John Bunyan: Have no foundation (for anything) other than Christ

20 12 2011

Most of visitors at my church never ask me “what are you about?”  They usually show up, enjoy the worship, the preaching, the fellowship etc. and decide to stick around.  Over time, they might become more interested in our guiding thoughts, principles etc.  But recently a vistor made a special appointment with me to ask that very question.  “What are you about?” he asked.  To which I replied, “the ONE thing we are about here is proclaiming and applying the unconditional grace of Jesus Christ to every aspect of our lives.”  It would be impossible to describe the heavy burden we carry to convey the sufficiency of the grace of Christ in all things.  It would be impossible to describe the pain we feel when members of our flock slip back into legalism.  It would be impossible to describe the joy in our hearts when the Gospel is understood, received, and applied by our members.  With these burdens, pains, and joys I pass on an exhortation from the great John Bunyan to REMAIN IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST in all things. 

“Think not that to live always on Christ for justification is a low and beggarly thing,-a staying at the foundation. For, let me tell you, depart from a sense of the meritorious means of your justification before God, and you will quickly grow light, and frothy, and vain; you will be subject to errors and delusions, for this is not to ‘hold the head,’ from which nourishment is administered. Why not live upon Christ alway; and especially as He standeth the Mediator between God and the soul, defending thee with the merit of His blood, and covering thee with His infinite righteousness from the wrath of God and the curse of the law? Can there be any greater comfort ministered to thee, than to know that thy person stands just before God; just, and justified from all things that would otherwise swallow thee up? Is peace with God and assurance of heaven of so little respect with thee, that thou slightest the very foundation thereof, even faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ.”
-BUNYAN, Justification by Imputed Righteousness.





Spurgeon: the suffering of Christ and the honor of God

20 12 2011

“And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not. ” – Mark 15:23

A golden truth is couched in the fact that the Saviour put the myrrhed wine-cup from His lips. On the heights of heaven the Son of God stood of old, and as He looked down upon our globe He measured the long descent to the utmost depths of human misery; He cast up the total of all the agonies which expiation would require, and abated not a jot. He solemnly determined that to offer a sufficient atoning sacrifice He must go the whole way, from the highest to the lowest, from the throne of highest glory to the cross of deepest woe. This myrrhed cup, with its soporific influence, would have stayed Him within a little of the utmost limit of misery, therefore He refused it. He would not stop short of all He had undertaken to suffer for His people. Ah, how many of us have pined after reliefs to our grief which would have been injurious to us! Reader, did you never pray for a discharge from hard service or suffering with a petulant and wilful eagerness? Providence has taken from you the desire of your eyes with a stroke. Say, Christian, if it had been said, “If you so desire it, that loved one of yours shall live, but God will be dishonoured,” could you have put away the temptation, and said, “Thy will be done”? Oh, it is sweet to be able to say, “My Lord, if for other reasons I need not suffer, yet if I can honour Thee more by suffering, and if the loss of my earthly all will bring Thee glory, then so let it be. I refuse the comfort, if it comes in the way of Thine honour.” O that we thus walked more in the footsteps of our Lord, cheerfully enduring trial for His sake, promptly and willingly putting away the thought of self and comfort when it would interfere with our finishing the work which He has given us to do. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided.

Spurgeon’s Devotional Aug 18th p.m.





Spurgeon: Covenant Strength and Christ the Capstone of Our Lives

20 12 2011

“The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Now, wherever you read of the God of Jacob in the Bible, you may know that that respects God’s covenant with Jacob. Ah! I love to talk about God’s everlasting covenant. Some of the Arminians cannot bear it, but I love a covenant salvation—a covenant not made with my father, not between me and God, but between Christ and God. Christ made the covenant to pay a price, and God made the covenant that he should have the people. Christ has paid the price and ratified the covenant; and I am quite sure that God will fulfil his part of it, by giving every elect vessel of mercy into the hands of Jesus. But, beloved, all the power, all the grace, all the blessings, all the mercies, all the comforts, all the things we have, we have through the covenant. If there were no covenant; if we could rend the everlasting charter up; if the king of hell could cut it with his knife, as the king of Israel did the roll of Baruck, then we should fail indeed; for we have no strength, except that which is promised in the covenant. Covenant mercies, covenant grace, covenant promises, covenant blessings, covenant help, covenant everything—the Christian must receive, if he would enter into heaven.
Now, Christian, the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you; but your bow abides in strength, and the arms of your hands are made strong. But do you know, O believer, that you are like your Master in this?
IV. That is our fourth point—A GLORIOUS PARALLEL. “From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.” Jesus Christ was served just the same; the shepherd, the stone of Israel, passed through similar trials; he was shot at by the archers, he was grieved and wounded, but his bow abode in strength; his arms were made strong by the God of Jacob, and now every blessing rests “upon the crown of the head of him who was separated from his brethren.” I shall not detain you long, but I have a few things to tell you; first about Christ as the shepherd, and then about Christ the stone.
Christ came into the world as a shepherd. As soon as he made his appearance, the Scribes and Pharisees said, “Ah! we have been the shepherds until this hour; now we shall be driven from our honors, we shall lose all our dignity, and our authority.” Consequently, they always shot at him. As for the people, they were a fickle herd; I believe that many of them respected and admired Christ, though, doubtless, the vast majority hated him, for wherever he went he was a popular preacher; the multitude always thronged him and crowded round him, crying, “Hosanna.” I think, if you had walked up to the top of that hill of Calvary, and asked one of those men who cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him,” “What do you say that for? Is he a bad man?” “No,” he would have said, “he went about doing good.” “Then why do you say ‘crucify him?’” “Because Rabbi Simeon gave me a shekel to help the clamor.” So the multitude were much won by the money and influence of the priests. But they were glad to hear Christ after all. It was the shepherds that hated him, because he took away their traffic, because he turned the buyers and sellers out of the temple, diminished their dignity and ignored their pretensions; therefore, they could not endure him. But the Shepherd of Israel mounted higher and higher; he gathered his sheep, carried the lambs in his bosom; and he now stands acknowledged as the great shepherd of the sheep, who shall gather them into one flock and lead them to heaven. Rowland Hill tells a curious tale, in his “Village Dialogues,” about a certain Mr. Tiplash, a very fine intellectual preacher, who, in one of his flights of oratory, said, “O Virtue, thou art so fair and lovely, if thou wert to come down upon earth, all men would love thee,” with a few more pretty, beautiful things. Mr. Blunt, and honest preacher, who was in the neighborhood, was asked to preach in the afternoon, and he supplemented the worthy gentleman’s remarks, by saying, “O Virtue, thou didst come on earth, in all thy purity and loveliness; but instead of being beloved and admired, the archers sorely shot at thee and grieved thee; they took thee, Virtue, and hung thy quivering limbs upon a cross; when thou didst hang there dying they hissed at thee, they mocked thee, they scorned thee; when thou didst ask for water they gave thee vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; yea, when thou diedst thou hadst a tomb from charity, and that tomb, sealed by enmity and hatred.” The Shepherd of Israel was despised, incarnate virtue was hated and abhorred; therefore fear not, Christians, take courage; for if your Master passed through it, surely you must.
To conclude: the text calls Christ the stone of Israel. I have heard a story—I cannot tell whether it is true or not—out of some of the Jewish rabbis; it is a tale, concerning the text, “The stone which the builders refused, the same is become the headstone of the corner.” It is said that when Solomon’s temple was building, all the stones were brought from the quarry ready cut and fashioned, and there were to be put. Amongst the stones was a very curious one; it seemed of no describable shape, it appeared unfit for any portion of the building. They tried it at this wall, but it would not fit; they tried it in another, but it could not be accommodated; so, vexed and angry, they threw it away. The temple was so many years building, that this stone became covered with moss, and grass grew around it. Everybody passing by laughed at the stone; they said Solomon was wise, and doubtless all the other stones were right; but as for that block, they might as well send it back to the quarry, for they were quite sure it was meant for nothing. Year after year rolled on, and the poor stone was still despised, the builders constantly refused it. The eventful day came when the temple was to be finished and opened, and the multitude was assembled to see the grand sight. The builders said, “Where is the top-stone? Where is the pinnacle?” They little thought where the crowning marble was, until some one said, “Perhaps that stone which the builders refused is meant to be the top-stone.” They then took it, and hoisted it to the top of the house; and as it reached the summit they found it well adapted to the place. Loud hosannas made the welkin ring, as the stone which the builders refused, thus became the headstone of the corner. So is it with Christ Jesus. The builders cast him away. He was a plebeian; he was of poor extraction; he was a man acquainted with sinners, who walked in poverty and meanness; hence the worldly-wise despised him. But when God shall gather together, in one, all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, then Christ shall be the glorious consummation of all things.

“Christ reigns in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.”

He shall be exalted; he shall be honored; his name shall endure as long as the sun, and all nations shall be blessed in him, yea, all generations shall call him blessed.

read the whole thing here





What did it look like when Christ took on the shame of my sin?

19 12 2011

The following is  Luther’s Commentary on Galatians ch. 3 vs. 13:  “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

Paul does not say that Christ was made a curse for Himself. The accent is on the two words “for us.” Christ is personally innocent. Personally, He did not deserve to be hanged for any crime of His own doing. But because Christ took the place of others who were sinners, He was hanged like any other transgressor. The Law of Moses leaves no loopholes. It says that a transgressor should be hanged. Who are the other sinners? We are. The sentence of death and everlasting damnation had long been pronounced over us. But Christ took all our sins and died for them on the Cross. “He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12.)All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner.

In separating Christ from us sinners and holding Him up as a holy exemplar, errorists rob us of our best comfort. They misrepresent Him as a threatening tyrant who is ready to slaughter us at the slightest provocation.

I am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are forced to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the Son of God died, than to say, the Son of God was a sinner.

John the Baptist called Him “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Being the unspotted Lamb of God, Christ was personally innocent. But because He took the sins of the world His sinlessness was defiled with the sinfulness of the world. Whatever sins I, you, all of us have committed or shall commit, they are Christ’s sins as if He had committed them Himself. Our sins have to be Christ’s sins or we shall perish forever.

Isaiah declares of Christ: “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We have no right to minimize the force of this declaration. God does not amuse Himself with words. What a relief for a Christian to know that Christ is covered all over with my sins, your sins, and the sins of the whole world.

The papists invented their own doctrine of faith. They say charity creates and adorns their faith. By stripping Christ of our sins, by making Him sinless, they cast our sins back at us, and make Christ absolutely worthless to us. What sort of charity is this? If that is a sample of their vaunted charity we want none of it.

Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: “You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.” The Law growls: “All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.” And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.

The argument of the Apostle against the righteousness of the Law is impregnable. If Christ bears our sins, we do not bear them. But if Christ is innocent of our sins and does not bear them, we must bear them, and we shall die in our sins. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us see how Christ was able to gain the victory over our enemies. The sins of the whole world, past, present, and future, fastened themselves upon Christ and condemned Him. But because Christ is God He had an everlasting and unconquerable righteousness. These two, the sin of the world and the righteousness of God, met in a death struggle. Furiously the sin of the world assailed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is immortal and invincible. On the other hand, sin is a mighty tyrant who subdues all men. This tyrant pounces on Christ. But Christ’s righteousness is unconquerable. The result is inevitable. Sin is defeated and righteousness triumphs and reigns forever.

In the same manner was death defeated. Death is emperor of the world. He strikes down kings, princes, all men. He has an idea to destroy all life. But Christ has immortal life, and life immortal gained the victory over death. Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of death.

The curse of God waged a similar battle with the eternal mercy of God in Christ. The curse meant to condemn God’s mercy. But it could not do it because the mercy of God is everlasting. The curse had to give way. If the mercy of God in Christ had lost out, God Himself would have lost out, which, of course, is impossible.

“Christ,” says Paul, “spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:15.) They cannot harm those who hide in Christ. Sin, death, the wrath of God, hell, the devil are mortified in Christ. Where Christ is near the powers of evil must keep their distance. St. John says: “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4.)

You may now perceive why it is imperative to believe and confess the divinity of Christ. To overcome the sin of a whole world, and death, and the wrath of God was no work for any creature. The power of sin and death could be broken only by a greater power. God alone could abolish sin, destroy death, and take away the curse of the Law. God alone could bring righteousness, life, and mercy to light. In attributing these achievements to Christ the Scriptures pronounce Christ to be God forever. The article of justification is indeed fundamental. If we remain sound in this one article, we remain sound in all the other articles of the Christian faith. When we teach justification by faith in Christ we confess at the same time that Christ is God.

I cannot get over the blindness of the Pope’s theologians. To imagine that the mighty forces of sin, death, and the curse can be vanquished by the righteousness of man’s paltry works, by fasting, pilgrimages, masses, vows, and such gewgaws. These blind leaders of the blind turn the poor people over to the mercy of sin, death, and the devil. What chance has a defenseless human creature against these powers of darkness? They train sinners who are ten times worse than any thief, whore, murderer. The divine power of God alone can destroy sin and death, and create righteousness and life.

When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get His holiness.

By faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the sinlessness of Christ. The more fully we believe this, the fuller will be our joy. If you believe that sin, death, and the curse are void, why, they are null, zero. Whenever sin and death make you nervous write it down as an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no devil because Christ has done away with them. This fact is sure. There is nothing wrong with the fact. The defect lies in our lack of faith.

In the Apostolic Creed we confess: “I believe in the holy Christian Church.” That means, I believe that there is no sin, no curse, no evil in the Church of God. Faith says: “I believe that.” But if you want to believe your eyes you will find many shortcomings and offenses in the members of the holy Church. You see them succumb to temptation, you see them weak in faith, you see them giving way to anger, envy, and other evil dispositions. “How can the Church be holy?” you ask. It is with the Christian Church as it is with the individual Christian. If I examine myself I find enough unholiness to shock me. But when I look at Christ in me I find that I am altogether holy. And so it is with the Church.

Holy Writ does not say that Christ was under the curse. It says directly that Christ was made a curse. In II Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes: “For he (God) hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Although this and similar passages may be properly explained by saying that Christ was made a sacrifice for the curse and for sin, yet in my judgment it is better to leave these passages stand as they read: Christ was made sin itself; Christ was made the curse itself. When a sinner gets wise to himself he does not only feel miserable, he feels like misery personified; he does not only feel like a sinner, he feels like sin itself.

To finish with this verse: All evils would have overwhelmed us, as they shall overwhelm the unbelievers forever, if Christ had not become the great transgressor and guilty bearer of all our sins. The sins of the world got Him down for a moment. They came around Him like water. Of Christ, the Old Testament Prophet complained: “Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.” (Psalm 88 16.) By Christ’s salvation we have been delivered from the terrors of God to a life of eternal felicity.

check out Luther’s entire commentary on line here





How did Jesus pray?

19 12 2011

From the “Tefillah” (“the prayer”; that is the prayer of all prayers) or “Shemoneh Esre” (Eighteen Benedictions) recited by the Jewish people since before the time of Jesus during synagogue worship.  I have excerpted the second benediction, which Jesus would have prayed throughout his life.  Perhaps as you read it, picture Jesus reciting it on the eve of his betrayal, or carrying the cross on the long road to Golgotha. 

“You are mighty, humbling the proud; strong, judging the ruthless; you live for evermore, and raise the dead; you make the wind to return and the dew to fall; you nourish the living, and bring the dead to life; you bring forth salvation for us in the blinking of an eye.  Blessed are you, O Lord, who bring the dead to life.”

to see the Tefillah in its entirety, click here