Delight In God and His Commandments

The apostle John says in his first epistle, “his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). How can God’s commandments be grievous to anybody who really has an enlightened mind? There is no life like it; this is the only life-the other is darkness. Is it possible that to a child of God the commandments should be grievous, a heavy burden to be borne? But the children of Israel were always giving that impression. They said in effect, “Look at those other nations; they have kings, but we don’t have one. Give us a king.” You see, they despised the fact that God was their King. They envied those other nations; those people could do what they liked. They did not have the Ten Commandments; they did not have to observe the Sabbath; they could eat anything they liked and marry anybody they liked. “Here are we,” said God’s people, “living this narrow life.” They were always grumbling and complaining; that was the charge brought against them.

Is that true of us? Do we find the commandments of God “grievous”? Do we find the way that God has mapped out for us to be hard and difficult and narrow and trying? Is our Christianity against the grain? Do we give the impression that it is a matter of duty or perhaps more a matter of fear than anything else? If so, my friends, we are “limit[ing] the Holy One of Israel” [Ps.78:41]. God means us to enjoy keeping His commandments. They are meant to be our chief delight. The psalmist could say, “I delight in thy law” (Ps. 119:70), but we are in a superior position to the psalmist; we have a fullness that he did not know.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms (Kindle Edition)

Something To Look At For All Eternity

All the New Testament epistles are, in a sense, a map of life. They start off with the great doctrines, and they give us understanding, insight, intellectual apprehension. There is no more intellectual book in the world than the Bible, but our own intellects will never grasp it until they have been enlightened by the Spirit. It is food for the mind, something to look at for all eternity.

So I can state confidently, and to the glory of God in Jesus Christ, I understand life. I understand myself, and I am not a bit surprised that the world is as it is. I could have prophesied it. I began preaching in the 1920s when people were still optimistic. There had been one world war, but they said, “It is all right; we’ll never do that again.” They were preaching with optimism, and I began preaching chaos and sin and man as he is, and I prophesied that war would come. I simply believed my Bible. I simply accepted the view of life presented there plainly and clearly. Because mankind is sinful there will be wars, and it is just idle fancy and nonsense to imagine that men and women, being self-centered and selfish, will do anything but fight one another in some shape or form. James has said it all: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (Jas. 4:1).

There is no difficulty in understanding the world if you are a Christian and if you believe the message of the Bible. It is all there; it is a perfect, complete view of life.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms (Kindle Edition)

Oh, The Way We speak About God!

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
Psalm 50:21

We have all done it; I have done it myself. I have been one of a company discussing religion and God and theology, and there we all sat in armchairs, discussing God. The amazing thing is that God tolerates us at all and that He does not wipe us out of existence! You remember what happened to Moses at the burning bush. He said, “What is this? This is an interesting phenomenon-I’m going to investigate it,” and he was on the point of approaching when the Voice came out of the bush and addressed him, saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exod. 3:5).

If you and I realized the real nature and being of God, we would stop speaking. We would stop mouthing these things and making our declarations. With job of old, when he really came into God’s presence, we would put our hands upon our mouths. We would be ashamed of ourselves for having spoken “unadvisedly with [our] lips” (Ps. 106:33), and we would be silent before Him. And that is the only right and true and appropriate attitude.

If you want to know anything about God and to be blessed by Him, then you do not start by speaking about Him, nor by thinking what you want to think about what God ought to be like or about what God ought to do. You just stop in silence, and you wait, and you listen, and you adore, and you look up. “The mighty God, even the LORD [Jehovah], hath spoken.”

Have you ever realized who God is? Everything in connection with religion is about Him. Christ came into the world and died. Why? To bring us to God. It is all about God. It is not some comfortable feeling that you and I have to strive for; it is not having your body healed or a thousand and one other things. The whole object of Christ and His death upon the cross, His burial, and His resurrection is to bring us to God. And the ultimate test of our profession of the Christian faith is our thoughts about God, our attitude in His presence, our reverence and godly fear because our God is a consuming fire.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms (Kindle Edition)

Aware of Many Facts, They May Be Fools

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.
Psalm 14:1

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 want to live the kind of life that the psalmist describes here. “They are altogether become filthy,” he says. “There is none that doeth good” (v. 3). It is because they want to be filthy that they say, “There is no God.” So there is my first reason for calling such people 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.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms (Kindle Edition)

Around the Interweb

The Only Hope We Have, And It Is Hope Enough

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

R.C. Sproul from Together for the Gospel 2008 on the curse motif of the atonement:

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Also Worth Reading:

Controversy: Michael Krahn on what he thinks John Piper meant when he tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” (Incidentally, Piper responded: “Pretty close.”)

Men: A Bigger Problem Than “Boys Will Be Boys”

Bible: What About the Issues Scripture Doesn’t Address?

Documentary: The Life of George Whitefield as told by The Doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Apparently this video will no longer be available after March 31, so watch it while you can. It’s fascinating stuff:

In Case You Missed It:

Book Review: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Husbands, Date Your Wives

What Good Will Come From the Bell Brouhaha?

Richard D. Phillips: Your Witness Matters

Meet My Friend Deni Gauthier

Thomas Watson: Let Us Imitate Our Father

Around the Interweb (08/29)

Martin Lloyd-Jones on Family Worship

If you love your children; if you would bring down the blessing of heaven upon your families; if you would have your children make their houses the receptacles of religion when they set up in life for themselves; if you would have religion survive in this place, and be conveyed from age to age; if you would deliver your own souls—I beseech, I entreat, I charge you to begin and continue the worship of God in your families from this day to the close of your lives… Consider family religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by divine grace.

From Donald Whitney’s book Family Worship

HT: The Resurgence

In Other News

Parenting: My wife was interviewed on the How to Be Awesome podcast. The subject? How to be an awesome mom.

Writing: Tim Challies shares about latest writing projects, including The Next Story (coming in 2011 from Zondervan)

Pastors: Piper’s desire for his church during his sabbatical:

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg

A Precise God

Sermon audio: Be Heavenly-minded

The Bible’s Not About You

Spurgeon encourages us to see Jesus as our greatest object of astonishment

Martyn Lloyd Jones: The Peculiar Task of the Church

[T]he primary task of the Church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy. I will go further; it is not even to make him good. These are things that accompany salvation; and when the Church performs her true task she does incidentally educate men and give them knowledge and information, she does bring them happiness, she does make them good and better than they were.

But my point is that those are not her primary objectives.

Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man into right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God.

This really does need to be emphasised at the present time, because this, it sees to me, is the essence of the modern fallacy.

It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church—this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case it that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of the biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. . . .

The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner.

This is specialist work, it is the peculiar task of the Church.

The church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be.

The church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 30-32 (paragraph breaks and emphasis added)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Dishonesty of Unbelief

The popular teaching is that you cannot believe [the] records we are given, but that does not matter at all as long as you get the “religious value” of the stories. It does not matter whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin; it does not really matter whether or not He worked miracles or atoned for our sins by His death. It certainly does not matter whether He arose in body from the tomb.

The facts do not matter, they say, as long as you have the religious value of Jesus and His teaching.

In a sense, these apostles preached nothing but the facts, which to them were all-important.

They kept on talking about “the things which we have seen and heard.”

The experience of these men came directly out of the facts about which they were constantly speaking. If your experience does not result from the facts of Christ’s life and death, it is not a Christian experience.

If there was a time when we need to emphasize the facts, these great foundational facts on which the whole of our faith is based, it is the present moment. The world is as it is because it does not believe these facts. If you give your experience to the world, it will say, “All right, if that’s the sort of thing that pleases you, get on with it. I’m not interested; it has nothing to do with me.” On top of that, you can hear proponents of the cults saying, “Believe us, and you will get happiness. Though you have not slept for years, you will be able to sleep peacefully.”

But we preach facts, and we preach the apostolic witness to the facts, including this tremendous, glorious fact of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection is indeed a fact.

These apostles did not merely preach that Jesus—the one whom they had all known and listened to, the one who had been crucified and who had died and was buried—was still alive in the other spiritual realm. They did preach that, but the Resurrection does not merely mean that Jesus is still in existence in the spiritual realm. It means much more than that, and this is what we must be clear about.

These men preached the empty tomb.

They said: “We were witnesses, we saw Him crucified, we heard his cry of dereliction, we heard Him saying at the end, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). We saw them taking down His body; we saw them laying it in a tomb, rolling a stone in front of the entrance, sealing it, ordering Roman soldiers to guard it. We saw that, but we also saw the empty tomb on the morning of the third day.”

That is what they were witnesses to, and that is what they preached—not merely that Jesus can still help us from the unseen realm, but that Jesus literally rose, leaving nothing behind except the grave clothes.

He arose in the body; it was a changed body, but it was essentially the same body, His body. He was able to show them His hands and side. You remember the incident in connection with Thomas, who was very slow to believe and stumbled at it. “Reach hither thy finger,” said our Lord, “and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (John 20:27). It was the same body, but changed.

Now, of course, our scientific age cannot believe anything like that, but they could not believe things like that in the first century either. In the last chapter of Matthew we read that the clever people at that time invented a story and bribed the Roman soldiers to tell a lie in order to disprove the Resurrection. They went as far as that, and people are doing similar things today.

That is the dishonesty of unbelief.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Courageous Christianity, pp. 165-166 (emphasis & paragraph breaks mine)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: There is Hope for All Who Cry Out to Him

But above everything else, Christianity is entirely beyond understanding. “What meaneth this?” they asked. Of course they did. If you can understand your religion, that is proof it is not Christianity. If you are in control of your religion, it is not Christianity. If you can take it up in a bag on Sunday morning when you go to church and then put it down again, that is not Christianity. Christianity is a miracle. It is a marvel. It astonishes people.

When Blaise Pascal, the French thinker, had a great experience of God, he said, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Then, negatively, “not the god of the philosophers and seers and thinkers.” That is the contrast. The God of the Bible is the God who reveals Himself in all the glory and wonder of His miraculous, eternal power. Thank God for such a message, such a Gospel. It made the church. This is what she preached, and on the day of Pentecost 3,000 men and women were added to the church.

But finally, because all  this is true, Christianity is a message for all people. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). You will need to be very clever to understand the modern books about God, but thank God, you do not need to be clever to be a Christian. “The common people heard him gladly,” wrote Mark (12:37). “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called,” says the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 1:26). Rather, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty …and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (vv. 27-28). There is a hope for all who realize their need and cry out to Him.

Is that your idea of Christianity? Do you know this living God, this true God, this active God, this God who intervenes and comes? Have you ever met Him in any shape or form, as Moses met Him in the burning bush, as Jacob met Him at Peniel, as Elijah met Him on Mount Carmel? Have you ever felt the touch of God upon your soul? Are you aware that you have been dealt with, that God has entered into your life and has done something that you could not do? Do you know that you are what you are by the grace of God? Do you say, “I can’t explain it—all I know is that God has done something to me in Christ”? If you can say that, you are a Christian. But  if all you have is what you do and what you think, I am afraid you are not a Christian. God’s coming to you need not be the rushing, mighty wind, but it is always the power of God. It is always the hand of God. It always brings the knowledge that God has had pity upon you and has come down in the person of His Son to enter into your life, to save you and set you free. Oh, that men and women might know the living God and His power unto salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord!

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, 31-32

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Our Greatest Hope

And what then? In Acts 1:10-11 we read: “Two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” If you think that Jesus finished when He died and was buried, listen to the message of Luke, listen to this treatise written to Theophilus—it is written to you. He will come again, even as He went. He will return, in bodily, visible fashion, riding the clouds of heaven, surrounded by the holy angels. And He will judge the world in righteousness and set up His glorious kingdom, to which there shall be no end.

That is the message of Christianity. That is what has made the church what it is. Do men and women need to be told about some kind of program that will give them better conditions? That is not our greatest need. Our greatest need is to know God. If we were all given a fortune, would that solve our problems? Would that solve our moral problems? would that solve the problem of death? Would that solve the problem of eternity? Of course not. The message of Christianity is not about improving the world, but about changing people in spite of the world, preparing them for the glory that is yet to come. This Jesus is active and acting to that end, and He will go on until all the redeemed are gathered in, and then He will return, and the final judgement will take place, and His kingdom will stretch from shore to shore.

That is the message that turned the ancient world upside-down. It is the only message, and I want to ask you a simple question: What does this message mean to you? What is your idea of Christianity? What do you think the business of the church is? Do you say, “I don’t want your sermons, I don’t want your argumentation—I just want to feel that I’ve said my prayers and paid my respects, as it were, to God, before I go out and do what I like”? Is it that? Do you think Christianity is something you can take up and use as a minimum, in the hope that it will somehow put you right? Or is it the most amazing and astounding thing that ever happened or will ever happen? Is it the thing by which you live, the thing that you long to know and to experience more and more? Do you realize that this Jesus came into the world to save you from hell, from the punishment that your sins and mine so richly deserve? Do you realize now that the essence of Christianity is not that it calls you to do something, but rather that it tells you what Jesus came into the world to do for you?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, 17-18

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Test of a True Teacher

The most important test is the conformity to scriptural teaching. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” How do I know that this is a scriptural test? All I know about Him, I put up to the test of Scripture. Indeed, you get exactly the same thing in the sixth verse of 1 John 4 where John says, speaking of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The first thing to ask about a man who claims to be filled with the Spirit and to be an unusual teacher is, does his teaching conform to Scripture? Is it in conformity with the apostolic message? Does he base it all upon this Word? Is he willing to submit to it? That is the great test.

Another test is the readiness to listen to scriptural teaching; to abide by it is always a characteristic of the true prophet. You will find that the other man rather tends to dismiss it. “Ah yes,” he says,” But you are legalistic, you are just a theologian. I have experience, I have felt, and I have produced this and that.” The tendency is not to abide by the teaching of Scripture but to be almost contemptuous of it; that has always been the characteristic of those who have tended to go astray. Read the history of the Quakers, and you will find that such an attitude became a prominent feature—the inner light rather than the objective teaching of Scripture itself.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, 23-24 (Republished in Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Be Different from the World

The fact is that the world expects us to be different; and this idea that you can win the world by showing that after all you are very similar to it, with scarcely any difference at all, or but a very slight one, is basically wrong not only theologically but even psychologically.

Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him… this idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.

In this realm we are dealing with God, and our knowledge of God, and our relationship to God. So everything here must be ‘under God’ and must be done ‘with reverence and godly fear’. We do not decide this; we are not in charge and in control, it is God. It is His service, and He has to be approached ‘with reverence and with godly fear, because our God is a consuming fire’….light entertainment, easy familiarity and jocularity are not compatible with a realisation of the seriousness of the condition of the souls of all men by nature, the fact that they are lost and in danger of eternal perdition, and their consequent need of salvation.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 139-140

HT: Slice of Laodicea

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Primacy of Preaching

dmlj-preaching

“People say that the preachers stand in their pulpits and preach their sermons, but that there before them are individuals with their individual problems and sufferings. So the argument runs, you ought to preach less and spend more time doing personal work and counseling and interviewing.

My reply to this argument is to suggest, once more, that the answer is to put preaching into the primary position. Why? For this reason that true preaching does deal with personal problems, so much so that true preaching saves a great deal of time for the pastor. I am speaking out of forty years of experience. What do I mean? Let me explain.

The Puritans are justly famous for their pastoral preaching. They would take up what they called ‘cases of conscience’ and deal with them in their sermons; and as they dealt with these problems they were solving the personal individual problems of those who were listening to them. That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing until people came to me at the end of the service saying, ‘I want to thank you for that sermon because if you had known I was there and the exact nature of my problem, you could not have answered my various questions more perfectly. I have often thought of bringing them to you but you have now answered them without doing so.’

The preaching had already dealt with the personal problems. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that the preacher should never do any personal work; far from it. But I do contend that preaching must always come first, and that it must not be replaced by anything else.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers, p.37

HT: Joel Taylor

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Puritan and the Anglican

dmlj-puritan

The Puritan emphasises the spirituality of worship; the Anglican emphasises the formal aspect of worship, and is more interested in the mechanics of worship. The Puritan is interested in fellowship, the Anglican is more individualistic. The gathered church is at the heart of the Puritan idea – the fellowship; the Anglican is more individualistic. Puritans believed also in the ferreting out of sin and a rigid church discipline; the Anglican tends to be content with an outward conformity.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans:  Their Origins and Successors, p. 257 (as quoted  in H. Rondel Rumburg, William Bridge: The Puritan of the Congregational Way, p. 26)