Rob Sturdy: Weak Hearts, Mighty Savior! (Matt 6.1-21)

20 12 2011

Preached at Trinity Church, Feb 24th 2009.

Culture places high value on the notion that the human heart is not only good, but that it is essentially trustworthy.  For many people the heart is the spring from which all that is good within us flows out.  We believe that the heart, the seat of our emotions is essentially good. We are in our innermost being good people, with good intentions.  And yet we don’t stop here.  Alongside this idea that the heart is fundamentally good in a moral sense, we also believe that the heart is unique in the sense that it is a trustworthy compass pointing us in the right direction.  If you were to type in the internet bookstore Amazon.com searching for titles that include the phrase “follow your heart,” you would find over six-thousand titles. This shows us two things:  first there are people in the world who have thought about the heart, about its goodness and trustworthiness (6,000 people!), and second there are people who are interested in reading about how good and trustworthy their hearts are.

The Bible also has many things to say about the heart.  For example, the Book of Proverbs instructs us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (4.23). The heart is the root of the tree, the gasoline to the car, the hinge on the door, the wood for the fire.  In other words, as “from it flow the springs of life!”  Which is why the writer instructs us to “keep it with vigilance.”  Something so important should be tended to most carefully.  Because our hearts are so important, it is no surprise that God himself is deeply concerned with the nature of our hearts.  “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,  but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16.7) and ““I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jer 17.10).

Jesus also has much to say about the heart.  Today, in this passage, though he never specifically mentions the heart he nevertheless has much to say about the heart and what he says about the heart can be summed up in one word:  “Beware.”  Beware!  It is the last thing that you would suspect would come from the mouth of gentle Jesus meek and mild about the human heart.  We expect the Lamb of God to come gently bleeting compliments and high praise for the goodness of our individual hearts.  Rather he expresses a fearfulness, withdrawing in horror as if he had seen some type of dangerous predator or a horrific car crash, recoiling he says “Beware!” Read the rest of this entry »





Charles Spurgeon: Don’t look to self but to Christ

20 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from this sermon by Charles Spurgeon, where he gives us what I believe to be a very helpful tool for our private spritual lives as well as for our corporate lives in the family of Christ, that is the church.  First in our private lives, when we feel under attack, to whom do we turn?  If we turn immediately to discplines, resolutions, commitments etc., then the devil has successfuly turned us away from trusting in Christ.  Here we will surely fail.  Likewise, when we hear a sermon or teaching we must ask “who did the teacher/ preacher encourage me to trust in?”  If the answer is self, then the teacher/ preacher has failed.  In fact, he has assisted Satan in turning you away from Christ.  Rather, good internal counsel and good public exhortation in preaching is “LOOK TO CHRIST!!! TRUST IN HIM ALONE!!!” Don’t trust your feelings, your faith, your actions, your guilt, your innocence or your righteousness but look only to Christ.  That is the very marrow of the Gospel.

Now I will give the poor sinner a means of detecting Satan, so that he may know whether his convictions are from the Holy Spirit, or merely the bellowing of hell in his ears. In the first, place, you may be always sure that that which comes from the devil will make you look at yourselves and not at Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work is to turn our eyes from ourselves to Jesus Christ, but the enemy’s work is the very opposite. Nine out of ten of the insinuations of the devil have to do with ourselves. “You are guilty,” says the devil—that is self. “You have not faith”—that is self. “You do not repent enough”—that is self. “You have got such a wavering hold of Christ”—that is self. “You have none of the joy of the spirit, and therefore cannot be one of his”—that is self. Thus the devil begins picking holes in us; whereas the Holy Spirit takes self entirely away, and tells us that we are “nothing at all,” but that

“Jesus Christ is all in all.”

Satan brings the carcass of self and pulls it about, and because that is corrupt, tells us that most assuredly we cannot be saved. But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down, but as long as thou lookest at thyself, the meanest of those evil spirits may tread thee beneath his feet.

Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol I book II pg 307

read the whole thing here





Spurgeon: The Power of the Cross of Christ

20 12 2011

“The crucified Christ has irresistible attractions. When He stoops into the utmost suffering and scorn, even the brutal must relent. A living Savior men may love, but a crucified Savior they must love. If they perceive that He loved them and gave Himself for them, their hearts are stolen away. The city of Mansoul is captured before the siege begins, when the Prince Emmanuel uncovers the beauties of His dying love before the eyes of rebellious ones.”

– Charles Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ (Lynwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1995), 15.





Martin Luther: Christ’s Duel with Sin

20 12 2011

What a wonderful excerpt from Luther’s 1535 commentary on Galatians.  Below Luther outlines a duel between Christ’s eternal righteousness and sin’s most powerful destructive force.  It is edifying and fascinating to see how he works it out.  Enjoy!

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through teh Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in Paradise; the thief on teh cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find HIm a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except the sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them.

This is how we must magnify the doctrine of Christian righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of teh Law and of works, even though there is no voice or eloquence that can properly understand, much less express its greatness. Therefore the argument that Paul presents here is the most powerful and the highest of all against all righteousness of the flesh; for it contains the invinncible and irrefutable antithesis: If the sins of teh entire world are on that one man, Jesus Christ, then they are not on the world. But if they are not on Him, then they are still on the world. Again, if Christ Himself is made guilty of all the sins that we have all committed, then we are absolved from all sins, not through ourselves or through our own works or merits but through Him. But if He is innocent and does not carry our sins, then we carry them and shall die and be damned in them. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.” (1 Cor 15.57)

Now let us see how two such etremely contrary things come together in this Person. Not only my sins and yours, but the sins of the entire world, past, present, and future attack Him, try to damn Him, and do in fact damn Him. But because in the same Person, who is the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner, there is also eternal and invincible righteousness, therefore these two converge: the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness. Here oneof them must yield and be conquered, since they come together and collide with such a powerful impact. Thus the sin of the entire world attacks righteousness with the greatest possible impact and fury. What happens? Righteousness is eternal, immortal, and invincible. Sin, too, is a very powerful and cruel tyrant, dominating and ruling over the whole world, capturing and enslaving all men. In short, sin is a great and powerful god who devours the whole human race, all the learned, holy, powerful, wise, and the unlearned as well. He, I say, attacks Christ and wants to devour Him as he has devoured all the rest. But he does not see that He is a Person of invincible and eternal righteousness. In this duel, therefore, it is necessary for sin to be conquered and killed, and for righeousness to prevail and live. Thus in Christ all sin is conquered, killed, and buried; and righteousness remains the victor and the ruler eternally.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 1535, American Edition, pg 280-281





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





Jonathan Edwards: “The Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies in Christ Jesus”

19 12 2011

For all you guys who jumped on the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” bandwagon but never read him, here’s your chance.  You’ll find him enormously difficult in diction and thought, nevertheless terribly rewarding.  I remember when I finally fought my way through “The End for Which God Created the World,” which was nothing short of mind blowing.  These few paragraphs below are intellectually and spiritually enriching, where Edwards takes such opposing thoughts as “highness” and “condescension” or “justice” and “grace” and shows how they meet in perfect union in Christ Jesus.

There is a conjunction of such excellencies in Christ as, in our manner of conceiving, are very diverse one from another. Such are the various divine perfections and excellencies that Christ is possessed of. Christ is a divine person, and therefore has all the attributes of God. The difference between these is chiefly relative, and in our manner of conceiving them. And those which, in this sense, are most diverse, meet in the person of Christ. I shall mention two instances.

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. 30:4 “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8 “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise. I Cor. 1:28 “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars Luke 16:22 and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.

And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.

read it all here





Spurgeon: The Day of Atonement

19 12 2011

Thus have I led you to consider the person who made the atonement: let us now consider for a moment or two THE MEANS WHEREBY THIS ATONEMENT WAS MADE. You read at the 5th verse, “And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.” And at the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” The first goat I considered to be the great type of Jesus Christ the atonement: such I do not consider the scapegoat to be. The first is a type of the means whereby the atonement was made, and we shall keep to that first.

Notice that this goat, of course, answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing that was sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year. Even so was our Lord a perfect man, in the prime and vigour of his manhood. And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel, as we are told at the 5th verse. The public treasury furnished the goat. So, beloved, Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before he died. Thirty pieces of silver they had valued him at, a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat, so they brought him to be offered: not, indeed, with the intention that he should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly they fulfilled this when they brought him to Pilate, and cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Oh, beloved! Indeed, Jesus Christ came out from the midst of the people, and the people brought him. Strange that it should be so! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not;” his own led him forth to slaughter; his own dragged him before the mercy seat.
Note, again, that though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still. Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die; and even the very man who sold him was appointed to it—so saith the Scripture. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” So it is true that man put Christ to death, but it was of the Lord’s disposal that Jesus Christ was slaughtered, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”
Next, behold the goat that destiny has marked out to make the atonement. Come and see it die. The priest stabs it. Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling for a moment; observe the blood as it gushes forth. Christians, ye have here your Saviour. See his Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in his heart; behold his death agonies; see the clammy sweat upon his brow; mark his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; hear his sighs and groans upon the cross; hark to his shriek, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and you have more now to think of than you could have if you only stood to see the death of a goat for your atonement. Mark the blood as from his wounded hands it flows, and from his feet it finds a channel to the earth; from his open side in one great river see it gush. As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so, Christian, thy Saviour dying for thee, made the great atonement for thy sins, and thou mayest go free.

read the whole thing here