Praying Spiritually

“Spiritual prayers are best. Have you a diseased body? Pray more that the disease of your soul may be removed than of your body. “Heal my soul, for I have sinned.” Psalm 41:4. The plague of the heart is worse than a cancer in the breast. Have you a child that is lame? Pray more to have its unholiness removed than its lameness. Spiritual prayers are more pleasing to God, and are as music in his ears. Christ has here taught us to pray against sin, “Deliver us from evil.”

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

I will harp on this idea of praying spiritually until the day I die.

Regarding the quote: Praying for someone’s temporary comfort and not praying for their salvation, if it’s in doubt, is the meanest thing anyone can do.

As far as the subject of healing, when praying for Christians, pray for that, but more importantly for perseverance, faith, hope, that God would use whatever the situation to bring them closer to Him, to know His character better, to become more Christlike, etc. We don’t know if healing is God’s will or not, but we know those other things are in fact God’s will for believers. It’s all over the Bible. We can’t go wrong by imitating the prayers of Jesus and Paul.

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog
Praying for the Soul | Desiring God by John Piper, Daily Devotionals Online

Quote of the Day: Gregory Beale on Suffering

I don’t know if I’ve written this before, but I really don’t like the idea that God allows suffering and the whole system of how he uses that for spiritual growth. However, imagine that there is suffering, and God doesn’t use it. It’s just there, but has no purpose. That would be much, much worse. Praise God that he redeems our suffering and makes it extremely valuable.

While the means of growth is the word of God, the context of our growth is often suffering…. Suffering is not an automatic lever to release the life of Christ in us, but suffering is the occasion that we look for Christ’s life to flow in us (2Cor. 4:10, 11). When we are comfortable, we too easily trust in the adequacy of our resources. When we are afflicted, we realize the inadequacy of our resources and look to Christ so that his life is released in us. The life flows not only in us but through us to bless others…. The life of Christ not only strengthens us in weakness but also renews us in glory through suffering.

G. K. Beale, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth as quoted in a blog post, Beale for Dummies by Carl Trueman

Apparently Gregory Beale has switched to the scholar standard of two first initials, contra The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by Gregory K. Beale.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

Christ Feels Our Suffering

How can it be compatible with Christ’s glory now in heaven, to have a fellow feeling with our sufferings?

This fellow feeling in Christ arises not from an infirmity or passion—but from the mystic union between him and his members. “He who touches you, touches the apple of his eye.” Zech 2:8. Every injury done to a saint—he takes as done to him in heaven. Every temptation strikes at him, and he is touched with the feeling of them.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

I wanted to look more into this. It’s comforting to know that Christ not only identifies with our suffering because he himself suffered, but because he is with us now (John 14:23). The idea of the apple/pupil of his eye is unique to the Old Testament as far as I can tell, even if there is the same sentiment expressed in other ways in the New Testament.

John Calvin says in his commentary on Zechariah 2:8:

Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; and to this view I certainly am more inclined; for this idea once occurs in Scripture,

“He will protect us as the apple of his eye.” (Psa 17:8.)

As then the Holy Spirit has elsewhere used this similitude, so I am disposed to regard this passage as intimating, that the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched.

And John Gill:

How careful and tender must we suppose the God of grace, and our merciful Redeemer and High Priest, to be over his dear people, parts of himself, redeemed by his blood, and designed and prepared for eternal glory and happiness; and how daring must such be who offer the least violence unto them; nor must they expect to escape his wrath and vengeance, that seek their hurt, and give them disturbance; see Psa 17:8

Also Matthew Henry:

What he will do for his church shall be an evident proof of God’s tender care of it and affection to it: He that touches you touches the apple of his eye. This is a high expression of God’s love to his church. By his resentment of the injuries done to her it appears how dear she is to him, how he interests himself in all her interests, and takes what is done against her, not only as done against himself, but as done against the very apple of his eye, the tenderest part, which nature has made very fine, has put a double guard upon, and taught us to be in a special manner careful of, and which the least touch is a great offence to. This encourages the people of God to pray with David (Psa 17:8), Keep me as the apple of thy eye; and engages them to do as Solomon directs (Pro 7:2), to keep his law as the apple of their eye. Some understand it thus: “He that touches you touches the apple of his own eye; whoever do you any injury will prove, in the issue, to have done the greatest injury to themselves.”

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
Deuteronomy 32:10 KJV

Some may prefer the less sentimental and more accurately anatomical:

For the LORD of Hosts says this: “He has sent Me for His glory against the nations who are plundering you, for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye.
Zechariah 2:8 HCSB

God Afflicts Those He Loves

Just a few:

It was good that I had to suffer
in order to learn your laws.
The teachings that come from your mouth
are worth more to me than thousands in gold or silver.
Psalm 119:71-72 GW

The LORD tests righteous people,
but he hates wicked people
and the ones who love violence.
Psalm 11:5

The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child. Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.
Hebrews 12:6-11

Even if he makes us suffer, he will have compassion in keeping with the richness of his mercy. He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone,
Lamentations 3:32-33 GWN

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-7 HCSB

We must be careful what we attribute to God

This is a very interesting part of a prayer from the Valley of Vision. I’m still pondering its meaning. In any case, we need to be careful when we get a feeling inside or a random thought and assume it’s God whispering things that only our corrupt imagination could decipher.

When my mind acts without thee,
it spins nothing but deceit and illusion;

[…]

Keep me from the error of thinking
thou dost appear gloriously
when some strange light fills my heart,
as if that were the glorious activity of grace,
but let me see that the truest revelation of thyself
is when thou dost eclipse all my personal glory
and all the honour, pleasure and good of this world.

The Son breaks out in glory
when he shows himself as one
who outshines all creation,
makes men poor in spirit,
and helps them to find their good in him.

Grant that I may distrust myself,
to see my all in thee.

The Valley of Vision, “Love to Jesus”

Also see:
Mumblings from God

Should “The Word of God” Be Reserved for Christ?

I remember a few years ago reading a blog post where the author postulated that the term “The Word of God” should be reserved for Christ, and not Scripture. That’s how I remember it anyway. It could have been “God’s Word”. Either way, as much as I’ve learned from material on the internet, I’ve been frustrated by hair splitting and things that don’t really matter, which I regret I spent the time reading. This one actually made me wonder. Then there is “bibliolatry”, whatever that means, knowledge being a bad thing, and whatever other ideas people dream up.

Here is John Owen’s take on this. I also like how he skewers some people’s method of reasoning, which is still going on today as much as ever. (This was scanned and OCR-ed, so I apologize for any mistakes I might have missed.)

The first is worded in somewhat of this fashion. “The title of ‘Word of God’ (say our fanatics) belongs to Christ, and to Christ alone. It is therefore blasphemy to confer that title on Scripture. Can you thus honor the Bible, without reducing the honor due only to Christ? Surely the Bible is not Christ! Surely it is letter, and not Spirit! The title of Jesus Christ is ‘the Word of God.’ Leave it to Him, and let the Bible rest content with its own titles and nature!”

But see the trick and deception here. We are to be so led on by our love and reverence for Christ that we are supposed to be blinded to the different uses and significations of the same words. By a mere homonym, a simple coincidence of sound, it is intended to drive us out from under the authority and perfection of Scripture! And note that by this these wretched men are not merely seeking to bring in an objection against the name and title of Scripture alone (if that were so they might at least be deserving of some pity), but no, the case is quite different. By this unique stratagem, they not only strip the Bible of its authority and remove it from its appointed place, but actually are attacking the very personality and divine existence of Christ Himself. By thus limiting all reference to the “Word of God” to Christ Himself, they are free to take all of those texts in which the term does not well fit the historical Christ, God-and-man, and apply them to a fictitious “Christ,” a dreadful argument of their own imaginations, who they equate to the pretended “inner light,” which they say is common to all men, a “no-one knows what” spiritual everything, which is in truth quite nothing at all. When Scripture, in hundreds of places, makes mention of “the Word of God,” of “preaching the Word,” of “spreading” or “reception” of the Word, where the actual physical presence of Christ cannot be intended, they are thus free to twist the passages into anything at all that suits their fancy by this device of an “inner light,” of which they themselves are, of course, the sole possessors, of which nothing at all has been heard up to now. This fiction of an “inner light” or “inner word” must be dealt with in its own proper place, and along with it their fictitious “Christ.”

–John Owen, Biblical Theology, pg. 778-779

He then goes on in much more detail.

But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Luke 11:28 NASB

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Revelation 19:13 NASB

Thomas Watson on Affliction

This is from Thomas Watson’s book The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve been finding that books like this are just as good for dealing with suffering as books on suffering (which many posts on this blog are about). Not just the parts of them on subjects dealing with suffering directly, but for example in this book, the extensive part on Our Father is very edifying in every way. The quote below is from part of the section on Thy Will Be Done. Notice the hierarchy of numbering goes from [] to () in the bold parts. I think the most difficult part of reading the Puritans are the lists with the numbers. They can go three and four deep. It’s more difficult when it’s an eBook, like this one is for me. At least it makes it easy to copy and paste. I think this is especially good for those dealing with suffering or who might wrestle with the subject:

When do we not submit to God’s will in affliction as we ought?

(1) When we have hard thoughts of him, and our hearts begin to swell against him.

(2) When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty. We can mourn as doves—but not pray or praise God. We are so discomposed that we are not fit to hearken to any good counsel. “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.” Exod 6:9. Israel was so full of grief under their burdens, that they minded not what Moses said, though he came with a message from God to them; “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.”

(3) We do not submit as we ought to God’s will when we labor to break loose from affliction by indirect means. Many, to rid themselves out of trouble, run themselves into sin. When God has bound them with the cords of affliction—they go to the devil to loosen their bands! Better it is to stay in affliction, than to sin ourselves out of it. O let us learn to stoop to God’s will in all afflictive providence.

But how shall we bring ourselves, in all occurrences of providence, patiently to acquiesce in God’s will, and say, “May your will be done”?

The MEANS for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are:

[1] Judicious consideration. “In the day of adversity consider.” Eccl 7:14. When anything burdens us, or runs cross to our desires, did we but sit down and consider, and weigh things in the balance of judgment, it would much quiet our minds, and subject our wills to God. Consideration would be as David’s harp, to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent.

But what should we consider?

That which should make us submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done,” is:

(1) Consider that the present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. [No one escapes bearing the lot which all suffer.] “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward;” he is heir apparent to it. Man comes into the world with a cry—and goes out with a groan! Job 5:7. The world is a place where much wormwood grows. “He has filled me with bitterness (Heb with bitternesses); he has made me drunken with wormwood.” Lam 3:15. Troubles arise like sparks out of a furnace. Afflictions are some of the thorns which the earth after the curse brings forth. We may as well think to stop the chariot of the sun when it is in its swift motion, as put a stop to trouble. The consideration of a life exposed to troubles and sufferings, should make us say with patience, “May your will be done.” Shall a mariner be angry that he meets with a storm at sea?

(2) Consider that God has a special hand in the disposal of all occurrences. Job eyed God in his affliction. “The Lord has taken away;” chap 1:21. He did not complain of the Sabeans, or the influences of the planets; he looked beyond all second causes; he saw God in the affliction, and that made him cheerfully submit; he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Christ looked beyond Judas and Pilate to God’s determinate counsel in delivering him up to be crucified, which made him say, “Father, not as I will—but as you will.” Acts 4:27, 28, Matthew 26:39. It is vain to quarrel with instruments. Wicked men are but a rod in God’s hand! “O Assyria, the rod of my anger.” Isaiah 10:5. Whoever brings an affliction—God sends it! The consideration of this should make us say, “May your will be done;” for what God does he sees a reason for. We read of a wheel within a wheel. Ezek 1:16. The outward wheel, which turns all, is providence; the wheel within this wheel is God’s decree; this believed, would rock the heart quiet. Shall we mutiny at that which God does? We may as well quarrel with the works of creation as with the works of providence.

(3) Consider that there is a NECESSITY for affliction. “If need be, you are in heaviness.” 1 Peter 1:6. It is needful that some things are kept in brine. Afflictions are needful upon several accounts.

[1] To keep us humble. Often there is no other way to have the heart low—but by being brought low. When Manasseh “was in affliction, he humbled himself greatly.” 2 Chron 33:12. Corrections are corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. “Remembering my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul is humbled in me.” Lam 3:19, 20.

[2] It is necessary that there should be affliction; for if God did not sometimes bring us into affliction, how could his power be seen in bringing us out? Had not Israel been in the Egyptian furnace, God had lost his glory in their deliverance.

[3] If there were no affliction, then many parts of Scripture could not be fulfilled. God has promised to help us to bear affliction. Psalm 37:24, 39. How could we experience his supporting us in trouble—if we did not sometimes meet with it? God has promised to give us joy in affliction. John 16:20. How could we taste this honey of joy—if we were not sometimes in affliction? Again, he has promised to wipe away tears from our eyes. Isaiah 25:8. How could he wipe away our tears in heaven—if we never shed any? So that, in several respects, there is an absolute necessity that we should meet with affliction; and shall not we quietly submit, and say, “Lord, I see there is a necessity for it?” “May your will be done!”

(4) Consider that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves; we have put a rod into God’s hand to chastise us. Christian, God lays your afflictive cross on you—but it is of your own making. If a man’s field is full of tares, it is what he has sown in it. If you reap a bitter crop of affliction, it is what you yourself have sown. The cords which pinch you are of your own twisting. If children will eat green fruit—they may blame themselves if they are sick; and if we eat the forbidden fruit, no wonder that we feel it gripe. Sin is the Trojan horse which lands a multitude of afflictions upon us. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” Jeremiah 4:18. If we by sin run ourselves into arrears with God, no wonder if he sets affliction as a sergeant on our back, to arrest us. This should make us patiently submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done.” We have no cause to complain of God; it is nothing but what our sins have merited. “Have not you procured this unto yourself?” Jer 2:17. The afflictive cross, though it be of God’s laying, is of our making. Say, then, as Micah (chap 7:9), “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” “Whatever a man sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

(5) Consider that God is about to prove and TEST us. “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:10, 11. If there were no affliction, how could God have an opportunity to try men? Hypocrites can serve in a pleasure boat: they can serve God in prosperity; but when we can keep close to him in times of danger, when we can trust him in darkness, and love him when we have no smile, and say, “May your will be done,” that is the trial of sincerity! God is only trying us; and what hurt is there in that? What is gold the worse for being tried?

(6) Consider that in all our afflictions, God has kindness for us. As there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light—so there is no condition so cloudy, but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1. It should make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, to consider that in every afflictive path of providence, we may see his footstep of kindness.

There is kindness in affliction, when God seems most unkind.

[1] There is kindness in affliction—in that there is love in it. God’s rod and his love may stand together. “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.” Heb 12:6. As when Abraham lifted up his hand to sacrifice, Isaac loved him. Just so, when God afflicts his people, and seems to sacrifice their outward comforts, he loves them. The farmer loves his vine when he cuts it and makes it bleed; and shall not we submit to God? Shall we quarrel with that which has kindness in it, which comes in love? The surgeon binds the patient, and lances him—but no wise man will quarrel with him, because it is in order to a cure.

[2] There is kindness in affliction—in that God deals with us as his children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Heb 12:7. God has one Son without sin—but no son without stripes! Affliction is a badge of adoption. Says Tertullian, “Affliction is God’s seal by which he marks us for his own.” When Munster, that holy man, lay sick, his friends asked him how he did? He pointed to his sores, saying, “these are the jewels with which God decks his children!” Shall not we then say, “Lord, there is kindness in the cross, you treat us as your children. The rod of discipline is to fit us for the inheritance. May your will be done.”

[3] In kindness God in all our afflictions, has left us a promise. So that in the most cloudy providence, the promise appears as the rainbow in the cloud. Then we have God’s promise to be with us. “I will be with him in trouble.” Psalm 91:15. It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is; I will be with him, to support, sanctify, and sweeten every affliction. I had rather be in prison and have God’s presence, than be in a palace without it.

We have the promise that he will not lay more upon us than he will enable us to bear. 1 Cor 10:13. He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter—or our faith stronger. Should not this make us submit our wills to his, when afflictions have so much kindness in them? In all our trials he has left us promises, which are like manna in the wilderness.

[4] It is great kindness that all troubles that befall us shall be for our profit. “God disciplines us for our profit.” Heb 12:10.

Around the Web – Oct.24.2014

Why Study Revelation? – Word of Life Wisconsin

Union with Christ (eBooks) | Monergism – I will be reading the ones by Watson and Horton – I found that a good way to convert a web page to ePub is to save it in a word processor as an HTML document, then use Calibre to convert it to ePub

Baker Book House Church Connection | Mark 13, the ESV, and Essentially Literal Translation

4 Things That Happen When You Study Leviticus More Than 10 Years | The Gospel Coalition

Why Christians Should Listen to Mike Rowe on (Not) 'Following Your Passion' | Acton PowerBlog – goes along with ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’, ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’

Lumina – new Bible.org Bible study app

‘Must Read’ Blog Post

I don’t know if I’ve ever written ‘must read’ other than I feel that the book Knowing God is a must read for every Christian, especially those somewhat new (advanced beginner?), as far as I’m concerned.

I found a blog post titled Bible Ignorance at Reformation21 Blog to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read. It’s aimed largely at ministers and students of theology. I’m not pointing it out for ministers; I think this applies to any student of theology, which is all of us.

You can just stop reading here and go there if you’d like.

A few years ago I made a commitment to make sure I read the Bible every single day.* What’s being said in this article makes that seem like nothing, not that I’m minimizing the importance of it. It’s nothing new; nothing we probably haven’t read before, but it really hit me this time. Matthew Henry says to pray using the language of the Bible. D.A. Carson urges us to imitate Paul in our praying. Comparing my worldly prayers to Paul’s really changed how and what I pray for. This can’t happen without knowing the Bible.

Scripture is so deep and multi-faceted, not just because of what’s written, but because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to more and more of it the more we read and understand it (Ephesians 1:17, Hebrews 4:12). If we’re born again and the Holy Spirit resides in us, we should be glad to spend time in Scripture. If we don’t feel that way, we can pray for God to enable us, and he will do that for us–this being his will for us (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:9-11), as we strive to spend more time (Matthew 21:22, Psalm 37:4, 1 John 5:14, Philippians 2:12b).

I often think about how much time I spend reading the Bible versus how much time I spend reading books and articles. It’s difficult to know how to balance it because the books all help to know God better through better understanding of Scripture.

*If I should forget a day for some strange reason, which I’ve done a few times in the past, God is in no way displeased with me and I don’t feel guilty–just a little silly to forget something so important. I don’t read twice as much the next day to make up for it, unless I’m on a reading plan. This doesn’t happen anymore. Just thought I’d point that out so that it doesn’t sound like a legalistic or works oriented thing.

Always Forgive, Usually

I once read John Stott write something like, “Why should we forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness?” This kind of took me aback, because it has been said that we’re supposed to always forgive.

Later on I read blog posts about where people will come out and forgive a mass murderer, even if they weren’t directly affected by the killer and  how this kind of steps in front of the victims and their loved ones and may in a way cut off their process of forgiveness, whatever that entails. And if someone is unrepentant and doesn’t want our forgiveness, does it make sense to give it to them?

There has obviously been a lot written about this, and I’m sure there are as many opinions on it as there are real life variations in circumstances. But here is a quote I just read by R.C. Sproul that’s helpful:

It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness. It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded. If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him.

–R.C. Sproul, Christians Should be Forgiving People

As far as smaller offenses go, or people who just annoy us, I like how the NLT renders the first part of Colossians 3:13:

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

On this one I will be reading Moo’s commentary, along with others.

Encouragement For Sinners

I have been in a slump that is worse than the one before. I’m going through a very difficult time and would appreciate prayer. Faith is being tested.

I won’t apologize for lack of posts because I don’t presume that people wait for posts with bated breath (whatever that means). But I know that for some reason people like blogs to have regular posts.

I have found that similar to how C.S. Lewis found heavier theological works better devotional material than devotionals themselves, solid theological works can be just as good or better for suffering than books on suffering. I could write more about that, but for now, The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson has been a great book during a difficult time, and it’s fantastic for knowing God better as much as it is for prayer. It’s becoming one of the best books I’ve read.

On to one of the quotes that I thought might be encouraging to some readers: If we have a right hatred of sin (Romans 12:9) and have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18), and God leaves us in certain sin and tests us through it, we should consider this a normal part of Christian life. This is something I had been thinking about before I read this, which summarizes it better than I could.

The best of saints have remainders of corruption. ‘They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season.’ Dan 7:12. So in the regenerate, though the dominion of sin be taken away, yet the life of it is prolonged for a season. What pride was there in Christ’s own disciples, when they strove which should be greatest! The issue of sin will not be quite stopped till death. The Lord is pleased to let the in-being of sin continue, to humble his people, and make them prize Christ more. Because you find corruptions stirring, do not therefore presently unsaint yourselves, and deny the kingdom of grace to be come into your souls. That you feel sin is an evidence of spiritual life; that you mourn for it is a fruit of love to God; that you have a combat with sin, argues antipathy against it. Those sins which you once wore as a crown on your head, are now as fetters on the leg. Is not all this from the Spirit of grace in you? Sin is in you, as poison in the body, which you are sick of, and use all Scripture antidotes to expel. Should we condemn all those who have indwelling sin, nay, who have had sin sometimes prevailing, we should blot some of the best saints out of the Bible.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

The Best Book for New Christians

OK, so I haven’t read every book in the world that are supposed to be for new Christians. The one mentioned below is by far the best one that I have read. If you’re short on time, skip to the last paragraph and the quote below it; otherwise, you can read about a few other helpful books too.

I have seen lists of books for new Christians written by bloggers. I think they almost always overshoot. They recommend fantastic books like Knowing God by J.I. Packer, which is one of the best popular level, contemporary books on God ever written (again I realize I haven’t read all of them), but I know from experience that there are Christians who’ve been saved for decades who still need milk and can’t handle this book. (That’s another subject.) I think many Christians, especially those who are well read, forget what it’s like to be new. This is that ‘one book’ that I think every Christian, or certainly everyone in the early stages, should read. But how many times have you read that? Everybody has their opinion.

At one time I was on the lookout for books that fit this category. I looked at The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson, which is a great book aimed at newer Christians. See posts where this book is mentioned. I read this recently and learned a lot from it, but I think it might get to be too much for new Christians. He’ll start out explaining what the gospels are, but then goes on and gets a little ‘thick’. It’s really a great book though for an ‘advanced beginner’. He starts out writing a lot about Genesis, then goes to John, then to Revelation (but not everything in-between). I’m not sure if he is one to write a book for new Christians. He knows like 39 languages and can quote book, chapter and section from Calvin’s Institutes like he wrote it himself. As a tangent–sometimes I tend to exaggerate a little. I think he only knows about 29 languages, or maybe 7.

I also looked at Basic Christianity by John Stott. The book is true to its title, but I don’t know if the content, including the tiny typeface of the edition I have, is quite suitable for most new Christians these days. Maybe it was when he first wrote it 50 years ago.

Then I remembered the one I read when I was a new Christian. It’s upstairs among some really old books that I don’t have on my regular bookshelf. Turns out that the book with the red cover and yellow title has been reprinted over and over in that span of 30 years and now has a nice new cover. You can’t go wrong in buying The Fight: A Practical Handbook for Christian Living by John White, for a new Christian. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen it mentioned. Maybe the title is off-putting. But people are obviously buying and reading it, and for good reason.

Here is a guide through the basic areas of Christian living we wrestle with throughout our lives: faith, prayer, temptation, evangelism, guidance, Bible study, fellowship, work. In this very personal book he offers new Christians sound first steps and older Christians refreshing insights into the struggles and the joys of freedom in Christ.

The Fight by John White for Young Christians

Do you have any suggestions?

Also see:

Knowledge and God’s Glory

The better we know God, the more we can glorify him. In another part of the book Edwards writes that this will make us happy, which glorifies God. Or happier, or less unhappy–whatever your circumstance may be. As far as I can see, God expresses this chiefly through Scripture, then the Holy Spirit in various ways, His mighty acts–including the marvelous work on the cross and what he does in our lives, and creation. I’ve included Scripture below that I think applies.

Again, the word glory, as applied to God in Scripture, implies the view or knowledge of God’s excellency. The exhibition of glory is to the view of beholders. The manifestation of glory, the emanation or effulgence of brightness, has relation to the eye. Light or brightness is a quality that has relation to the sense of seeing; we see the luminary by its light. And knowledge is often expressed in Scripture by light. The word glory very often in Scripture signifies, or implies, honor, as any one may soon see by casting his eye on a concordance. But honor implies the knowledge of the dignity and excellency of him who hath the honor; and this is often more especially signified by the word glory, when applied to God. Numbers 14:21: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,” i.e. all the inhabitants of the earth shall see the manifestations I will make of my perfect holiness and hatred of sin, and so of my infinite excellence.

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:1-6 HCSB

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks it.
Proverbs 18:15

For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.
Romans 14:11

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens — far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.
Ephesians 1:17-23

Counter-cultural Quote/Scripture of the Day

Counter-cultural would refer to Christian culture as well as anything else. This isn’t talked about much. This is a strange one for many of us. I think it’s encouraging to know that God has control over the evil in the world and that it will be ended for our happiness and for God’s glory. I don’t know what that happiness will be like, but we can take comfort now in the fact that it will end up this way, and that God has a purpose and is sovereign over all of it at this time, as horrible as it is in this world.

God’s judgments on the wicked in this world and also their eternal damnation in the world to come are spoken of as being for the happiness of God’s people. So are his judgments on them in this world. Isaiah 43:3, 4. “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou hast been precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” So the works of God’s vindictive justice and wrath are spoken of as works of mercy to his people, Psalm 136:10, 15, 17-20 [“To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever. . . . But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever. . . . To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever: And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever”].

And so is their eternal damnation in another world. Romans 9:22, 23: “What if God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” Here it is evident the last verse comes in, in connection with the foregoing, as giving another reason of the destruction of the wicked, viz. showing the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy: higher degrees of their glory and happiness, in a relish of their own enjoyments, and a greater sense of their value and of God’s free grace in bestowing them.

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

The LORD has made everything for his own purpose,
even wicked people for the day of trouble.
Proverbs 16:4

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