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Friday, September 11, 2020

John Owen on the Believer's Growth and Sanctification.  

He writes, just as ‘the growth of plants is not by a constant insensible progress . . . but . . . by sudden gusts and motions . . .’, so ‘the growth of believers consists principally in some intense vigorous actings of grace on great occasions". It has pleased the Lord not to give us steady, uninterrupted growth in grace; rather, he is pleased to have us cry to him, wait on him, seek his face, often in the midst of trials, before he grants us to grow in likeness to the Saviour – if nothing else, to humble us, and keep us dependent on him. If our Lord Jesus is the proto-typical man of faith, and he is, then the pattern of his life will be the essential pattern of our lives. What the Spirit first produced in him he comes to re-produce in us. And what was the pattern of the Saviour’s earthly life? Was it even and untroubled? No. He was brought by his Father through dark valleys, where, the writer to the Hebrews tells us, he ‘learned obedience through what he suffered’ (Heb. 5:8).

In our recent series on Ephesians 4 and Paul's exhortation and encouraging words that all true believers "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph 4:3) these excellent words of John Owen on "Controversy and Communion with God" are so relevant to this portion of Scripture..

John Owen on controversy and communion with God 
 "That direction, in this kind, which with me is instar omnium [equivalent to all], is for a diligent endeavor to have the power of the truths professed and contended for abiding upon our hearts, that we may not contend for notions, but what we have a practical acquaintance with in our own souls. When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraces; when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us; when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the things abides in our hearts; when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for, — then shall we be garrisoned, by the grace of God, against all the assaults of men. And without this all our contending is, as to ourselves, of no value. What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense or sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul? What will it avail me to evince, by testimonies and arguments, that he hath made satisfaction for sin, if, through my unbelief, the wrath of God abides on me, and I have no experience of my own being made the righteousness of God in him, — if I find not, in my standing before God, the excellency of having my sins imputed to him and his righteousness imputed to me? Will it be any advantage to me, in the issue, to profess and dispute that God works the conversion of a sinner by the irresistible grace of his Spirit, if I was never acquainted experimentally with the deadness and utter impotency to good, that opposition to the law of God, which is in my own soul by nature, with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness of the power of God in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth the fruits of obedience in me? It is the power of truth in the heart alone that will make us cleave unto it indeed in an hour of temptation. Let us, then, not think that we are any thing the better for our conviction of the truths of the great doctrines of the gospel, for which we contend with these men, unless we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts, and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him." (John Owen)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fables preferred over God's Word

2 Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. That "fables" shall be preferred over God's truths has always been the great sin of stubborn, rebellious man. Yet, with the coming of these latter days, it is more evident than ever before. Even amongst those who profess to have been raised in a Christian home. The Word of God is no more the final authority for all faith and practice, but man's own corrupt opinion and understanding. More and more people today are rejecting the Word of God and turning to such "fables." Proclaiming that the Word of God is "out of date", and "behind the times." It's truths are not current or not up to meet our culture. It's ok to read the Bible, but we cannot follow everything it says, for we are an advanced society and culture and the Bible is too old fashioned and behind the times." Again, this week, I was confronted with someone who professed to grow up in church, whose Dad is a preacher, and yet, they claimed God's Word is too old and outdated for our culture. Has mankind really evolved more and greater than God? Is he more capable of knowing what is right and beneficial for his eternal soul than the very Creator of it? Is God confined by time or ignorant of culture? NO! Sinful man has always desired to control and determine his own destiny. To subject and submit himself to God and His authority is something sinful man has always rejected and despised since the day sin entered into the world. Born at enmity with God, and without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, sinful man will continue to rise up in rebellion and hatred towards God and His truths. Yet, heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall not pass away.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our subject today is of the utmost importance, especially for those faithful servants of God who labor for the Lord in some of the most trying and difficult places in the world. Places, which do not necessarily mean a "foreign country or a 3rd world nation," but also those isolated and often unnoticed places here in America. For there are many unknown and seemingly overlooked preachers of the Gospel that labor in fields that are very obscure and unnoticed by many. For though all true preachers of the Gospel have their own battles and difficulties to face, regardless of where they serve, those servants of God who serve Christ faithfully in small, obscure and often isolated fields, face very different and trying difficulties. Often, the isolation alone is enough to overwhelm and put their faith to the greatest test. And should they find themselves facing personal hardships and trials in their own lives, as well as, in the work of the ministry, they often feel deserted and forsaken by their fellow servants of God.
There are some ministries of the Gospel which appear (though appearance can often be wrong), to be successful from the very beginning. Whose congregations seem to flourish and grow with little difficulty (though we acknowledge there are difficulties in every church). Well known and recognized men of the Gospel whose name is very familiar amongst the ranks of God's people. Then there are those, whose labor in the unknown and isolated places in America. Those who struggle with small congregations while working a full time secular job. Men, whose work in the Lord appear to go unnoticed and unrecognized by others, yet, whose labor in the Lord is just as precious and acknowledged by Christ as any large and highly acclaimed church.
There will surely be those who misunderstand, or misinterpret my intentions in writing this article. But I assure you, my desire is not to claim that larger, more successful churches do not suffer difficulties and hardships in their ministry. I simply which to be an encouragement to those servants of God who labor in such isolated and often overlooked fields, regardless if it is in America or another country. Those, who often feel the burden of isolation and solitude. For though such feelings of isolation and solitude will be felt even by the those who serve a large congregation (solitude being a vital part and divine appointment of the ministry of Christ), yet, I wish merely to encourage all servants of God who face such trials, especially those in isolated fields.

And, it is in the parable of the talents that we find great encouragement and comfort for those who might be suffering under that sense of isolation and loneliness.

Matthew 25:14-30

I. First of all, like all truths about God, we must begin with God Himself. We must build upon the divine foundation that cannot be shaken by any wind or storm of life: That foundation being, "The Sovereignty of God in His dispersing and giving of His talents or goods, as He sees fit"

"and delivered unto them His goods. to every man according to his several ability." V.V 14,15

In this parable of the talents our Lord "delivered unto each servant His goods, according to His several ability. Each servant was delivered a portion of his Lord's goods, according to the power, authority and providence of Christ as He seen fit to give. The Master knew full well what each servant was able to carry. Not that the one given 5 talents was more faithful, or capable, but in accordance to the Master's will. The servant is not measured by the number of talents he received, but what each one DOES with the talent entrusted to him by His Master. People tend to measure one another by the NUMBER of talents each servant has, but not God. I have attended conferences by well known preachers whose words and mannerism (intentionally or purposely, I will not judge), seem to boast of their success or knowledge of the truths of God. Their demeanor was one of superiority and haughtiness, not one of a humble and contrite spirit. The emphasis being on their many talents and not on the One to whom those talents belonged.
It is God who determines who receives which talents and how many. It is His Sovereign right, divine privilege and unmerited mercy to give each of His servants the measure and quality of talents which are His. The blessing is not in the NUMBER of talents, but in the mere act of grace, kindness and mercy that God would even consider giving finite, frail and weak man any of His gracious talents. The Talents do not define the servant nor his vain belief of any abilities, but each talent represents the infinite grace and mercy of the Master who is pleased to entrust His talents to whomsoever He chooses. The true servant, regardless of how many talents God has given him, rejoices in EVERY talent God has chosen for him.
And so it is with every true servant of God. Regardless if we are called on to labor in a great field or in a field of obscurity and seclusion. The true servant, whether he has been given one or five talents, is content and faithful, for he is greatly humbled that God would even consider entrusting him with ONE of His gracious talents.
So dear brother, or sister, if you find yourself laboring for the Master in secluded and isolated fields, feeling often unnoticed, unrecognized and overlooked. Never forget, it is the Master's blessing and favor we seek, not that of the other servants or their more talents. That God would entrust any of us with His gracious talents should greatly humble us all. To Him, and Him alone, be all the glory forever and ever, AMEN.

"For if just a cup of water, He places within your hand, then just a cup of water is all that He demands, but if by death to living they can His glory see, take up  your cross and follow close to Him." (wording was changed by me)


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Consider one another

"To consider one another" is when we charitably observe our brothers/sisters tempers, circumstances, infirmities, and temptations that we may excite and encourage them to love and good works. To take time and to give attention to their needs, their weaknesses, their faults, as to encourage, not to discourage to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
In my 25 years as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I can sadly confess that this has been, without doubt, a very rare jewel amongst the majority of professing believers. Myself included. And yet, this work of grace is so very vital, not only for the spiritual strength and happiness of the individual believer, but also for the advancement and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The mutual care, love and responsibilty we as believers owe to one another, is a true work of grace and requires much self sacrifice and humility. Much of our spiritual strength, perseverance and comfort are greatly dependent upon the cultivation of this rare jewel amongst one another as believers. I am not speaking of that "outward show or appearance of fellowship" which is so evident when Christians gather together. But, that inward work of grace which alone can excite the heart of the believer to earnestly "consider" his brother or sister in hopes of encouraging and strengthening them if they fall, or are weak or even under a burden of guilt and sin. This compassionate spirit does not come natural, but is a true work of grace by the Spirit of God. We can, to some degree, copy or imitate this spirit at times, but the true quality and genuineness of this rare jewel is seen when we are willing to sacrifice our time, self and own interests to aid a failing or weak brother or sister.
The spiritual bond which exists between believers, because of our spiritual union with Christ, is greatly strengthened and made more intimate by our interceding on each others behalf. Physical fellowship is very important for our mutual faith and comfort, but there is an special intimacy created between the believers when we pour out our hearts before God for one another, unlike that of any physical fellowship. An intimacy and bond which strengthens our love, compassion and care for one another. Believers who intercede for one another only occasionally or superficially know nothing of this intimacy and will lack in the love, care and compassion which imitates that of Christ for us ("love one another as I have loved you."). This rare jewel preserves the unity and bond between believers through the most difficult and trying times. And, enables us to forgive and reconcile our differences quicker and with more grace and compassion. When we invest our time, effort, energy and heart in "considering one another", our desire for peace, fellowship and love amongst one another, as believers, is greatly enhanced. And "esteeming others better than ourselves" becomes a delight and our highest desire for our brethren.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Men ought always to pray, and not faint." (Luke 18)

I was humbly reminded this past week of the great importance of this divine truth. To believe I can meet the many trials and afflictions of the day, the continual fleshly lusts and desires that so quickly rise daily within my own heart, and meet the countless temptations of this evil world and Satan, with only a few minutes of casual prayer a day, is the greatest deceivable thing my heart could ever fathom. I must "Pray always," lest I faint. I must throughout the day still away to a quiet time of prayer and meditation, even if they be but short times, let them be often. For then, I shall not so quickly faint against these daily trials and afflictions, but be better equipped to "stand against all these things." For when I do not give myself to prayer, and that always, it is a sure sign that I trust too much in myself. And that never leads to hope and happiness, only certain failure and heartache.