When the fear of God is dictator in the heart

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“Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:13). The fear of God will swallow up the fear of man. A reverential awe and dread of God will extinguish the creature’s slavish fear, as the rain puts out the fire. To sanctify the Lord of hosts is to acknowledge the glory of His sovereign power, wisdom, and faithfulness. It includes not only a verbal confession, but internal acts of trust, confidence, and entire dependence upon Him. These are our choicest respects towards God, and give Him the greatest glory. Moreover, they are the most beneficial and comfortable acts we perform for our own peace and safety in times of danger. If we look to God in the day of trouble, fear Him as the Lord of hosts (i.e., the One who governs all creatures and commands all the armies of heaven and earth), and rely upon His care and love as a child depends upon his father’s protection, then we will know rest and peace. Who would be afraid to pass through the midst of armed troops and regiments, if he knew that the general was his own father? The more this filial fear has power over our hearts, the less we will dread the creature’s power. When the dictator ruled at Rom, then all other officers ceased. Likewise, when the fear of God is dictator in the heart, all other fears will (in great measure) cease.

John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear (5-6)

Alive and full of power

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

If you look back across the history of the Christian Church, you immediately find that the story of the Church has not been a straight line, a level record of achievement. The history of the Church has been a history of ups and downs. It is there to be seen on the very surface. When you read the history of the past you find that there have been periods in the history of the Church when she has been full of life, and vigour, and power. The statistics prove that people crowded to the house of God, whole numbers of people who were anxious and eager to belong to the Christian Church. Then the Church was filled with life, and she had great power; the Gospel was preached with authority, large numbers of people were converted regularly, day by day, and week by week. Christian people delighted in prayer. You did not have to whip them up to prayer meetings, you could not keep them away. They did not want to go home, they would stay all night praying. The whole Church was alive and full of power, and of vigour, and of might. And men and women were able to tell of rich experiences of the grace of God, visitations of his Spirit, a knowledge of the love of God that thrilled them, and moved them, and made them feel that it was more precious than the whole world. And, as a consequence of all that, the whole life of the country was affected and changed.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival

Be eternally grateful for His rebukes of love

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Ah! brethren, when we were groaning under the chastening hand of Jesus, we thought him cruel; do we think so ill of him now? We conceived that he was wroth with us, and would be implacable; how have our surmises proved to be utterly confounded! The abundant benefit which we now reap from the deep ploughing of our heart is enough of itself to reconcile us to the severity of the process. Precious is that wine which is pressed in the winefat of conviction; pure is that gold which is dug from the mines of repentance; and bright are those pearls which are found in the caverns of deep distress.… If we have any power to console the weary, it is the result of our remembrance of what we once suffered—for here lies our power to sympathise. If we can now look down with scorn upon the boastings of vain, self-conceited man, it is because our own vaunted strength has utterly failed us, and made us contemptible in our own eyes. If we can now plead with ardent desire for the souls of our fellow-men, and especially if we feel a more than common passion for the salvation of sinners, we must attribute it in no small degree to the fact that we have been smitten for sin, and therefore knowing the terrors of the Lord are constrained to persuade men. The laborious pastor, the fervent minister, the ardent evangelist, the faithful teacher, the powerful intercessor, can all trace the birth of their zeal to the sufferings they endured for sin, and the knowledge they thereby attained of its evil nature. We have ever drawn the sharpest arrows from the quiver of our own experience. We find no sword-blades so true in metal as those which have been forged in the furnace of soul-trouble. Aaron’s rod, that budded, bore not one half so much fruit as the rod of the covenant, which is laid upon the back of every chosen child of God; this alone may render us eternally grateful to the Saviour for his rebukes of love.

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

Even now, the Lord is betrayed

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Just now, the Lord Jesus is betrayed by not a few of His professed ministers. He is being crucified afresh in the perpetual attacks of skepticism against His blessed gospel; and it may be that things will wax worse and worse. This is not the first occasion when it has been so, for, at various times in the history of the Church of God, His enemies have exulted, and cried out that the gospel of past ages was exploded, and might be reckoned as dead and buried. For one, I mean to sit over against the very sepulchre of truth. I am a disciple of the old-fashioned doctrine as much when it is covered with obloquy and rebuke as when it shall again display its power, as it surely shall. Skeptics may seem to take the truth, and bind it, and scourge it, and crucify it, and say that it is dead; and they may endeavour to bury it in scorn, but the Lord has many a Joseph and a Nicodemus who will see that all due honour is done even to the body of truth, and will wrap the despised creed in sweet spices, and hide it away in their hearts. They may, perhaps, be half afraid that it is really dead, as the wise men assert; yet it is precious to their souls, and they will come forth right gladly to espouse its cause, and to confess that they are its disciples. We will sit down in sorrow, but not in despair; and watch until the stone is rolled away, and Christ in His truth shall live again, and be openly triumphant. We shall see a Divine interposition, and shall cease to fear; while they who stand armed to prevent the resurrection of the grand old doctrine shall quake and become as dead men, because the gospel’s everlasting life has been vindicated, and they are made to quail before the brightness of its glory.

C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon at Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1878, (as quoted in C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol. 4, 253)

Fright of one sin is not repentance of all

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Jesus never enters the soul of man to drive out one or two sins, nor even to overcome a band of vices to the exception of others; his work is perfect, not partial; his cleansings are complete baptisms; his purifyings tend to remove all our dross, and consume all our tin. He sweeps the heart from its dust as well as its Dagons; he suffers not even the most insignificant spider of lust to spin its cobweb, with allowance, on the walls of his temple. All heinous sins and private sins, youthful sins and manhood’s sins, sins of omission and of commission, of word and of deed, of thought and of imagination, sins against God or against man, all will combine like a column of serpents in the desert to affright the new-born child of heaven; and he will desire to see the head of every one of them broken beneath the heel of the destroyer of evil, Jesus, the seed of the woman. Believe not thyself to be truly awakened unless thou abhorrest sin in all its stages, from the embryo to the ripe fruit, and in all its shades, from the commonly allowed lust down to the open and detested crime. When Hannibal took oath of perpetual hatred to the Romans, he included in that oath plebeians as well as patricians; so if thou art indeed at enmity with evil, thou wilt abhor all iniquity, even though it be of the very lowest degree. Beware that thou write not down affright at one sin as being repentance for all.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus, 84–85

Knowledge vs understanding

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is nothing new about not believing in God; it is the oldest thing in the world to deny Him. This is what I find so pathetic, that people think it is clever not to believe in God, that it is modern, that it is something new, that it is something wonderful! But here is a man, King David, writing all this a thousand years before Christ—nearly three thousand years ago—and there were people saying then, “There is no God”—just what clever people are saying today, those who try to argue that they are saying it in terms of some latest esoteric knowledge that they have been given and that other people still do not have. But is it not clear that this has nothing at all to do with knowledge as such?

No; it is a question of understanding, and that is a very different thing. Men and women may have a lot of book knowledge, but that does not mean they have understanding or that they have wisdom. They can be aware of many facts, but they may be fools in their own personal lives. Have we not known such people? I have known men in some of the learned professions; I would take their opinion without a moment’s hesitation because of their knowledge and because of their learning. But sometimes I have known some of those men to be utter fools in their own personal lives. I mean by that, they behaved like lunatics, as if they had not a brain at all. They have behaved in exactly the same way as a man who never had their educational advantages and who had none of their great knowledge. They drank too much even as a less educated man did; they were guilty of adultery even as he was.

There is all the difference in the world between knowledge—an awareness of facts—and wisdom and real understanding. Though people may have great brains and may know a number of things, they may still be governed by their lusts and passions and desires, and that is why they are fools.… They are men and women who listen to their hearts, their desires; they are governed by what they want to do rather than by true understanding.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms, 14–15

What makes the humble cry out for grace?

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It is not fear of damning, but fear of sinning, which makes the truly humbled cry out for grace. True, the fear of hell, engendered by the threatenings of the law, doth work in the soul much horror and dismay; but it is not hell appearing exceeding dreadful, but sin becoming exceeding sinful and abominable, which is the effectual work of grace. Any man in his reason would tremble at everlasting burnings, more especially when by his nearness to the grave the heat of hell doth, as it were, scorch him; but it is not every dying man that hates sin—yea, none do so unless the Lord hath had dealings with their souls. Say, then, dost thou hate hell or hate sin most? for, verily, if there were no hell, the real penitent would love sin not one whit the more, and hate evil not one particle the less. Wouldst thou love to have thy sin and heaven too? If thou wouldst, thou hast not a single spark of divine life in thy soul, for one spark would consume thy love to sin. Sin to a sin-sick soul is so desperate an evil that it would scarce be straining the truth to say that a real penitent had rather suffer the pains of hell without his sins than enter the bliss of heaven with them, if such things were possible. Sin, sin, SIN, is the accursed thing which the living soul hateth.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus, 81–82.

When is saving repentance truly seen?

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If our sorrow only gushes forth when we are musing upon the doom of the wicked, and the wrath of God, we have then reason to suspect its evangelical character; but if contemplations of Jesus, of his cross, of heaven, of eternal love, of covenant grace, of pardoning blood and full redemption bring tears to our eyes, we may then rejoice that we sorrow after a godly sort. The sinner awakened by the Holy Spirit will find the source of his stream of sorrow not on the thorn-clad sides of Sinai, but on the grassy mound of Calvary. His cry will be, “O sin, I hate thee, for thou didst murder my Lord;” and his mournful dirge over his crucified Redeemer will be in plaintive words—

“’Twas you, my sins, my eruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear;
’Twas you that pull’d the vengeance down
Upon his guiltless head;
Break, break, my heart, oh burst mine eyes,
And let my sorrows bleed.”

Ye who love the Lord, give your assent to this our declaration, that love did melt you more than wrath, that the wooing voice did more affect you than the condemning sentence, and that hope did impel you more than fear. It was when viewing our Lord as crucified, dead, and buried that we most wept. He with his looks made us weep bitterly, while the stern face of Moses caused us to tremble, but never laid us prostrate confessing our transgression. We sorrow because our offence is against Him, against his love, his blood, his grace, his heart of affection. Jesus is the name which subdues the stubborn heart, if it be truly brought into subjection to the Gospel. He is the rod which bringeth waters out of the rock, he is the hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus, 82–83.

The story is God’s story

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Anyone who has had Bible stories read to him as a child knows that there are great stories in the Bible. But it is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story. The Bible is much more than William How stated: “a golden casket where gems of truth are stored.” It is more than a bewildering collection of oracles, proverbs, poems, architectural directions, annals, and prophecies. The Bible has a story line. It traces an unfolding drama. The story follows the history of Israel, but it does not begin there, nor does it contain what  you would expect in a national history. The narrative does not pay tribute to Israel. Rather, it regularly condemns Israel and justifies God’s severest judgments.

The story is God’s story. It describes His work to rescue rebels from their folly, guilt, and ruin. And in His rescue operation, God always takes the initiative. When the apostle Paul reflects on the drama of God’s saving work, he says in awe, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Only God’s revelation could maintain a drama that stretches over thousands of years as though they were days or hours. Only God’s revelation can build a story where the end is anticipated from the beginning, and where the guiding principle is not chance or fate, but promise. Human authors may build fiction around a plot they have devised, but only God can shape history to a real and ultimate purpose.

Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, 12-13

Photo credit: __o__ via photopin cc

God’s Word is our ultimatum

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Certain errant spirits are never at home till they are abroad: they crave for a something which I think they will never find, either in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth, so long as they are in their present mind. They never rest, for they will have nothing to do with an infallible revelation; and hence they are doomed to wander throughout time and eternity, and find no abiding city. For the moment they glory as if they were satisfied with their last new toy; but in a few months it is sport to them to break in pieces all the notions which they formerly prepared with care, and paraded with delight. They go up a hill only to come down again. Indeed they say that the pursuit of truth is better than truth itself. They like fishing better than the fish; which may very well be true, since their fish are very small, and very full of bones. These men are as great at destroying their own theories as certain paupers are at tearing up their clothes. They begin again de novo, times without number: their house is always having its foundation digged out. They should be good at beginnings; for they have always been beginning since we have known them. They are as the rolling thing before the whilrwind, or ‘like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,’ Although their cloud is not that cloud which betokened the divine presence, yet it is always moving before them, and their tents are scarcely pitched before it is time for the stakes to be pulled up again. These men are not even seeking certainty; their heaven lies in shunning all fixed truth, and following every will-o’-the-wisp of speculation: they are ever learning, but they never come to a knowledge of the truth.

As for us, we cast anchor in the heaven of the Word of God. Here is our peace, our strength, our life, our motive, our hope, our happiness. God’s Word is our ultimatum. Here we have it. Our understanding cries, ‘I have found it'; our conscience asserts that here is the truth; and our heart finds here a support to which all her affections can cling; and hence we rest content.

Charles Spurgeon, The Greatest Fight in the World, 40-42

Neglecting the Holy Spirit is as sinful as misrepresenting Him

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Because of certain exaggerations, excesses and freak manifestations, and the crossing of the border line from the spiritual to the scientific, the political and the merely emotional, there are many people who are afraid of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, afraid of being too subjective. So they neglect it altogether. I would also suggest that others have neglected the doctrine because they have false ideas with regard to the actual teaching concerning the person of the Holy Spirit.…

Let me put it very plainly like this: you would all agree that to neglect or to ignore the doctrine about the Father would be a terrible thing. We would all agree that it is also a terrible thing to neglect the doctrine and the truth concerning the blessed eternal Son. Do we always realise that it is equally sinful to ignore or neglect the doctrine of the blessed Holy Spirit? If the doctrine of the Trinity is true—and it is true—then we are most culpable if in our thinking and in our doctrine we do not pay the same devotion and attention to the Holy Spirit as we do to the Son and to the Father. So whether we feel inclined to do so or not, it is our duty as biblical people, who believe the Scripture to be the divinely inspired word of God, to know what the Scripture teaches about the Spirit. And, furthermore, as it is the teaching of the Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the one who applied salvation, it is of the utmost practical importance that we should know the truth concerning Him.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Holy Spirit, 5-6

Man may have advanced, but he hasn’t changed

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It is to me almost incredible and incomprehensible that anybody who has ever read the Bible at all, or even indeed human history, could possibly dispute this, even for a second. What superficial thinkers we are. We are assuming that because man can travel in an aeroplane, and split the atom, he is somehow different from his forefathers who could not do these things. But man himself has not changed. Man himself, you discover by looking into how he thinks, what he is really interested in, how he acts. And man today is, primarily and fundamentally, interested in the very things that interested him four thousand years ago, in the time of Abraham. If we just read the newspapers we see that the major interests of Man are still, eating, drinking, making war, sex and pleasures of various kinds. They are all here in the Old Testament, and man is still doing the same things. Look at the major social problems confronting us today, and you will find all of them in the Bible: theft, robbery, violence, jealousy, envy, infidelity, divorce, separation, perversions, all these things, are in the Bible. These are the problems of man today, as they have always been.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 25–26.

Oh, what a scandal it would be!

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We are Christians… We are not born in a land of heathenism, in gross darkness and in the shadow of death, and therefore our piety and virtue should far exceed all the practices of the heathen world. We are not left to the teachings of the book of nature, and to the silent lectures which the sun, moon and stars can read us: nor are we abandoned merely to the instructions of religion that we may derive from “the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven,” or any of the works of God the Creator.

We are not given up in the things of religion merely to the wandering and uncertain conduct of our reason, feeble as it is in itself, corrupted by the fall of Adam our first father, beset with many sins and prejudices, and turned aside from the truth by a thousand false lights of sense and appetite, fancy and passion, by the vain customs of the country, and the corruptions of our sinful hearts. We are not bewildered among the poor remains of divine tradition delivered down from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to his posterity in the several nations of the earth; we are not left to spell out our duty from those sorry broken fragments of revelation, which are so lost and defaced amongst most of the nations, and so mingled with monstrous folly and delusion, that it is hard to find any reliques of truth or goodness in them. We are not given up to foul idolatry and wild superstition, nor to the slavish and tyrannical dictates of priests and kings, who contrive what ceremonies they please, and impose them on the people, which is the case of a great part of the heathen world.

Poor and deluded creatures! feeling about in the dark for the way to happiness, in the midst of rocks and precipices and endless dangers, and led astray into many mischiefs and miseries by those whom they take for guides and rulers. And what an infamous and shameful thing would it be for us, who have the divine light of the gospel shining among us to direct our paths, if we should read among the records of the heathen nations, that any of them have behaved better than we have done, either in duties to God or man, and exceeded us either in personal or in social virtues? Nay, what a scandal would it be to our profession, if we should not abundantly exceed all the shining virtues of the heathen nations, since the divine light that shines upon us, and the divine lessons that are published amongst us, are so infinitely superior to all that the heathen world has enjoyed?

The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 5, 5–6. (Image source)

You need something that can shatter evil’s power

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Everything that can appeal to the modern man, the last word in presentation is used, in the belief that when it is done, and you do it with a modern technique, then you will get hold of the modern man. But I think that the time has now come to ask this simple question: what are the results? Is the modern problem being touched at all? Of course these various methods, the apologetics and the others may indeed lead to individual conversions. We are all aware of that. Almost any method you like to employ will do that. Of course there are individual conversions, but my question is this—what of the situation, what of the bulk of men and women, what of the working classes of this country, are they being touched at all, are they being affected at all? Is anybody being affected, except those who are already in the Church or on the fringe of the Church? What of the spiritual and religious condition of the country? What of the whole state of society? Is this being touched at all by all our activities?

Well, my answer would be that it all seems to put us into the position of the disciples who had tried to cast the devil out of the boy, these men who had been so successful in many another case, but who could not touch this case at all. And our Lord gives them the explanation, ‘this kind’ can come forth by nothing like this. By what, then? ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer, and fasting.’ You failed there, he said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power. You were using the power that you have, and you were very confident in it. You did it with great assurance, you were masters of the occasion, you thought you were going to succeed at once, but you did not. It is time you paused for a moment and began to think. It was your ignorance of these gradations in power amongst evil spirits that led to your failure, and to your crestfallen condition at this moment. You have not sufficient power. I did what you could not do because I have power, because I am filled with the power that God gives me by the Holy Spirit, for he gives not the Spirit by measure unto me. You will never be able to deal with ‘this kind’ unless you have applied to God for the power which he alone can give you. You must become aware of your need, of your impotence, of your helplessness. You must realise that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods to get rid of, or to deal with, and you need something that can go down beneath that evil power, and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 18-19