Christianity 201

March 31, 2018

Hating the Passing Things of This World

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
 ~John 8:12 NIV

Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
 ~Ecclesiastes 1:8 NLT

Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.
 ~I Cor. 7:31 NLT

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
 ~I John 2:17 ESV

Today’s reading is drawn from a posting of seven chapters of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, posted by Random House at the link in the title below, where you can read all 7 chapters. This book is an all-time Christian classic if you haven’t read it.

Wikipedia fills in some information:

Thomas à Kempis,  (c. 1380 – 25 July 1471) was a German-Dutch canon regular of the late medieval period and the author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the most popular and best known Christian books on devotion. His name means Thomas “of Kempen”, his hometown, and in German he is known as Thomas von Kempen.  …Thomas spent his time between devotional exercises, composition, and copying. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound in Biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament.

I have made only one editing change, taking out the use of numbered paragraphs (which I believe cause readers to rush through the material) and substituting each new section with the first sentence in bold type.

The Imitation of Christ and Contempt for the Vanities of the World

“Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness,” says the Lord. These are Christ’s own words by which He exhorts us to imitate His life and His ways, if we truly desire to be enlightened and free of all blindness of heart. Let it then be our main concern to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s teaching surpasses that of all the saints, and whoever has His spirit will find in His teaching hidden manna. But it happens that many are little affected, even after a frequent hearing of His Gospel. This is because they do not have the spirit of Christ. If you want to understand Christ’s words and relish them fully, you must strive to conform your entire life to His.

What good does it do you to be able to give a learned discourse on the Trinity, while you are without humility and, thus, are displeasing to the Trinity? Esoteric words neither make us holy nor righteous; only a virtuous life makes us beloved of God. I would rather experience repentance in my soul than know how to define it.

If you knew the entire Bible inside out and all the maxims of the philosophers, what good would it do you if you were, at the same time, without God’s love and grace? Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, except our loving God and serving only Him. This is the highest wisdom: to despise the world and seek the kingdom of heaven.

It is vanity to seek riches that are sure to perish and to put your hope in them.

It is vanity to pursue honors and to set yourself up on a pedestal.

It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh and to crave the things which will eventually bring you heavy punishment.

It is vanity to wish for a long life and to care little about leading a good life.

It is vanity to give thought only to this present life and not to think of the one that is to come.

It is vanity to love what is transitory and not to hasten to where everlasting joy abides.

Keep this proverb often in mind: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Therefore, withdraw your heart from the love of things visible and turn yourself to things invisible. Those who yield to their sensual nature dishonor their conscience and forfeit God’s grace.

 

April 1st is Christianity 201’s 8th Birthday!
While Christ’s resurrection is the dominant theme in our thoughts tomorrow, Christianity 201 concluded its eighth year this evening, and now begins year nine of providing devotional content and Bible study discussion material. Our motto continues to be “digging a little deeper.” My hope is that we’ve provided helpful resources for your devotional and Bible study reading and have introduced you to many new authors who are doing the same online.    ~Paul

February 10, 2013

Spurgeon: Parallels Between Grace and Rain

This was posted in September at the blog Grace Guy, and turned up on my screen just yesterday.  In many denominational circles, C. H. Spurgeon is a most-quoted classic author; you can read more about him here.

Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Job 38:25-27

God challenges man to compare with his Maker even in the one matter of the rain. Can he create it? Can he send a shower upon the desert, to water the lone herbs which else would perish in the burning heat? No, he would not even think of doing such a thing. That generous act comes of the Lord alone.

We shall work out a parallel between grace and rain.

I. GOD ALONE GIVES RAIN, AND THE SAME IS TRUE OF GRACE.

  • We say of rain and of grace, God is the sole Author of it.
  • He devised and prepared the channel by which it comes to earth. He hath “divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters.” The Lord makes a way for grace to reach his people.
  • He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew, to every believer his portion of grace.
  • He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure.
  • He holds it in his power. Absolutely at his own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul.

II. RAIN FALLS IRRESPECTIVE OF MEN, AND SO DOES GRACE.

  • Grace waits not man’s observation. As the rain falls where no man is, so grace courts not publicity.
  • Nor his cooperation. It ”tarries not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Mic. 5:7).
  • Nor his prayers. Grass calls not for rain, yet it comes. ”I am found of them that sought me not” (Isa. 65:1).
  • Nor his merits. Rain falls on the waste ground.
  • “Ah, grace, into unlikeliest hearts, It is thy wont to come; The glory of thy light to find; In darkest spots a home.”

III. RAIN FALLS WHERE WE MIGHT LEAST HAVE EXPECTED IT.

  • It falls where there is no trace of former showers, even upon the desolate wilderness: so does grace enter hearts which had hitherto been unblessed, where great need was the only plea which rose to heaven (Isa. 35:7).
  • It falls where there seems nothing to repay the boon. Many hearts are naturally as barren as the desert (Isa. 35:6).
  • It falls where the need seems insatiable, “to satisfy the desolate.” Some cases seem to demand an ocean of grace, but the Lord meets the need; and his grace falls where the joy and glory are all directed to God by grateful hearts. Twice we are told that the rain falls “where no man is.” When conversion is wrought of the Lord, no man is seen. The Lord alone is exalted.

IV. THIS RAIN IS MOST VALUED BY LIFE.

  • The rain gives joy to seeds and plants in which there is life. Budding life knows of it; the tenderest herb rejoices in it. So is it with those who begin to repent, who feebly believe, and thus are just alive.
  • The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.
  • The rain causes health and vigour of life. Is it not so with grace?
  • The rain creates the flower with its colour and perfume, and God is pleased. The full outgrowth of renewed nature comes of grace, and the Lord is well pleased therewith.
  • Let us acknowledge the sovereignty of God as to grace.
  • Let us cry to him for grace.
  • Let us expect him to send it, though we may feel sadly barren, and quite out of the way of the usual means of grace.

~ Charles Spurgeon

August 7, 2012

Waiting on God

Andrew Murray (1828-1917), was born in Cape Town, South Africa and became a revered missionary leader in the late 1800s and early 1900s, promoting and establishing missions in South Africa. His devotional writings are considered classics of the Christian faith. This devotional is taken from Murray’s series of writings titled, Waiting on God.

“Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways, And He shalt exalt thee to inherit the land.” Psalms 37:34.

If we desire to find a man whom we long to meet, we inquire where the places and the ways are where he is to be found. When waiting on God, we need to be very careful that we keep His ways; out of these we never can expect to find Him.

“Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness; those that remember Thee in Thy ways.” Isa 64:5.

We may be sure that God is never and nowhere to be found but in His ways. And that there, by the soul who seeks and patiently waits, He is always most surely to be found. “Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways, and He shall exalt thee.”

How close the connection between the two parts of the injunction, “Wait on the Lord”, – that has to do with worship and disposition; “and keep His ways”, – that deals with walk and work. The outer life must be in harmony with the inner; the inner must be the inspiration and the strength for the outer. It is our God who has made known His ways in His Word for our conduct, and invites our confidence for His grace and help in our heart. If we do not keep His ways, our waiting on Him can bring no blessing.

The surrender to full obedience to all His will is the secret of full access to all the blessings of His fellowship.

Notice how strongly this comes out in the psalm. It speaks of the evildoer who prospereth in his way, and calls on the believer not to fret himself. When we see men around us prosperous and happy while they forsake God’s ways, and ourselves left in difficulty or suffering, we are in danger of first fretting at what appears so strange, and then gradually yielding to seek our prosperity in their path.

The psalm says, “Fret not thyself; trust in the Lord, and do good. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Depart from evil, and do good; the Lord forsaketh not His saints. The righteous shall inherit the land. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” And then follows – the word occurs for the third time in the psalm – “Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways.”

Do what God asks you to do; God will do more than you can ask Him to do.

And let no one give way to the fear: I cannot keep His ways; it is this that robs one of every confidence. It is true you have not the strength yet to keep all His ways. But keep carefully those for which you have received strength already. Surrender yourself willingly and trustingly to keep all God’s ways, in the strength which will come in waiting on Him. Give up your whole being to God without reserve and without doubt; He will prove Himself God to you, and work in you that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ.

Keep His ways, as you know them in the Word. Keep His ways, as nature teaches them, in always doing what appears right. Keep His ways, as Providence points them out. Keep His ways, as the Holy Spirit suggests. Do not think of waiting on God while you say you are not willing to work in His path. However weak you feel, only be willing, and He who has worked to will, will work to do by His power.

“Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways.” It may be that the consciousness of shortcoming and sin makes our text look more like a hindrance than a help in waiting on God. Let it not be so.

Have we not said more than once, the very starting-point and ground-work of this waiting is utter and absolute impotence?

Why then not come with everything evil you feel in yourself, every memory of unwillingness, unwatchfulness, unfaithfulness, and all that causes such unceasing self-condemnation? Put your power in God’s omnipotence, and find in waiting on God your deliverance. Your failure has been owing to only one thing: you sought to conquer and obey in your own strength.

Come and bow before God until you learn that He is the God who alone is good, and alone can work any good thing. Believe that in you, and all that nature can do, there is no true power. Be content to receive from God each moment the inworking of His mighty grace and life, and waiting on God will become the renewal of your strength to run in His ways and not be weary, to walk in His paths and never faint.

“Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways” will be command and promise in one.

“My soul, wait thou only upon God!”

sourced at CBN.com devotional page

July 11, 2012

Build, Pray, Love, Look

I’m currently reading one of a number of “never before published” books based on the writing of A. W. Tozer.  This one is titled The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy, released this year by Regal (Gospel Light). In Chapter 3, he speaks about having a wrong concept about God himself.

If you do not have a right concept of God, of yourself and of sin, you will have a twisted and imperfect concept of Christ. It is my honest and charitable conviction that the Christ of the average religionist today is not the Christ of the Bible. It is a distorted image — a manufactured, painted on canvas, drawn from cheap theology Christ of the liberal, and the soft and timid person. This Christ has nothing of the iron and fury and anger, as well as the love and grace and mercy that He had, who walked in Galilee.

If I have a low concept of God, I will have a low concept of myself, and if I have a low conception of myself, I will have a dangerous concept of sin. If I have a dangerous concept of sin, I will have a degraded concept of Christ. Here is the way it works: God is reduced; man is degraded; sin is underestimated; and Christ is disparaged.

Does this mean we must be tolerant? Actually, men are tolerant only with the important things. What would happen to a tolerant scientist or a tolerant navigator? The liberal religionist simply admits he does not consider spiritual things as vital.

No wonder Jude said the terrible things he said in his epistle to the Church. I recommend you read the book of Jude

…We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend for but not be contentious. We must preserve truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people…

A Call to Remain Faithful

(NLT) Jude 1:17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

…Now He’s come to His own — true believers in God and in Christ. And then He gives them four things to do:

  1. Build up — “building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” (v. 20) Do you have a Bible, and do you study it? Have you read a book of the Bible through recently? Have you done any memorization of Scripture? Have you sought to know God or are you looking to the secular media for your religion? Build up yourselves on your most holy faith.
  2. Pray — “praying in the Holy Ghost” (v. 20) I do not hesitate to say that most praying is not in the Holy Spirit. The reason is that we do not have the Holy Spirit in us. No man can pray in the Spirit except his heart is a habitation for the Spirit. It is only as the Holy Spirit has unlimited sway within you that you are able to pray in the Spirit. Five minutes of prayer in the Holy Spirit will be worth more than one year of hit-and-miss praying if it is not in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Love — “keep yourselves in the love of God…” (v. 21) Be true to the faith, but be charitable to those who are in error. Never feel contempt for anybody. No Christian has any right to feel contempt, for it is an emotion that can only come out of pride. Let us never allow contempt to rule us; let us be charitable and loving toward all while we keep ourselves in the love of God.
  4. Look — “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (v. 21) Let us look for Jesus Christ’s coming — for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Isn’t it wonderful that His mercy will show forth at His coming? His mercy will show itself then, as it did on the cross; as it does in receiving sinners; as it does in patiently looking after us. And it will show itself at the coming of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

~A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith pp. 44-46

(scripture text added)

June 2, 2012

A Dose of Spurgeon

Each week Phil Johnson at the blog Pyromaniacs (aka Team Pyro) posts a “weekly dose” of writing from Charles Spurgeon. (This is not the first time we’ve “borrowed” one from Team Pyro.) Here are a couple of recent ones: The first is a response to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the second one deals with people who still feel the stains of sin and feel they haven’t repented enough or are not penitent enough.  Some of you may want to bookmark Team Pyro and make it part of your regular reading.

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from “The Real Presence, the Great Want of the Church,” a sermon preached Sunday morning, 11 February 1872 at the Met Tab in London.

IS IT NECESSARY to say that the Lord Jesus Christ is no longer corporeally present in his church? It ought not to be needful to assert so evident a truth; and yet it is important to do so, since there are some who teach that in what they are pleased to call “the Holy Sacrament,” Christ is actually present in his flesh and blood.

Such persons unwittingly deny the real humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, for if he has indeed assumed our humanity, and is in all points made like unto his brethren, his flesh and blood cannot be in two places at one time. Our bodily humanity could not be present in more places than one at one time, and if Christ’s humanity be like ours it cannot be in an unlimited number of places at once; in fact, it can only be in one place. Where that place is we know from Scripture, for he sitteth at the right hand of God, expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Unless you are to suppose that the humanity of Christ is something altogether different from ours, it cannot be here and there and everywhere; but to suppose that it is a different humanity from ours is to deny that he is Incarnate in our nature. Our Lord Jesus told his disciples that he would go away, and he has gone away. He ascended into heaven, bearing humanity up to the throne of God.

“He is not here, for he is risen.”

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from “Repentance unto Life,” one of Spurgeon’s earliest sermons, preached on Sunday morning, 23 September 1855, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

ANOTHER MISTAKE many poor people make when they are thinking about salvation . . . is that they cannot repent enough; they imagine that were they to repent up to a certain degree, they would be saved.

“Oh, sir!” some of you will say, “I have not penitence enough.”

Beloved, let me tell you that there is not any eminent degree of “repentance” which is necessary to salvation. You know there are degrees of faith, and yet the least faith saves; so there are degrees of repentance, and the least repentance will save the soul if it is sincere.

The Bible says, “He that believeth shall be saved,” and when it says that, it includes the very smallest degree of faith. So when it says, “Repent and be saved,” it includes the man who has the lowest degree of real repentance.

Repentance, moreover, is never perfect in any man in this mortal state. We never get perfect faith so as to be entirely free from doubting; and we never get repentance which is free from some hardness of heart. The most sincere penitent that you know will feel himself to be partially impenitent.

Repentance is also a continual life-long act. It will grow continually. I believe a Christian on his death-bed will more bitterly repent than ever he did before. It is a thing to be done all your life long. Sinning and repenting—sinning and repenting, make up a Christian’s life. Repenting and believing in Jesus—repenting and believing in Jesus, make up the consummation of his happiness. You must not expect that you will be perfect in “repentance” before you are saved. No Christian can be perfect.

“Repentance” is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense! There are no conditions of salvation. God gives the salvation himself; and he only gives it to those to whom he will. He says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” If, then, God has given you the least repentance, if it be sincere repentance, praise him for it, and expect that repentance will grow deeper and deeper as you go further on.

Then this remark I think, ought to be applied to all Christians. Christian men and women, you feel that you have not deep enough repentance. You feel that you have not faith large enough. What are you to do? Ask for an increase of faith, and it will grow. So with repentance.

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

July 8, 2011

What Has the Cross Accomplished?

Trevin Wax had this at Kingdom People recently. The story of St. John of Damascus is also interesting reading.

By nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low:
The sin of our first parents destroyed
Hell plundered,
Resurrection bestowed,
The power given us to despise the things of the world,
Even death itself,
The road back to the former blessedness made smooth,
The gates of paradise opened,
Our nature seated at the right hand of God,
And we made children and heirs of God.
By the cross all these things have been set aright…
It is a seal that the destroyer may not strike us,
A raising up of those who lie fallen,
A support for those who stand,
A staff for the infirm,
A crook for the shepherded,
A guide for the wandering,
A perfecting of the advanced,
Salvation for soul and body,
A deflector of all evils,
A cause for all goods,
A destruction of sin,
A plant of resurrection,
And a tree of eternal life.

– St. John of Damascus

March 21, 2011

Andrew Murray’s Concept of “The Branch Life”

Today’s devotional is from Jeff Honnold’s blog, The Water’s Edge, where this first appeared under the title Living the Branch Life.

Two weeks ago I began a Thursday morning study with four other guys that has already been challenging me in ways I’m not sure I’ve been challenged before – and I am loving it.

We are currently working through John 15 one verse at a time.  Now, I’ve done Bible studies before but never to this depth – spending this much focused time on a single verse at a time. This week we are looking at verse 2:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

– John 15:2 (NIV)

As we do this study we are reading Andrew Murray’s book, “The True Vine” that helps us to dig into this.  My reading today was looking just at the word “fruit”.  Here’s what Murray writes with regards to the purpose of the existence of a vine  is to bear fruit for it’s owner:

It is because Christians do not understand or accept this truth that they so fail in their efforts and prayers to live the branch life.  They often desire it earnestly; they read and meditate and pray, and yet they fail, and the wonder why.  The reason is very simple:  They do not know that fruitbearing is the one thing they have been saved for. (emphasis Murray)

I just keep re-reading this section.  As I read that I look at my own life and I keep asking myself, “Am I truly living the branch life”?

As if that weren’t enough to chew on he then goes on to say this:

The one object God had in making you a branch is the Christ may through you bring life to men.  Your personal salvation, your business and care for your family, are entirely subordinate to this. (emphasis Murray)

Wow.  Put those two together and I keep asking myself how much time to I spend trying to care for myself as the branch and not worry or even think about the fruit.

How about you?  Does this hit anyone else hard?

~Jeff Honnold