but Jelly cuts him off with, “It is what it is.” That simple truth applies perfectly to our text.
It really doesn’t matter if we like it or not. It is what it is.
Having said all that, we are still left with many questions. Does the Bible really teach predestination? Does it destroy free will? Does it turn us into robots or puppets on a string? How can we reconcile God’s sovereignty with the dignity of human choice?

I. Three Answers

As we examine these verses, it helps to remember that Paul is grappling with the difficult problem of Jewish unbelief. Why have so many Jews rejected Christ if he is indeed the Jewish Messiah? This was no abstract theological issue to the Apostle Paul. His heart was broken by the reality that so many of his friends and loved one were going to hell. We may be tempted to focus on the controversial aspects and to forget the human reality behind these words. I’m convinced that Paul wept when he wrote Romans 9. These words come not from some theoretical discussion in a seminary classroom; they come streaming from a broken heart.
Let’s plunge into this text and discover together God’s answers concerning the difficult question of predestination.

Answer # 1: God has the right to do as he wills.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ’Why did you make me like this?’ “ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (vv. 19-21).
These verses sound harsh to modern ears tuned to talk of personal freedom. We live in a “Do your own thing” era in which the highest human value is to seek your own happiness. Our heroes are those men and women who have put personal happiness above every other consideration in life. If you don’t believe that, when was the last time you heard someone say they were getting a divorce because they weren’t happy in their marriage? You hear it all the time. Personal happiness is our national excuse for doing whatever feels good to us at the moment. Against all such me-centered thinking stands Paul’s unanswered question, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” There is no answer because the question answers itself: No one can talk back to God.
The illustration from the world of pottery-making is clear enough. The potter sits at his wheel watching the lump of clay as it spins in front of him. With one tiny touch, he creates an indentation; with another slight touch he produces an intricate swirl. By the barest changing of pressure, the potter radically alters the shape of the clay. What emerges may be an object of dazzling beauty, such as a Ming vase. Or it may be a rather ordinary, unremarkable coffee cup. Both come from the same clay. One is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars; the other is worth 25 cents. What made the difference? The potter’s hands.
Don’t overlook the main point. The coffee cup can’t say to the potter, “I wanted to be a Ming vase.” It doesn’t work like that. From one lump the potter has the right to shape the clay any way he likes. The same is true for us. We’re not all the same. In fact, God makes each one of us unique from everyone else in the world. Some have more intelligence, others less. Some are born into one race, others into another. Some are tall, others short. Some have musical skill; others can repair diesel engines. Some love to fly kites, others prefer to knit sweaters. Some will become leaders, others will live mostly in the shadows. That’s the way life is. And that’s not just the result of sin in the world. You’re different because God made you that way. No one can talk back to God and say, “You blew it.” Number one, he didn’t blow it. And number two, even if you think he did, he’s not taking any complaints from you or me.
That’s answer # 1: God has the right to do whatever he wants to us and in us and through us and with us.

Answer # 2: God delays his punishment to some in order to show his mercy to others.

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory? (vv. 22-23).
These verses teach us that although God is always just, he doesn’t always treat everyone in precisely the same way. That almost sounds un-American because we are used to hearing that all men are created equal. That’s true in one sense and not true in another. It’s true that we are all created in God’s image which gives us dignity and worth. We’re “equal” in that we are all significant to God.
But these verses specify two different groups within the human race. One group is called the “objects of wrath.” They are said to be “prepared for destruction.” The other is called the “objects of his mercy.” They are “prepared in advance for glory.”
W.H. Griffith-Thomas has a helpful word at this point:
The contrast here between “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy” should be closely examined. The “vessels of wrath” are described generally as “fitted to destruction,” that is, fitted by themselves, through their own sin. On the other hand, the “vessels of mercy” are described very significantly as those which “He had afore prepared,” that is, God through His grace and mercy prepared them. Men fit themselves for hell; but it is God that fits men for heaven. (Romans, p. 148)
There is a great mystery here. However, these verses make it abundantly clear that not everyone is going to heaven. Some people are simply “prepared” for destruction. They live in such a way that their only possible destination is hell. It’s easy to think of examples: Hitler comes to mind. Or we might think of someone like Saddam Hussein.
But Paul’s thought isn’t limited to those we consider gross sinners. It really includes all of us. Left to myself, I deserve to go to hell. Left to yourself, you deserve hell. No one deserves heaven. If you go there, you go as a gift because someone else paid the price of admission for you. You aren’t good enough to get in on your own. Mercy means receiving something you don’t deserve. Paul’s point is that if God were just and not merciful, we’d all go to hell together. But since God is just and merciful, he delays his judgment on sinners in order to show mercy on those he is calling to salvation. He gives everyone more time to be saved.
Yesterday I received the sad news that the brother of a dear friend died from a sudden heart attack. My friend is grieving because of the loss of his brother and because he does not know if his brother was saved or not. He fears that he was not. What can we say in such a situation? I begin with the words of Genesis 18:25, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” When my father died over thirty ago, the minister who conducted his funeral comforted me with that verse. I take it to mean that God will make no mistakes in his dealings with humanity. No one will go to hell by mistake. It’s not possible that God will somehow get the files mixed up or hit the wrong button and send someone to the wrong destination. The Judge of the all earth will do what is right–not just in the mega-sense but also in dealing with my father and with my friend’s brother and with all our loved ones and with each of us individually. There will be no mistakes in eternity. Everyone who truly belongs in heaven will be there. No one will be in hell except those who truly deserve to be there. God’s grace will take care of those who go to heaven. God’s justice will take care of everyone else.
Charles Spurgeon applied this great truth to himself:

I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that doctrine.
But does this doctrine not destroy all incentive to evangelism? Here is Mark Dever’s answer:
I understand that some worry that if we accept the Bible’s teaching on election we will never evangelize. Should we not also be worried that if we reject the Bible’s teaching on election we will never be humbled enough to make Christianity look like anything worth having? I love Spurgeon’s humility. I love his boasting in God. I think it is attractive. I think it is motivating to evangelism. I think it displays God’s love. A biblical doctrine of election highlights our poverty and Christ’s riches, our weakness and Christ’s strength, our need and God’s supply.
I know of a man who came to Jesus Christ after many years of people praying for him. For a long time, he seemed so close, but he couldn’t quite make the decision. Then someone shared the gospel with him and he said, “I’m not going to accept Christ tonight. I’ll do it next Wednesday.” He said he needed more time to study the death and resurrection of Christ. When the next Wednesday came, that man said, “Okay. I’m ready. Let’s do it.” And he gave his heart to Jesus Christ. His first words after he prayed to receive Christ were, “I feel like a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders.” Who was behind that? God! He gave that man more time to think about Christ. And when he did, he was saved. That’s how God’s grace works.

Answer # 3: God determined to show mercy to both Jews and Gentiles.

Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles. As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ’my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ’my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ’You are not my people,’ they will be called ’sons of the living God.’ “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (vv. 24-29).
At first glance, you may say, “What’s the point of all these Old Testament quotes?” They speak to one of the primary objections against predestination. Many people think that predestination means that only a few people will be saved. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has determined to open the doors of heaven to the whole wide world. Anyone who believes in Jesus can be saved. In Paul’s day that meant that salvation was not just for the Jews, it was also for the Gentiles. Today there are approximately 13 million Jews in the world out of a total population of 6.5 billion people. Who are the Gentiles? That’s everyone who isn’t Jewish, which is roughly 99.999% of the world.
If God had said, “I’m only going to save the Jews,” he would still be fair because no one deserves to be saved. We couldn’t complain if salvation were limited to a small group if that’s what God had decided to do. Remember, no one can talk back to God. But he didn’t do that. These verses teach us that God opened the door of salvation to everyone! Hosea prophesied of a day when God would say to those who were not his people (that is, the Gentiles), “You are now my people.” God has opened the door of salvation to the world. Anyone who wants to can walk right in. Will there be any Jewish people in heaven? Absolutely. But not every Jewish person goes to heaven. These verses use the term “remnant,” which describes a smaller group out of larger population. Paul’s point is that we shouldn’t be surprised by Jewish unbelief because the Old Testament predicted it in several passages.
But don’t miss the greater point. God is so determined to populate heaven that he has invited the whole world to join him there. Anyone who wants to can go to heaven.

Jew or gentile.
Slave or free.
Male or female.
Rich or poor.
Young or old.
Educated or illiterate.
Healthy or sick.
None of those things matter with God. In his great mercy, God has opened the door and included the whole world in his invitation. All he is waiting for is your RSVP.

II. Three Conclusions About Predestination

Let me wrap this up with three conclusions about the doctrine of predestination.

1. This doctrine is true because it is biblical.

Romans 9:19-29 doesn’t use the word, but it does contain the doctrine. Some people are vessels of wrath; others are vessels of mercy. Some are chosen; others are not. God shows justice to all, saving mercy to some. The fact that we don’t fully understand this doesn’t change the truth. We would do better to simply say, “The Bible says it, I don’t understand it, but I still believe it.” In that sense predestination fits into the same category as the Trinity. We wouldn’t have thought of it ourselves, but the Bible teaches it, therefore it must be true.

2. This doctrine humbles us because it exalts God as the author of our salvation.

In the final analysis, this is why some people fight so strongly against predestination. They don’t like any doctrine that gives all the glory of God and none to us. But that’s precisely why predestination must be true. It teaches us that salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from first till last. It starts with him and ends with him. If predestination is true, it means that we can never claim any credit for our salvation. We don’t even get credit for seeking the Lord because he sought us before we sought him. Harry Ironside told of a prayer meeting where a man gave a stirring testimony of God’s grace in his life. Afterwards someone came up to him and said, “My brother, that was a fine testimony you gave. You talked a lot about God, but you didn’t mention your own part in salvation.” The man thought for a moment and then said, “You’re right. I did leave that out. My part was to run away from God as fast as I could, and God’s part was to run after me until he caught me.” So it is with all of us. We do the running away. God does the catching. We’re in charge of being lost. God is in charge of saving us.

3. This doctrine preserves human freedom because each person must still personally respond to Jesus Christ.

Someone may say, “Why should I bother responding? If I’m predestined, God will save me when he’s ready.” Not so fast, Bubba. The Bible says that God saves those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. No one is saved without faith in Christ. God has the first move, but the next move is up to you. Henry Ward Beecher used to say that the elect were the “Whosoever wills” and the non-elect were the “Whosoever won’ts.” If you are wondering whether God has predestined you to salvation, just answer this question: Have you ever placed your faith in Jesus Christ—and in him alone—for your salvation? If the answer is yes, then I’ve got good news, you’re predestined for heaven. But what if the answer is no. Or what if you’re not sure? One reason God has delayed his punishment is to give you more time to be saved. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish but wants all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Think about that. God wants you in heaven. He even paid the price of admission—the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. If you go to hell, it won’t be God’s fault. He’s done everything necessary to make sure you go to heaven. Don’t worry about predestination. Make sure you know Jesus. That’s the issue that determines your eternal destiny.

Every Decision Is a Free Choice

That leads me to give you my personal understanding of predestination and free will. I confess that I struggled with this whole question for many years, and did my share of arguing late into the night. Eventually I came to an understanding that has freed me from the necessity to argue anymore. It basically consists of two points. First, from our human standpoint, we are completely free. When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice to get out of bed or to stay in bed. You can put on a red dress or a blue one. When you get in your car, you are free to drive to work or you can drive to St. Louis if you like. Every decision you make is a free choice. By that I simply mean that you do not feel constrained by some divine power that forces you to eat at Burger King instead of McDonalds.
That leads to the second point: God sees and knows everything you do. He hears everything you say. He will someday judge you for all of it. Nothing escapes him. Everything is transparent before his eyes. Yes, you have free will but you are 100% responsible for every choice you make—that includes the choices you make in the words you say and the thoughts you think. He won’t just judge the “big” things; he’s going to judge the “little” ones too.

Salvation is of the Lord

Let’s apply this truth of freewill and predestination to your salvation. Several years ago I spent an hour with two friends who couldn’t believe in predestination. So I asked them if they freely chose to come to Christ. Yes, they said. Did you feel pressured or coerced by God? No, not at all. Was is it a free choice to accept Christ? Yes, absolutely. When I got them far enough out on a limb, I sawed it off behind them. I asked a very simple question: As you look back now, are you conscious that Someone was drawing you to Jesus? They paused for a moment and both answered yes. That Someone is the Holy Spirit who draws unbelievers to Christ (see John 16:8-11).
What does it mean? When you came to Christ, you made a decision of your will. You chose him. Predestination simply means, God chose you first and if he didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen him. To say it another way, God so arranged the circumstances that when the moment was right, my two friends literally had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus. They weren’t aware of it at the time, but in looking back, they could see the invisible hand of God drawing them to Christ.
So it is for all of us. Salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from beginning to end. Our choice is a free choice, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to believe and be saved. Someone has illustrated the truth this way. Think of the gate of heaven, and above it is a large sign, “Whosoever will may come.” As you pass through the gate, you look back and from the inside the sign reads, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Or to say it yet another way: “He doesn’t make you go against your will, he just makes you willing to go.” I have often said that God will not force anyone to believe. He is a perfect Gentleman. But that is only part of the story. When the moment comes, God so arranges the circumstances that you are irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ. He gives you a new heart and a new desire, and from that new desire you freely choose the Lord.

Run to the Cross

Here is the good news for sinners. No one has to go to Hell. If you go there, it won’t be because you were predestined for Hell. It will be because you are sinner deserving of God’s judgment. Earlier I said that no one can be saved unless God calls him. That thought may trouble you, but it shouldn’t. How do you know if God is calling you? If you have the slightest desire, then God is calling you. If you want to be saved, then God is calling you. It truly is as simple as that.

If God is calling you, then come running to the cross of Christ. Fling yourself upon God’s mercy. Hold fast to the bloody Cross as your only hope. If you want to be saved, you can be saved and you will be saved. That is the promise of God to you. No one will ever be lost who turned to Christ for salvation. No one will be in hell who truly wanted to go to heaven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever will may come” is still the gospel message. When we finally get to heaven, we will look back and discover that we were indeed “chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Come, Ye Sinners
Over 245 years ago Joseph Hart wrote one of the grandest gospel hymns ever composed: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. It’s set to a musical style that is sometimes called Sacred Harp music. Every verse contains wonderful truth, but none is greater than this one:
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him.
This is the gospel invitation:
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
And the chorus is the sinner’s answer:
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
If you are still without Christ, may he make you restless in your heart until you find your rest in him. If you are a believer, may you find comfort and joy in believing both now and in the days to come. Amen.

TEN EFFECTS IN BELIEVING IN THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM

John Piper , Desiring God

These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available on tape from Desiring God Ministries, but I will put them here for wider use in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call "Calvinism."

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late '70's, the threefold statement of the goal of all God's work, namely, "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.
It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.
God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.
Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don't seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.
Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, "Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn" (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.
Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.
The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,
The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.
Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: "Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy."
You can also read in J. I. Packer's Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.
These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.
1 Timothy 3:15, "The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.
When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.
And I pray for awakening and revival.
And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.
We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.All of life relates to God. There's no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Seeing God's sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that "he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. "Hallowed be thy name" means: cause people to hallow your name. "May your word run and be glorified" means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.
We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.
"God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).
"Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6).
"Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27).
"Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
"Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.
John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice."
It is God's work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
Isaiah 46:9-10, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose'"
Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

What do Joel Osteen and the Timothy McVeigh have in common? Mother Teresa and Hitler?

Pastor Don Green of Truth Community Fellowship preached an excellent sermon on February 2, 2014 titled Who is Satan?

He posed a question at the beginning of the sermon, asking, "Have we underestimated satan?" It is a question that I believe has a resounding 'yes' for an answer. I recommend the sermon, which is unvarnished truth about satan, satanic schemes, and the demonic horde, combined with a look at the grace of Jesus. Meanwhile, here are some transcribed excerpts,

Paul wrote, "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons," (1 Timothy 4:1)

These doctrines of demons, Pastor Green said, are "not necessarily going to be fiery displays of evil, it will be things cloaked in things that sound palatable to the human ear, things that sound plausible. Things that give you the sense that you can work your way into heaven, or that ultimately God is going forgive everyone and no one will go to hell. Or perhaps that God isn’t as holy, or that you’re not as bad as the scripture says you to be. The vast diversity of evil that the devil propagates through so many different systems shouldn’t confuse us to the ultimate fact that there is a common root."

Pastor Green made the point that there are only two sides. There is the Spirit of truth, and the father of lies. There is no in between. He said, "Satan is the father of every lie that opposes the Gospel. He is a liar and the father of lies."

You know that if someone is not from God, they are of the devil. Truth is not relative. Biblical truth is either/or. (Mark 9:40).

Pastor Green explained,

When we see false doctrine being taught, we need to understand there is more going on than a man who is mistaken. There is a spiritual force at work whether the man is aware of it or not. Men become the mouthpiece of the deceiver of souls. What should frighten us is that satan has the supernatural capacity to make himself look like, to present himself as one who is bringing light, not darkness.

In my never-ending quest to starkly illustrate the truth of the bible's words, and that it is the same evil behind all that opposes God, no matter how 'gentle' it first appears, here are a series of paired photographs.

The same evil that spurred Charles Manson to become a cult leader and a murderer is behind the Pope, too, who is also a cult leader and a murderer of truth and souls, creating sons of hell. (Matthew 23:15)



The same evil that whispered to Hitler to roast Jews in ovens

is behind the Catholic Mother Teresa, whose refusal to share the Gospel sent many to roasting in hell forever, and who said, "There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ".

The same evil that is behind Timothy McVeigh and his bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing children in the daycare there along with many others,

is behind Joel Osteen, whose doctrines of demons delude millions every week. Many wither on his vine and die weekly


Too awful to contemplate? Yes, it is. The murderous, unsaved men such as Manson, Hitler and McVeigh are children of the father of lies and it is the same spirit that popes, preachers, and religious workers in false religions serve, too. When they die, unless they repent, they all will go to the place where the father of lies is prepared for, hell. Popes, "Mother" Teresa, and Joel Osteen all present themselves as workers of light, but they are in fact all darkness and their evil deeds are the same as the aforementioned men in the murderous category. They all have a common root. Satan.

Here is another either/or: 
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)

The good news is that satan has been vanquished by our holy and wonderful Jesus. Jesus came to live as a man for 33 years, teaching and preaching for the last three. He was unjustly killed, shedding His blood for sinners, and exhausted God's wrath for us. Pleased with His Son's sacrifice, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God on the third day, and has ascended to the Father. Jesus will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.

I'll paraphrase what Pastor Green said about the urgency of the message. I don't know if you will be here tomorrow to read these things on this blog or any other blog. I don't know if I'll be here tomorrow to repeat them. Your eternal soul is at stake. Please take this seriously. Satan is real, he is a devourer of souls, and if you're not in Christ at this moment, you're blinded to the fact that you're standing on a gossamer web hanging over hell. Your foot shall slide in due time, and your fate will be sealed. Come to Christ now,

"And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain-- for He says, "AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU." Behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is "THE DAY OF SALVATION." (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SIN SLAIN

A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Evening, July 29, 1860, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At New Park Street, Southwark.

"And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him. Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou, seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead and the nail was in his temples."—Jg 4:22

If he story of the world's sufferings under different tyrants could all be written, there would be no man found who would be capable of reading it. I believe that even the despots themselves, who have committed the atrocities to which I refer, would not be sufficiently cold-blooded to sit down and read the account of the agonies which their own victims have endured. I have been struck in passing through many lands with the horrible sufferings which in the olden times were endured by the poor at the hands of the rich kings and lords who were their oppressors. In almost every town in which you enter, you either have shown to you the rack, the dark dungeon, the thumb-screw, or the infernal machine, or instruments too horrible to describe—that make one's blood run chill at the very thought and sight of them. Verily, O earth, thou hast been scarred; thy back has been ploughed with many a furrow; from thy veins have gushed forth plenteous streams of blood, and thy sons and thy daughters have had to suffer agonies extreme! But oh! my brethren, I speak in sober earnestness when I declare that all the sufferings that have ever been exercised upon man have never been equal to the tyranny which man has brought upon himself—the tyranny of sin. Sin has brought more plagues upon this earth than all the earth's tyrants. It has brought more pangs and more miseries upon men's bodies and souls than the craftiest inventions of the most cold-blooded and diabolical tormentors. Sin is the world's great Despot. It is the serpent in whose subtle folds earth's inhabitants are crushed. It is such a tyranny that none but those whom God delivers have been able to escape from it. Nay, such a tyranny that even they have been scarcely saved; and they, when saved, have had to look back and remember the dreadful slavery in which they once existed; they have remembered the wormwood and the gall; and at the remembrance the iron has entered into their souls. We have before us, in this chapter, a picture of the children of Israel attacked by a very wicked and powerful king—Jaban, the king of Canaan. It is but a faint emblem, a very indistinct picture of the oppression which sin exercises upon all mankind—the oppression which our own iniquities continually bring upon us.

I want to picture to you to-night, if I can, three acts in a great history—three different pictures illustrating one subject. I trust we have passed through all three of them, many of us; and as we shall look upon them, whilst I paint them upon the wall, I think there will be many here who will be able to say, I was in that state once;" and when we come to the last, I hope we shall be able to clap our hands, and rejoice to feel that the last is our case also, and that we are in the plight of the man with a description of whom I shall conclude.

First, I shall picture to you the sinner growing uneasy in his bondage and thinking about rebellion against his oppressors; secondly, the sinner putting to rout his sins and seeking their entire destruction; and, thirdly, I shall seek to bring to you that notable picture of the open door, and I shall stand at it and cry to those who are seeking the life of their sins—"Come hither, and I will show you the man whom ye seek; here he lies—dead; slain by the hammer and the nail; held not in the hand of a woman, but in the hand of the seed of the woman—the man Christ Jesus."

I. First, then, let us try to picture THE SINNER GROWING UNEASY UNDER THE YOKE OF HIS SINS, AND PLANNING A REVOLT AGAINST HIS OPPRESSORS.

It is said that when a man is born a slave, slavery is not near so irksome as when he has once been free. You will have found it, perhaps, in birds and such animals that we keep under our control. If they have never known what it is fly to and fro in the air from tree to tree, they are happy in the cage; but if, after having once seen the world, and floated in the clear air, they are condemned to live in slavery, they are far less content. This is the case with man—he is born a slave. The child in the cradle is born under sin, and as we grow up we wear our manacles and scarcely know that they are about us. Use, we say, is second nature, and certainly the evil nature we have received makes the usages of sin seem as if they were not so slavish as they are. Nay, some men have become so used to their bonds, that they live with no true idea of liberty, and yet think themselves free. Nay, they take the names of freedom, and call themselves libertines, and free-thinkers, and free-doers, when they are the very worst of slaves, and might hear their chains rattle if they had but ears to hear. Until the Spirit of God comes into the heart—so strange is the use of nature—we live contented in our chains; we walk up and down our dungeon, and think we are at large. We are driven about by our task-masters, and imagine that we are free. Once let the Spirit of God come into us—once let a word of life and liberty sound in our ears—once let Jehovah Jesus speak, and we begin to be dissatisfied with our condition. Now the chain frets us; now the fetter feels too small; now we long for a wider march than we had before, and are not content to be fettered for ever to a sinful lust. We begin to have a longing for something better, though we know not what it is. Now it is that the man begins to find fault with what he at one time thought was so passing excellent. He finds that now the cup which seemed to be all honey has traces of bitter in it; the cane once so sweet and palatable has lost its lusciousness, and he says within himself "I wish I had some nobler food than these swine's husks; this is not fit food for me." He does not know that God has begun to kindle in him new life and a diviner nature; but he knows this, that he cannot be content to be what he was before. He frets and chafes like the lion in bonds that longs to range in the forest and wilderness. He cannot endure it. And now, I say, it is that the man begins to act. His first action is the action of the children of Israel; he begins to cry unto the Lord. Perhaps it is not a prayer, as we use the term in ordinary conversation. He cannot put many words together. It is a sigh—a sigh for he knows not what. It is a groan after something—an indescribable something that he has not seen or felt, but of the existence of what he has some idea. "Oh God," saith he, "deliver me! Oh God, I feel I am not what I should be; I am not what I wish to be; I am discontented with myself." And if the prayer does not take the actual shape of "God be merciful to me a sinner," yet it means all that, for he seems to say "Lord, I know not what it is—I know not whether it be mercy or grace, or what the name of it may be; but I want something. I am a slave. I feel it all. Oh that I could be free! Oh that I could be delivered!" The man begins now, you see, to look for something higher than he has seen before. After this prayer comes action; "Now," says the man," I must begin to be up and doing." And if the Spirit of God is truly dealing with him, he is not content with prayer; he begins to feel that though it is little enough that he can do, yet he can do at least something. Drunkenness he forsakes; at one blow he lays that enemy in the dust. Then there is his cursing and his swearing—he tries to overcome that enemy, but the oath comes out when he leasts expects it. Perhaps it gives him weeks of struggling, but at last that too is overcome. Then come the practices of his trade—these, he feels, hurt his conscience. Here is another chain to be filed off—another rivet to be torn off. He toils, he strives still crying evermore to God, and at last he is free, and that enemy is overthrown. He is like Barak; the Lord is helping him, and his enemies flee before him. Oh my brethren, I speak from experience now. What a struggle that was which my young heart waged against sin! When God the Holy Ghost first quickened me, I scarcely knew of that strong armour whereon my soul could venture. Little did I know of the precious blood which has put my sins away, and drowned them in the seas for ever. But I did know this, that I could not be what I was; that I could not rest happy unless I became something better—something purer than I felt; and oh how my spirit cried to God with groanings—I say it without any exaggeration—groanings that could not be uttered! and oh! how I sought in my poor dark way to overcome first this sin and then another, and so to do battle in God's strength against the enemies that assailed me, and not, thank God, altogether without success, though still the battle had been lost unless he had come who is the Overcomer of sin and the Deliverer of his people, and had put the hosts to flight. Have I not some here to-night who are just in this position? They have not come to Mount Zion yet, but are fighting with the Amalakites in the wilderness. They have not come to the blood of sprinkling, but somehow or other—they don't know exactly what condition theirs is,—they are fighting up hill against a dread something which they would overcome. They cannot renounce the struggle; they sometimes fear they will be vanquished in the end. Oh, my brother or sister, I am glad to find the Lord has done so much for thee. This is one of the first marks of divine life when we begin to fight against sin.

Then courage, brethren! There shall be another picture painted soon, and that shall be thy picture too, when thou shalt be more than a conqueror, through him that hath loved thee. But I dare say this is not the picture of all here. There are some of you who say you are not slaves, and, therefore, you do not wish to be freed. But I tell you, sirs, if any earthly potentate could command you to do what the Devil makes your do, you would think yourselves the most oppressed beings in the world. If there should be a law passed in Parliament, and there should be power to put it into execution, that you should go and sit several hours of the nigh until midnight, and drink some vile poisonous stuff that would steal away your brains, so that you have to be wheeled home, you would say, "What vile tyranny! to force men to destroy their souls and bodies in that way;" and yet you do it wilfully of yourselves. And of the one blessed day of rest—the only one in seven that we have to rest in—if there were an enactment passed that you should open your shops on that day, and pursue your trade, you would say," This is a wretched land, to have such tyrants to govern it;" you would declare you would not do it and yet the devil makes you, and you go and take down your shutters as greedily as if you would win heaven by your Sunday trading. What slaves do men make of themselves when they most think themselves free! I have seen a man work harder and spend more money in seeking pleasure in that which makes him sick and ill—which makes his eyes red and his whole body feverish—than he would have done if a thousand acts of parliament had tried to drive him to do so. The devil is indeed a cruel tyrant with his subjects, but he is such a tyrant that they willingly follow him. He rivets on them his chains, and whilst they think they are going of their own free will, he sits grinning all the while and thinking how when their laughter will change to bitterest tears, they shall be undeceived in the dread day in which hell's fire shall burn up their delusion, and the flames of the pit shall scatter the darkness that has concealed the truth from their eyes. Thus much, then, concerning the first picture—the sinner discontented and going to war with his sins.

II. And now we have the second picture—THE SINNER HAVING GONE TO WAR WITH HIS OWN SINS, HAS, TO A GREAT EXTENT, BY GOD'S GRACE, OVERCOME THEM; but he feels when this is done, that it is not enough—that external morality will not save the soul. Like Barak, he has conquered Sisera; but, not content with seeing him flee away on his feet, he wants to have his dead body before him. "No," says he, "it is not enough to vanquish, I must; destroy; it is not sufficient to get rid of evil habits, I must overcome the propensity to sin. It is not sufficient to put to flight this sin or the other; I must trample the roots of corruption beneath my feet, that sin itself may be slain." Mark, my dear hearers, that is not a work of the Spirit which is not a radical work. If you are content merely to conquer your sins and not to kill them, you may depend upon it, it is the mere work of morality—a surface work—and not the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sirs, be not content with driving out thy foes, or they will come back again to thee; be not satisfied with wearing the sheep's skin; be not content till thy wolfish nature is taken from thee, and the nature of the sheep imparted. It is not enough to make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, it must be broken and a new vessel must be given; be not satisfied with whitewashing the tomb. The charnel house must be empty, and where death reigned, life must reign. There is no mistake perhaps more common in these dangerous times than to mistake externals for internals, the outward sign for the inward grace, the painted imitation of mortality for the solid jewels of spirituality. Up, Barak! Up, thou son of Abinoam! thou hast routed the Sisera of thy drunkenness; thou hast put the hosts of thy sins to flight: but this is not enough. Sisera will return again upon thee with twice nine hundred chariots, and thou shalt yet be overcome. Rest not content till the blood of thine enemy stain the ground, until he be crushed and dead, and slain. Oh, sinner, I beseech thee never be content until grace reign in thy heart, and sin be altogether subdued. Indeed, this is what every renewed soul longs for, and must long for, nor will it rest satisfied until all this shall be accomplished. There was a time when some of us thought we would slay our sins. We wanted to put them to death, and we thought we would drown them in floods of penitence. There was a time, too, when we thought we would starve our sins; we thought we would keep out of temptation, and not go and pander to our lusts, and then they would die; and some of us can recollect when we gagged our lusts, when we pinioned their arms, and put their feet in the stocks, and then thought that would deliver us. But oh, brethren, all our ways of putting sin to death were not sufficient; we found the monster still alive, insatiate for his prey. We might rout his myrmidons, but the monster was still our conqueror. We might put to flight our habits, but the nature of sin was still in us, and we could not overcome it. Yet did we groan and cry daily, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" It is a cry to which we are accustomed even at this day, and which we shall never cease to utter, till we can say of our sins, "They are gone," and of the very nature of sin, that it has been extinguished, and that we are pure and holy even as when the first Adam came from his Maker's hands.

Well, I have some here, I have no doubt, who are like Barak pursuing after Sisera, but who are faint-hearted. You are saying, "My sin can never be forgiven, it is too great, it must escape from me, and, even if it were put to flight it never could be overcome; I am so great a stinner, a sinner of such a double dye, a scarlet sinner I must always be. I was born in sin, and I have grown up in it; and as the twig is bent the tree is inclined. Who can make straight such a gnarled oak as I am? Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? if so, I, who am accustomed to do evil, may learn to do well." You begin to think that rivers might sooner run up-hill, than you could run to God and righteousness. You are tired of the battle, and ready to lay down your arms and die. But you cannot, you must not go back to be the drunkard and the swearer that you were before, and die in despair of ever overcoming the sin within; nor must you think, "Oh, I have entered upon a fight that is too much for me, I shall yet fall by the hands of mine enemy."

III. Come hither, I bring you to the third picture. I stand at THE DOOR today, not of a tent, but of a TOMB, and as I stand here I say to the sinner who is anxious to know how his sins may be killed, how his corruption may be slain, "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest, and when you shall come in, YOU SHALL SEE YOUR SINS LYING DEAD, AND THE NAILS IN THEIR TEMPLES."

Sinner, the sin thou dreadest is forgiven, thou hast wept sore before God, and thou hast cast thyself on Christ and on Christ alone. In the name of him who is the Eternal God, I assure thee that thy sins are all forgiven. From the book of God's remembrance they are blotted out. They are as clean gone as the clouds that floated through the sky last year, and distilled their showers on the ground. Thy sins are gone; every one of them; the sin over which thou hast wept, the sin which caused thee many a tear is gone, and is forgiven.

Further—dost thou ask where thy sin is? I tell thee thy sin is gone, so that it never can be recalled. Thou art so forgiven that thy sins can never have a resurrection. The nail is not driven through the hands of thy sins, but through their temples. If thou shouldest live twice ten thousand years no sin could ever be laid to thy charge again if thou believest in Christ Jesus. Thou hast no conscience of sin left. "As far as the east is from the west," so far hath he removed thy transgressions from thee. God hath spoken and said,—"Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," and it is done; none can reverse the sentence. He has cast thy sins into the depth of the sea, and they can never be found again. Nay, further, sinner, for thy peace and comfort, thy sins are not only forgiven and killed so that they cannot rise again, but thy sins have ceased to be. Their dead bodies, like the body of Moses, are brought where they never can be found. More than this, they do not exist. Again, O child of God, there doth not remain so much as a shadow of sin: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"—much less prove it against them. What dog can wag his tongue to accuse?—much less, what witness shall rise up to condemn? God hath justified thee, O sinner! if thou believest; and if thou art so justified, thou art as much accepted in God's sight as if thou hadst never sinned. Had thy life been blameless and thy path been holy even to perfection, thou hadst not been more pure in the eyes of Divine justice than thou art to-night if thy faith is fixed on the cross of Christ. Right through the brain of all thy sins, the hammer has driven the nail of Christ's grace. The spear that pierced the Saviour's heart, pierced the heart of thine iniquity; the grave in which he was buried was the tomb of all thy sins; and his resurrection was the resurrection of thy spirit to light and joy unspeakable. "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest." This is a refreshing sight, even to the child of God, who has seen it long ago, and it will ever be solemn for us to contemplate the sin. It must ever be a direful spectacle; for an enemy, even when dead, is a ghastly sight. The head of Goliath, even though it makes us smile when it is cut off, is yet the head of a grim monster, and he is a monster even when he is slain. God forbid we should ever glory in sin, but it is a theme for joy to a Christian when he can look upon his sins drowned in the blood of Jesus,

"Plunged, as in a shoreless sea;

Lost, as in immensity."

My soul looks back to the days of my youth, and remembers her former transgressions,—she drops a tear of sorrow; she looks to the cross, and sees them all forgiven, and she drops there tears of gratitude. My eye runs along the days of manhood, and observes, with sorrow, omissions and commissions innumerable; but it lights up with a smile most rapturous when I see the flood of Jesus' blood swelling over the sands of my sins till they are all covered and no eye can behold them. Oh! child of God, come and see the man whom thou seekest, here he lies slain before thee. Come and see all thy sins for ever dead; fear them not; weep for them; avoid them in days to come, and remember they are slain. Look at thy sins as vanquished foes, and always regard them as being nailed to his cross—to his cross who

"Sang the triumph when he rose."

But I hear you say, "Well, I have faith enough to believe that my sins are overcome in that way, and that they are conquered and dead in that respect; but O, sir, as to this body of sin within me—I cannot get it killed, I cannot get it overcome." Now, when we begin the divine life, we believe that we shall get rid of our old Adam entirely. I know most of you had a notion when you first started in the pilgrimage, that as soon as ever you received grace, depravity would be cast out—did you find it so, brethren? I have heard some preachers laugh at the theory of the two natures. I never answered them, for I dare say they would not have comprehended me if I had tried the experiment; but one thing I know—that the theory of the two natures in a Christian is no theory to me, but a truth which daily proves itself. I cannot say with Ralph Erskine—

"To good and evil equal bent,

And both a devil and a saint;"

but if that is not the truth it is very near to it; it is next door to it; and while on the one hand I am able to see sin perishing within, on the other hand I cannot fail to see the struggle which my soul has to wage against it, and the daily warfare and fightings that necessarily ensue. I know that grace is the stronger principle, and that it must overcome at last; but there are times when the old man seems for a little to get the upper hand—Ishmael prevails, and Isaac is cast to the ground; though this I know, that Isaac has the promise and Ishmael must be driven out. Well, child of God, if you have to look upon the Sisera of your sin still fleeing from you—be of good cheer; it is but the experience of all the people of God. Moreover, there have been many who have said they did not feel this; but my dear brethren, they did feel it, only that they did not use the same language as we do who have felt it. I know one or two good brothers who say they believe in perfection, but I find all the perfection they believe in is the very perfection that I preach. It is perfection in Christ, but they do not believe in perfection in themselves. Nor do I believe that any Christian who reads his own heart for a single day, can indulge the idea of being totally free from the risings of depravity, and the risings of the heart after sin. If there be such, I can only say, "I wish I could change places with thee, brother, for it is my hard lot to have wars and fightings day by day, and it seems difficult to say sometimes which way the matter will end, or how the battle will be decided." Indeed, one could not know it at all except by faith, for sight seems to lead to an opposite opinion. Well, be of good cheer, Christian. Though the old man is not slain in you, as you know personally yet I would have you remember that as you are in Christ, the old man is crucified. "Knowing that your old man is crucified with him." And know this, that the day shall come when the angels shall open wide the door, and ye that have been panting after your enemy, like Barak pressing after Sisera, shall hear the welcome Spirit say, "Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest," and there shall lie thine old inbred lusts, and he who is the father of them, old Satan himself, all chained and bound and cast into the lake of fire. Then will you sing indeed unto the Lord, "Oh! sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory." Till then, brethren, pursue after your sins. Spare them not, neither great nor small, and God speed you that you may fight valiantly, and by his aid utterly overcome them.

As for thee, poor sinner, whom I lately reminded that thou canst not slay thy sins, nor work out thy salvation, thou canst not be thine own deliverer. Trust in thy Master. Put thy soul into the hands of him who is able and willing to preserve and keep it, and to protect it; and mark me, if to-night thou wilt have nothing to do with thyself, but wilt give thyself to Christ entirely, then to-night thou art saved. What if my Master should give me to-night some fishes at the first shaking of the net, and what if some poor sinner should say within himself—

"I'll go to Jesus, though my sin,

Hath like a mountain rose;

I know his courts, I'll enter in,

Whatever may oppose."

Come, sinner, come! Nay, do you say you cannot come? "My sins, my sins!" Come, and I will show thee thy sins nailed to the cross of Christ. "But I must not come," says one; "I have so hard a heart." Come, and I will show thee thy hard heart dissolved in a bath of blood divine. "Oh! but," still thou sayest, "I dare not come." Come, and I will show thee those fears of thine lulled into an eternal sleep, and thy soul resting on Christ shall never need to fear again, for thou shalt be his in time, his in life and death, and his in an eternity of bliss.

May the Lord add his blessing now, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

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