Saturday, January 26, 2008

J.I. Packer on God's Providence

Providence - God Governs This World
J.I. Packer (from Concise Theology)
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Pro. 16:33).

"God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions" (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11). If Creation was a unique exercise of divine energy causing the world to be, providence is a continued exercise of that same energy whereby the Creator, according to his own will, (a) keeps all creatures in being, (b) involves himself in all events, and (c) directs all things to their appointed end. The model is of purposive personal management with total "hands-on" control: God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute.

Some have restricted God's providence to foreknowledge without control, or upholding without intervention, or general oversight without concern for details, but the testimony to providence as formulated above is overwhelming.

The Bible clearly teaches God's providential control (1) over the universe at large, Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; (2) over the physical world, Job 37; Pss. 104:14; 135:6; Matt. 5:45; (3) over the brute creation, Ps. 104:21, 28; Matt. 6:26; 10:29; (4) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Pss. 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26; (5) over man's birth and lot in life, 1 Sam. 16:1; Ps. 139:16; Isa. 45:5; Gal. 1:15-16; (6) over the outward successes and failures of men's lives, Ps. 75:6, 7; Luke 1:52; (7) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:30; (8) in the protection of the righteous, Pss. 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom. 8:28; (9) in supplying the wants of God's people, Gen. 22:8, 14; Deut. 8:3; Phil. 4:19; (10) in giving answers to prayer, 1 Sam. 1:19; Isa. 20:5, 6; 2 Chron. 33:13; Ps. 65:2; Matt. 7:7; Luke 18:7, 8; and (11) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Pss. 7:12-13; 11:6. (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed.)

Clear thinking about God's involvement in the world-process and in the acts of rational creatures requires complementary sets of statements, thus: a person takes action, or an event is triggered by natural causes, or Satan shows his hand - yet God overrules. This is the message of the book of Esther, where God's name nowhere appears. Again: things that are done contravene God's will of command - yet they fulfill his will of events (Eph. 1:11). Again: humans mean what they do for evil - yet God who overrules uses their actions for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23). Again: humans, under God's overruling, sin - yet God is not the author of sin (James 1:13-17); rather, he is its judge.

The nature of God's "concurrent" or "confluent" involvement in all that occurs in his world, as - without violating the nature of things, the ongoing causal processes, or human free agency - he makes his will of events come to pass, is mystery to us, but the consistent biblical teaching about God's involvement is as stated above.

Of the evils that infect God's world (moral and spiritual perversity, waste of good, and the physical disorders and disruptions of a spoiled cosmos), it can summarily be said: God permits evil (Acts 14:16); he punishes evil with evil (Ps. 81:11-12; Rom. 1:26-32); he brings good out of evil (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:27; 1 Cor. 2:7-8); he uses evil to test and discipline those he loves (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 12:4-14); and one day he will redeem his people from the power and presence of evil altogether (Rev. 21:27; 22:14-15).

The doctrine of providence teaches Christians that they are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice, knowing that all is for one's spiritual and eternal good (Rom. 8:28).

(Via Monergism)

The Mystery of Providence: John Flavel Resources

Monergism has extensive resources related to this book. A search on their site for "The Mystery of Providence" will yield you links to the book on-line, as well as, MP3s of the book.

A search for John Flavel will yield many of Flavel's other works.

Lastly a search for providence will yield a treasure trove of materials regarding providence.

Thank you Monergism.

Now may I apply myself to the study of Providence, John Flavel and his book "The Mystery of Providence,"

May this study enrich and edify my life.


The Mystery of Providence: John Flavel

The Far Country
February will see participants of the Puritan Reading Challenge reading John Flavel's book: "The Mystery of Providence." I have decided to select providence as the theme for my blog for the month of February.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dr. Mohler being Dr. Mohler

For your enjoyment a wonderful sermon by Dr. Mohler entitled: "Every Thought Captive"

Please do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

More sermons and speeches are available at


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dr. Mohler Recommends 3 Story Bibles

Dr. Mohler recommended 3 Story Bibles for children in two posts on his blog.

Bible Story Books for Children and And For Older Children . . . Respect Their Desire to Read and to Learn.

I have heard wonderful things about each book.

Now thanks to Tonny Kummer of the Said at Southern Seminary blog and you have the opportunity to win all three. Just take a look at his post: "Win 3 Great Children’s Story Bibles!" to find out how you can win.

If you do not win I would strongly encourage you to purchase these books.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Christian Liberty and the Dangers Legalism and Libertinism

Christian Liberty is a dicey issue. I do not have a good grasp of what it means. I have begun to study the subject. I tend to lean towards legalism and have to constantly check my motives. Others may tend to lean towards libertinism. Both extremes are equally wrong. John MacArthur gives a good illustration of the Christian struggle between the two extremes in his article: "What is Christian Liberty?"

"Let me illustrate how Christianity relates to the extremes of legalism and libertinism: Christianity resembles a narrow bridge spanning a place where two streams come together. One of those streams is crystal clear, but contains treacherous and deadly rapids; it symbolizes legalism--it appears to be a source of righteousness, but you can't stay afloat in it. Legalism will smash you on its rocks. The other stream is polluted libertinism-- if you fall into it, you will drown because of its filth. Therefore, the Christian must maintain his balance on the bridge between the treachery of legalism and the filth of libertinism. Christians who have fallen into the rapids of legalism destroy the effectiveness of their spiritual lives. Those who are wallowing in the vices of libertinism put themselves in line for divine discipline. Galatians 5:13-16 tell us how to stay on the bridge."

One must be vigilant to stay on the bridge.

Another good article was penned by Gregory Koukl of Stand to Reason which was entitled "Christian Liberty".

Hopefully I will learn to apply the idea of Christian Liberty to my life.
Hopefully my posts will help you better understand the issue.


(H.T. Monergism)

Richard Sibbes and The Bruised Reed

Richard Sibbes and The Bruised Reed
by J. William Black

[Reprinted with permission from the Banner of Truth Magazine Issue 299-300, Aug-Sept 1988, pp. 49-58.]

Richard Sibbes, like so many of his peers, was a man of humble origins. He was born in 1577 in Tostock, Suffolk, the first-born son of a wheelwright. In 1595, against his father's wishes that he carry on the family trade, Sibbes joined St John's College, Cambridge. Though of his own spiritual progress we know little, we do know that he undoubtedly heard the preaching of William Perkins in Cambridge, and that he was ultimately converted under the ministry of Perkins' successor, Paul Baynes. After earning his B.D. in 1610, he was appointed as a lecturer at Holy Trinity in Cambridge, a position from which he was relieved five years later because of his Puritan tendencies. Sibbes, however, had by then become widely known for his preaching, and through the influence of some powerful friends, in 1617 he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray's Inn, one of the most influential pulpits in London. At Gray's Inn, Sibbes' eminence and influence as a preacher continued to grow, to the extent that his foes did not dare move against him. In 1626, he came back to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine's Hall, while retaining his position at Gray's Inn. And in 1633, he returned to Holy Trinity, this time by crown appointment 'to its perpetual curacy'. Sibbes continued his preaching ministry both there and at Gray's Inn, as well as maintaining his duties at St Catherine's. until his death on 5th July 1635, at the age of 58.

During his lifetime, Sibbes authorised the publishing of only three volumes of his work. One is a treatise entitled The Soul's Conflict with Itself and Victory over itself by Faith, and the other two are collections of sermons under the titles The Saint's Safety in Evil Times and The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax. Both The Soul's Conflict and The Saint's Safety are able works, exposing their author as a master at the practical application of Scripture and theology. But it is in The Bruised Reed that we find crystallised the foundation and essence of Sibbes' own ministry and preaching.

Though well written and reasoned, The Bruised Reed is far from a scholarly treatise. It was originally published as 'Some Sermons contracted out of the 12. of Matth. 20.' It was not written in the heat of academic debate, but in the heat of pastoral concern, as the title page continues: 'At the desire, and for the good of weaker Christians.' But Sibbes writes armed with more than just a pastor's concern. He writes with a physician's skill, for he knows the true cause of his readers' woes and symptoms, and wastes no time in directing them to the cure:

having had occasion lately of some fresh thoughts concerning this argument, by dealing with some, the chief ground of whose trouble was the want of considering the gracious nature and office of Christ; the right conceit of which is the spring of all service to Christ, and comfort from him. [This and all subsequent quotations from Sibbes are drawn from The Bruised Reed.]

Our purpose is to understand from The Bruised Reed this experiential process by which Christ is apprehended and applied by the believer, and thereby to understand why Christ is so magnified by Sibbes. To accomplish this we shall first consider how Sibbes undertakes to convince his readers that their wrong conceit of themselves is the true source of their misery, for such a wrong conceit will never allow Christ to be rightly understood or appreciated. Once the wound is lanced and the true position uncovered, we shall then observe Sibbes' description of the way Christ heals and saves us by exercising the offices of prophet, priest and king on our behalf. Finally, we shall consider the particularly powerful way in which Sibbes applies these truths concerning Christ to his readers to their great benefit.

Why Christ Bruises Us

To describe the process by which God convinces and enlightens sinners to have a right conceit of themselves, Sibbes uses the metaphor of bruising. For if his readers are rightly to apprehend and appreciate Christ, they must first see themselves as God sees them and judge themselves as they, in effect, truly are before a holy and righteous God. This is the bruising. And the end result is that we are reduced from the mighty oaks of our pride's imagination to the frailty of bruised reeds, which is our true standing before our Creator:

This bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery ... and ... by misery is brought to see sin the cause of it; for whatsoever pretences sin maketh, yet bruising or breaking is the end of it; ... sensible of sin and misery... [he sees] no help in himself

By this bruising, God is being neither malicious nor capricious. In Sibbes' view, this work of bruising is both necessary and crucial. For humanity labours under a double curse. Not only have men and women wilfully and repeatedly transgressed the laws of God, declaring themselves his enemies by arrogantly rebelling against his good and rightful authority over them, but they are, for the most part, either altogether deceived and ignorant of the true nature of their crime and guilt (and of the terrible penalty such offence must incur if God be just), or they are rendered senseless to it, intoxicated as it were, by their pride. For Sibbes, God's holy wrath against those who persist in their sin and rebellion is an awful and terrifying reality:

Can we think that he that threw the angels out of heaven will suffer dust and worms' meat to run a contrary course, and to carry it away always so? No; as verily as Christ is 'King of kings and Lord of lords', Rev. 19:16, so will he dash all those pieces of earth 'which rise up against him, as a potter's vessel; Psa. 2:9.

Condemned by sin, lost by delusion, a more wretched state could not be conceived. Bound by this double curse, men and women are truly without hope. Therefore, to bring us to salvation, God must first even bring to light the need for salvation. To heal truly, the Physician must in effect first wound, and wound deeply. God in grace opens our eyes, but what he bids us gaze at first is not Christ, but our sin. Of ourselves, we would in no way be attracted to Christ at all, for as the prophet Isaiah says, 'He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him' [Isa. 53:2]. However, when we are thus bruised by having this true and right conceit of ourselves as sinners before God, it is then that we begin to look at Christ differently. In fact no one can truly come to Christ who has not first experienced this 'bruising':

This bruising is required ... before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for itself into the heart by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature.

Sibbes makes the further distinction that bruising is not to be identified with or contingent upon the negative situations or circumstances which one must endure (circumstances interpreted by many in his day as 'crosses'). Rather true bruising results from understanding one's own heart, for by such an understanding we are 'brought to see [our] sin, which bruiseth most of all.'

This bruising is not just a recognition of the sin within us, but is also the wrenching realisation of our impotence ever to resist its influence and our resulting total inability ever to please God. Sibbes preaches this with force, undoubtedly from the wellspring of his own experience:

[W]hereas Christ saith, 'Without me you,' apostles that are in a state of grace, 'can do nothing; John 15:5, he doth not say you can do a little, but nothing. Of ourselves, how easily we are overcome! how weak to resist! we are reeds shaken with every wind; we shake at the very noise and thought of poverty, disgrace, losses, &c., we give in presently, we have no power over our eyes, tongues, thoughts, affections, but let sin pass in and out. How soon we are overcome of evil! ... How many good purposes stick in the birth and have no strength to come forth! all which shews how nothing we are without the Spirit of Christ.

Moreover, such is the deceitfulness of our hearts that even this bruising, this fathoming of our own true condition is beyond our ability. For ultimately this bruising, as it is God's way of driving us to Christ, is a work that only God himself can effect. For 'all directions will not prevail, unless God, by his Spirit, convinceth us deeply, setting our sins before us and, driving us to a stand. Then we will make out for mercy.' 'Therefore,' continues Sibbes, 'desire God that he would bring a clear and a strong light into all the corners of our souls, and accompany it with a spirit of power to lay our hearts low.'

For Sibbes, God's purpose and interest are clear. Such bruising intends to drive us 'to a stand; to cause us to 'make out for mercy,' to drive us to Christ. It is because men and women are 'for the most part, not lost enough in their own feeling for a Saviour' that this bruising is applied. Only then will we finally despair of ourselves. Only then, when pride is thus slain and God's judgment upon our sin thereby accepted, will Christ begin to make sense to our fallen minds. For 'a man truly bruised judgeth sin the greatest evil, and the favour of God the greatest good. . . . He had rather hear of mercy than of a kingdom.'

But yet this bruising is costly for those who lie under it. For some, a right conceit of themselves is a terrible burden, so tender are their consciences. And Sibbes gives stern warnings to ministers and others in positions of spiritual authority not to overwhelm or overrun those entrusted into their care, but instead with tenderness and compassion to encourage and bear with those who are troubled in spirit. For 'those are failing that, by overmuch austerity, drive back troubled souls from having comfort by them; for by this carriage many smother their temptations, and burn inwardly, because they have none into whose bosom they may vent their grief and ease their souls.'

And ultimately for everyone with whom God deals, this bruising is indeed most costly, for it wars with our natural inclinations and seeks to subdue and put to death that archenemy of God within us, our pride. But when God by his grace so wounds and bruises us, he does not leave us to die in the misery of our sins. When he bids us open our eyes and gaze at the reality of our sin, he does not leave us in despair. Rather, he widens our field of vision till we see that our sin is in fact fastened to the cross in Christ and dealt with there. Such a vision is at once both most wonderful and most terrible to behold. And it is beholding this supreme manifestation of God's love—Christ Jesus crucified for us—that finally undoes us. For in Christ, the love of God embraces our sin with deadly effect. And we are left to lament with Sibbes, 'Lord, what an heart have I that needs all this, that none of this could be spared!'

With our sin so exposed and Christ so presented, God is free to begin his work of salvation within us, to save us from our sin through Christ and receive us to himself. This is the end and the glory of God's work of bruising within us. But it is a work which must be repeated often. So restless and fallen are our hearts, that even after we have been converted, our eyes find ways to stray from Christ and look back upon ourselves. But while we would try to put our rest and hope and comfort of security in our sanctification, God, in his persevering mercy, drives us again back to Christ, forcing us 'to pitch our rest on justification, not sanctification' (emphasis mine). By forsaking our vision of Christ and training our eyes upon ourselves and our own spiritual progress, or lack thereof, were thereby place ourselves back under the ministry of the law, under which we can stand only condemned. But God intervenes again and again, exercising this ministry of bruising so that by it we might know experientially both the heinousness of our sin and the transforming love of God, till our hearts be so refined that they know and desire nothing but Christ. Therefore can Sibbes conclude:

[T]here can be no danger in thorough healing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore, let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things.

How Christ Heals

Important and crucial though this bruising is, it is but the prelude and the preparation for the true and effectual apprehension of Christ. No one is saved or rendered acceptable to God by this bruising (for indeed, it is only a revelation of the reality of one's true standing), but no one can be saved without it. Only when the disease is properly diagnosed can the right cure be applied. And having thus expounded man's desperate state and need before God, Sibbes proceeds to describe and apply God's cure. To this end, Sibbes focuses our attention on Jesus. And as a jeweller examines his diamond facet by facet, in a light which makes his stone dazzle, so Sibbes bids us look on Christ in the light of God's word, where we see refracted through the facets of his character and offices a rainbow of comfort and hope and mercy.

For Sibbes, Christ's work in us and for us is threefold, defined by the 'offices' he fulfils on our behalf In his sermon, 'Description of Christ.' a work which, after his death, was published with The Bruised Reed as an introduction, Sibbes writes:

He is a prophet wise enough, and a priest full enough to make us acceptable of God. If we want any grace, he is a king able enough, rich enough, and strong enough to subdue all our rebellions in us, and he will in time by his Spirit overcome all.

To know Christ in this way is for Sibbes the heart of the Christian gospel, the very marrow of divinity. Thus if we are to understand the reason behind Sibbes' Christocentricity, then we must see and understand Christ as he and his Puritan brothers did, as prophet, priest and king.

The Office Of Prophet

Christ is first described as a prophet. Indeed, he is in reality what earthly prophets are merely a type and shadow of, for in Christ is God, his character, his word and his will, most perfectly mediated to us. Perhaps the best way of understanding the difference is to compare the effects of their ministries. The prophets of the Old Testament undoubtedly mediated the counsel of God to Israel. But their mediation, their prophesying, had no power of its own to effect anything. In fact most of it was ignored, to the great ruin of Israel. But when Christ mediates the word and counsel of God, great change is wrought; because, as Sibbes observes, 'Where Christ by his Spirit as a prophet teaches, he likewise as a king by his Spirit subdueth the heart to obedience of what is taught.' Sibbes expounds his meaning by stating:

This is that teaching which is promised of God, when not only the brain, but the heart itself, is taught: when men do not only know what they should do, but are taught the very doing of it; they are not only taught that they should love, fear, and obey, but they are taught love itself, and fear and obedience itself.

Moreover, Christ does not just speak and prophesy generally, as if to a multitude, but he sets up his school in each one's heart. And by his very presence he is able to alter its frame, and thus 'makes his subjects good,, together with teaching of them to be good' (emphasis mine).

But not only is Christ effective when he takes on the office of prophet and teacher, he is also good and merciful. Christ is indeed the perfect prophet, the perfect teacher, and to sit at his feet is to be desired above all. For, as Sibbes observes, 'It is no great matter how dull the scholar be, when Christ taketh upon him to be the teacher: who as he prescribeth what to understand, so he giveth understanding, even to the simplest.'

The Office Of Priest

Christ is not only a prophet, mediating God and his counsel to us; he is also our priest, mediating us and our plight to God. But Christ's mediation on our behalf is not that of the hired but ultimately disinterested attorney and advocate, pleading the case of an obviously guilty defendant. If Christ were such a mediator, there would be no hope for us. We might consider him a friend because of his interest in our case and his sympathy for us, but his pleading would be to no effect, for the nature of our crime against God and our guilt beyond doubt would demand that justice be done and God's sentence carried out against us.

But Christ does not mediate in such a way. Instead, because of his relationship to the Father, his petition is heard because the Father loves him. And because of the perfect obedience of his earthly life, he is able to take on the office of priest before God, and thereby stand between God and man. But in light of his own holiness and righteousness and our own sin and corruption, he has the right and is in fact given the authority to be our judge. But the mystery of grace is that the very one who by right and authority should pass judgment and be done with us becomes instead the very sin against which that judgment is pronounced. Christ, in the mystery and wonder of his love and humility, wraps himself not only in our nature, but in our very sin as well, and takes upon himself the anger and the wrath of God against our sin and corruption: 'Christ drank the dregs of the cup [of judgment] for us.... He became not only a man, but a curse, a man of sorrows for us. He was broken that we should not be broken; he was troubled that we should not be desperately troubled; he became a curse, that we should not be accursed.' Even more wondrous, if possible, 'He came to die as a priest for his enemies ... standing between God's anger and them; and shed tears for those that shed his blood.'

Christ's mediation on our behalf is effective, for not only does he plead our case before God, but he takes the cause of our offence to God, our sin, to himself and destroys it on the cross. Thus when God considers us now, he does so through the lens of his Son, with whom he is well pleased.

Therefore, by fulfilling the office of priest on our behalf, Christ is able to answer perfectly the terrors awakened in those who have experienced the work of bruising in them. For it was to this very end that we were bruised to begin with, that we might fly to Christ. Sibbes again confirms that it was for reasons of mercy that we were bruised: for 'God seeth it fit we should taste of that cup of which his Son drank so deep, that we might feel a little what sin is, and what his Son's love was.'

In the light of such a mediator, Sibbes draws these applications for those who lie bruised under the knowledge of their sin:

What should we learn from hence, but 'to come boldly to the throne of grace,' Heb. 4:16, in all our grievances? Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Art thou bruised? Be of good comfort, he calleth thee; conceal not thy wounds, open all before him.. . Go to Christ though trembling.. . Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, that is not only our friend, but our brother and husband.

The Office Of King

Christ's work as mediator and priest on behalf of his people may be a profound work of inexpressible grace and love, but for Sibbes, that work is only the beginning of Christ's gracious dealing with them. Christ means to do an even deeper work than that. For even though their heavenly status has been altered by his grace and effective mediation, his people are still, in reality, nothing more than 'bruised reeds' or 'smoking flax' before him. But Christ continues in mercy. As such, they are not scorned or despised by him. Instead, marvels Sibbes, '[H]e will not only not break the bruised reed, nor quench [the smoking flax], but he will cherish them.' Indeed, his purpose is to see the work of grace begun in them to completion, to ensure that what is ratified in heaven concerning them is ultimately confirmed in their present reality. Christ, in Sibbes' words, thereby commits himself to continue with his people 'until the sanctified frame of grace begun in their hearts be brought to that perfection, that it prevaileth over all opposite corruption. Christ accomplishes this by the initiation and advance of his 'judgment, or government and rule in the lives of those whom he saves. So Christ is not only prophet and priest, he becomes king of his people by conquest as well.

Such conquest, however, is perhaps the most difficult work of all. Christ, by his work of grace, may overthrow the sinful self and set up his own throne in one's heart, but sin refuses to surrender. Therefore, in one sense, the government which Christ sets up in the heart is a martial government, whose purpose is to subdue sin and promote righteousness: 'By this judgment set up in us, good is discerned, allowed and performed; sin is judged, condemned, and executed.' And again, 'The spirit of judgment will be a spirit of burning, Isa. 6:4, to consume whatever opposed corruption like rust eats into the soul'

Again, Sibbes is careful to direct our focus to Christ. The work is in the hands of a sure and able sovereign, even when it seems obscured to our eyes by our failing. But because of the limitations of our perspective, we are in constant danger. Our state is ironic and seemingly contrary, for as Sibbes notes, 'If our faith were but as firm as our state in Christ is secure and glorious, what manner of men should we be?' But we still see with the weak eyes of this life. Even so, once Christ has set up his government in our hearts, the only true misery which the enemy can still cause is somehow to distract us from Christ. But what sharp misery such distractions result in, and the enemy exploits our weakness to his greatest advantage. For though he has been frustrated in his efforts to carry us off to hell, our weaknesses encourage him to bring as much of hell as he can to us in our present situations. But, as Sibbes warns, it is oftentimes when we feel most strong and secure that we are in fact most weak and vulnerable. Feeling our need drives us to Christ, wherein is our true security:

Weakness and watchfulness will stand out, when strength with too much confidence faileth. Weakness, with the acknowledging of it, is the fittest seat and subject for God to perfect his strength in; for consciousness of our infirmities driveth us out of ourselves to him in whom our strength lieth.

But even here there is much tension and even danger, for those with tender consciences are liable first to be overwhelmed by their weaknesses and failings and insecurities, and the condemnation which they hear from Satan, before they remember their Saviour and his promises. To such, Sibbes speaks powerful encouragement:

It mattereth not so much what ill is in us, as what good; not what corruptions, but how we stand affected to them; not what our particular failings be, so much as what is the thread and tenor of our lives; for Christ's mislike of that which is amiss in us, redounds not to the hatred of our persons, but to the victorious subduing of all our infirmities.

Christ's government within us is not just a martial or a conquering government, it is a transforming government as well. 'Other princes; writes Sibbes, 'can make good laws, but they "cannot write them in their people's hearts" Jer. 32:40. This is Christ's prerogative, he infuseth into his subjects his own Spirit.' For Christ is not just concerned with outward conformity. But as he subdues our old nature, so he creates a new one, of which he is both the pattern and the architect, as well as the means and the motivation. And he accomplishes this not only by infusing us with his own Spirit, but by revealing himself more and more to us: 'The very beholding of Christ is a transforming sight.'

Finally, Christ's government within us is an eternal government. He is not easily daunted by the task. In fact, he is not daunted at all. He seems to delight in turning mourning into joy and dancing, in bringing those lost in darkness into the light of his love, in bringing even the most irascible and hell-bent sinner to sing of his glorious grace. For as we have already seen, what Christ begins, he will bring to completion, and what he intends he will bring to pass. In spite of our failings or our feelings, Christ will indeed save the ones who trust in him. God's purpose will not be thwarted. God's love will not be frustrated. Sibbes himself says it best:

The victory lieth not upon us, but upon Christ, who hath taken upon him, as to conquer for us, so to conquer in us. The victory lieth neither in our own strength to get, nor in our enemies to defeat it. If it lay upon us, we might justly fear. But Christ will maintain his own government in us, and take our part against our corruptions; they are his enemies as well as ours.

For 'Christ as king brings a commanding light into the soul, and bows the neck, and softens the iron sinew of the inner man; and where he begins to rule, he rules for ever, "his kingdom hath no end", Luke 1:33'

Our Need Today

Richard Sibbes writes and preaches as a man constrained and compelled by the love of Christ. He cannot know enough about Christ. For more than anything else, Christ defines his existence. And he has found Christ to be the source of everything good and needful. The Bruised Reed represents a distillation of this Christocentric world view, and in it Sibbes writes persuasively, with both tenderness and compelling urgency, betraying by his words an intimacy with the ways of God. He counsels as one who knows what it means to be broken and bruised and poor in spirit before God. His words carry with them the wisdom of one who has spent many hours at the feet of his master. He preaches as one whose sins have been forgiven, whose heart has been filled with Good News. And he speaks with the peace of one who knows what the final outcome of the battle will be. Thus, in The Bruised Reed, Sibbes reveals the fountain of his life, the very core of motivation in his heart. But not of Sibbes only. He simply expresses most clearly the experience of many in his day. A recovery of this experimental and marrowy Calvinistic teaching is one of the church's greatest needs in our day.

(H.T. Monergism, Fire and Ice)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sermon Sundays

The first installment of Sermon Sunday features Dr. Alan Cairns' message:

Joel Osteen's Gospel of Positive Thinking

Dr. Cairns speaks about Joel Osteen's Gospel of Positive thinking and then addresses Christ's question from Matthew 16: "Whom say yee that I am?"



Piper: Football or Christ?

Piper asks the hard questions. Convicting stuff. Sadly my actions betray my heart.

May my actions betray my love for Christ.


(H.T.: Purgatorio)

Friday, January 18, 2008


–noun, plural -chies.
1. a family, society, community, or state governed by women.

2. a form of social organization in which the mother is head of the family, and in which descent is reckoned in the female line, the children belonging to the mother's clan; matriarchal system.

Matriarchy is on the rise.

Dr. Mohler speaks about it in his blog post: Is Matriarchy the Shape of the Future

"Christians committed to a biblical model of marriage and gender relations must look to this social revolution with a deeper level of concern. The most significant concern must be the long-term consequences of a new matriarchal world order. While Christians support the cause of higher education, the biblical worldview puts a higher priority upon the rightly ordered family and church. This dramatic social change will only serve to subvert that purpose."

The emergence of matriarchy is a troubling development which is counter to Biblical teaching. We must be willing to support the Biblical model. We as Christian men often fail to live up to our Biblical mandates and until we do so we will reap the consequences.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mohler on Marriage

"Marriage is not primarily about what we as individuals think we want or need. It is about a central public commitment that the society needs, that couples need, that children need, and yes, that the spouses need. Marriage is a public institution, not merely a private commitment. It identifies the couple as a pair committed to lifelong marriage and thus to be respected in this commitment. The fact that our society has weakened marriage offers only further incentive to get it right and to strengthen this vital institution."

Dr. Albert Mohler

May we as Christians get marriage right.

May I, with God's help, become a better spouse to my wife.


From his blogpost: Does Marriage Matter?


I lost a good friend and co-worker recently and I have been meaning to post this advice from Richard Baxter since that time. My friend as far as I know was not a Christian. The real shame is that I never spoke with him at length about his beliefs. I did invite him to church, but I never shared the gospel with him. The one thing I claim to want to do the most I failed to do with him. During the time I had an opportunity to share the gospel with him I was busy doing other things. I have no excuse. I must do better.

May Baxter's words help us to deal with the death of friends.

May God give us the strength, desire, and wisdom to share the Gospel with those people in our immediate sphere of influence.


Richard Baxter:

"Direct. IX. Be neither unnaturally senseless at the death of friends, nor excessively dejected or afflicted. To make light of the death of relations and friends, be they good or bad, is a sign of a very vicious nature; that is so much selfish, as not much to regard the lives of others: and he that regards not the lives of his friends is little to be trusted in his lesser concernments. I speak not this of those persons whose temper allows them not to weep: for there may be as deep a regard and sorrow in some that have no tears, as in others that abound with them. But I speak of a mischievous, selfish nature, that is little affected with any one's concernments but its own.

Yet your grief for the death of friends, must be very different both in degree and kind. 1. For ungodly friends you must grieve for their own sakes, because if they died such, they are lost for ever. 2. For your godly friends you must mourn for the sake of yourselves and others, because God has removed such as were blessings to those about them. 3. For choice magistrates, and ministers, and other instruments of public good, your sorrow must be greater, because of the common loss, and the judgment thereby inflicted on the world. 4. For old, tried Christians, that have overcome the world, and lived so long till age and weakness make them almost unserviceable to the church, and who groan to be unburdened and to be with Christ, your sorrow should be least, and your joy and thanks for their happiness should be greatest. But especially abhor that nature that secretly is glad of the death of parents, (or little sorrowful,) because that their estates are fallen to you, or you are enriched, or set at liberty by their death. God seldom leaves this sin unrevenged, by some heavy judgments even in this life.

Direct. X. To overcome your inordinate grief for the death of your relations, consider these things following. 1. That excess of sorrow is your sin: and sinning is an ill use to be made of your affliction. 2. That it tends to a great deal more: it unfits you for many duties which you are bound to, as to rejoice in God, and to be thankful for mercies, and cheerful in his love, and praise, and service: and is it a small sin to unfit yourselves for the greatest duties? If you are so troubled at God's disposal of his own, what does your will but rise up against the will of God; as if you grudged at the exercise of his dominion and government, that is, that he is God! Who is wisest, and best, and fittest to dispose of all men's lives? Is it God or you? Would you not have God to be the Lord of all, and to dispose of heaven and earth, and of the lives and crowns of the greatest princes? If you would not, you would not have him to be God. If you would, is it not unreasonable that you or your friends only should be excepted from his disposal? 4. If your friends are in heaven, how unsuitable is it, for you to be overmuch mourning for them, when they are rapt into the highest joys with Christ; and love should teach you to rejoice with them that rejoice, and not to mourn as those that have no hope. 5. You know not what mercy God showed to your friends, in taking them away from the evil to come, you know not what suffering the land or church is falling into; or at least might have fallen upon themselves; nor what sins they might have been tempted to. But you are sure that heaven is better than earth, and that it is far better for them to be with Christ. 6. You always knew that your friends must die; to grieve that they were mortal, is but to grieve that they were but men. 7. If their mortality or death be grievous to you, you should rejoice that they are arrived at the state of immortality, where they must live indeed and die no more. 8. Remember how quickly you must be with them again. The expectation of living on yourselves, is the cause of your excessive grief for the death of friends. If you looked yourselves to die to-morrow, or within a few weeks, you would less grieve that your friends are gone before you. 9. Remember that the world is not for one generation only; others must have our places when we are gone; God will be served by successive generations, and not only by one. 10. If you are Christians indeed, it is the highest of all your desires and hopes to be in heaven; and will you so grieve that your friends are gone thither, where you most desire and hope to be?

Object. All this is reasonable, if my friend were gone to heaven: but he died impenitently, and how should I be comforted for a soul that I have cause to think is damned?

Answ. Their misery must be your grief; but not such a grief as shall deprive you of your greater joys, or disable you for your greater duties. 1. God is fitter than you to judge of the measures of his mercy and his judgments, and you must neither pretend to be more merciful than he, nor to object to his justice. 2. All the works of God are good; and all that is good is amiable; though the misery of the creature be bad to it, yet the works of justice declare the wisdom and holiness of God; and the more perfect we are, the more they will be amiable to us. For, 3. God himself, and Christ, who is the merciful Saviour of the world, approve of the damnation of the finally ungodly. 4. And the saints and angels in heaven do know more of the misery of the souls in hell, than we do; and yet it abates not their joys. And the more perfect any is, the more he is like-minded unto God. 5. How glad and thankful should you be to think that God has delivered yourselves from those eternal flames! The misery of others should excite your thankfulness. 6. And should not the joys of all the saints and angels be your joy, as well as the sufferings of the wicked be your sorrows? But above all, the thoughts of the blessedness and glory of God himself, should overtop all the concernments of the creature with you. If you will mourn more for the thieves and murderers that are hanged, than you will rejoice in the justice, prosperity, and honour of the king, and the welfare of all his faithful subjects, you behave not yourselves as faithful subjects. 7. Shortly you hope to come to heaven: mourn now for the damned, as you shall do then; or at least, let not the difference be too great, when that, and not this, is your perfect state."

Courtesy of: Fire and Ice

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What is Monergism? gives the following definition:

Monergism: In regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh -- giving rise to a delight in His Word -- all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ. The Prophet Ezekiel inspired by the Holy Spirit asserted "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." (Eze 11:19, also 36:26) The Apostle Paul said, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thess 1, 4, 5). I.e. In regeneration the word does not work alone but must be accompanied by the "germination" of the Holy Spirit. And again " have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Pet 1:23)

The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:

"In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration."

It means that the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration -- and if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, he/she ignores the teaching of the Apostles, for Paul says, "...Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved." and "...he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5) And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

It is in contrast to synergism which the Century Dictionary defines as

"...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives."

They also offer a more indepth treatment here.


The Bruised Reed

The first book of the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge is The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. You can purchase it by itself or you can purchase all 12 books in the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge for only 65 dollars. That is a steal.

Short on Cash?

You can read The Bruised Read on-line at Monergism.


2008 Challenges

I have decided to take part in Two Challenges in 2008.

The first challenge is the Said at Southern Seminary Bible Reading Challenge.
(An ongoing challenge to read the entire Bible by the end of January)

The second is the 2008 Puritan Reading Challengewhich was issued by Timmy Brister.
(A challenge which encourages you to read one Puritan Paperback a month for the year of 2008.)

In order to complete the Said at Southern Challenge my blog posts for the rest of January will be sparse.

I invite each of you to accept one or both of the challenges.

For those with less time please refer to this post regarding a one year Bible reading plan.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Free Scripture Memory Song From the Blazing Center

Memorization through song is a tried and true technique. Some adults still have a hard time reciting their ABCs without singing them. I for one need to focus on Scripture Memorization in 2008. The Altrogge's of the Blazing Center Blog are kindly giving away a free downloadable Scripture memory song.

Stop by their blog and download the song and while you are their thank them. I know I will. Also be sure and pass the link along to your friends.

They also offer 7 albums worth of Scripture memory songs.

On the site where the albums can be purchased they expouse why we should memorize scripture.

May I make it one of my endeavors to memorize more Scripture in 2008.


So You Want to Teach the Word of God?

I began January 1st reading the Word of God in one year following the M'Cheyne reading plan. I am also reading the daily companion devotionals in D.A. Carson's For the Love of God Volumes One and Two. I would highly recommend that you utilize these resources. Carson's commentary on Ezra 7 particularly resounded with me.

A few quotes:

"There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible. Effectiveness in teaching the Bible is purchased at the price of much study, some of it lonely, all of it tiring. If you are not a student of the Word, you are not called to be a teacher of the Word."

Pretty sobering. Am I willing to put forth the effort to study the Bible so I can properly explain it to others?

"For some people, study is an end in itself, or perhaps a means to the end of teaching. But, even though the subject matter is Scripture, for these people there is no personal commitment to living under its precepts --- to ordering their marriage, their finances, their talk, their priorities, their values, by the Word of God. They do not constantly ask how the assumptions of their age and culture, assumptions that all of us pick up unawares, are challenged by Scripture. The study of Scripture, for such people, is an excellent intellectual discipline, but not a persistent call to worship; the Bible is to be mastered like a textbook, but it does not call the people of God to tremble; its truths are to be cherished, but it does not mediate the presence of God."

Does my orthopraxis match my orthodoxy?
Or to put it another way does the way I behave match my stated beliefs about God.
Do I practice what I preach.

May I devote my time to studying the Word of God.
May I devote my life to living out the precepts of the Word of God.


Do Not Revel in Controversy

"The student who fears God earnestly seeks His will in the holy scriptures. Holiness makes him gentle, so that he does not revel in controversy..."

St. Augustine
On Christian Teaching

How many of us have dealt harshly with other Christians when dealing with theological controversy?

May I discuss the Christian faith with others in a loving, compassionate manner.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Francis A. Schaeffer and the Moral Majority

It is probably a rare thing to read Francis Schaeffer and the Moral Majority in the same sentence, but I recently read his book A Christian Manifesto and he made some insightful points regarding the Moral Majority which I thought were worth posting. On a side note A Christian Manifesto is a wonderful book discussing a proper Christian worldview and is worth a read.

The first is in regards to the treatment of the Moral Majority by the media. It is a good short critique of the media's worldview in general:

"Some of us may perhaps have some questions about the Moral Majority and some of the things they have said. But I would say one thing we certainly must do is get our information about anything like the Moral Majority not from the secular media, which so largely have the same humanistic perspective as the rest of culture have today. If we are going to make judgments on any such subject we must not get our final judgments uncritically from media that see things from this perspective and see it that way honestly. Most of the media do not have to be dishonest to slide things in their own direction because they see through the spectacles of a finally relativistic set of ethical personal and social standards."

In the second quote he discusses the one thing they have certainly done right:

"Returning to the Moral Majority, we must realize that regardless of whether we think the Moral Majority has always said the right things or whether we do not, or whether we think they have made some mistakes or whether we do not, they have certainly done one thing right: they have used the freedom we still have in the political arena to stand against the other total entity. They have carried the fact that law is king, law is above the lawmakers, and God is above the law into this area of life where it always should have been. And this is a part of true spirituality.

The Moral Majority has drawn a line between the one total view of reality and the other total view of reality and the results this brings forth in government and law. And if you personally do not like some of the details of what they have done, do it better. But you must understand that all Christians have got to do the same kind of thing or you are simply not showing the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life."

May I view the world through the lens of the Bible and not view the Bible through the lens of the world.

May I strive to defend the Biblical worldview.

May I show the Lordship of Christ in the totality of my life.