21 August 2016

The government of God


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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Treasury of David, Psalm 99, verse 4, Hendrickson Publishers.
"God is the king, the mercy-seat is his throne, and the sceptre which he sways is holy like himself. His power never exerts itself tyrannically; he is a sovereign, and he is absolute in his government, but his might delights in right, his force is used for just purposes only." 

Men in these days are continually arranging the Lord's government, and setting up to judge whether he does right or not; but saintly men in the olden time were of another mind, they were sure that what the Lord did was just, and instead of calling him to account they humbly submitted themselves to his will, rejoicing in the firm persuasion that with his whole omnipotence God was pledged to promote righteousness, and work justice among all his creatures. 

"Thou dost establish equity." Not a court of equity merely, but equity itself thou dost set up, and that not for a time or upon an occasion, but as an established institution, stable as thy throne. Not even for the sake of mercy does the Lord remove or injure the equity of his moral government: both in providence and in grace he is careful to conserve the immaculate purity of his justice. 

Most kingdoms have an establishment of some kind, and generally it is inequitable; here we have an establishment which is equity itself. The Lord our God demolishes every system of injustice, and right alone is made to stand. "Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob." 

Justice is not merely established, but executed in God's kingdom; the laws are carried out, the executive is as righteous as the legislative. Herein let all the oppressed, yea, and all who love that which is right, find large occasion for praise. Other nations under their despots were the victims and the perpetrators of grievous wrong, but when the tribes were faithful to the Lord they enjoyed an upright government within their own borders, and acted with integrity towards their neighbours. 

That kingcraft which delights in cunning, favouritism, and brute force is as opposite to the divine kingship as darkness to light. The palace of Jehovah is no robber's fortress nor despot's castle, built on dungeons, with stones carved by slaves, and cemented with the blood of toiling serfs. The annals of most human governments have been written in the tears of the downtrodden, and the curses of the oppressed: the chronicles of the Lord's kingdom are of another sort, truth shines in each line, goodness in every syllable, and justice in every letter. 

Glory be to the name of the King, whose gentle glory beams from between the cherubic wings.

14 August 2016

Possessing our possessions

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 35, sermon number 2,086, "Taking possession of our inheritance."
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"Brethren, here is an inheritance so broad, and wide, and lasting; why do you not hasten to take it? There is holiness, do you not want it? There is serenity, do you not desire it? There is joy unspeakable and full of glory, do you not wish for it? There is usefulness, do you not hunger for it?" 

This is the reason why some are so indifferent: they are ignorant: they do not even know that these choice blessings are to be had. But all that any child of God was, you may be; all the joy and bliss and holiness ever enjoyed on earth, you may enjoy. The land is before you; go in to possess it.

Do not be without the knowledge of Christ Jesus your Lord, for in him is “joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” Some of our dear friends hear a doctrine which is gospel and water; and they really do not know what the undiluted gospel is. The doctrines of grace are the cream which many cautious preachers skim from the milk of the Word lest it should prove too rich for the stomachs of their hearers.

A solid portion of Calvinistic doctrine is like a joint of nourishing meat, and the people of this generation are such babes that they cannot digest it. “It is too rich for me!” cries one. I know it, I know it. But I pray the Lord to make you grow into men, who can enjoy the fat things full of marrow and the wines on the lees well refined.

There are glorious truths of which beginners know nothing, and through not knowing of them they miss much joy. Full many a child of God goes fretting and worrying when he ought to be singing and rejoicing, and would be so if he knew what God has provided for him.

Many do not possess the land because of unbelief.  “Alas! it seems too good to be true.”

“I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all.” 

Yes, that is quite true; but are you going to sing that one line for ever? Is that your style of singing?—one line for ever? If our leader, just now, when we sang the hymn, had kept on with—“Behold, what wondrous grace!” “Behold, what wondrous grace!” it would have been very sweet: but I should have pulled his coat-tail and said, “Go on with the whole verse.” So, in this case, you say—

“I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all.” 

Why not go on to sing—

“But Jesus Christ is my all in all”?

You are empty, but Jesus fills you. You are in prison, but Jesus sets you at liberty. Why not rejoice in that liberty? The Lord deliver us from unbelief, for it is enough to shut any man out of the inheritance. Many are indolent, Oh, the laziness of some of God’s people! I will not enlarge upon this matter, probably you know something about it yourselves.

Lastly, the indecision of a great many is another cause why they do not possess the land. There is a hesitancy to go up and seize it. They mean to be better Christians before they die. I wonder how many Christians here would like to finish their lives to-day! Would your life, if now ended, be a life worth living?

Suppose it were now threatened to be cut short, would you not pray with anguish, “Lord, let me live a little longer, that I may distribute more of my money to thy cause, may bear better testimony to thy truth and may set my house in order”? Set your house in order at once, my brother. Give away a full portion of your substance immediately. Begin to work for Jesus at once.

Why should you hesitate? You blame the sinner when he delays; surely the saint is to be blamed, too, when he also lingers.

07 August 2016

Perpetuity

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 33, sermon number 1,971, "The blood shed for many."


"Our Saviour meant us to maintain the doctrine of his death, and the shedding of his blood for the remission of sins, even to the end of time, for he made it to be of perpetual remembrance."

We drink this cup “until he come.” If the Lord Jesus had foreseen with approbation the changes in religious thought which would be brought about by growing “culture,” he would surely have arranged a change of symbols to suit the change of doctrines.

Would he not have warned us that, towards the end of the nineteenth century, men would become so “enlightened” that the faith of Christendom must of necessity take a new departure, and therefore he had appointed a change of sacramental memorials? But he has not warned us of the coming of those eminently great and wise men who have changed all things, and abolished the old-fashioned truths for which martyrs died.

Brethren, I do not believe in the wisdom of these men and their changes I abhor; but had there been any ground for such changes, the Lord’s Supper would not have been made of perpetual obligation. The perpetuity of ordinances indicates a perpetuity of doctrine. But hear the moderns talk—“The Apostles, the Fathers, the Puritans, they were excellent men, no doubt, but then, you see, they lived before the uprise of those wonderful scientific men who have enlightened us so much.”

Let me repeat what I have said. If we had come to a new point as to believing, should we not have come to a new point as to the ordinances in which those beliefs are embodied? I think so. The evident intent of Christ in giving us settled ordinances, and especially in settling this one which so clearly commemorates his bloodshedding, was that we might know that the truth of his sacrifice is for ever fixed and settled, and must unchangeably remain the essence of his gospel.

Neither nineteen centuries, nor nineteen thousand centuries, can make the slightest difference in this truth, nor in the relative proportion of this truth to other truths, so long as this dispensation lasts. Until he comes a second time without a sin-offering unto salvation, the grand work of his first coming must be kept first and foremost in all our teaching, trusting and testifying.

As in the southern hemisphere the cross is the mariner’s guide, so, under all skies, is the death of our Redeemer the polestar of our hope upon the sea of life. In life and in death we will glory in the cross of Christ and never be ashamed of it, be we where we may.


04 August 2016

"Let your light so shine before men..."

by Phil Johnson


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Phil back in May 2008. It was the first of a 3-part series in which Phil offered his thought on Matthew 5:16.


As usual, the comments are closed.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

That's a familiar verse that practically interprets itself, with a command ("Let your light so shine before men"); an explanation of what the command entails ("[Let your light shine so] that [people can] see your good works"); and a reason for the command ("[So that people will] glorify your Father . . . in heaven.")

Despite the simplicity of that verse, there's a lot of misunderstanding nowadays about what it means and what it demands of us. The passage and its context are often cited by those who seem to think it's a call for Christians to harness the political process. It seems like every time I hear anyone talk about "salt and light" nowadays, it's someone trying to rally Christians for political activism or persuade evangelical church members to sign onto some boycott, petition, or letter-writing campaign—as if lighting and salting the culture were nothing other than consolidating the evangelical movement behind a political agenda and then making our voices heard in the political process.

But if you look at this passage carefully in its context, it is not talking about political activism at all. It's not talking about using our clout as a voting bloc, or organizing mass boycotts and protests, or electing Christians to public office. It's talking about holy living at the individual level.

Please understand: I have no objection to Christians who run for political office. I have no doubt that God calls some of His people to serve in government, just as He calls some to serve in business, some to teach in universities, and others to work in every segment of society. All society is salted with Christians, and each one ought to have a beneficial effect in his circle of influence, no matter how big or how small that circle of influence may be. Collectively, we all benefit and preserve and season society as a whole. That truth is certainly what this text is about.

But our influence as Christians is most effective at the personal, grassroots level. There's no suggestion in our text that the church's mission is to commandeer the machinery of secular politics in order to wield our influence through political force or clout. If you have the idea that's the best way (or the main way) the church is supposed to influence society, I think you're missing the point of the text.

I hope you vote. I hope you're a good citizen in every way. And I hope you use your vote conscientiously and with discernment. But if your hope for the future of our society rests in the democratic process, or if you think the fortunes of the church rise or fall according to which party is in power, you need to look again at how the people of God have historically made their influence felt in society. You'll discover that those times when the church has grown the most and when revival has spread furthest are times when believers have been most concerned about personal holiness and evangelism.

Political clout is not what we need to influence a hostile secular society like the one in which we live today. All the power and all the politics and all the public policies in the world will never force unbelievers to yield their hearts to Christ as Lord.

31 July 2016

Proud clay?

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 5, sermon number 262, "Distinguishing grace."
"Pride is the inherent sin of man and yet it is of all sins the most foolish." 

A thousand arguments might be used to show its absurdity; but none of these would be sufficient to quench its vitality. Alive it is in the heart, and there it will be, till we die to this world and rise again without spot or blemish.

Yet many are the arrows which may be shot at the heart of our boasting. Take for instance the argument of creation; how strongly that thrusts at our pride. There is a vessel upon the potter’s wheel, would it not be preposterous for that clay which the potter fashioneth to boast itself and say, “How well am I fashioned! how beautifully am I proportioned; I deserve much praise!”

Why, O lump of clay, whatever thou art, the potter made thee; however elegant thy proportions, however matchless thy symmetry, the glory is due to him that made thee, not to thyself; thou art but the work of his hands. And so let us speak unto ourselves. We are the thing formed; shall we say of ourselves that we deserve honour because God has formed us excellently and wondrously? No, the fact of our creation should extinguish the sparks of our pride.

What are we, after all, but as grasshoppers in his sight, as drops of the bucket, as lumps of animated dust; we are but the infants of a day when we are most old; we are but the insects of an hour when we are most strong; we are but the wild ass’s colt when we are most wise, we are but as folly and vanity when we are most excellent—let that tend to humble us.

But surely if these prevail not to clip the pinions of our high soaring pride, the Christian man may at least bind its wings with arguments derived from the distinguishing love and peculiar mercies of God. “Who maketh thee to differ from another?”—This question should be like a dagger put to the throat of our boasting;—“and what hast thou that thou did not receive;”—it would be like a sword thrust through the heart of our self-exaltation and pride.

28 July 2016

Two Ways of Thinking

by Dan Phillips


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Dan back in March 2011. Dan pointed out that there are only two ways to approach any subject: By starting with God and Scripture, or by starting somewhere else.


As usual, the comments are closed.
How can we figure out what to think about the big issues of spiritual import?

Well, we can ask a lot of questions, all centered around ourselves, or centered around other people. We can, for instance, ask how a concept makes us feel. We can ask whether it makes sense to us. We can test whether it fits the contours of our own personal thought. We can propose paradigms and syllogisms of our own crafting.

We can get into dialogue with others, and listen to them. We can hear their stories, and let those stories move us and mold and form our thinking. We can get a broader sample by reading bios, looking at polls, reading the mainstream media. We can embrace their questions and their rationales and their hierarchies, let them set the agenda for the endeavor.

We can sample this and that "faith-tradition," as broadly as we care to do. See what other men and women have done with it in the name of religion. If it important to us to be seen as (or to see ourselves as) cosmopolitan, we can search the world over 'till we think we find true love.

Then, once we've formed what feels right, what makes sense, what appeals, what best suits us — then, I say, we can launch, journey, and arrive.

Or.

Or we can be Christians.

While you're either looking for me to qualify that antithesis, or preparing to demand that I do so, let me just double-down by insisting that I mean exactly what I say. Thinking like a Christian, and thinking like anything else, are two fundamentally distinct processes. They are as different as night and day, and as irreconcilable as left and right.

There are fundamentally two ways to approach any concept, and only two. We can start with God and His Word, or we can start somewhere else; and the "somewhere else" usually boils down to ourselves. This is a philosophical methodology of ancient coinage.

My text here — one of many possible — is Proverbs 1:7.
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge;
Wisdom and discipline, dense people belittle. (DJP)
"Beginning" here can mean several things. I bat this around in my book on Proverbs, and explain that I think it means beginning in the sense of starting-place.  It is the starting-place not in that we check the box and move on, but in the sense that, if we don't start with the fear of Yahweh, we won't get anywhere in knowledge or wisdom. I liken it to the alphabet. You don't get anywhere with reading without knowing the alphabet; but, having started with the alphabet, you never discard it. You use it constantly, because it permeates all you do when you read.

So likewise the fear of Yahweh is the starting-place of knowledge, and of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We start there, or we get nowhere. And, having started there, we never leave it, because it permeates every thought and every chain of reasoning.

24 July 2016

What a change it is!

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 43, sermon number 2,510, "Apart."
"True repentance is always accompanied by sorrow." 

It has been said by some of those of modern times who disparage repentance that repentance is “nothing but a change of mind.” These words sound as if there was merely some superficial meaning to them; and so, indeed, they are intended by those who use them, but they are not so intended by the Spirit of God.

Repentance may be and is a change of mind; but what a change it is! It is not an unimportant change of mind such as you may have concerning whether you will take your holiday this week or the next, or about some trifling matter of domestic interest; but it is a change of the whole heart, of the love, of the hate, of the judgment, and the view of things taken by the individual whose mind is thus changed.

It is a deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change; and you will find that, whenever you meet with it in Scripture, it is always accompanied with sorrow for past sin. And rest you assured of this fact, that the repentance which has no tears in its eye and no mourning for sin in its heart, is a repentance which needs to be repented of, for there is in it no evidence of conversion, no sign of the existence of the grace of God.

In what way has that man changed his mind who is not sorry that he has sinned? In what sense can it be said that he has undergone any change worth experiencing if he can look back upon his past life with pleasure, or look upon the prospect of returning to his sin without an inward loathing and disgust?

I say again that we have need to stand in doubt of that repentance which is not accompanied with mourning for sin; and even when Christ is clearly seen by faith, and sin is pardoned, and the man knows that it is forgiven, he does not cease to mourn for sin.

Nay, brethren, his mourning becomes deeper as his knowledge of his guilt becomes greater; and his hatred of sin grows in proportion as he understands that love of Christ by which his sin is put away.

In true believers, mourning for sin is chastened and sweetened, and, in one sense, the fang of bitterness is taken out; but, in another sense, the more we realize our indebtedness to God’s grace, and the more we see of the sufferings of Christ in order to our redemption, the more do we hate sin and the more do we lament that we ever fell into it. I am sure it is so, and that every Christian’s experience will confirm what I say.