A Christmas Question: Sinner, Cast Thyself onto Christ

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Christmas Question
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6

Well, now I have all but done, but give your solemn, very solemn attention, while I come to my last head—if it is not so, what then?

Dear hearer, I cannot tell where thou art—but wherever thou mayst be in this hall, the eyes of my heart are looking for thee, that when they have seen thee, they may weep over thee. Ah, miserable wretch, without a hope, without Christ, without God. Unto thee there is no Christmas mirth, for thee no child is born; to thee no Son is given.

Sad is the story of the poor men and women, who during the week before last fell down dead in our streets through cruel hunger and bitter cold. But far more pitiable is thy lot, far more terrible shall be thy condition in the day when thou shalt cry for a drop of water to cool thy burning tongue, and it shall be denied thee; when thou shalt seek for death, for grim cold death—seek for him as for a friend, and yet thou shalt not find him. For the fire of hell shall not consume thee, nor its terrors devour thee. Thou shalt long to die, yet shalt thou linger in eternal death—dying every hour, yet never receiving the much coveted boon of death. What shall I say to thee this morning? Oh! Master, help me to speak a word in season, now.

I beseech thee, my hearer, if Christ is not thine this morning, may God the Spirit help thee to do what I now command thee to do.

First of all, confess thy sins; not into my ear, nor into the ear of any living man. Go to thy chamber and confess that thou art vile. Tell him thou art a wretch undone without his sovereign grace. But do not think there is any merit in confession. There is none. All your confession cannot merit forgiveness, though God has promised to pardon the man who confesses his sin and forsakes it. . . . It is the least that you can do, to acknowledge your sin; and though there be no merit in the confession, yet true to his promise, God will give you pardon through Christ. That is one piece of advice. I pray you take it… [Read more...]

A Christmas Question: Christians, Ring the Bells of Your Hearts

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Christmas Question
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6

This brings me to my second head, upon which I shall be brief. Is it so?

If it is so, what then?

If it is so, why am I doubtful today? Why is my spirit questioning? Why do I not realize the fact? My hearer, if the Son is given to thee, how is it that thou art this day asking whether thou art Christ’s, or not? Why dost thou not labor to make thy calling and election sure? Why tarriest thou in the plains of doubt? Get thee up, get thee up to the high mountains of confidence, and never rest till thou canst say without a fear that thou art mistaken, “I know that my Redeemer liveth. I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.”

I may have a large number of persons here to whom it is a matter of uncertainty as to whether Christ is theirs or not. Oh, my dear hearers, rest not content unless you know assuredly that Christ is yours, and that you are Christ’s. . . .  Now there is a proclamation gone forth today, and it is a true one, too, that Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners.

The question with you is whether he has saved you, and whether you have an interest in him.

I beseech you, give no sleep to your eyes, and no slumber to your eyelids, till you have read your “title clear to mansions in the skies.” What, man! Shall your eternal destiny be a matter of uncertainty to you? Is heaven or hell involved in this matter, and will you rest until you know which of these shall be your everlasting portion? Are you content while it is a question whether God loves you, or whether he is angry with you?

Can you be easy while you remain in doubt as to whether you are condemned in sin, or justified by faith, which is in Christ Jesus? Get thee up, man. I beseech thee by the living God, and by thine own soul’s safety, get thee up and read the records.

Search and look, and try and test thyself, to see whether it be so or not. For if it be so, why should not we know it? If the Son is given to me, why should not I be sure of it? If the child is born to me, why should I not know it for a certainty, that I may even now live in the enjoyment of my privilege—a privilege, the value of which I shall never know to the full, till I arrive in glory? [Read more...]

A Christmas Question: Are You Born Again, Little Children?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Christmas Question
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6

If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem’s manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child.

All who have an interest in Christ are, in the fullness of time, by grace converted, quickened, and renewed. All the redeemed are not yet converted, but they will be. Before the hour of death arrives their nature shall be changed, their sins shall be washed away, they shall pass from death unto life. If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion. Only men who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs…

Is it so with you, my hearer? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you.

But I put another question. Although the main matter of regeneration lies within, yet it manifests itself without. Say, then, has there been a change in you in the exterior? . . . For, mark, my dear hearer, there must be a change in the outward life, or else there is no change within. . . .  The proof of the Christian is in the living. To other men, the proof of our conversion is not what you feel, but what you do. To yourself your feelings may be good enough evidence, but to the minister and others who judge of you, the outward walk is the main guide.

At the same time, let me observe that a man’s outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all . . . Take care that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven… [Read more...]

A Christmas Question: For Unto Us a Child is Born

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Christmas Question
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6

As Jesus Christ is a child in his human nature, he is born, begotten of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is as truly-born, as certainly a child, as any other man that ever lived upon the face of the earth. He is thus in his humanity a child born. But as Jesus Christ is God’s Son, he is not born; but given, begotten of his Father from before all worlds, begotten—not made, being of the same substance with the Father.

The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remains among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look, nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God.

A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite: if we could understand him, then were he not divine. Jesus Christ then, I say, as a Son, is not born to us, but given. He is a boon bestowed on us, “for God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world.”

He was not born in this world as God’s Son, but he was sent, or was given, so that you clearly perceive that the distinction is a suggestive one, and conveys much good truth to us. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

This morning, however, the principal object of my discourse, and, indeed, the sole one, is to bring out the force of those two little words, “unto us.” For you will perceive that here the full force of the passage lies. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…”

Is It So?

Is it true that unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given? It is a fact that a child is born. Upon that I use no argument.

We receive it as a fact, more fully established than any other fact in history, that the Son of God became man, was born at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. It is a fact, too, that a Son is given. About that we have no question. The infidel may dispute, but we, professing to be believers in Scripture, receive it as an undeniable truth, that God has given his only begotten Son to be the Savior of men. [Read more...]

Book Talk: The Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade and Tim O’Connor

Kids’ Bibles are a strange animal.

There’s a lot of effort that’s put into making the stories of the Bible sensible to children; in the process, however, many important facets of God’s interactions with His creation can get glossed over or lost altogether.

Enter The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book.

Written by Starr Meade and illustrated by Tim O’Connor, The Mighty Acts of God is intended to teach children the essential doctrines of the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective.

Recently, I received a copy of The Mighty Acts of God and in the video below, my wife Emily and I share our thoughts on the book and how it impacted our family.

http://vimeo.com/17315247

To summarize:

  1. The stories introduce key doctrines of the Christian faith in a way that children can understand;
  2. The content focuses on who God is and what He has done in creation;
  3. It’s extremely cross-centered, constantly bringing readers back to the gospel; and
  4. The “For me and my house” discussion section is one of the greatest strengths of the book, providing opportunities to discuss what’s been learned in the story and how it applies to our lives.

If you’re looking for a kid’s Bible that the whole family will benefit from, I would highly recommend The Mighty Acts of God.


Title: The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book
Authors: Starr Meade & Tim O’Connor
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

A copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

No Care But Prayer

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

No care but all prayer. No anxiety but much joyful communion with God. Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks, Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; “make known your requests.” Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, who loves you in Him.

This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every rolling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command?

Yes, Lord, I do believe thee; but, I beseech thee, help mine unbelief.

Charles Spurgeon, Faith’s Check Book

Government and Godliness

The closer we get to Dominion Theology the closer we get to living by the sword. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my disciples would fight.” This seems to mean that we are not moving toward a true understanding of the kingdom of God in this world as we move toward a greater and greater use of the sword to authorize kingdom values.

It is not the priests who are given the sword but the magistrates. And the magistrates rule not by virtue of their claim to revelation but by virtue of their claim to providential authorization. In some cultures this providential authorization has been through a line of kings, in other cultures through various contests, and in our own culture through a democratic representative process.

It seems that the theocratic ideal of Israel in the Old Testament was specifically abandoned in the New Testament as the Gospel ceased to be focused on an ethnic and political reality called Israel (Matt. 21:43) and became a multicultural, multiethnic worldwide movement without ethnic or political definition. It will be fitting, when Christ returns, that he be given the right to establish a kingdom of more specific political boundaries. But in the meantime we do well to exert our influence in ways that do not put the sword into the hands of the priests.

By John Piper © Desiring God

What Could Unravel the Gospel-Centered Movement?

A couple years back, Piper was asked, “what could unravel the gospel-centered movement?”

His answer was insightful: The disconnect between the majesty of God and the way we entertain ourselves.

“There’s an awakening to the majesty of God around the country, a filling of hearts with God-centered, Christ-exalted, Bible-saturated songs . . . a zeal for truth and biblical doctrine . . . and I’m concerned that there’s a disconnect between the big thoughts of God and how we live our daily lives.”

I’ve been thinking hard about this for the last few days. Am I inconsistent in how I entertain myself? Probably. Am I seeking to be more consistent? I hope so.

If anything is going to be offensive about how I live, I want it to be the gospel.

How about you?

HT: Justin Taylor

You Can Have Knowledge Without Wisdom, But Not Wisdom Without Knowledge

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2:7

It is possible to have knowledge without having wisdom. It is not possible, however, to have wisdom without knowledge. Knowledge is a necessary precondition for wisdom. The practice of godliness demands that we know and understand what godliness requires.

The Christian life is a transformed life. The transformation of life comes about, as the apostle Paul declares, through the renewal of the mind. An understanding of the Word of God renews the mind. The Word of God expresses the mind of God to us.

Our minds are to be conformed to the mind of Christ. That conformity does not automatically or instantly occur with conversion. Our conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit is not the end of our learning process but the beginning. At conversion we enroll in the school of Christ. There is no graduation this side of heaven. It is a pilgrimage of lifelong education.

The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of the knowledge of God. In one sense, Socrates was right in his insistence that right conduct is right knowledge. This is not in the sense that correct knowledge guarantees right behavior, but in the sense that knowledge, when it grows to wisdom, leads into right behavior. Thus, philosophers can become philotheos, “lovers of God.”

Coram Deo: Renew your mind today by immersing it in God’s Word.

R. C. Sproul, Renewing the Mind

When Grace No Longer Amazes

Cross in Winter

The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath.

It was the most just and the most gracious act in history.

God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken on Himself the sins of the world.

Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us.

This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy.

It is too astonishing to fathom.

We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual… God’s usual course of action is one of grace.

Grace no longer amazes us.

We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pp. 121-122 (line breaks & emphasis added)

Though Ryle Be Dead, Yet He Speaks! Erik Kowalker on J.C. Ryle and JCRyleQuotes.com

If you’re following anyone in the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” circles of evangelicalism, you’ve probably seen the odd link to a site called JCRyleQuotes.com. This website came out of nowhere a little over a year ago offering daily insights from the works of Anglican theologian John Charles Ryle.

The site’s founder, Erik Kowalker, kindly agreed take answer a few questions about how the site started and why he thinks Ryle connects with so many believers today.


John Charles Ryle (1816-1900)

Image via Wikipedia

1. How did you discover J.C. Ryle? What was it about his work that caught your attention? How did his work impact you personally?

I first discovered the writings of John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] on April 10, 2003. That is the date which is written on the inside cover of Ryle’s book Practical Religion, which a person bought for me while in a local Christian bookstore here in Portland, Oregon. Up to that time, I had never heard of J.C. Ryle.

I actually didn’t even begin reading Practical Religion until just over a year later, on April 12, 2004, for that is the date written on the last page of the chapter entitled Prayer. That chapter impacted my Christian life like no other book on the subject of prayer has ever done. I remember closing the book that night in my college dorm room and feeling like Ryle was speaking directly to me. It was convicting and encouraging, all at the same time, which sort of summarizes the style of Ryle’s books. So, from then [2004] till now [2010] I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the various Christ-centered, God-glorifying writings of Ryle.

2. When you decided to start JCRyleQuotes.com, how did your family react?

I launched the J.C. Ryle Quotes site on August 1, 2009. After several months of reading Ryle’s writings and underlining/highlighting almost every other paragraph, I remember thinking, “Wow! This guy is so incredibly quotable!”

As far as my families reaction to me launching the site, my kids are currently 6, 5 and 2 so they are more into Toy Story 3 and Dora the Explorer. :-) My wife simply said, ‘you do whatever you like Erik.’ :-)

3. Did you expect it taking off the way it has?

If you would have told me that 15 months after launching the Ryle Quotes site that I would have over 170,000 views, I would have laughed you right out of the room. I’m very grateful for “big wig bloggers” like Tim ChalliesJustin TaylorJosh HarrisStephen and Mark AltroggeTrevin WaxNick UvaZach Nielsen, etc. for being so kind as to refer their subscribers towards the site over the past year.

4. How has the site’s success affected you (if at all)?

The site’s success really hasn’t affected me in the least. I still am just Dad to my kids, Erik to my wife and a FedEx courier to my fellow co-workers. I’ve had a few opportunities to be interviewed with radio stations regarding the Ryle Quotes site, but honestly, I’ve turned them down due to being way too nervous. So, this question and answer format is much more up my alley. :-)

5. Why do you think Ryle’s work is connecting with so many people?

I truly believe Ryle’s writings connect with so many people for this one reason: clarity. Ryle has the uncanny ability/gift to make the difficult things in Christianity/theology so incredibly simple to understand. I think Charles Nolan Publishers (who have reprinted many of Ryle’s books) sum up why Ryle connects with so many today:

From his conversion [in 1837] to his burial, J.C. Ryle was entirely one-dimensional. He was a one-book man; he was steeped in Scripture; he bled Bible. As only Ryle could say, “It is still the first book which fits the child’s mind when he begins to learn religion, and the last to which the old man clings as he leaves the world.”

This is why his works have lasted—and will last—they bear the stamp of eternity. They contrast fruit which “remains” (John 15:16) against wood, hay, and stubble. Today, more than a hundred years after his passing, these works stand at the crossroads between the historic faith and modern evangelicalism. Like signposts, they direct us to the “old paths.” And, like signposts, they are meant to be read.

6. Besides Ryle, what other theologians do you have a particular affinity for?

I enjoy reading J.I. Packer and John Stott (both Anglicans) from the present, and have just started reading the Puritan John Flavel from the past.

7. Any final thoughts?

I want to thank everyone who has visited the Ryle Quotes site. When I launched the site I made sure that sole purpose for doing it was for the glory of God and the benefit of His Church, and I still stick to that. I thoroughly enjoy typing out the quotes for others to view Monday-Friday. It truly is a labor of love for my favorite author J.C. Ryle. I trust all who are introduced to Ryle for the first time will realize just how relevant his writings are over a hundred years after his death.

Though Ryle be dead, he yet speaks!

Fear of Man vs. Fear of God

I really appreciated this reminder from Driscoll in his recent sermon, Jesus vs. Fear.

The transcript follows:

See, if we believe that God loves us, then we believe that even if what’s happening to us isn’t good and holy and just, it’ll be used by a good, holy, and just God to teach us more about Jesus and to make us more like him. So we overcome fear of man with the love of God. God loves me. One way or another, he’s going to get me through.

And then Jesus closes with sort of the culminating big idea, that you overcome fear of man with the fear of God.

Luke 12:8–12, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man,” that’s a title of himself from Daniel. He uses it about eighty times. It means God become a man. “Also will acknowledge before the angels of God,” who will serve as the witnesses, “but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities,” the bullies are going to get you, you’re going to suffer at some point.

“Do not be anxious,” fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.

“Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Here’s the big idea: fear of man or fear of God. Those are your options. There is no alternative.

Someone is the most important person. Someone is the biggest dominant personality in your life. Okay, if it’s someone other than Jesus, you have fear of man. You’re worshiping them. They’re your functional lord even if Jesus is your theological Lord.

Proverbs 29:25 again, “The fear of man is a trap or a snare.” It won’t work for them, it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work at all. The alternative is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Before you can get anything straight in your life, you have to get straight who the Lord is. Jesus is Lord. The shortest confession of Christian belief is, has always been, Jesus is Lord.

D.A. Carson: The Accent of Warning

Many of Jesus’ parables have to do with explaining that the kingdom of God, against the prevalent expectation was no ta bout to come with a cataclysmic bang at that point in history, but was a destined to be introduced slowly (e.g., parable fo the mustard seed and the yeast, Matthew 13:31-33). Other parables demonstrate the power of the principle of reversal in the kingdom, flying in the face of many religious and social values, both then and now (e.g., the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37). But some of Jesus’ parables, even if they touch on these two themes, bring with them an unmistakable accent of warning.

The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 13-20), for all that it explains how the kingdom advances—namely, by properly receiving the word, which then germinates and bears fruit—implicitly warns against unreceptive soil. Where the seed is snatched away and its tender stalks are squeezed to death or dehydrated before there is any fruitfulness (despite a good beginning), there we find people who are unresponsive in one fashion or another. If the kingdom grows like wheat sown in a field, there will also be a lot of weeds, and both will grow until the end (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)…

One of the most striking of these parables is the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In the hands of some writers, what distinguishes the sheep from the goats is social concern: feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting people in prison—along with the dramatic additon of Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me” (25:40, 45). But that misses the point here.

Certainly the Bible lays considerable stress on compassion, justice, acts of mercy, kindness, and much else—as shown by Isaiah and Amos and the parable of the good Samaritan. But it has often been shown that in Matthew’s gospel the expression “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” can only refer to the least of his followers. In other words, the sheep and the goats as exposed for what they are by the way they treat the downtrodden of Jesus’ followers. . . . When people persecute the people of Jesus Christ, they are persecuting Jesus Christ himself, prompting him to challenge a Saul on the Damascus Road, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).

Yet the primary point in these parables . . . is how many of them lay emphasis on the dividing effect of Jesus’ ministry. In the case of the sheep and the goats, the latter will finally “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous [the former] to eternal life”—with that same expression used for “eternal” in the two expressions. One senses that, in an effort to be magnanimous—in many ways, a very good thing—the pendulum swing now makes it almost impossible to pronounce condemnation on any position or habit of life…

D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, pp. 209-210