Tears of Hope

Last year, the story of Zac Smith from Newspring Church shared his testimony of battling cancer. A few months after the video was released, he succumbed to cancer and went home to be with the Lord.

His wife, Mandy, recently shared how God has used these events and the hope she and her children find, even in the midst of tears:

Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship.

Turn with me to Romans chapter 1; this is where we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time today.

Starting in verse eighteen:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

[Opening Prayer]

We are all Worshippers

At the end of June, I went to Honduras with Compassion Canada. We saw the projects at work, visited homes, played with kids, and it was amazing. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit the Copan Ruins and the remnants of the Mayan temples.

Our tour guide took us through the ruins, teaching us about the culture of the Mayans as we went. There were idols everywhere.

Images of iguanas symbolizing fertility; macaw birds representing their sun god… It was everywhere. But the thing that stood out to me the most was listening to him describe the after parties from a sports event.

Basically what would happen is that athletes would compete against each other, passing the ball around with the goal of hitting one of the six stone macaw heads on the sidelines of the court. And you had to do it without using your hands.

These games were a big deal—the religious leaders, the chieftains and all the people would fill the stadium. Now, after the game was won and a winner was proclaimed, there’d be a celebration in his honor.

Can you guess the prize for the winner? Sacrificed to the gods.

Doesn’t really make you want to win the game, does it?

Human sacrifice was all too common in this area of Honduras. People would throw themselves off the cliffs into the temple courts as a sacrifice, hoping to appease the gods.

As I learned about the culture, as impressive as the architecture is and as breathtaking as the ruins are, I was disgusted by the idolatry.

I started thinking about our own culture… is it really that different?

Sure, we don’t (normally) worship birds or practice human sacrifice as a reward for a game well-played; but as I’ve been looking around since I came home, one inescapable truth has become more apparent than ever:

We are all worshippers.

This is the way God has made us.

He’s not made us to worship, or to be worshippers; He’s made us worshipping.

Harold Best in his book Unceasing Worship describes it this way:

We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei.

What Best is telling us is that our identity as worshippers is tied to God’s nature and our being created in His image.

Back in Genesis 1, we’re told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the depths.

So in the beginning, there was God.

And that’s it.

Some will speculate that God created the world and humanity because He was lonely. He needed something to pour out His love upon. But that’s not what Scripture says. The Bible says that God lacks nothing. If he lacked, then He would cease to be God.

This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. Because God is one God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—He lives in perfect, eternal, joyful, community, unceasingly outpouring His love on Himself.

And we were created out of an overflow of this, not of need, but out of joy to share His glory with others. And because we were created in His image, we do likewise—unceasingly worshipping, intended to reflect His glory in all creation.

Paul understands this. That’s why he doesn’t say, “In the past, some of you didn’t worship anything at all.” He says, “All of you have worshipped created things instead of the Creator.”

We are all always worshipping something. And more often than not, it’s not our Creator.

Our Lives Show Us Who We Worship

We’re continuously worshipping, but there’s something else we need to understand:

Our lives show us who we worship.

The hard thing for all of us is discovering what it is we worship—why? Because we’re blind to it. We’re blind to it because we have, as Paul wrote, exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

We’ve made created things—sometimes good things—our god, worshipping them instead of our Creator.

Let me give you a couple of practical examples:

Every day, men and women across the country congregate in one of the dozens of temples that are on nearly every street corner in Canada to worship as we roll up a rim.

This past winter, we had the Olympics; do you remember the fervor that surrounded Men’s Hockey?

How about the last few weeks with the World Cup going on?

And what about all the silliness with Lebron James and Chris Bosch joining the Miami Heat?

I know a few people who were cussing out Bosch, but James… They were burning his jersey in Cleveland this week!

Why?

Because the god they worshipped had let them down.

He left to play for a different team.

And the idol was crushed.

We are all worshippers; we’re always worshipping something—and our lives will reveal who or what we worship.

Maybe there’s something coming to your mind right now—your job, your spouse, your kids, your car, your computer, candy…

We think that these things will make us happy. That they’ll satisfy and save us. But anything but God will always fail.

But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe it because we’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.

False Worship Suppresses the Truth

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” writes Paul in verse 18.

When we sin, when we behave in a manner contrary to God’s commands and His character, we “suppress the truth” about God.

False worship suppresses the truth.

When we put anything in place of God in our lives, we suppress the truth.

This is a damning indictment!

To suppress the truth about God—to deny His authority, His majesty, His power—is to commit an act of cosmic treason.

Why? Here’s what Paul says on this. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Do you realize that every day, the evidence of God’s existence and His power are manifest? What can be known about God is plain to us because God has shown it to us.

Where does He show it?

In all of creation.

This is what the theologians call general revelation. That is, that we can know that there is a God and we can know something of who He is through natural means.

Speaking to this point, Acts 14:17 says,

 

[H]e [God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

What we see here is that God gives us rain and allows our crops to grow, and our livestock to thrive, in a display of His power and character. He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness.”

In short, a great steak can bear witness to God’s existence.

And in Acts 17:24-27 we read,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him…”

Practically, this means for us that everything—science, art, music, nature… everything reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature to the degree that we cannot with integrity deny God’s existence.

We are, Paul says, without excuse in acknowledging Him.

But consistently we fail to do exactly that. Instead, we suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness.

False worship makes us fools

Verse 21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

What Paul says here is that we have failed to honor God, to acknowledge and worship Him. In our sin, we have suppressed the truth about God.

And because we’ve suppressed the truth, we have come futile in our thinking. “[Our] foolish hearts [are] darkened.”

This is idolatry’s second effect:

When we fail to honor God, we become fools bent on stealing His glory.

When we refuse to honor God or give thanks to Him, we become fools, says Paul. In other words: Idolatry is stupid.

The prophet Isaiah communicated this well when he wrote,

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

So basically, a man cuts down a tree—and one half he uses for firewood. The other he worships. We rob God of His glory… and give it to a piece of kindling.

Does that even make sense?

In our foolishness we start to think that God doesn’t really see what we’re doing. That because our false god doesn’t speak or think or see or hear, we’re in the clear.

But, Isaiah 47:10 says, God always knows:

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”

Paul writes that as those who suppressed the truth claimed to be wise, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Again, it comes back to the truth that we are without excuse for acknowledging our Creator.

It’s why the “new atheism” movement is so bizarre. The whole point of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and several others is basically to say this:

There is no God… And I hate Him.

It’s intellectually dishonest. How can you hate someone you don’t believe exists?

If God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you not care?

Instead, what do we see?

Dozens of books, documentaries and magazine articles attempting to debunk the idea of God… and in particular the God of the Bible.

Why? Why is so much energy spent debunking Christianity?

Why do we see more books trying to do this entering the bestseller lists every year?

Why is there such a need to find the gospel—that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a man, lived the perfect life, died in our place for our sins and rose again to give us new life and reconcile us to God the Father—to be a sham?

Because deep down, we all know it’s true. We all know He’s real.

And it terrifies us.

Because we stand naked before Him—and without His intervention, we—have—no—hope.

Here’s the thing: Every other religion, every other belief system, in the end, revolves around the same thing—You.

It’s all about what you do, about how you must earn your way into God’s favor, how you must become one with the divine or with the universe. All is one. God is a part of the system or God doesn’t exist.

But if all is one, God is none.

It’s the lie that we’ve exchanged the truth for. It’s a foolish act meant to rob God of His glory.

It’s the serpent’s lie from Genesis three: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Understand—Buddha, Krishna, Allah… There is no hope. There is no life. They have no power.

But Jesus Christ does.

That’s why the gospel is so offensive—it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus HAS already done!

He saved us when we could not save ourselves! He took the punishment that we so richly deserved.

And we show ourselves to be fools when we deny His power, authority and majesty—when we rob Him of His glory and deny Him the worship that is His due.

And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

False Worship Reveals of the Wrath of God

Going back to verse eighteen, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

All of what we’ve just talked about—that we continually worshipping, that in our rebellion against God we’ve suppressed the truth and exchanged His glory for created things—Because of all these things, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

When we talk about wrath, we have to understand that there are two basic kinds that we’re talking about.

The first is God’s active wrath.

Active wrath is a tangible demonstration of God’s judgment over sinners.

When we read of the conquest of the Promised Land and the command to kill ALL the Canaanites—that was the active wrath of God.

When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied about how much they were giving in Acts 5—THAT was the active wrath of God.

When we look toward the Day of the Lord when He will execute final judgment on all of creation—THAT is the active wrath of God…

God’s active wrath is offensive to so many people; it’s the cause of ideas about there being two different kinds of God depicted in the Bible—the hot-tempered God of the Old Testament and gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The reason for this is that we have difficulty understanding God’s perfect justice and holiness.

But there’s something even more terrifying than God’s active wrath, as we’re about to see. Listen to what Paul says in verse 24:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What Paul describes here is the passive wrath of God.

What this means is that we’re so bent on our sin—we’re consumed with doing what we want, rather than obeying Him—God says, “Okay, go get’em tiger.”

He gives us over to a “debased” or depraved mind says in verse 28. Second Thessalonians 2:11 says that, “God sends a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”

And truth be told, there’s little more terrifying to me than this.

If God’s passive wrath is upon me, it means He’s letting me do what I want. It means my conscience has become so hard that I don’t want to respond.

Because I love my sin.

I want my idols.

And God says, “Have at it.”

Before God sent the flood in one of the most magnificent displays of His active wrath, He looked down at all of creation and “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Man was given over to a depraved mind. The passive wrath of God was upon Him.

And the active wrath was coming.

We Must Recover True Worship

Verse 25 says that we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator.

In order for us to be saved we must recover true worship.

Left to our own devices, we’re utterly incapable of doing this.

Fortunately, God has made a way for us.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That, friends, is the secret. That is how we are able to recover true worship:

We must apply the gospel to our worship.

Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are paid for when we put our faith in Him. Elsewhere, Scripture says that we are made new creations in Christ—and because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we are given new desires to serve Him and worship Him as He deserves.

We must apply the gospel to our worship. And that begins with repentance.

Why is repentance important?

Repentance is the heart of the Christian life. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of the Protestant Reformation, says, “All of life is one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one and done action—it’s a lifestyle.

A Christian cannot live an unrepentant life. Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the last 100 years has been quoted as saying, “All you need to do to become a heretic is to stop repenting or fail to call others to repentance.” It’s become contentious to call anyone to repentance in our day, even on issues where Scripture is clear—be it sexuality, gossip, gluttony, slander, malice… but here’s the thing: whenever we come up against one of these issues, we have to remember what the real question is—it’s not, “can one be a homosexual, an adulterer, a liar, a gossip, and be a Christian?” The question is—Can one be unrepentant and be a Christian?

Repentance is a process. Repentance isn’t being sorry that we got caught, or feeling bad or even acknowledging our sins. It’s much deeper.

  • Repentance begins with conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our sin is revealed to us through prayer, through our conscience, through Scripture or through the preaching of God’s Word.
  • Conviction leads to confession—we name our sin and agree with God, acknowledging our idol.
  • Confession leads to true repentance—it demands the death of our idols, which comes as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • This leads to restitution—we seek to make right whatever we’ve done wrong in our pursuit of our idols. So if we’ve cheated on our taxes, we put it right. If we’ve stolen from work, we return it. If we’ve broken something, we replace it
  • The final step is reconciliation. Repentance—true repentance—restores relationships with God first and foremost and other people as we are able.

Repentance allows us to worship in freedom. Through repentance, we are no longer slaves to our idols, but free to worship God as He would have us—to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. As we trust God, study His Word, obey Him and worship Him, we are “no longer conformed to this patterns of this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Our desires change. Our attitudes change. Our habits change. All to the glory of God.

A few questions and we’ll close:

  1. What idols exist in my life?
  2. What created thing is robbing God of His glory?
  3. If that thing is revealed to me, will I repent?
  4. Will I take that first step today?

[Closing Prayer]

Travel, Tortilla Soup and Treats

Saturday was the first of our big travel days on this tour of Honduras. We flew from Toronto to Miami and finally to San Pedro Sula, where we arrived very late in the evening.

San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, is the industrial hub of the nation, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Ayax, a colleague from Compassion Honduras, shared with state of the city, as we drove to our hotel. Even though it’s dangerous, even though there is so much poverty, there is still hope.

Why?

Because of the Church.

The Church is here and God is working through her. Children are meeting Jesus and they’re telling their families about Him, too.

It’s amazing.

This is just a small portion of the items we brought for the kids - we ended up with four suitcases, four boxes and six bags worth of gifts!

After we arrived at the hotel, we set to work putting together packages of gifts for children at the church projects we’ll be visiting. With all 22 of us working together, we got it taken care of pretty quickly and then enjoyed a small meal before bed (in my case, tortilla soup, which was delightful, in case you were wondering).

Perhaps the biggest treat of the trip so far has been meeting the Compassion Honduras staff—including my old friend Alexis.

Alexis is the third from the left in this photo; Ayax is on the far right.

He and I met in 2006 when I was here on a missions trip; he was one of the four translators who worked with us. We also joined Compassion’s staff pretty close to the same time (within a few months of each other). He’s an amazing guy who loves the Lord and also really loves Compassion. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with him and all of our staff throughout the week.

Blogging the Psalms: Rejoicing in Foreknowledge

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. . . .

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. . . .

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-16, 23-24

I love Psalm 139. As David moves through the psalm, we see him confronted with a keen awareness of God’s sovereignty—that God fully knows David. He knows every deed.

And he knows every thought.

“Even before a word is on my tongue . . . you know it altogether,” he writes. Every thought. Every word. Every action.

Every ugly sin that David would try to hide from anyone else, God knows it.

How does he react? Guilt? Shame?

Awe. [Read more...]

Book Review: Journey to Truth by George F. Garlick

journeytruth_500

Title: Journey to Truth: How Scientific Discovery Provides Insights into Spiritual Truths
Author: George F. Garlick, Ph.D
Publisher: VMI Publishers (2009)

For years there’s been much hoopla over the apparent conflict between science and Biblical truth.

One extreme says that science is absolute, that all we can know is what we can see and measure empirically. Miracles aren’t possible. We are, essentially, cosmic accidents. The other extreme completely ignores the reality that science has anything to legitimately offer in terms of understanding how the world and humanity were created and designed to function.

However, neither position is intellectually honest. Neither leads to a complete understanding of truth. But is there really as great a divide as some make it seem?

In The Journey to Truth, author George Garlick seeks to show how science offers insight into Biblical truth. Garlick, a physicist who pioneered holographic ultrasound technology, blends science, theology and a dash of biography in this short book. To be honest, I found the results to be somewhat mixed.

A Compassionate Man

His personal stories provided a great deal of insight into his character, which I greatly appreciated. The last chapter—where he speaks of being compelled to stop and pick up two young men on the Interstate and trying to restore the vitality of his hometown—reveals a man who is deeply compassionate and wants to use the gifts he’s been given for the good of others and the glory of God.

The Curse of Knowledge

It’s very obvious reading this book that Garlick is a scientist. He provides in-depth descriptions of various scientific theories related to the creation of the universe, time/space and more. And he describes them in such a way that makes it clear that he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

Which is good, because I don’t. This is what is known as “the curse of knowledge.”[1] Those with knowledge describe what they’re talking about in such a way that either

  1. only those who share this knowledge will understand; or
  2. the illustration becomes bogged in over-communication as the writer seeks to bring the reader up to the same level of knowledge

More often than not, I found myself scratching my head and wondering if there might be another way of communicating this same point. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a big science-guy. I did well in it in school, but it was never my passion.

I’m guessing that someone who really loves quantum mechanics and quirks & quarks would completely understand what Garlick is talking about in roughly half the book, but I was left a bit in the dark. This, unfortunately, made for some hard slogging in the middle chapters of The Journey to Truth.

Truth & the God of the Bible

So how does scientific discovery point us to Biblical truth? Throughout the book, Garlick provides some intriguing insights that point to the truth that this universe didn’t accidentally happen. Scientific discovery, when honestly looked at, reveals to us what God has plainly made known. We know that He is a God of order, given how intricately detailed our bodies and this world are. We know that He is infinitely powerful because only a being of infinite power could cause everything to come from nothing.

What Garlick is describing is the truth of Romans 1:18-20:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

On page 40, Garlick illustrates this in a very interesting way. Imagine a mountain where one side is perfectly smooth and the other is jagged. The smooth side is what the Bible reveals. The other is science. Both, Garlick says, eventually come to the same conclusion. Eventually scientists will reach the top of the mountain of truth and find a bunch of theologians already waiting there.

As glad as I am that he makes this point, there’s so much more that can be said because this is really only dealing with general revelation, rather than special revelation.

If the mountain is God’s general revelation (natural theology as some describe it), then this is a very apt metaphor. However, it can only really tell us that there is a God who created the world and everything in it, but it can’t tell us all that much about Him.

Science can tell us a great deal about the “how” of God’s creative act, but not the “why.”

But it doesn’t speak to our condition as sinners. And it doesn’t speak to our need of a Savior.

These are things that there are no scientific categories for.

The Journey to Truth provides some helpful insights, but ultimately it left me feeling a bit cold. While some, particularly those who really enjoy science, will undoubtedly enjoy it, it’s not a book that resonated well with me.

[1] This concept is described in-depth in Chip & Dan Heath’s excellent book, Made to Stick


A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by Bring it On Communications

Who Influences You?

Matt Chandler shares some of the story of his conversion and discusses some of the men who have shaped him:

There are certain people who have been a powerful influence on us, particularly in how we live out our faith.

I’ve spoken of some of them here before. My friends Adam & John have been major influences, particularly as we’ve been wrestling with theology together. Chris, a godly man who took me and a few other guys under his wing at a moment in my life when I desperately needed guidance and counsel. My Friday morning men’s group is increasingly becoming influential in my life as we try to work out .  

But what about you?

Who influences you?

Who has been an influence in the past and who continues to be to this day?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith Produces a Far-Seeing Obedience

How great a company would obey God if they were paid for it on the spot! They have “respect unto the recompense of the reward;” but they must have it in the palm of their hand.

With them—”A bird in hand is better far, than two which in the bushes are.” They are told that there is heaven to be had, and they answer that, if heaven were to be had here, as an immediate freehold, they might look after it, but they cannot afford to wait. To inherit a country after this life is over is too like a fairy tale for their practical minds.

Many there are who enquire, “Will religion pay? Is there anything to be made out of it? Shall I have to shut up my shop on Sundays? Must I alter my mode of dealing, and curtail my profits?” When they have totalled up the cost, and have taken all things into consideration, they come to the conclusion that obedience to God is a luxury which they can dispense with, at least until near the end of life.

Those who practice the obedience of faith look for the reward hereafter, and set the greatest store by it. To their faith alone the profit is exceeding great.

To take up the cross will be to carry a burden, but it will also be to find rest. They know the words, “No cross, no crown;” and they recognise the truth that, if there is no obedience here, there will be no reward hereafter. This needs a faith that has eyes which can see afar off, across the black torrent of death, and within the veil which parts us from the unseen.

A man will not obey God unless he has learned to endure “as seeing him who is invisible.”

Yet, remember that the obedience which comes of true faith is often bound to be altogether unreasoning and implicit; for it is written, “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” God bade Abraham journey, and he moved his camp at once. Into the unknown land he made his way; through fertile regions, or across a wilderness; among friends or through the midst of foes, he pursued his journey. He did not know where his way would take him, but he knew that the Lord had bidden him go.

Even bad men will obey God when they think fit; but good men will obey when they know not what to think of it. It is not ours to judge the Lord’s command, but to follow it. . . . Prudent consideration of consequences is superabundant; but the spirit which obeys, and dares all things for Christ’s sake—where is it? The Abrahams of today will not go out from their kindred; they will put up with anything sooner than risk their livelihoods. If they do go out, they must know where they are going, and how much is to be picked up in the new country.

The modern believer must have no mysteries, but must have everything planned down to a scientific standard. Abraham “went out, not knowing whither he went,” but the moderns must have every information with regard to the way, and then they will not go. If they obey at all, it is because their own superior judgements incline that way; but to go forth, not knowing whither they go, and to go at all hazards, is not to their minds at all. They are so highly “cultured” that they prefer to be original, and map out their own way.

Brethren, having once discerned the voice of God, obey without question. If you have to stand alone and nobody will befriend you, stand alone and God will befriend you.

If you should get the ill word of those you value most, bear it. What, after all, are ill words, or good words, as compared with the keeping of a clear conscience by walking in the way of the Lord?

The line of truth is narrow as a razor’s edge; and he needs to wear the golden sandals of the peace of God who shall keep to such a line. Through divine grace may we, like Abraham, walk with our hand in the hand of the Lord, even where we cannot see our way!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – Lessons from The Gospel Coalition 2010 Conference

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition’s first ever Canadian conference featuring D.A. Carson and Mike Bullmore as the keynote speakers.

Dr. Carson kicked off the conference with the message Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – The Need for the Gospel Coalition.

He began with by giving us a bit of background on how the Gospel Coalition came together as he and Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian came together and realized they’d been reflecting on something similar: The centrality of the gospel was being lost in evangelicalism. “Today, people do what is right in their own eyes—with the gospel becom[ing] something assumed rather than central,” lamented Carson. The Gospel Coalition came together out of a desire “to be robust about Scripture [and] to hold up the centrality of the gospel.” And this is of the greatest import for those of us living in “the last days.”

While some have indulged in “a feeding frenzy of speculation over the end times,” Carson reminded us that, “The last days refer to the entire period between Christ’s ascension and second coming. Whether it’s three weeks or three thousand years is irrelevant. . . . All authority has been given to Jesus, and while it’s contested, the kingdom has still come. The old is passing away.”

This led to a study of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8, first asking, “What does Paul see in the last days?” [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith Creates a Prompt Obedience

Genuine faith in God creates a prompt obedience.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed.”There was an immediate response to the command. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

I wish some Christians, who put off duty, would remember this. Continued delay of duty is a continuous sin. If I do not obey the divine command, I sin; and every moment that I continue in that condition, I repeat the sin.

This is a serious matter. If a certain act is my duty at this hour, an I leave it undone, I have sinned; but it will be equally incumbent upon me during the next hour; and if I still refuse, I disobey again and so on till I do obey. Neglect of a standing command must grow very grievous if it be persisted in for years.

In proportion as the conscience becomes callous upon the subject, the guilt becomes the more provoking to the Lord. To refuse to do right is a great evil; but to continue in that refusal till conscience grows numb upon the matter is far worse. . . .

Obedience is for the present tense: it must be prompt, or it is nothing. Obedience respects the time of the command as much as any other part of it.

To hesitate is to be disloyal.

To halt and consider whether you will obey or not, is rebellion in the germ.

If thou believest in the living God unto eternal life, thou wilt be quick to do thy Lord’s bidding, even as a maid hearkens to her mistress. Thou wilt not be as the horse, which needs whip and spur; thy love will do more for thee than compulsion could do for slaves. Thou wilt have wings to thy heels to hasten thee along the way of obedience. “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Kind of Faith Which Produces Obedience

It is, manifestly, faith in God as having the right to command our obedience.

He has a greater claim upon our ardent service than he has upon the services of angels; for, while they were created as we have been, yet they have never been redeemed by precious blood.

Our glorious Incarnate God has an unquestioned right to every breath we breathe, to every thought we think, to every moment of our lives, and to every capacity of our being.

This loyalty of our mind is based on faith, and is a chief prompter to obedience.

[W]e must have faith in the rightness of all that God says or does.

If the Lord be God, he must be infallible; and if he can be described as in error in the little respects of human history and science, he cannot be trusted in the greater matters.

The words of the Lord are like fine gold, pure, precious, and weighty—not one of them may be neglected. We hear people talk about “minor points,” and so on; but we must not consider any word of our God as a minor thing, if by that expression is implied that it is of small importance.

We must accept every single word of precept, or prohibition, or instruction, as being what it ought to be, and neither to be diminished nor increased. We should not reason about the command of God as though it might be set aside or amended. He bids: we obey. [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith is the Fountain, Foundation and Fosterer of Obedience

Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience.

Men obey not God till they believe him. We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience. To disbelieve is to disobey.

One of the first signs of practical obedience is found in the obedience of the mind, the understanding, and the heart; and this is expressed in believing the teaching of Christ, trusting to his work, and resting in his salvation.

Faith is the morning star of obedience. If we would work the work of God, we must believe on Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

Brethren, we do not give a secondary place to obedience, as some suppose. We look upon the obedience of the heart to the will of God as salvation. The attainment of perfect obedience would mean perfect salvation. We regard sanctification, or obedience, as the great design for which the Saviour died. He shed his blood that he might cleanse us from dead works, and purify unto himself a people zealous for good works. It is for this that we were chosen: we are “elect unto holiness.” We know nothing of election to continue in sin. It is for this that we have been called: we are “called to be saints.”

Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.

The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort.

The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience.

The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.

It is sustained by the mind’s soberest reasoning and the heart’s warmest passion. The man reasons with himself that he ought to obey his Redeemer, his Father, his God; and, at the same time, the love of Christ constrains him so to do, and thus what argument suggests affection performs. A sense of great obligation, an apprehension of the fitness of obedience, and spiritual renewal of heart, work an obedience which becomes essential to the sanctified soul. Hence, it is not relaxed in the time of temptation, nor destroyed in the hour of losses and sufferings.

Life has no trial which can turn the gracious soul from its passion for obedience; and death itself doth but enable it to render an obedience which shall be as blissful as it will be complete. Yes, this is a chief ingredient of heaven—that we shall see the face of our Lord, and serve him day and night in his temple. Meanwhile, the more fully we obey at this present, the nearer we shall be to his temple-gate. May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Zac Smith: "If God Chooses Not to Heal Me, God is still God and God is Still Good"

 

[tentblogger-vimeo 9796056]

Update: Zac died recently and now stands with Jesus in glory. He didn’t waste his life, and he didn’t waste his cancer. Please keep his family in your prayers.

The powerful testimony of Zac Smith of Newspring Church:

In May of 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer; immediately I had surgery to remove a foot and a half of my large intestine and a lemon size tumor… The cancer had spread to my spleen and my liver. Chemotherapy was on the horizon.

I found myself very confused – why did I have cancer? Had I something wrong to cause it? Was this the result of sinful living in my past?

But quickly the confusion turned to hope… I didn’t understand why I had cancer, but I knew that God was in charge.

For three months I underwent a horrible chemo regimen. Afterwards, I had a scan done and the results were great. There was no cancer found in my body. We celebrated God’s healing and God’s failing.. but another scan a month later showed that the cancer reappeared a month later… [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (03/14)

How I found God and peace with my atheist brother

Peter Hitchens with his brother Christopher, on the left, during their 2008 debate in Grand Rapids

Meet Peter Hitchens, the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens:

I set fire to my Bible on the playing fields of my Cambridge boarding school one bright, windy spring afternoon in 1967. I was 15 years old. The book did not, as I had hoped, blaze fiercely and swiftly. . . . [T]his was my Year Zero. I was engaged in a full, perfect and complete rebellion against everything I had been brought up to believe. [. . .] No doubt I should be ashamed to confess that fear played a part in my return to religion, specifically a painting: Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th Century Last Judgement, which I saw in Burgundy while on holiday.

I had scoffed at its mention in the guidebook, but now I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of Hell.

These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions.

On the contrary, their hair and the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time. They were me, and people I knew.

Read more.

HT: Jim Skaggs & Trevin Wax

In other news

Kevin DeYoung: “If you are retooling your church to fit the Starbucks model, try reading Ephesians instead.”

Mark Clement: If you want to influence culture, stop imitating it.

The Gospel Coalition 2010 Canada Conference: Join D.A. Carson & Mike Bullmore for the Gospel Coalition Ontario Chapter’s first ever conference. The theme of this event is the centrality of the gospel in authentic Christian ministry. This conference will be held at West Highland Baptist Church, 1605 Garth Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Click here for more details or to register.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Adrian Warnock’s excellent book Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

Jude: Contending Against False Teachers

BB. Warfield: The Exultant Joy of Being a Miserable Sinner

D.A. Carson on the Drifting of Evangelicalism

On Suffering Well and The Wasted Life

Matt Chandler, center, holds hands with his son Reid, 4, left, and daughter Audrey, 7, in Flower Mound, Texas as they take a walk after a treatment for Matt's brain cancer. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

 

Yesterday, Eric Gorski from the Associated Press published a fantastic article on Pastor Matt Chandler’s battle with brain cancer. If you’ve not read it, you absolutely must.  

In the article, Gorski wrote,  

Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway.  

Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.  

Chandler’s hands are crossed over his chest. He wears a mask with white webbing that keeps his head still when metal fingers slide into place on the radiation machine, delivering the highest possible dose to what is considered to be fatal and incurable brain cancer.  

Yesterday I was listening (briefly) to Tapestry on CBC Radio One while on the way to read a book and drink a warm beverage. I caught a snippet of an interview with William Lobdell, a journalist who became a Christian in his twenties, served as the religion reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the U.S. since become an atheist.  

In talking about the Christian worldview, he said something that really caught my attention, which was that,  

Christians see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. So to waste a day, a month, a year… it’s not really a big deal. They think they’ve got all eternity. But for an atheist, because we know this is all there is, we take as much joy as we can and make the most of every moment (my paraphrase).  

[Read more...]