The Terrible Danger of Trusting Your Faith, but Not Jesus

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

The alarming and terrifying thing which our Lord says is that not everyone who does say `Lord, Lord’, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Those who do go in say it; anyone who does not say it can never enter into the kingdom of heaven; but not all who do say it shall enter in. This is clearly something that should arrest us and cause us to pause. James, in his Epistle, puts the very same point. He warns us to be careful against merely relying upon our belief of certain things, and he puts it like this in a rather startling manner by saying, `The devils also believe, and tremble’ (James ii. ig).

An instance of this is found in the Gospels where we read that certain devils recognized Him and said `Lord, Lord’, but remained devils. We are all in danger of being content with an intellectual assent to the truth. There have been people throughout the centuries who have fallen into this trap. They have read the Scriptures and accepted their teaching. They believed the teaching, and sometimes they have been exponents of the truth, and have argued against heretics. And yet their whole character and life have been a denial of the very truth they have claimed to believe. It is a terrifying thought and yet Scripture so often teaches us that it is a dreadful possibility. A man who is unregenerate and not born again may accept the scriptural teaching as a kind of philosophy, as abstract truth. Indeed, I would not hesitate to say that I always find it very difficult to understand how any intelligent man is not compelled to do that.

If any man comes to the Bible with an intelligent mind and faces its evidence, it seems almost incredible that he should not arrive at certain inevitable logical conclusions. And a man may do that and still not be a Christian. The historical evidence for the Person ofJesus Christ of Nazareth is beyond question. You cannot explain the persistence of the Christian Church apart from Him; the evidence is overwhelming. So a man may face that and say: `Yes, I accept that argument’. He may subscribe to the truth and say: `Jesus of Nazareth was none other than the Son of God’. He may say that and still be unregenerate, and not a Christian. He may say `Lord, Lord’, and yet not enter the kingdom of heaven. Our forefathers, in days when they realized these dangers, used to emphasize this tremendously. Read the works of the Puritans and you will find that they devoted not only chapters but volumes to the question of `false peace’. Indeed, this danger has been recognized throughout the centuries. There is the danger of trusting your faith instead of Christ, of trusting your belief without really becoming regenerate. It is a terrible possibility. There are people who have been brought up in a Christian home and atmosphere, who have always heard these things, and in a sense have always accepted them, and have always believed and said the right thing; but still they may not be Christians.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Kindle Edition)

Do Not Expect Peace Before The Prince of Peace Returns

“…And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

—Matthew 24:6-14—

We are not to expect a reign of universal peace, happiness, and prosperity, before the end comes. If we do, we shall be greatly deceived. Our Lord bids us look for “wars, famines, pestilence,” and persecution. It is vain to expect peace until the Prince of Peace returns. Then, and not until then, the swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and nations learn war no more. Then, and not until then, the earth shall bring forth her increase. (Isa. 2:4; Psa. 68:6)

We are not to expect a time of universal purity of doctrine and practice in the Church of Christ, before the end comes. If we do, we shall be greatly mistaken. Our Lord bids us look for the rising of “false prophets,” the “abounding of iniquity,” and the “waxing cold of the love of many.” The truth will never be received by all professing Christians, and holiness be the rule among men, until the great Head of the Church returns, and Satan is bound. Then, and not until then, there will be a glorious Church, without spot or blemish. (Eph. 5:27)

We are not to expect that all the world will be converted before the end comes. If we do, we shall be greatly mistaken. “The Gospel is to be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations,” but we must not think that we shall see it universally believed. It will “take out a people,” wherever it is faithfully preached, as witnesses to Christ, but the full gathering of the nations shall never take place until Christ comes. Then, and not until then, shall the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Acts 15:14; Hab. 2:14)

Let us lay these things to heart, and remember them well. They are eminently truths for the present times. Let us learn to be moderate in our expectations from any existing machinery in the Church of Christ, and we shall be spared much disappointment. Let us make haste to spread the Gospel in the world, for the time is short, not long. The night comes when no man can work. Troublous times are ahead. Heresies and persecutions may soon weaken and distract the churches. A fierce war of principles may soon convulse the nations. The doors now open to do good may soon be shut forever. Our eyes may yet see the sun of Christianity go down like the sun of Judaism, in clouds and storms. Above all, let us long for our Lord’s return. Oh! for a heart to pray daily, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Kindle Edition)

Let Us Watch and Be On Our Guard

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

—Matthew 24:3-14—

The first general lesson before us, is a warning against deception. The very first words of the discourse are, “Be careful that no one leads you astray.” A more needful warning than this cannot be conceived. Satan knows well the value of prophecy, and has ever labored to bring the subject into contempt. How many false Christs and false prophets arose before the destruction of Jerusalem, the works of Josephus abundantly prove. In how many ways the eyes of man are continually blinded in the present day, as to things to come, it might easily be shown. Irvingism and Mormonism have been only too successfully used as arguments for rejecting the whole doctrine of the second advent of Christ. Let us watch, and be on our guard.

Let no man deceive us as to the leading facts of unfulfilled prophecy, by telling us they are impossible–or as to the manner in which they will be brought to pass, by telling us it is improbable and contrary to past experience. Let no man deceive us as to the time when unfulfilled prophecies will be accomplished, either by fixing dates on the one hand, or bidding us wait for the conversion of the world on the other. On all these points let the plain meaning of Scripture be our only guide, and not the traditional interpretations of men. Let us not be ashamed to say that we expect a literal fulfillment of unfulfilled prophecy. Let us frankly allow that there are many things we do not understand, but still hold our ground tenaciously, believe much–wait long, and not doubt that all will one day be made clear. Above all, let us remember that the first coming of Messiah to suffer, was the most improbable event that could have been conceived, and let us not doubt that as He literally came in person to suffer, so He will literally come again in person to reign.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Kindle Edition)

Love is the Grand Secret of True Obedience

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God. When we feel towards Him as children feel towards a dear father, we shall delight to do His will. We shall not find His commandments grievous, and work for Him like slaves under fear of the lash. We shall take pleasure in trying to keep His laws, and mourn when we transgress them. None work so well as those who work out of love. The fear of punishment, or the desire of reward, are principles of far less power. They do the will of God best, who do it from the heart…

Love is the grand secret of right behavior towards our fellow men. He who loves his neighbor will scorn to do him any willful injury, either in person, property, or character. But he will not rest there. He will desire in every way to do him good. He will strive to promote his comfort and happiness in every way. He will endeavor to lighten his sorrows, and increase his joys. When a man loves us, we feel confidence in him. We know that he will never intentionally do us harm, and that in every time of need he will be our friend…

But how shall we obtain this love towards God? It is no natural feeling. We are born in sin, and, as sinners, are afraid of God. How then can we love Him? We can never really love Him until we are at peace with Him through Christ. When we feel our sins forgiven, and ourselves reconciled to our holy Maker, then, and not until then, we shall love Him and have the spirit of adoption. Faith in Christ is the true spring of love to God. They love most who feel most forgiven. “We love him because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19.)

And how shall we obtain this love towards our Neighbor? This is also no natural feeling. We are born selfish, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3.) We shall never love our fellow man aright until our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit. We must be born again. We must put off the old man, and put on the new, and receive the mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then, and not until then, our cold hearts will know true God-like love towards all. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Gal. 5:22.)

Let these things sink down into our hearts. There is much vague talk in these latter days about love and charity. Men profess to admire them and desire to see them increased, and yet hate the principles which alone can produce them. Let us stand fast in the old paths. We cannot have fruits and flowers without roots. We cannot have love to God and man without faith in Christ, and without regeneration. The way to spread true love in the world, is to teach the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Kindle Edition)

Three Things Jesus Prays for Us

When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him; and he pray for three things.

First, that the saints may be kept from sin (John 17:15). “I pray that thou shouldest keep them from evil.” We live in the world as in a pest-house; Christ prays that his saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times.

Second, for his people’s progress in holiness. “Sanctify them” (John 17:17). Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be anointed with fresh oil.

Third, for their glorification: “Father, I will that those which thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24). Christ is not content till the saints are in his arms. This prayer, which he made on earth, is the copy and pattern of his prayer in heaven. What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This works for good.

Adapted from Thomas Watson, All Things for Good, 1663

HT: Jonathan Parnell

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian

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I’m really looking forward to reading John Piper’s latest book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. The trailer above is for a 20-minute documentary that accompanies the book where Piper describes growing up in the South and how the gospel transformed his life.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction (available for download at DesiringGod.org):

Many things have changed since 1963. And some deep things have not changed. Let me illustrate. There are probably more vicious white supremacists in America today than there were in 1968. The victims are as likely to be Latinos or Somali immigrants as African Americans whose ancestors have been here for centuries. The Ku Klux Klan has no corner on hate any more.

On June 7, 1998—that’s ’98, not ’68—outside Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, a forty-nine-year-old African American, was beaten and chained by his ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged two miles until his head ripped off. The perpetrators had racist tattoos, one of them depicting a black hanging from a tree. Many things have changed in the last forty years, but in some people some deep things haven’t changed. There is still plenty of hate.

Bloodlines promises to be a powerful read. I hope you’ll check it out.

The Modern Quandary of a Sinless Jesus

With respect to the sinlessness of Jesus modern liberal historians find themselves in a quandary. To affirm that He was sinless means to relinquish much of that ease of defending liberal religion which the liberal historians are anxious to preserve, and involves hazardous assumptions with regard to the nature of sin. For if sin is merely imperfection, how can an absolute negation of it be ventured upon within a process of nature which is supposed to be ever changing and ever advancing? The very idea of “sinlessness,” much more the reality of it, requires us to conceive of sin as transgression of a fixed law or a fixed standard, and involves the conception of an absolute goodness. But to that conception of an absolute goodness the modern evolutionary view of the world properly speaking has no right.

At any rate, if such absolute goodness is to be allowed to intrude at a definite point in the present world-process, we are involved in that supernaturalism which, as will be observed later, is the very thing that the modern reconstruction of Christianity is most anxious to avoid. Once affirm that Jesus was sinless and all other men sinful, and you have entered into irreconcilable conflict with the whole modern point of view. On the other hand, if there are scientific objections, from the liberal point of view, against an affirmation of the sinlessness of Jesus, there are also very obvious religious objections against an opposite affirmation of His sinfulness–difficulties for modern liberalism as well as for the theology of the historic Church. If Jesus was sinful like other men, the last remnant of his uniqueness would seem to have disappeared, and all continuity with the previous development of Christianity would seem to be destroyed.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

The Religion of the Broken Heart

In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of “Woe is me.” Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea. The trouble with the paganism of ancient Greece, as with the paganism of modern times, was not in the superstructure, which was glorious, but in the foundation, which was rotten. There was always something to be covered up; the enthusiasm of the architect was maintained only by ignoring the disturbing fact of sin. In Christianity, on the other hand, nothing needs to be covered up. The fact of sin is faced squarely once for all, and is dealt with by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him. Such is the higher Christian humanism–a humanism founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace.

But although Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with the broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale. But how can the consciousness of sin be revived? Something no doubt can be accomplished by the proclamation of the law of God, for the law reveals transgressions. The whole of the law, moreover, should be proclaimed. It will hardly be wise to adopt the suggestion (recently offered among many suggestions as to the ways in which we shall have to modify our message in order to retain the allegiance of the returning soldiers) that we must stop treating the little sins as though they were big sins. That suggestion means apparently that we must not worry too much about the little sins, but must let them remain unmolested.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

If You Really Love Our Fellow Man, Invite Him into the House of God

The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God which is being celebrated as “the essence of Christianity,” really belongs at best only to that vague natural religion which forms the presupposition which the Christian preacher can use when the gospel is to be proclaimed; and when it is regarded as a reassuring, all-sufficient thing, it comes into direct opposition to the New Testament. The gospel itself refers to something entirely different; the really distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God concerns only those who have been brought into the household of faith.

There is nothing narrow about such teaching; for the door of the household of faith is open wide to all. That door is the “new and living way” which Jesus opened by His blood. And if we really love our fellow men, we shall not go about the world, with the liberal preacher, trying to make men satisfied with the coldness of a vague natural religion. But by the preaching of the gospel we shall invite them into the warmth and joy of the house of God. Christianity offers men all that is offered by the modern liberal teaching about the universal fatherhood of God; but it is Christianity only because it offers also infinitely more.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

The Unparalleled Impoverishment of Human Life

The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. . . . The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre. Even the appreciation of the glories of the past is gradually being lost, under the influence of a utilitarian education that concerns itself only with the production of physical well-being. . .

This unprecedented decline in literature and art is only one manifestation of a more far-reaching phenomenon. . . . The whole development of modern society has tended mightily toward the limitation of the realm of freedom for the individual man. . . . The result is an unparalleled impoverishment of human life. Personality can only be developed in the realm of individual choice. And that realm, in the modern state, is being slowly but steadily contracted. The tendency is making itself felt especially in the sphere of education. The object of education, it is now assumed, is the production of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. But the greatest happiness for the greatest number, it is assumed further, can be defined only by the will of the majority. Idiosyncrasies in education, therefore, it is said, must be avoided, and the choice of schools must be taken away from the individual parent and placed in the hands of the state. The state then exercises its authority through the instruments that are ready to hand, and at once, therefore, the child is placed under the control of psychological experts, themselves without the slightest acquaintance with the higher realms of human life, who proceed to prevent any such acquaintance being gained by those who come under their care. Such a result is being slightly delayed in America by the remnants of Anglo-Saxon individualism, but the signs of the times are all contrary to the maintenance of this halfway position; liberty is certainly held by but a precarious tenure when once its underlying principles have been lost. For a time it looked as though the utilitarianism which came into vogue in the middle of the nineteenth century would be a purely academic matter, without influence upon daily life. But such appearances have proved to be deceptive. The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

I Cannot Arrive at God by My Own Unaided Efforts

Those who are anxious to find God and to know Him, are confronted by two possible ways of doing so. The first way, and the one that comes instinctively to us because of our fallen condition, is to believe that we, by our own efforts and seeking, can find God; and from the very beginning of history men and women have been engaged in this quest. They have done so by two main methods. One is to follow this kind of instinctive, intuitive feeling that we have, and that is put in various forms. People sometimes talk about an `inner light’, and say that all you have to do is to follow that light and its leading. . . . The other method that has been adopted has been the one that is based upon reason and wisdom and understanding. People may start, perhaps, with nature and creation, and they reason on from that. They maintain that as a result of that process they can arrive at a knowledge of God. Others say that by looking at history, and by reasoning on the course of history, they can arrive at a belief in God. Yet others say that the way to arrive at God is to indulge in a process of pure reasoning. . . .

But the Christian answer is that that method is inevitably doomed to failure. The apostle Paul puts it in those memorable words: `The world by wisdom knew not God’ (1 Cor. 1:21); and it is significant that he said that to the Corinthians, who were Greeks, and who were therefore familiar with philosophical teaching. But in spite of Paul having said that, people still rely on human ideas and reasoning to find God.

It seems to me that this is not a matter to argue about, because it is just a question of fact; and the fact is, that one cannot arrive at a knowledge of God along those lines, for two very obvious reasons. The first is (as we hope to see later as we consider these particular doctrines) the nature of God Himself: His infinity, His absolute character and qualities, and His utter holiness. All that in and of itself makes it impossible to have any knowledge of God by means of reason or intuition.

But when you add to that the second reason, which is the character and nature of men and women as they are in a state of sin, the thing becomes doubly impossible. The human mind is too small to span or grasp God and to realise Him. And when you understand that because of the fall all human faculties and powers are affected by sin and by natural enmity, then, again, a knowledge of God by human endeavour becomes a complete impossibility.

Now the Bible has always started by saying that, and yet people in their foolishness still try these outworn methods which have already proved to be failures. So we must start by laying down this postulate: our only hope of knowing God truly is that He should be graciously pleased to reveal Himself to us, and the Christian teaching is that God has done that. So clearly the first doctrine which we have to consider together is the biblical doctrine of revelation. I cannot arrive at God by my own unaided efforts. I am dependent upon God revealing Himself. The question is: `Has He done so?’ The answer is: `Yes, He has,’ and the Bible tells us about this.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and the Last Things (Kindle Edition)

Always Be Thinking Of The End

Finally wrapping up some work I’m doing related to the Sermon on the Mount. Loved reading these words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Matt. 5:11-12:

The Christian is a man who should always be thinking of the end. He does not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. . . . `Rejoice,’ says Christ, `and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.’

What is this reward? Well, the Bible does not tell us much about it, for a very good reason. It is so glorious and wonderful that our human language is of necessity almost bound to detract from its glory. . . . But it does tell us something like this. We shall see Him as He is, and worship in His glorious presence. Our very bodies will be changed, and glorified, with no sickness or disease. There will be no sorrow, no sighing; all tears shall be wiped away. All will be perpetual glory. No wars or rumours of wars; no separation, no unhappiness, nothing that drags a man down and makes him unhappy, even for a second!

Unmixed joy, and glory, and holiness, and purity and wonder! That is what is awaiting us. That is your destiny and mine in Christ as certainly as we are alive at this moment. How foolish we are that we do not spend our time in thinking about that. Oh, how we cling to this unhappy, wretched world, and fail to think on these things and to meditate upon them. We are all going on to that, if we are Christians, to that amazing glory and purity and happiness and joy. `Rejoice, and be exceeding glad.’ And if people are unkind and cruel and spiteful, and if we are being persecuted, well then we must say to ourselves, Ah, unhappy people; they are doing this because they do not know Him, and they do not understand me. They are incidentally proving to me that I belong to Him, that I am going to be with Him and share in that joy with Him. Therefore, far from resenting it, and wanting to hit back, or being depressed by it, it makes me realize all the more what is awaiting me. I have a joy unspeakable and full of glory awaiting me. All this is but temporary and passing; it cannot affect that. I therefore must thank God for it, because, as Paul puts it, it `worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’.

How often do you think of heaven and rejoice as you think of it? Does it give you a sense of strangeness and of fear, and a desire, as it were, to avoid it? If it does so to any degree, I fear we must plead guilty that we are living on too low a level. Thoughts of heaven ought to make us rejoice and be exceeding glad. True Christian living is to be like Paul and to say, `to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Why? Because it means, `to be with Christ; which is far better,’ to see Him and to be like Him. Let us think more about these things, realizing increasingly, and reminding ourselves constantly, that if we are in Christ these things are awaiting us. We should desire them above everything else. Therefore, `Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.’

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Kindle Edition)

Be heavenly-minded, brothers and sisters.

The Flesh Can Counterfeit Almost Anything

Strong words from the Doctor on Matt. 7:21-23:

Our Lord is emphasizing that though they say `Lord, Lord’, and are fervent and zealous, it may be nothing but the flesh. Great enthusiasm in these things does not of necessity imply spirituality. The flesh may account for that; it can counterfeit almost everything. We can perhaps emphasize this point best by quoting something which was written by Robert Murray McCheyne. That man of God, when he merely entered the pulpit, caused people to break down and weep. People felt that he had come straight from an audience with God, and they were humbled by his very appearance. This is what he said in his diary one day: `Today, missed some fine opportunity of speaking a word for Christ. The Lord saw that I would have spoken as much for my own honour as for His, and therefore He shut my mouth. I see that a man cannot be a faithful, fervent minister until he preaches just for Christ’s sake, until he gives up trying to attract people to himself, and seeks to attract them to Christ. Lord’, he ends, `give me this.’ Robert Murray McCheyne there recognizes this terrible danger of doing things in the flesh and imagining that we are doing them for Christ’s sake…

In other words, a man may be able to point to great results such as healings and so on, and yet they may signify nothing. And we should not be surprised at this. Are we not learning more and more in these days about the powers that are innate in man even in a natural sense? There is such a thing as a natural gift of healing; there is a kind of natural, almost magical power in certain people. For instance the whole question of electricity in the human frame is most interesting. We are merely beginning to understand it. There are people such as water-diviners who possess certain curious gifts. Then there is the whole question of telepathy, transference of thought and extra-sensory perception. These things are just coming into our ken. As the result of such gifts and powers many can do marvellous and wondrous things, and yet not be Christian. The natural power of man can simulate the gifts of the Holy Spirit, up to a point. And, of course, we are reminded by Scripture that God, in His own inscrutable will, sometimes decides to give these powers to men who do not belong to Him in order to bring to pass His own purposes. He raises up men for His own particular purpose, but they themselves remain outside the kingdom. It was God who called and used the pagan Cyrus.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Kindle Edition)

Christ Is No Tyrant, But The Giver Of Grace

This week’s another sermon prep week for me, and I keep coming back to Galatians 2:15-21, which is one of the most beautiful, clear and powerful statements on the doctrine of justification by grace alone in all of Scripture. I love what Martin Luther wrote about it, particularly commenting on a portion of verse 20, so much so that I wanted to share it with you:

Who is this me ? I, wretched and damnable sinner, dearly beloved of the Son of God. If I could by work or merit love the Son of God and come to Him, why should He have sacrificed Himself for me? . . .  If I, a condemned sinner, could have been purchased and redeemed by any other price, why should the Son of God have given Himself for me? Just because there was no other price in heaven and on earth big and good enough, was it necessary for the Son of God to be delivered for me. This He did out of His great love for me, for the Apostle says, Who loved me.

Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.

Hence, Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, no lawgiver, but the Giver of grace, the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He is no less than infinite mercy and ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himself for us. Visualize Christ in these His true colors. I do not say that it is easy. Even in the present diffusion of the Gospel light, I have much trouble to see Christ as Paul portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion that Christ is a lawgiver sunk into my bones. You younger men are a good deal better off than we who are old. You have never become infected with the nefarious errors on which I suckled all my youth, until at the mention of the name of Christ I shivered with fear. You, I say, who are young may learn to know Christ in all His sweetness.

For Christ is Joy and Sweetness to a broken heart. Christ is a Lover of poor sinners, and such a Lover that He gave Himself for us. Now if this is true, and it is true, then are we never justified by our own righteousness.

Read the words me and for me with great emphasis. Print this me with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of those who are meant by this me. Christ did not only love Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition)