Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

God Is Spirit and So Are We

There are two messages to this post:

  1. Isn’t it amazing that being made in God’s image, we are also spiritual beings? The fact that we are able to be reborn spiritually, and with God’s Spirit in us is amazing beyond explanation or comprehension.
  2. This can only come from God. We can’t intellectualize ourselves into the Kingdom or just make a statement and then do nothing or have nothing to show for it.

This came about from reading the book that the quote below is from. I added some emphasis in the first two Scripture quotes so that hopefully you’ll see what I’m getting at. (Good luck.)

God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind.
Genesis 1:25 NLT

Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness.
Genesis 1:26 GW

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stubborn hearts and give you obedient hearts. I will put my Spirit in you. I will enable you to live by my laws, and you will obey my rules.
Ezekiel 36:26-27

However, he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.
John 1:12-13

Flesh and blood give birth to flesh and blood, but the Spirit gives birth to things that are spiritual. Don’t be surprised when I tell you that all of you must be born from above. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it’s going. That’s the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
John 3:6-8

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them.”
John 14:23

Those who obey Christ’s commandments live in God, and God lives in them. We know that he lives in us because he has given us the Spirit.
1 John 3:24

We know that we live in him and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit. We have seen and testify to the fact that the Father sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God lives in those who declare that Jesus is the Son of God, and they live in God.
1 John 4:13-15

Being born again is not only a confession. D.A. Carson says, “Where there is new birth, you will always see the results.” [Emphasis is his.] New birth has not necessarily taken place because “somebody’s made a commitment to Jesus.” Where there is new birth–where it has genuinely come from God–you will see transformation. You will see change in the life. That does not mean that people have suddenly reached perfection: we shall have more Christian growth and Christian failures in due course. But where new birth takes place, there is a change of direction, or origin. There is a cleaning up in the life. There is a transformation. There is a beginning of life from God himself that shapes our existence in a new direction.

–D.A. Carson, The God Who Is There

You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.
John 15:8

As all of us reflect the Lord’s glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

The New Covenant is still an agreement.

But now Christ has brought you back to God by dying in his physical body. He did this so that you could come into God’s presence without sin, fault, or blame. This is on the condition that you continue in faith without being moved from the solid foundation of the hope that the Good News contains.
Colossians 1:22-23

But the fruit comes from God.

You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last, and to ask the Father in my name to give you whatever you ask for.
John 15:16

I don’t mean to make a portrayal that seems to remove any responsibility on our part.

He gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.
John 1:12-13

How these two sides of God’s truth—His sovereignty in choosing us (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10)—reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.

–John MacArthur

Sproul Quote

What Does “Grace Upon Grace” Mean?

First of all, is it in the Bible? It almost sounds like a catch-phrase of some sort. Why, yes, yes it is in the Bible. You can find it in John 1:16:

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

That’s the wording I’m familiar with for some reason. KJV has “grace for grace.”

This is according to D.A. Carson (quoting the TNIV). This is consistent with what he wrote in his commentary on John, published almost 20 years earlier. Is there another interpretation that you or another scholar prefer?

GRACE AND LAW

John adds, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” (1:16). That is exactly what the text says—but what does it mean? It does not mean “grace on top of grace” or “one grace after another,” like Christmas presents piled up under a Christmas tree, one blessing after another. It means we have all received a grace in place of a grace already given. What does that mean? The next verse tells us: “For the law was given through Moses [which takes us back to Exod. 32—34]; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). In other words, the gift of the law was a gracious thing, a good and wonderful gift from God. But grace and truth par excellence came through Jesus Christ, not in the display of glory to Moses in a cave but in the display of Jesus and the bloody sacrifice on the cross. The law covenant was a gracious gift from God, but now Jesus is going to introduce a new covenant, the ultimate grace and truth. This is a grace that replaces that old grace. It is bound up with a new covenant.

The God Who Is There, pg 116, Chapter 7, The God Who Becomes a Human Being, published in 2010

The Scriptures are sufficient by Thomas Brooks

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scriptures are sufficient . . .
to inform the ignorant,
to confute the erroneous,
to reform the wicked, and
to guide and direct, support and comfort, the godly.

Here a lamb may wade, and here an elephant may swim!

Here is milk for babes, and meat for strong men!

Here is . . .
comfort for the afflicted, and
support for the tempted, and
ease for the troubled, and
light for the clouded, and
enlargement for the straitened, etc.

Oh,
how full of light,
how full of life,
how full of love,
how full of sweetness,
how full of goodness,
how full of righteousness,
how full of holiness, etc.,
is every chapter, and every verse in every
chapter, yes, and every line in every verse!

No human writings are comparable to Scripture:

  1. for antiquity;
  2. for rarity;
  3. for variety;
  4. for brevity;
  5. for plainness;
  6. for harmony;
  7. for verity.

All which should greatly encourage Christians to a
serious perusal of them. “Oh, how I love Your law!
I meditate on it all day long.” Psalm 119:97

Applications for Psalm 73 by Allan Ross

Here is a quote as promised in the review of Ross’ commentary on the Psalms. These are applications on Psalm 73, which is one of my favorites. I like what he has to say.

The applications stand out clearly. First, it is absolutely necessary for believers to seek God and not focus on the allurements of the world. And in a brief statement that also captures the main lesson of this psalm, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)—both in the events of this life and in glory.

Second, the sanctuary should be the place where this is facilitated most effectively: there, in the place of worship, people should be reminded of how the Lord has redeemed them, guides them, and will receive them in glory. A similar emphasis is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he charts how he has been afflicted and perplexed in his service for the Lord. But what enabled him to persevere was the eternal weight of glory—he did not focus on temporal things, but eternal (chapter 4).

And third, the world with its promise of prosperity and power falls far short of the provision of God for those who trust in him faithfully. And so for all such psalms we may cite John’s words: “Love not the world, neither the things of the world” for it is passing away (1 John 2:15-17).

When We Lose, We Gain

What you have lost one way, you have gained another.

–Thomas Watson

This little quote by the Puritan says a whole lot–to me anyway.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
Philippians 3:7-9 NRSV

God’s Will Is Always A God Thing

We need to get rid of these ideas that answered prayer is when God grants a request the way we want it. Or that it’s a “God thing” if something turns out the way we prefer it to. Or that “it’s a good thing God was watching out for us” when we avoided an accident or other calamity, but are quiet about God if otherwise. If “all our days were written in His book and planned before a single one of them began” (Psalm 139:16 HCSB), and “not one sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s consent” (Matthew 10:29 HCSB), then it’s all a God thing, whether or not we perceive the matter as good or bad. A friend wrote in a recent comment to a blog post, “There is nothing God can do, or any part of His will accomplished, except that His infinite love be a part of it. No matter how we perceive God’s will, His love is never diminished.”

Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubting that he will do it. But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want, it is measured by our willingness to submit to what he wants. It takes great faith to say to God, “Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore my relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.”

–Nancy Guthrie, Hearing Jesus Speak Into your Sorrow

Jesus and Paul received ‘no’ as an answer to prayer, which were both very integral parts of God’s will.

“Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.”
Luke 22:42 GW

So that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me– so that I would not become arrogant. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NET

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV

Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?
Matthew 7:11 GW

I’m challenged to pray that by faith I will see God’s will as always loving, whether or not things go the way I’d like, and whatever losses I may have, as with all of the immeasurably good things he gives me.

(When single verses are given to support an idea, it’s always encouraged to look at them in context.)

Quote of the Day: Reading the Bible by John Newton

The Old and New Testament, the doctrines, precepts, and promises, the history, the examples, admonitions, and warnings, etc. would mutually illustrate and strengthen each other, and nothing that is written for our instruction would be overlooked. Happy should I be, could I fully follow the advice I am now offering to you. I wish you may profit by my experience. Alas, how much time have I lost and wasted, which, had I been wise, I should have devoted to reading and studying the Bible! But my evil heart obstructs the dictates of my judgment, I often feel a reluctance to read this book of books, and a disposition to hew out broken cisterns which afford me no water, while the fountain of living waters are close within my reach.

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16 (verse is omitted in the article below)

See the rest: Reading the Bible by John Newton

Wanting God and Wanting to be Like Him

I would like to continue with trips through Scripture, but I think this will need some explanatory notes, or you might not know where I’m trying to go. I hope this makes sense.

I love getting to know God. I love God’s law and commands. I also like being like Him and wanting to be more like Him. The latter is a lot more difficult on our part, because it involves morality, obedience, self-denial, and holiness. These aren’t very popular these days, unless we’re talking about other people, of course.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even the drippings from a honeycomb.
Psalm 19:8a; 10 GW

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1

Blessed are those whose lives have integrity,
those who follow the teachings of the LORD.
Blessed are those who obey his written instructions.
They wholeheartedly search for him.
They do nothing wrong. They follow his directions.
You have commanded
that your guiding principles be carefully followed.
I pray that my ways may become firmly established
so that I can obey your laws.
Then I will never feel ashamed
when I study all your commandments.
I will give thanks to you as I learn your regulations,
which are based on your righteousness.
Psalm 119:1-7

The psalmist here shows that godly people are happy people; they are, and shall be, blessed indeed. Felicity is the thing we all pretend to aim at and pursue. He does not say here wherein it consists; it is enough for us to know what we must do and be that we may attain to it, and that we are here told. All men would be happy, but few take the right way; God has here laid before us the right way, which we may be sure will end in happiness, though it be strait and narrow. Blessednesses are to the righteous; all manner of blessedness. Now observe the characters of the happy people. Those are happy, 1. Who make the will of God the rule of all their actions, and govern themselves, in their whole conversation, by that rule: They walk in the law of the Lord, Psalm 119:1. God’s word is a law to them, not only in this or that instance, but in the whole course of their conversation; they walk within the hedges of that law, which they dare not break through by doing any thing it forbids; and they walk in the paths of that law, which they will not trifle in, but press forward in them towards the mark, taking every step by rule and never walking at all adventures. This is walking in God’s ways (Psalm 119:3), the ways which he has marked out to us and has appointed us to walk in. It will not serve us to make religion the subject of our discourse, but we must make it the rule of our walk; we must walk in his ways, not in the way of the world, or of our own hearts, Job 23:10, Job 23:11; Job 31:7.

–Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible

In addition to God’s law, personal holiness and “living the [a ?] good life” being good for us, God calls us to be distinct from the world (Matthew 6:8).

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV

God’s will is pleasing to us and sets us apart from the worldly world.

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them.
John 14:23

So I don’t believe this is something that we should do as an act for the world, it should be done not only for our own good, but because we are living with a holy God.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like the idea of accountability partners because as it’s usually done, people become accountable to each other instead of helping each other become accountable to God. I haven’t looked deeply into this, but it isn’t something written about much at all in the Bible. We do have:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
Romans 3:19 NIV

We do have something solid about conscience:

With this belief I always do my best to have a clear conscience in the sight of God and people.
Act 24:16

Again, we are living in the sight of God, not just people. Our conscience should be dictated by all of the law/commands we find in Scripture. Otherwise, we are being self-righteous, which isn’t thinking we’re better than others, but justifying the things we do from human logic, which is, in addition to being a human trait, usually selfish, and from a non-Biblical perspective. As J. B. Shearer noted: “The Pharisee knows nothing of this hungering and thirsting after righteousness, because he is righteous in his own eyes, self-righteous. But the man who has a sense of sin, and has tasted the comfort of pardoned sin, desires above all things to live aright.” And Spurgeon said, “I do not know of anything against which God’s fury burns more than against [self-righteousness] because this touches him in a very tender point—it insults the glory and honor of his Son.” Spurgeon is talking more about the righteousness we receive from the cross, but I think the idea still applies. God will show us what righteousness is (Matthew 5:6), in addition to having made us righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I believe that another benefit to having as clear of a conscience as we can is that it reduces stress. That’s if we aren’t fretting about God constantly looking for us to do something wrong, which isn’t what a good Father would do.

As a father has compassion for his children,
so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.
He certainly knows what we are made of.
He bears in mind that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Philippians 3:16 NIV

The climax in all of this is the dreadful and wonderful:

Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
Leviticus 19:2

Because you are children who obey God, don’t live the kind of lives you once lived. Once you lived to satisfy your desires because you didn’t know any better. 15 But because the God who called you is holy you must be holy in every aspect of your life. 16 Scripture says, “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:16

Dreadful because it seems impossible to be like our Holy God. Wonderful because he helps to become closer to it.

Being holy, as in being set apart, is God’s work. But we are also to strive to be holy. Knowing God’s character, as written in all of Scripture, is the only way we can begin to strive for holiness.

Also see:
Hunger and Mercy – Place for Truth – Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals - where some of the quotes from this post were found
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges – a modern classic

Hope

Just a couple of snippets during my blogging drought. I started studying Colossians, which I intend to do for a very long time, but I’ve taken a break from that too.

Here are a couple of things from my notes on Colossians, and a quote from a book on Titus, which I will be reviewing.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our prayers for you. 4 We thank God because we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. 5 You have these because of the hope which is kept safe for you in heaven. Some time ago you heard about this hope in the Good News which is the message of truth.
Colossians 1:3-5

thinking about and banking on and living in the expectation of the hope that awaits us in Christ in heaven is of immense practical, life-changing, faith-awakening, love-inspiring benefit.

–Sam Storms

‘the hope’ is the totality of the blessings that awaits the Christian life to come; it is a metonymy for this as opposed to an inward disposition. An objective fact produces subjective attitudes.

–Murray Harris, Exegetical Guide To the Greek New Testament, pg 15, lines have been rearranged

I’m learning a lot from this book. I sort of know just enough Greek to kind of understand some what is being written. See how often the hope is used in the New Testament:

For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Galatians 5:5 NRSV

while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:13 NRSV

we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.
Hebrews 6:18 NRSV

We were saved with this hope in mind. If we hope for something we already see, it’s not really hope. Who hopes for what can be seen?
Romans 8:24 GW – this has both senses of hope

Faith leads to hope and hope sustains faith.

Titus For You by Tim Chester, on Titus 1:2

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness–in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,
Titus 1:1-2 TNIV

God Made Us, and We Owe Him

First off, I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been preoccupied with some other things. It will inevitably pick up again, God willing. Not that I think you’re waiting for each post with bated breath (whatever that means). I know that us bloggers are supposed to post a lot, because for some reason, that’s what people want.

I’m reading the book The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story by D.A. Carson. I had bought a few books that are supposed to be for new Christians, should one of the people I’m praying for ever become one. Although it was recommended as such, I think this one might be a little too much.

I started reading it a while ago and wasn’t getting into it. This time around, for some reason, I think it’s fascinating, as many people say everything written by Carson is. In the beginning (get it?) of the book, he spends a lot of time on the beginning of Genesis.

I’ve been having a hard time lately knowing how to live and be content on a spiritual level given the various health conditions and losses experienced. I like the quote below. “He made us, and we owe him. If we do not recognize this simple truth, then,” all kinds of havoc ensues. If I’m not content, I’m “fighting against myself as well as against the God who made me.” He’s not the supreme bully (not that I really see Him that way), but the one who gives us eternal life and ‘the hope‘ we have (Titus 2:13, Hebrews 6:18 NRSV).

What the Bible says about creation is what grounds the notion of human accountability and responsibility. Why should I obey God? If he wants to take me in directions that I do not like, who is he to tell me what to do? Surely I am free to choose other gods or invent my own. I can belt out the popular song, “I did it my way.” Who is he to boss me around? I defy him. Unless he made me; unless he designed me. In that case I owe him everything—life and breath and everything else, such that if I do not see it that way then I am out of line with my Maker. I am out of line with the one who designed me and with what I am designed by God himself to be. I am fighting against myself as well as against the God who made me. All of human accountability and responsibility before God is grounded in the first instance in creation. He made us, and we owe him. If we do not recognize this simple truth, then, according to the Bible, that blindness is itself a mark of how alienated from him we are. It is for our good that we recognize it, not because he is the supreme bully but because without him we would not even be here, and we will certainly have to give an account to him.

–D.A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story pg. 26

the-god-who-is-there

Luther on Salvation By Grace Alone

It should be obvious, but I will give my usual Reformed alert here. Not meant for sensitive readers, those with high blood pressure, or those who may be pregnant, and not Reformed.

I like how this is explained by Luther, who is being quoted by Warfield.

“As a man, before he is created, to be a man, does nothing and makes no effort to be a creature; and then, after he has been made and created, does nothing and makes no effort to continue a creature; but both these things alike are done solely by the will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God who without our aid creates and preserves us – but He does not operate in us without our cooperation, seeing that He created and preserved us for this very purpose, that He might operate in us and we cooperate with Him, whether this is done outside His kingdom by general omnipotence, or within His kingdom by the singular power of His Spirit: So then we say that a man before he is renovated into a new creature of the kingdom of the Spirit, does nothing and makes no effort to prepare himself for that renovation and kingdom; and then, after he has been renovated, does nothing, makes no effort to continue in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone does both alike in us, recreating us without our aid, and preserving us when recreated, as also James says, ‘Of His own will begat He us by the word of His power, that we should be the beginning of His creation’ (he is speaking of the renewed creature), but He does not operate apart from us, seeing that He has recreated and preserved us for this very purpose that He might operate in us and we cooperate with Him. Thus through us He preaches, has pity on the poor, consoles the afflicted. But what, then, is attributed to free will? Or rather what is left to it except nothing? Assuredly just nothing.”

What this parallel teaches is that the whole saving work is from God, in the beginning and middle and end; it is a supernatural work throughout. But we are saved that we may live in God; and, in the powers of our new life, do His will in the world. It is the Pauline, Not out of works, but unto good works, which God has afore prepared that we should live in them.

B.B. Warfield, The Theology of the Reformation, quoting Luther

Monergism’s newsletter said, “This is a must-read essay by Warfield. If you have never read this, I would encourage you to take the time to do so”; so I’m reading it! Although if we read everything that’s a ‘must-read’, we couldn’t finish in many lifetimes. But I took their word for it, and it’s very good. I thought it was time I read something by him.

J.I. Packer on the Depth of Puritan Piety

I found this quote from A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer at Underdog Theology. It’s one of my favorite quotes that I’ve come across online recently. It’s not only about the Puritans, but what real spirituality should be. I’m not sure how women should take the word manliness. I would think it has to do with manly versus boyish as opposed to manly versus womanly.

To avoid any confusion, the word piety wasn’t largely viewed as negative until sometime during the last century. Pious may be a worse word for some. (Same with the word religion.) Some of us still don’t see it that way. I will be writing about those at some point. You can think of it as spirituality if you wish.

I needed to read this three times to really absorb it. The conviction is tough. He may be assuming too little of some contemporary Christians. It seems he may also be comparing Puritan writers with average evangelicals as a whole. But it seems largely accurate.

The chapter that the quote is contained in can be found online, or the book at Amazon. I added some definitions which have a dotted underline, along with book links. Emphasis is his:

“Anyone who knows anything at all about Puritan Christianity knows that at its best it had a vigour, a manliness, and a depth which modern evangelical piety largely lacks. This is because Puritanism was essentially an experimental faith, a religion of ‘heart-work’, a sustained practice of seeking the face of God, in a way that our own Christianity too often is not. The Puritans were manlier Christians just because they were godlier Christians. It is worth noting three particular points of contrast between them and ourselves.

First, we cannot but conclude that whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God. Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour. We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters. Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us. But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God. In private they talked freely of their experiences of God, for they had deep experiences to talk about, like the ‘three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun’ whom Bunyan met at Bedford:

Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. . . . And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak. . .

And the Puritans never ceased to feel a sense of awe and wonder that access to God in peace and friendship was possible for them at all. ‘Truly for sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God, is an astonishing dispensation,’ wrote Owen, and Puritan hearts thrilled again and again at the wonder of God’s ‘astonishing’ grace. To them it was the most marvellous thing in the world. Yet we in our day, much as we love to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ (I suppose, because we like the tune), are not inwardly amazed by grace as the Puritans were; it does not startle us that the holy Creator should receive sinners into his company; rather, we take it for granted! ‘God will forgive; that’s his job’ was the final scoff with which the French cynic went to meet his Maker. ‘God will receive; that his job’ seems to be our bland assumption today. Surely something is wrong here.

Then, second, we observe that whereas the experimental piety of the Puritans was natural and unselfconscious, because it was so utterly God-centred, our own (such as it is) is too often artificial and boastful, because it is so largely concerned with ourselves. Our interest focuses on religious experience, as such, and on man’s quest for God, whereas the Puritans were concerned with the God of whom men have experience, and in the manner of his dealings with those whom he draws to himself. The difference of interest comes out clearly when we compare Puritan spiritual autobiography—Grace Abounding, say, or Baxter’s autobiography, or the memoirs of Fraser of Brea—with similar works our own day. In modern spiritual autobiography, the hero and chief actor is usually the writer himself; he is the centre of interest, and God comes in only as a part of his story. His theme is in effect ‘I—and God’. But in Puritan autobiography, God is at the centre throughout. He, not the writer, is the focus of interest; the subject of the book is in effect ‘God—and me’. The pervasive God-centredness of Puritan accounts of spiritual experience is a proof of their authenticity, and a source of their power to present God to the modern reader. But when experience of God is told in a dramatised and self-glorifying way, it is a sure sign that the experience itself, however poignant, lacked depth, if, indeed, it was genuine at all.

Third, it seems undeniable that the Puritans’ passion for spiritual integrity and moral honesty before God, their fear of hypocrisy in themselves as well as in others, and the humble self-distrust that led them constantly to check whether they had not lapsed into religious play-acting before men with hearts that had gone cold towards God, has no counterpart in the modern-day evangelical ethos. They were characteristically cautious, serious, realistic, steady, patient, persistent in well-doing and avid for holiness of heart; we, by contrast, too often show ourselves to be characteristically brash, euphoric, frivolous, superficial, naive, hollow and shallow. Owen’s advice to ‘my fellow-labourers and students in divinity’ about the way to approach the task of upholding the faith against falsehood and folly climaxes with a call to ‘diligent endeavour to have the power of the truths professed and contended for abiding upon our hearts’; surely in saying this Owen plots the path from where we are to where the Puritans were, and where we should be, and need to be, in the quality of our own walk with God. The whole passage calls for quotation.

When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth; . . . not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the things abides in our hearts; when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for,—then shall we be garrisoned, by the grace of God, against all the assaults of men. And without this all our contending is, as to ourselves, of no value. What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense of sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul? What will it avail me to evince, by testimonies and arguments, that he hath made satisfaction for sin, if, through my unbelief, the wrath of God abideth on me, and I have no experience of my own being made the righteousness of God in him? . . . it be any advantage to me, in the issue, to profess and dispute that God worketh the conversion of a sinner by the irresistible grace of his Spirit, if I was never acquainted experimentally with the deadness and utter impotency to good, that opposition to the law of God, which is in my own soul by nature, [and] with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness of the power of God in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth the fruits of obedience in me? . . . us, then, not think that we are any thing the better for our conviction of the truths of the great doctrines of the gospel . . . we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.

A word to the wise? There was once a day when God sent Jeremiah to say to Israel, ‘Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Jer 6:16). As we study Owen on the spiritual life, may it be that God is speaking in similar terms to us? Owen’s instructions and directions are indeed ‘old paths’, as old as the Bible, but they are paths which the Puritans as a body found to be in truth ‘the good way’. We shall do well to seek for grace to start walking in them ourselves. ‘And you will find rest for your souls.’”
–J.I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life

Know Sin To Know Grace

This quote isn’t quite a key text in my estimation as was the one from a previous post, but it’s too good not to include. I’ve believed that we need to know the depth of sin of people and our own sin in order to more fully appreciate God’s grace. I now see that this is another good reason to read a book like Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen.

He uses italics, but I wanted to emphasis something, so if I may be so bold, I used bold. Bracketed Scripture is supplied by the book’s editors. (Parenthesis are used by Owen, but there aren’t any here.)

Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briars that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself.

It may be some, who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls. It is more than probable that many a false hypocrite, who have deceived themselves as well as others, because they thought the doctrine of the gospel pleased them, and therefore supposed they believed it, might be delivered from their soul-ruining deceits if they would diligently apply themselves unto this search of their own hearts. Or, would other professors walk with so much boldness and security as some do if they considered aright what a deadly watchful enemy they continually carry about with them and in them? Would they so much indulge as they do carnal joys and pleasures, or pursue their perishing affairs with so much delight and greediness as they do? It were to be wished that we would all apply our hearts more to this work, even to come to a true understanding of the nature, power, and subtlety of this our adversary, that our souls may be humbled; and that—

In walking with God. His delight is with the humble and contrite ones [Isa. 57:15], those that tremble at his word [Isa. 66:2], the mourners in Zion [Isa. 61:3]; and such are we only when we have a due sense of our own vile condition. This will beget reverence of God, a sense of our distance from him, admiration of his grace and condescension, a due valuation of mercy, far above those light, verbal, airy attainments, that some have boasted of.

I also like the very last sentence. How relevant this is today.

There have been a plethora of books on the gospel, and for good reason. The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges, which I read, will have at least one chapter on sin. But it seems a little lopsided. I’ve noticed that many Puritan prayers are half contrition and confession of sin, and half on God’s grace. (Owen was a Puritan.) I read about a fairly well known Reformed pastor who said that he likes the Puritan prayers, but also needed to read some more ‘positive’ (I’m going from memory) material because the Puritan prayers seemed to dwell on sin so much. Maybe some aren’t used to that because of how things are skewed nowadays. I don’t feel similarly, but everyone has different perspectives and needs.

The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

Aversation To God

The quote below is so far one of the key texts, in my mind, of the third book of the trilogy on sin and temptation in Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, which I’m only part of the way through. I’m reading the edition edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. They keep a lot of the difficult words, but provide short definitions as footnotes. Those are provided here for the words that have a dotted underline which you should be able to hover over or touch.

Even when we have been regenerated and have the Holy Spirit dwelling and working in us, we still have an aversation “unto God and everything of God”. Many insist that since we have the Holy Spirit and we are slaves to Christ, that the enmity towards God is gone, but I will submit Job 21:14, Romans 7:19, Galatians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:11, just as a small sampling so that we can see that this nature, or “law of sin” (Genesis 6:5), as Owen describes it, is always with us. We are deluding ourselves if we pretend that isn’t the case. Our tendency is to ignore God–not necessarily willfully–and want to sin, although we are freed from having to be slaves to sin; through Christ’s death and resurrection we have become a [re]new[ed] person in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2 NIV, Ephesians 2:14-16, Isaiah 40:31, as another small sampling).

In addition to keeping our minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:1) we also need to “watch and pray” (Colossians 4:2), and to be careful that we don’t fall if we think we’re standing firm (1 Cor 10:12).

Carry about a constant, humbling sense of this close aversation unto spiritualness that yet lies in our nature. If men find the efficacy of it, what should, what consideration can, be more powerful to bring them unto humble walking with God? That after all the discoveries that God has made of himself unto them, all the kindness they have received from him, his doing of them good and not evil in all things, there should yet be such a heart of unkindness and unbelief still abiding as to have an aversation lying in it to communion with him—how ought the thoughts of it to cast us into the dust! to fill us with shame and self-abhorrency all our days! What have we found in God, in any of our approaches or addresses unto him, that it should be thus with us? What iniquity have we found in him? Has he been a wilderness unto us, or a land of darkness? Did we ever lose anything by drawing nigh unto him? Nay, has not therein lain all the rest and peace which we have obtained? Is not he the fountain and spring of all our mercies, of all our desirable things? Has he not bid us welcome at our coming? Have we not received from him more than heart can conceive or tongue express?

What ails, then, our foolish and wretched hearts, to harbor such a cursed secret dislike of him and his ways? Let us be ashamed and astonished at the consideration of it, and walk in a humbling sense of it all our days. Let us carry it about with us in the most secret of our thoughts. And as this is a duty in itself acceptable unto God, who delights to dwell with them that are of a humble and contrite spirit [Isa. 57:15], so it is of exceeding efficacy to the weakening of the evil we treat of.

Labor to possess the mind with the beauty and excellency of spiritual things, so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul; and this cursed aversation of sin will be weakened thereby. It is an innate acknowledged principle that the soul of man will not keep up cheerfully unto the worship of God unless it has a discovery of a beauty and comeliness in it. Hence, when men had lost all spiritual sense and savor of the things of God, to supply the want that was in their own souls, they invented outwardly pompous and gorgeous ways of worship, in images, paintings, pictures, and I know not what carnal ornaments; which they have called “The beauties of holiness!” [Ps. 110:3]. Thus much, however, was discovered therein, that the mind of man must see a beauty, a desirableness in the things of God’s worship, or it will not delight in it; aversation will prevail. Let, then, the soul labor to acquaint itself with the spiritual beauty of obedience, of communion with God, and of all duties of immediate approach to him, that it may be rifled with delight in them. It is not my present work to discover the heads and springs of that beauty and desirableness which is in spiritual duties, in their relation to God, the eternal spring of all beauty—to Christ, the love, desire, and hope of all nations—to the Spirit, the great beautifier of souls, rendering them by his grace all glorious within; in their suitableness to the souls of men, as to their actings toward their last end, in the rectitude and holiness of the rule in attendance whereunto they are to be performed. But I only say at present, in general, that to acquaint the soul thoroughly with these things is an eminent way of weakening the aversation spoken of.

John Owen, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin

Owen on Healthy Introspection

Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, does depend. This, therefore, is our wisdom; and it is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of his glory.

–John Owen, The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin

When I Confess sin, as part of the ACTS (or ATCS in my case–not easy to say as a word) way of prayer, I often ask God to show me sin I’m not aware of. He is merciful in limiting how much he shows me at once. I’m grateful for God’s speaking in this way, because he’s speaking to us, which is a marvelous thing, and it’s one of the ways God works in conforming us to the image of his Son.