Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: Why Must We Forgive?

Why Must We Forgive? by Stanley Gale is part of the 12-booklet Cultivating Biblical Godliness series published by Reformation Heritage Books.  This short booklet, at just 31 pages, looks at the forgiveness received by a Christian and why he must reciprocate.

When considering forgiveness received, Mr. Gale looks at the foundation of forgiveness, which is Christ, and then, looks at drinking from the fountain of forgiveness.  He gives a clear Gospel presentation because only Christians can forgive others "as we have been forgiven by Him [God]," (p. 9).

Next, Mr. Gale considers forgiveness reciprocated by looking at the flow of forgiveness and at forgiveness in action.  Under forgiveness in action, both steps of forgiveness, to remove the offense and to remember it no more (p.16), are well-explained.  Finally, the author talks about forgiveness as a commencement, rather than a conclusion, by describing (1) the work of forgiveness, (2) love as an outworking of forgiveness, and (3) the remembrance of forgiveness.  He notes that granting forgiveness is not the final action, but also involves "dealing with sin in our own hearts" and "reestablishing some degree of relationship," (p. 23).  He reminds Christians that "Christ is our example.  We are to forgive as we have been forgiven," (p. 25).

Why Must We Forgive? is a sound primer on forgiveness.  I would recommend this book for all Christians.

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you," (Eph. 4:32).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Holy Sabbath and Social Order

As I read through Pink's introduction to The Holy Sabbath, I find his analysis of how The Lord's Day impacts society in general interesting in light of all of the disorderly protests in America this past year.  He writes (p. 4-5):

"Furthermore, since the Sabbath alone release hundreds of the disciples of Christ from secular labours to employ a part of their energies in the instructing of the ignorant, who can say how much of the religious knowledge and moral principle which still exists in our nation, is instrumentally due to the institution of this Sacred Rest?  Godliness has never flourished in the world from its foundation till now, nor will it ever do so, without a due attendance upon this divine ordinance, and it requires very little perspicuity to foresee what increasing disorder and disaster will yet ensue if it be totally disregarded.  It is an incontestable fact that the times when the Sabbath's sanctity was most faithfully proclaimed and maintained in the British Isles--and we may add, in the U.S.A.--were those in which true spirituality was healthiest and vital godliness was in its most flourishing state.  The men to whom, under God, we owe this, are the ones whose writings are still among the most precious treasures of English religious literature.  A right observance of the Lord's Day lies at the foundation of national happiness and prosperity.  So prolific of good is this blessed day that its powerful influences on the well-being of our country vitally affects its spiritual intelligence, the morality of its social order, and the liberties of its people."

So according to Pink (who published this excerpt in 1939), we don't achieve social order by giving in to the demands from unruly protesters, but by reinstating the observance of The Lord's Day.  Now, I'm not advocating theonomy by any means, but bringing back the blue laws, or Sunday laws, could be a step in the right direction for America.  Rather than being exclusively self-focused, it would cause our nation to consider (be it positively or negatively) the One, True, Triune God at least one day a week.

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it," (Isa. 58:13-14).

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Holy Sabbath

In his introduction to The Holy Sabbath, A.W. Pink makes an observation about The Lord's Day (p. 3):

"Two things are absolutely essential for the maintenance of vital godliness: the profession of its truth and the practice or exercise of its power, for they mutually assist each other.  Where there is no profession of faith in its truth, none will express its power in obedience: and without obedience, profession is worthless.  Clearly is this exemplified in connection with the Holy Sabbath.  In proportion as the pulpit has failed to insist on and press the claims of the Sacred Day, vital godliness has been weakened and all but destroyed, and commensurate with the growth of an empty profession has been the decay of genuine piety.  Things have now come to such a deplorable state that we may well exclaim, 'truth is fallen in the street' (Isa. 59:14), yea, is being ruthlessly trampled under foot not only by the masses in general but also by the great majority of those in high places.  It is therefore incumbent upon all who fear and love God to do whatever lies within their power to rescue the Sabbath from its present profanation."

This excerpt could easily describe Christianity in America today.  However, it originally appeared in A.W. Pink's Studies in the Scriptures, from January 1939 to April 1940.  It's easy to surmise that our present state of ungodliness among professing Christians is worse than the previous generations that have gone before us, but really, "there is no new thing under the sun"...

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us," (Eccl. 1:9-10).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: Why Should I Fast?

Why Should I Fast? by Daniel Hyde is part of the 12-booklet Cultivating Biblical Godliness series published by Reformation Heritage Books.  This short booklet, at just 46 pages, looks at the biblical teaching and practice of fasting.

In his book, Mr. Hyde "argues that fasting is actually a basic biblical teaching and practice, one that is vital to cultivating godly living in an ungodly generation," (p. 5).  He looks at fasting in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The author notes: "When you feel the weight of your sins, you are instructed to fast as a help to confessing your sins to the Lord in prayer.  When you lack the Lord's presence, you are exhorted to fast as a help to drawing near to God through prayer," (p. 21).

Next, he looks at how a Christian should fast and gives these guidelines:  Fasting should be done freely, humbly, seriously, evangelically, earnestly, and prayerfully.  However, Mr. Hyde notes that fasting is not the end in itself, but a means.  Therefore, he concludes: "Fasting is an aid and help to prayer," (p. 40).

This short primer on fasting is very well-written and well-referenced.  The author even includes a selected bibliography to his work.  I was encouraged by his exhortation to revive the practice of fasting as a means to aid my prayer life.  I highly recommend Why Should I Fast? for all Christians, especially those in leadership positions so that they can encourage others within the church to consider this important biblical practice.

"And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast," (Matthew 9:15).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review: Why Should You Deny Yourself?

Why Should You Deny Yourself? by Ryan McGraw is part of the 12-booklet Cultivating Biblical Godliness series published by Reformation Heritage Books.  This short booklet, at just 34 pages, looks at the biblical definition of what it means to deny yourself as a Christian.

The author looks at Luke 9:23-27 and notes that this passage "teaches us that we must come after Christ, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him," (p. 3).  In his book he only looks at the first command to deny ourselves and shows (1) what self-denial is and why it is important and (2) what self-denial looks like in practice.

First, Mr. McGraw defines self-denial as a "principle by which, regardless of personal cost, we believe and do whatever Christ teaches us and reject and flee from whatever He forbids us," (p. 4). Then he looks at five different aspects of self-denial: the grounds, the pattern, the reason, the measure, and the principle.  Next, in the second part of the booklet, the author notes that in practice, "[b]elievers must deny themselves by keeping the commandments of God at great personal cost," (p. 15) and gives one negative and five positive examples of self-denial in a believer's life.

This short booklet does an adequate job in exhorting believers to deny themselves and to obey the commandments of God.  However, Mr. McGraw makes some concerning statements, such as (emphasis mine): "Many think that they do well to admit that they need help, but Christ calls men to confess that they are beyond help.  You need a spiritual resurrection as well as a physical one," (p. 6).  He does not clarify what he means by needing a spiritual and physical resurrection.  Spiritual resurrection is a one-time event accomplished by the Holy Spirit's regeneration of an unbelieving heart (Eph. 2:1, 8).  No believer will have a physical resurrection until Christ returns again (1 Thess. 5:16-17).

In addition, he notes that (emphasis mine): "Every aspect of this passage [the passage referenced here is unclear] teaches you that, regardless of personal cost, you must believe and do whatever Christ teaches you and reject and flee from whatever He forbids you.  You must hear His sayings and keep them (Luke 11:28); otherwise you will lose the triune God and your souls at the same time," (p. 13).  Perseverance of the saints is a key teaching of orthodox Christianity.  Saving faith can not be lost by man because a true Christian has been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13), and if a person leaves the Christian faith, then they were not a true believer (and therefore not sealed) to begin with (1 John 2:19).

Given the importance of this topic to all Christians, I would recommend Why Should You Deny Yourself?  However, if you want a sound, in-depth look at this subject, then I would highly recommend Moses' Self-Denial by Jeremiah Burroughs.

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it," (Luke 9:23-24).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Considering Our Latter End

In the second section of Time and the End of Time: Discourses on Redeeming the Time and Considering Our Latter End (ISBN 978-1-60178-489-6), John Fox looks at Deuteronomy 32:29 and notes that we are to consider our latter end.

First, in concerning your latter end, you are seriously to consider and believe (pp. 63-85):
  1. "That it is most certain that an end will be"
  2. "That at your latter end all things in this world will fail you and take their leave of you forever"
  3. "How soon all the present pleasures of sin will be gone and leave nothing but a sting"
  4. "That only which is eternal will stand you in stead when you come to die"
  5. "Which of the two eternities you are going toward"
  6. "How near you are to your everlasting habitation"
  7. "How sudden, violent, or unexpected you end may be"
  8. "That when death comes to strike the stroke, your souls are startled--your eternity is cast without change forever"
  9. "That it is the most dreadful and amazing sight on this side [of] hell to see a Christless unbeliever breathing out his last"
Next, Mr. Fox gives five reasons to consider your latter end (pp. 86-101):
  1. "Because the only wise, gracious, most indulgent, and soul-compassionating God wishes it, and that most vehemently"
  2. "Because a deep, serious, and heart-affecting consideration of death and the grave will both realize it and represent it as near, even at the door, and make it to stand in open view"
  3. Because through grace it "will prove and absolute and sovereign antidote to expel the greatest evil"
  4. Because it "will be a powerful incentive to make you exert and put forth the greatest industry in a way of duty"
  5. "Because here lies your highest wisdom"
The applications to consider your latter end are found in four uses:
  1. "This calls aloud to all you unconverted sinners that have made no preparation for death and judgment to stand, wonder, or sit down and admire at the unwearied patience, the matchless and amazing mercy of the infinitely gracious and glorious God," (p. 102).
  2. "This justly reprehends all who slight or neglect this great duty, but especially these three sorts--none of which do seriously consider their latter end--namely: (1) the insolent, athestical sensualists; (2) the ignorant and inconsiderate; (3) the self-confident and presumptuous," (p. 104).
  3. This "is to exhort, persuade, and stir you up, to put this duty of so great and infinite concern into practice," (p. 121).
  4. This gives "comfort to the poor people of God who, through fear of death, are all their lifetime subject to bondage," (p. 148-149).
When considering the application of considering your latter end, Mr. Fox asks "why do men and women that have immortal souls think no more of it?" (p. 116).  He notes seven causes of why men and women do not consider their latter end (pp. 116-120): (1) cursed atheism and unbelief deeply rooted in hearts and minds; (2) want of spiritual and divine wisdom; (3) sensuality, worldly pleasures, and care; (4) plague on the heart and desperate security proceeding from it; (5) strong delusion of heart or satanical suggestion, (6) fear of death; and (7) fear of leaving this world.

The author lists eight motives to consider in order to persuade saints to consider their latter end:
  1. "Consider there is an absolute and indispensable necessity for the doing of it--a present necessity, an infinite and eternal necessity.  Other things may be done; this must be done," (p. 125).
  2. "Consider that it may be done.  You are in a capacity to do it," (p. 126).
  3. "Consider the omitting or neglect of it will render you the worst of fools.  If doing it be your highest wisdom, the not doing of it must needs be the greatest folly," (p. 127).
  4. Consider that "[i]n a very little time your present, powerful, and awakening helps and advantages to excite and put you in mind of the other world will be past and gone...namely, (1) awakening ordinances; (2) awakening providences; [and] (3) awakening convictions," (p. 128).
  5. "Consider that the earnest cries, tears, prayers of unbelievers when they come to die will be in vain, fruitless, and unsuccessful," (p. 131).
  6. Consider that "[i]t is the great comfort of the godly man's life to hope and know that he is fit for death," (p. 132).
  7. Consider that "[i]f you should not prepare for death, yet you will wish you had (as many do when it is too late)," (p. 133).
  8. "Consider the gain will be exceedingly great," (p. 134).
Finally, Mr. Fox concludes his book with three directions and reminders:
  1. "Search diligently to find out what it is that keeps you and the serious thoughts of death and eternity at so great a distance, and cry mightily to God speedily to remove it," (p. 143).
  2. "Diligently and faithfully use and improve the most awakening means": "Set yourself under a powerful, faithful, and soul-searching ministry," "converse with the best Christians," and "read the best books," (pp. 144-145).
  3. "Make conscience of setting apart a little time every day on purpose to think on your latter end," (p. 146).
Time and the End of Time is a very sobering book.  The author sums up the Christian's duty best: "It is the grand business of your life timely and truly to prepare for death and judgment.  It were better that all your concerns in the world were wholly neglected--namely, husband, wife, children, buying, selling, seed time, harvest, omitted and let all to ruin, than to hazard, lose, and undo your souls--for this will certainly ruin body and soul forever," (p. 125).

"O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" (Deut. 32:29).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Redeeming the Time

In Time and the End of Time: Discourses on Redeeming the Time and Considering Our Latter End (ISBN 978-1-60178-489-6), John Fox looks at Ephesians 5:16, and in the first section of his book, he expounds the doctrine that the best of saints (the redeemed of God) have need to redeem the time.

First, John Fox answers the question of when time must be redeemed: All time.  "The whole time of our life must be employed either about our souls in the service of God or in the works of our callings...Particularly, (1) the time of youth; (2) the time of health and strength; (3) the time of affliction; (4) the time of the gospel; (5) the time of the...Lord's Day," (p. 9).

Next, he shows how time must be redeemed, (p. 16):
  1. "By taking and improving all opportunities for the glorifying of God"
  2. "By laying hold on the present time, and now a day of grace, for settling and securing your everlasting state"
  3. "By improving the present means of grace for your speedy growth in grace"
  4. "By doing all the good you can to others while you may"
  5. "By laboring to keep up constant communion with God in holy duties"
  6. "By improving every providence and outward cross for inward and spiritual advantages"
  7. "By casting up your accounts every day that you may make even with God"
  8. "By laboring to order every day's work in reference to your last day that, having finished your work, you may be fit to leave this world"
Then, Mr. Fox tells why time must be redeemed: "The reasons why our precious time must be redeemed are (1) because the days are evil [and] (2) because it is a considerable part of our Christian wisdom," (p. 32).

The author gives ten motives to redeem the time, (p. 41):
  1. "The present time is God's time and must be yours."
  2. "God the righteous Judge will reckon with you for your times."
  3. "You have solemnly promised to redeem it."
  4. "Men take and improve opportunity for other things."
  5. "Satan, your deadly enemy, is always busy and will lose no time."
  6. "Saving grace is an active and springing principle."
  7. "Time once had and lost cannot be recalled."
  8. "Consider how they prize time that have lost it."
  9. "God has joined time and duty together."
  10. "On this moment of time, eternity depends."
Finally, Mr. Fox gives five directions for redeeming time, (p. 52):
  1. "Take heed and beware of those things which rob you of your time."
  2. "Labor to convince yourselves of the worth of time and value it accordingly."
  3. "Set apart a considerable portion of time for the most secret duties."
  4. "Cast up and compute your time."
  5. "Maintain a holy fear on your heart of coming to the end of time before your work is done.
I found the author's directions for redeeming time very helpful.  He paints a memorable word picture about vain thoughts when he says, "Vain, impertinent, and wicked thoughts, like Pharaoh's frogs, creep and crowd in on us and thrust out good thoughts so that we cannot keep our mind steady and composed," (p. 53).  Therefore, he warns, "When we should draw near to God, our hearts, by our thoughts, steal away.  And there are but a few awakened tender spirits, truly sensible of this intrinsical, secret, evil, though much of a Christian's duty (and the very inwards of religion) lies in observing the thoughts and in watching the heart," (p. 53).

Mr. Fox also gives good advice when dealing with unnecessary visits: "Let that time that you spend from your callings and families be spent in reading, prayer, or other religious exercises.  And, in all your visits, intend and design the doing of good or the receiving of good, not the passing away of this precious time," (p. 54-55).

I was especially encouraged by this exhortation regarding secret duties:  "Christians, the time that you spend with God in secret is the sweetest time and best improved.  Therefore, if you love your life, be in love with prayer.  Resolve to spend some time with God in private every day," (p. 58).

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil," (Eph. 5:14-16).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Do All in Christ's Name

I recently read through William Greenhill's The Sound-Hearted Christian (with five additional sermons) which was reprinted in 2010 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications (ISBN 978-1-60178-099-7).  In this post I'll be looking at his third sermon titled "Do All in Christ's Name."  Mr. Greenhill notes that Colossians 3 is full of exhortations.  The Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians to set their affections on things above, to mortify their earthly members, and to put on Christian practices.

Colossians 3:17 commands Christians to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  However, this verse says nothing about thoughts, so the author asks, "Are thoughts free therefore?", and answers: "Thoughts are not free.  We say that thoughts are free, and they are free from man; for he can take no cognizance of them.  But they are not free from the Lord.  He knows and observes them...our thoughts should be regulated and ordered answerably so they may be approved of Him [Christ].  They initiate our words and our actions, and are included in words and actions," (pp. 154-155).

Given the exhortations found in Colossians 3, Mr. Greenhill contends that "[a] Christian's words and actions should all be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," (p. 156).

First, he tells us what it is to do things in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Christians who do something in the name of the Lord Jesus is
  1. To do it by the authority of Christ
  2. To do it by the strength of Christ
  3. To do it in the stead of Christ
  4. To do it according to the will of Christ
  5. To do it for the sake of Christ
  6. To do it to the honor and glory of name of Christ
  7. To do it by invoking Christ
Next, he tells us why we are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Christians are to do things in the name of the Lord Jesus because:
  1. We are impotent of ourselves
  2. We are called Christians
  3. It will warrant our actions and secure them
  4. We are bought by Christ and are not our own
  5. We are members of Christ's body
  6. This is to live a Christian life indeed
Then, he applies the doctrine:
  1. If Christians are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, then they have great reason to be humbled because we have done evil and neglected good.
  2. If all must be done in word and deed in the name of the Lord Jesus, then no thoughts, words, or actions are to be conceived which are not authorized by Christ.
  3. Christians who do not do all in the name of the Lord Jesus miscarry in their undertakings and have guilt and fear upon their spirits.
  4. If Christians are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, then nothing must be done in their own names.
  5. Christians who do all in the name of the Lord Jesus by their thoughts, words, and actions have an eye to Jesus Christ; they are followers of Christ.
  6. If Christians must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, then all success is owed to Christ.
  7. If Christians must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, then those who bear His name should examine their actions.
  8. If Christians are do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, then all their thoughts, words, and actions must be in His name; therefore, see that there is warrant from His Word for them.
Finally, Mr. Greenhill exhorts Christians to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and gives four motives.  Christians should do all in the name of the Lord Jesus because:
  1. It will assure them that Christ approves of them, will be with them, and will make their actions successful
  2. What is done in His name, out of respect for Him, carries sweetness in it
  3. It is a special means to both prevent sin and promote holiness
  4. It will unite the heart of God and Christ abundantly to them
The author gives sage advice on how to do all in the name of Jesus: "We should, every morning at least, actually mind and intend the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so go on all the day in that intention...And if we find it to lag (as it will quickly do), we should renew our intentions and thoughts in the name of Christ and send up secret prayers to heaven: 'O Lord, I desire to think in Thy name, to speak in Thy name, and to act in Thy name.'  This we may and ought to do, and not to rest altogether in a habitual inclination and disposition.  They who do it most often will order things best, best for themselves, and best for Christ's glory and advantage," (p. 176).

"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him," (Col. 3:17).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Applying the Mind of Christ

I recently read through William Greenhill's The Sound-Hearted Christian (with five additional sermons) which was reprinted in 2010 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications (ISBN 978-1-60178-099-7).  In a previous post I looked at his second sermon and noted why Christians should have the mind of Christ.  In this post, I'll look at the application from the author's sermon "Christians Ought to Be of Christ's Mind."

Mr. Greenhill starts off with the doctrine that churches and Christians should be of the same mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is of and notes that it is the duty of any church or person to aim at having the mind of Christ; the same in kind, but not degree.  He defines what it is to have the mind of Christ, tells us why we should have it, and applies the doctrine to the Christian.

  1. Use of Reproof: "This [doctrine] reproves those who are so far from being of Christ's mind that they seldom or never mind Christ; they mind earthly things," (p. 142).
  2. Use of humiliation: "This [doctrine] may be [a] matter of humiliation to us all, that we are no more like Christ, that we do not have the same thoughts of God, of truth, of sin, of the world, that He had," (p. 144).
  3. Use of Examination: If you are of Christ's mind, then you will love what Christ loved and hate what he hated, judge things as Christ judged them, love the truth, and act as Christ acted, (pp. 144-147).
  4. Use of Exhortation: "If we do not have the mind of Christ we are not true Christians; and if we die, we shall perish and be undone forever," (p. 148).
Under examination, Mr. Greenhill helps the reader: "But here's the way to know whether or not we have the mind of Christ: If we do we will love righteousness and hate iniquity, we will hate evil thoughts, lusts, all fraud and cheating, and overreaching one another," (p. 145).

He asks, "How shall we get the mind of Christ?"  First, we lay down our own minds and wills and give ourself up to be a disciple of Christ by searching the Scriptures and studying the Gospel, (pp. 148-149).  To get more of the mind of Christ in us, we should (1) be less conformed to the world and more transformed by the renew of our mind, (2) love the Lord Jesus Christ more and more daily, and (3) pray more for the Spirit of Christ, (pp. 151-152).

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," (Phil. 2:5).