John Wesley on Stewardship

20 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from Tyerman’s biography of John Wesley.  I often wrestle with how the Gospel should play out in my finances, particularly as I look at the great abundance of that God has blessed us with.  I often wonder how I can cling to things when Christ so graciously released his life on my behalf.  I found the story below especially convicting.  How does God’s extravagant gift on the cross translate to us giving extravagantly?

“One cold winter’s day, a young girl, whom the Methodists kept at school, called upon John Wesley in a state nearly frozen, to whom he said, ‘You seem half-starved; have you nothing to wear but that linen gown?’  The poor girl said, ‘Sir, this is all I have.’  Wesley put his hand in his pocket, but found it nearly empty.  The walls of his chamber however were hung with pictures, and these now became his accusers.  ’It struck me,’ says he, ‘will thy Master say, “Well done thy good and faithful steward?”  Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold!  O Justice!  O Mercy!  Are not these pictures the blood of this poor girl?’  To say the least, this story shows the intense conscientiousness of the man, and his dread of spending anything upon himself that might have been spent properly on the poor.”

Tyerman, The Life and Times of John Wesley vol I pg 71





Augustine on Sanctification: Good Works Flow From those Who Have Become Drunk on God’s Mercy

20 12 2011

What a wonderful little passage on the well that Christians draw from to produce their good works!

This holy meditation preserves “the children of men, who put their trust under the shadow of God’s wings,” so that they are “drunken with the fatness of His house, and drink of the full stream of His pleasure. For with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light shall they see light. For He extendeth His mercy to them that know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart.” He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. This meditation does not elevate with pride: this sin arises when any man has too much confidence in himself, and makes himself the chief end of living. Impelled by this vain feeling, he departs from that fountain of life, from the draughts of which alone is imbibed the holiness which is itself the good life,—and from that unchanging light, by sharing in which the reasonable soul is in a certain sense inflamed, and becomes itself a created and reflected luminary; even as “John was a burning and a shining light,” who notwithstanding acknowledged the source of his own illumination in the words, “Of His fulness have all we received.” Whose, I would ask, but His, of course, in comparison with whom John indeed was no light at all? For “that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Therefore, in the same psalm, after saying, “Extend Thy mercy to them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart,” he adds, “Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hands of sinners move me. There have fallen all the workers of iniquity: they are cast out, and are not able to stand.”  Since by that impiety which leads each to attribute to himself the excellence which is God’s, he is cast out into his own native darkness, in which consist the works of iniquity. For it is manifestly these works which he does, and for the achievement of such alone is he naturally fit. The works of righteousness he never does, except as he receives ability from that fountain and that light, where the life is that wants for nothing, and where is “no variableness, nor the shadow of turning.”

From Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” 11.7





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.





Kierkegaard: A Parable of a King and a Maiden

19 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. It is a famous section with a well known parable. I have placed an enormous amount of text on this post. Simply click through to read it all. It reaches an emotional crescendo in the final few paragraphs and is quite moving. This is a stunning piece of philosophical devotion to the Lord Jesus.  This excerpt I think will be a joy to anyone who reads it.  Don’t worry if you get lost from time to time.  It’s worth pushing through to the finish.  The greatest Kierkegaard junkie to the guy who says “who’s Kierkegaard?” will reap great rewards for spending time in these few paragraphs.  Enjoy.

Suppose then a king who loved a humble maiden. The heart of the king was not polluted by the wisdom that is loudly enough proclaimed; he knew nothing of the difficulties that the understanding discovers in order to ensnare the heart, which keep the poets so busy, and make their magic formulas necessary. It was easy to realize his purpose. Every statesman feared his wrath and dared not breathe a word of displeasure; every foreign state trembled before his power, and dared not omit sending ambassadors with congratulations for the nuptials; no courtier groveling in the dust dared wound him, lest his own head be crushed. Then let the harp be tuned, let the songs of the poets begin to sound, and let all be festive while love celebrates its triumph. For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love. — Then there awoke in the heart of the king an anxious thought; who but a king who thinks kingly thoughts would have dreamed of it! He spoke to no one about his anxiety; for if he had, each courtier would doubtless have said: “Your majesty is about to confer a favor upon the maiden, for which she can never be sufficiently grateful her whole life long.” This speech would have moved the king to wrath, so that he would have commanded the execution of the courtier for high treason against the beloved, and thus he would in still another way have found his grief increased. So he wrestled with his troubled thoughts alone. Would she be happy in the life at his side? Would she be able to summon confidence enough never to remember what the king wished only to forget, that he was king and she had been a humble maiden? For if this memory were to waken in her soul, and like a favored lover sometimes steal her thoughts away from the king, luring her reflections into the seclusion of a secret grief; or if this memory sometimes passed through her soul like the shadow of death over the grave: where would then be the glory of their love? Then she would have been happier had she remained in her obscurity, loved by an equal, content in her humble cottage; but confident in her love, and cheerful early and late. What a rich abundance of grief is here laid bare, like ripened grain bent under the weight of its fruitfulness, merely waiting the time of the harvest, when the thought of the king will thresh out all its seed of sorrow! For even if the maiden would be content to become as nothing, this could not satisfy the king, precisely because he loved her, and because it was harder for him to be her benefactor than to lose her. And suppose she could not even understand him? For while we are thus speaking foolishly of human relationships, we may suppose a difference of mind between them such as to render an understanding impossible. What a depth of grief slumbers not in this unhappy love, who dares to rouse it! However, no human being is destined to suffer such grief; him we may refer to Socrates, or to that which in a still more beautiful sense can make the unequal equal. Read the rest of this entry »





C.S.Lewis: Christian Reward and Christian Desire

19 12 2011

This sermon was first delivered by C.S. Lewis at St Mary the Virgin, Oxford England in 1942. Curiously enough, I was invited to preach at this church on Matt 27.45-56 in 2006. I can tell you, my sermon was pretty pathetic compared to this one! Lewis’ now famous sermon is well worth a careful read and meditation. Be sure to click through to read it all.

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.

“The Weight of Glory”, Sermon preached by C.S. Lewis on June 8, 1942. Read it all here