Grace Gems for JULY, 2017
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Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living!
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
The habit of treasuring up a text of Scripture in the morning, to be meditated upon while engaged in the business of the world through the day — is both profitable and delightful. It is as a refreshing spring to a weary traveler!
Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living, than the habit of getting a verse of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day's thoughts and words and experiences.
Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live — and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.
A devotional book, which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning — that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough — is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives — is the application of the great teachings of Scripture — to common, daily, practical life!
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night!" Psalm 1:1-2
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If He appoints otherwise!
(John Newton's Letters)
My dear friends,
We sympathize with you in what you must feel for dear Rebecca's illness. You know that the Lord has an absolute right to dispose of all His creatures as He sees fit. As sinners — we have no rights. As believing pardoned sinners — we can have no reason to complain.
I trust that Rebecca's illness is sanctified to give her nearer, deeper, and more precious views of the truths which she learned while in health. As low as she is brought, the Lord can raise her with a word; and He will — if it is for His glory and her best benefit. If He appoints otherwise, He can make her last days her best days — and enable you to cheerfully resign her to Him. Whether she lives or dies — she is the Lord's. The time is short — and we hope to follow her to a better world, where there will be no more sin or sorrow or painful separation!
You know that the sovereignty of God toward His people is not arbitrary. It is connected with a wisdom which can make no mistakes — and a love which can give no unnecessary pain to those for whom He died upon the cross.
If we are in heaviness — then there is a need-be for it, and it is but for a season. His thoughts and ways are high above ours. What we do not know now — we shall know hereafter. Even now, we may be sure that He does all things well. May His gracious presence be with you — and then you will be able to rejoice, even in tribulation.
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Nothing more quickly or truly indicates an irreverent and undevout mind!
"Our Father in Heaven, may Your name be kept holy." Matthew 6:9
Nothing more quickly or truly indicates an irreverent and undevout mind, than levity on sacred subjects. The individual who can provoke a smile, or indulge in a cleverness, or shape a witticism — at the expense of what is divine and sacred — is blasphemous indeed! He who can treat in a light manner any religious subject, who can turn the Bible into a jest-book, and intersperse secular conversation with religious phraseology or Scripture language in sport — will the great God hold such an irreverent and profane mind guiltless?
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain — for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain!" Exodus 20:7
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If she has exceeded some of us in the heinousness of her sin
"As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them!" Luke 7:38
O that our eyes were as ready with tears of repentance as were hers! O that our hearts were as full of love as hers and our hands as ready to serve the forgiving Lord! If she has exceeded some of us in the heinousness of her sin — yet she has exceeded all of us in the fervency of her affection!
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They love their very beasts!
(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)
"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ — that person is cursed!" 1 Corinthians 16:22
Some openly declare by their actions and manner of conduct — that they do not love the Lord Jesus Christ. Some openly pretend love to Christ, but really have no true love unto Him. "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words — but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion — but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain!" Ezekiel 33:31
Love to Christ is in their mouth — but love to the world is in their heart!
Some say that they love him — but God knows they do not: "But I know you — that you have not the love of God in you!" John 5:42. No!
Do you know how great a sin this is? Why then do you make so light of it?
Why then are you no more ashamed, that you lack this love to the Lord Jesus Christ?
What! Do you love your gold — and not your God? Or do you make your gold your god — and then love your gold, instead of loving the true God? Can you love your silver — and not the precious Savior?
You are bound to love your very enemies — and yet you have no love to Him who would be your surest, greatest, and most faithful Friend!
What shall I say? Lord, I am ashamed, and blush to say that which is true of too many men — that they love their very beasts, their dog, their horse, and their cattle — and yet will not be prevailed upon to love your Son — your only Son, your beloved Son!
Nay, what shall I say? You love your heinous lusts and filthy sins, which will destroy and damn you forever — and yet have no love for the Lord Jesus, who would save you from your sins, and from Hell forever.
What can I say? You do not love Christ — because you love your sin so much!
Oh horrid shame! You love deformity — and not beauty!
Where are your eyes man? Surely your love to sin is blind.
Oh monstrous iniquity! You love that which is worst of all — and not Him who is best of all!
Where is your reason? Has sin bereaved you of your wits? Oh madness and folly! Are you so fond of sin — as to be damned for it? Are you so foolishly fond of this world — that you choose to be hated by God, and banished out of His glorious presence forever? Is your soul so clogged with flesh, and sunk so deep into it — that it can rise no higher than to love sensual, earthly, and fleshly delights and pleasures?
"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ — that person is cursed!"
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Freedom from the dominion of sin!
(George Everard, "Up High!" 1884)
There is no more galling yoke to be found, than . . .
the thraldom of evil passions, tyrant lusts and sinful habits,
uncontrolled tempers which burst forth like a hurricane,
temptations which hurry a man onward toward the precipice of utter ruin,
the dark trinity of "the world, the flesh, and the devil" —
all drawing a man along the pathway that leads to eternal damnation! Here is a foe that is terrible indeed!
Yet in Christ, there is freedom from the dominion of sin, and from all the power of the enemy.
Satan is strong, for he is a roaring lion. But Christ is stronger, for He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Yes, He is the almighty Shepherd, who can guard the weakest of His flock from the treachery and deceit of the evil one.
Sin is strong, and it has conquered and destroyed its myriads in every age. But Christ is stronger, for He is our Joshua, and can put every enemy beneath our feet. If united to Christ by true faith, "sin shall not have dominion over you." Being no longer under the law, but under grace — Christ reigns in you by His Holy Spirit, and by the same Spirit can make you more than conqueror over every snare of the tempter.
Christian, always remember the secret of success in the sore conflict you have to wage. Let "the joy of the Lord" be "your strength." Apart from Christ, there is nothing but defeat. You may resolve to do better, you may strive against your besetting sin — but if it is in your own might, you will fail. But draw near to Christ, and keep Him in view continually. Hide deep in your heart His own word of promise, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Fly to Him as your stronghold, whenever danger is at hand. Make Him your shield, when the shafts of the wicked one are aimed for your destruction.
I often think of a lesson I learned one snowy day in Birmingham. A big bully was unmercifully snow-balling a smaller boy. But when the little fellow saw me coming, he ran behind me and kept me between himself and his enemy, until he was able to escape from him.
Ah, here is a lesson for me, thought I. Let me ever make Christ my shield. Let me ever put Him between me and my temptations; between me and my cares, and fears, and perils — and He will answer for them. No evil can overcome His power — and when I thus trust in Him, no sin or evil can overcome me.
Thus will you find strength for victory. You will be delivered from the sin which was once too strong for you. More and more the Spirit of Christ shall fashion you in His image and likeness. More and more shall the evil nature be mortified and kept under control, and Christ Himself make your heart His dwelling-place.
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In wondrous contrast — and yet with consistent harmony!
In the floral kingdom, the flowers have many hues. A number of different colored flowers in a bouquet will enhance the beauty of each other by their contrast.
Just so in the cross of Christ, the attributes of God are brought out in wondrous contrast — and yet with consistent harmony. There we see . . .
His name glorified,
His love manifested,
His majesty upheld,
His justice satisfied,
His truth vindicated,
His law magnified, and
His righteousness displayed in the putting away of our sins!
"Mercy and truth meet together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other!" Psalm 85:10
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We are but learning Job's lesson!
(Francis Bourdillon, "The Self-abhorrence of Job" 1864)
"Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4
At the close of his long trial Job said, "I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear — but now my eye sees You! Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6-7
What did he mean? Probably, that while he had long known God, as having heard of Him, and in a measure believed in and served Him — yet . . .
now he knew Him far more deeply and closely,
now he had experienced God's personal dealings,
now he had had great searchings of heart,
now he had learned far more of God than ever he knew before.
How many can say the same! How many can think of some time of sore affliction — and see that at that season and by that means, they learned to know God in a way they had never known Him before — more closely, more deeply, more lovingly. Yes, more lovingly. For this is what God is leading His children to by all His dealings — to know His love to them more, and to love Him more in return.
How many inward comforts does He send in the time of trial!
What deep searchings of heart go on in the silence of a sick-room!
How many earnest prayers are sent up thence!
What sweet thoughts of Christ are given — what a sense of pardon, what peace, what love, what a manifestation of Christ to the soul!
These are the gifts of God — the work of His Spirit the Comforter — the blessings of sanctified affliction!
Shall we repine when God's chastening hand is laid upon us? Ah, no! Rather let us . . .
look well into our own hearts,
and search out the root of self-righteousness,
and humble ourselves before God,
and shelter ourselves more closely under the shadow of His wing.
He is teaching us and blessing us now. And if, under His teaching, we find ourselves distressed by a new and deeper feeling of our sinfulness — yet let us then think that we are but learning Job's lesson; and let us be led to cast ourselves more earnestly and entirely upon the merits of Christ our Savior, that in Him we may find rest to our souls.
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When it lays its head on the pillow of God's omnipotence!
"With God nothing shall be impossible!" Luke 1:37
Let us mark the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation: "With God nothing shall be impossible."
A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men's minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul. Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity. And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now — a thorough conviction of God's omnipotence. With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing — everything is possible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin.
There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.
There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.
There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.
There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ's words never pass away — and what He has promised, He is able to perform.
There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us — then who can be against us? The mountain shall become a plain!
Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel's maxim is an invaluable remedy. Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully — as when it lays its head on the pillow of God's omnipotence!
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The highest grace that can adorn the Christian character!
"And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant." Luke 1:46-56
Let us mark Mary's deep humility in this hymn of praise. She who was chosen of God to the high honor of being Messiah's mother — speaks of her own "humble estate," and acknowledges her need of a "Savior." She uses the language of one who has been taught by the grace of God to feel her own sins, and need a Savior for her own soul.
Let us copy this holy humility of our Lord's mother. Like her, let us be lowly in our own eyes, and think little of ourselves. Humility is the highest grace that can adorn the Christian character. It is a true saying of an old divine, "A man has just so much Christianity — as he has humility." This is the grace which is most suitable to sinful human nature.
Above all, humility is the grace which is within the reach of every converted person!
All are not rich.
All are not learned.
All are not highly gifted.
All are not preachers.
But all children of God may be clothed with humility!
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To Him, they must be playthings and toys!
(Thomas Spurgeon, "Spiritual Worship")
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24
What does this phrase mean?
I have not time to analyze it closely. Suffice it to say, that the sentence stands as the antithesis of all external religious rituals. It stands opposed to Ceremonialism, Symbolism, Ritualism, and Materialism. "God is Spirit!"
Do not dream of offering Him anything that does not accord with His nature and with His essence.
If He were a material deity — then I might bring Him fruits, and flowers, and music, and so forth.
If He were a God of religious ritual — then I might deck myself with crosses, burn candles to Him, and waft incense in His honor.
But our God is a Spirit who rejoices more in the falling tear, the upheaved sigh, the heart prayer, and the heart praise, which "the common people" render unto Him — than in all the decorations and symphonies and temples of a man-made ritual.
What does the Spirit care for . . .
your stained-glass windows,
your snow-white altars,
your glittering gold ornaments,
and all your religious decorations?
To Him, they must be playthings and toys! If He takes any notice of them at all — it must be to laugh at them, and to hold them in derision!
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Wholly taken up with contriving methods of amusing themselves!
Concerning the performing of 'Handel's Messiah' John Newton wrote:
How shall we view the people of our times? I see the great mass of people involved in one common charge of high treason against the omnipotent God! They are already in a state of guilt — but have not yet been brought to their trial. The evidence against them is so plain, strong and pointed, that there is not the least doubt of their guilt being fully proved — and that nothing but a free pardon from God can preserve them from their deserved eternal punishment!
In this situation, it would seem in their best interest to avail themselves of every expedient in their power for obtaining God's mercy. But they are entirely heedless of their imminent danger, and are wholly taken up with contriving methods of amusing themselves — that they may pass away their short time on earth with as much levity as possible!
Among other resources, they call in the assistance of music — and they are particularly pleased with the performing of 'Handel's Messiah'. They choose to make . . .
the solemnities of their impending judgment,
the character of their Judge,
the methods of His procedure, and
the dreadful punishment to which they are exposed
— the themes of their musical entertainment!
And, as if they were quite unconcerned in their upcoming judgment — their attention is chiefly fixed upon the skill of the composer, in adapting the style of his music to the very solemn subjects with which they are trifling!
The offended King, however, unasked by them, and out of His great mercy and compassion towards those who have no pity for themselves — sends them a gracious message. He assures them that He is unwilling that they should eternally perish; and that He requires, yes, He entreats them to submit to Him! He points out a way in which He offers them a free and a full pardon!
But, instead of taking a single step towards a compliance with His undeserved and gracious offer — they set His message to music! And this, together with a description of their present hopeless state, and of the fearful doom awaiting them if they continue obstinate — is sung for their entertainment, and accompanied with every kind of music!
Surely, if such a case as I have supposed could be found in real life, though I might admire the musical taste of these people — I would certainly commiserate their stupidity and hardness of heart!
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Alas, how cold are our hearts, how trifling are our thoughts, how small is our zeal and love!
(Francis Bourdillon, "We Need Stirring Up!" 1864)
"For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you!" 2 Peter 1:12-13
We need stirring up — not so much to be taught something new, as to be stirred up as to what we have learned already.
Most of us have long ago been taught the facts and doctrines of the gospel. Probably we know them well. Perhaps we are even firmly "established in the present truth." We have learned of Heaven and Hell and eternity. We have been taught our lost estate as sinners, and that Jesus died for sinners — that His precious blood has atoned for sin, that He has opened the way for us to the throne of grace and to acceptance with God. We have heard of death and of judgment — and of the uncertainty of life and the shortness of time. We have been told . . .
of Satan's devices,
of the value of prayer,
of the mercy and love of God in Christ,
and of the work of the Spirit.
What is our spiritual state, after so much teaching? Alas, how cold are our hearts, how trifling are our thoughts, how small is our zeal and love! How little we have of deep sorrow for sin — and how little sincere faith in Jesus! Where are the fruits of the Spirit in us? Where is . . .
that deep concern,
that earnest desire,
that warmth of feeling,
that pressing toward the mark —
which might be expected in those who have learned such things?
We need stirring up!
We should stir ourselves up by the Word of God.
Let us apply it to ourselves and take it as if addressed to us.
Let us not listen to it or read it carelessly — but as the message of God to us!
Let us not be hearers only — but doers of the Word . . .
receiving it as God's message,
pondering it in our minds,
applying it to ourselves,
believing it, and
striving to live by it!
Let us also pray for the quickening influence of God's Holy Spirit. This alone can really . . .
stir the depths of our hearts,
rouse us from spiritual sloth and
give us new earnestness and zeal!
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The hen which does not sit on her eggs!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)
"A hen that soon leaves her nest, never hatches her chicks."
How can she? Patience is needed, and the quiet self-denial by which she renders up the warmth of her heart — otherwise her eggs will lie as dead as stones!
Just so, a sudden glance at truth without meditation upon it, does not profit. The value of truth will never be known, by those who look at it and hurry on. They must brood over it, and cover it with their heart's love — or it will never become living truth to their souls. We must apply ourselves to a doctrine, giving our whole soul and heart to it — or we shall miss the blessing.
Lord, when I hear a sermon, or read in a good book — let me not be as the hen which neither sits on her eggs, nor hatches them. But make me to ponder Your Word, and to rejoice over it as one who finds great spoil.
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful!" Joshua 1:8
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The one who profits me the most!
"Be an example to all believers . . .
in what you teach,
in the way you live,
in your love, your faith and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12
I will name some of the criteria by which I measure the helpfulness of a preacher or writer to my own soul.
The one who profits me the most, is the man . . .
whose ministry brings the most awe of a holy and sovereign God into my heart,
who reveals my sinfulness and failures to me,
who conveys the most light on my path of duty,
who makes Christ most precious to me,
who encourages me to press forward along the narrow way.
"Watch your life and doctrine closely." 1 Timothy 4:16
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(James Smith, "The Way of Salvation Set Forth")
"They will go away to eternal punishment — but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46
The soul is immortal — it can never cease to be. It is destined by the immutable decree of God, to exist eternally.
O eternity! Who can conceive your dimensions!
Forever! Who can grasp the mighty idea!
To exist forever — solemn consideration!
Millions of ages as numerous . . .
as the stars in the skies,
as the sands on the seashore,
as blades of grass on the surface of the globe,
as leaves which fall from the trees in autumn
— are as nothing in comparison with eternity!
But where shall we exist? How will eternity be spent by us? In happiness — or in torment?
That will entirely depend upon the character, the state, the condition — in which we live and die. If we live in sin, if we serve self and Satan, if we die accursed — then we must suffer the due desert of our deeds in eternal Hell. But if we believe in Jesus, if we live unto God, if we die under His blessing — then we shall possess and enjoy glory, honor and eternal life in Heaven — and these forever!
Let the solemn fact that you are immortal, deeply impress your mind. Try to realize the overwhelming thought, "I must live forever! I must live forever in unspeakable happiness — or inconceivable misery! My eternal state depends on my present state. If I live unconverted, then I must die accursed — I am lost, and once lost, lost forever!"
O eternity! Tremendous sound! Incomprehensible idea!
"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
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God's Hand and Heart!
"Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy!" Micah 7:18
God takes delight in showing of mercy. He takes no pleasure in giving His people up to adversity. Mercy and kindness flow from Him freely and naturally. He is never severe, never harsh. He never stings us — but when He is sadly provoked by us.
God's hand sometimes may lie very hard upon His people — when His heart, His affections at those very times may be yearning towards them. "Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him — declares the LORD." Jeremiah 31:20
No man can tell the heart of God — by His hand.
God's hand of mercy may be open to those against whom His heart is set — as you see in the rich fool and Dives.
And His hand of severity may lie hard upon those on whom He has set His heart — as you may see in Job and Lazarus.
"When you can't trace His hand — trust His heart!"
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A man who hears many sermons
"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97
It is well to meditate upon the things of God — because it is only by pondering the Scriptures, that we get the real nutriment out of them. A man who hears many sermons — is not necessarily well-instructed in the faith. We may read so many religious books that we overload our brains, and they may be unable to work under the weight of the great mass of paper and of printer's ink.
The man who reads but one book, and that book his Bible, and then meditates much upon it — will be a better scholar in Christ's school than he who merely reads hundreds of books, and does not meditate at all!
Oh, that we might get into the very heart of the Word of God — and get that Word into ourselves!
As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord — not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it until we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetic expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models — and, what is better still, your spirit is redolent with the words of the Lord!
"Your words were found, and I devoured them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful!" Joshua 1:8
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Tenderly and graciously does He deal with us!
(Francis Bourdillon, "A Psalm of Blessing!" 1864)
"For He knows how weak we are — He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone — as though we had never been here! But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear Him." Psalm 103:14-17
The shortness and uncertainty of our lives — our weakness, frailty, and sinfulness — God knows them all. Tenderly and graciously does He deal with us! In His great mercy and compassion, He . . .
bears with us;
raises us when we fall;
strengthens us when we are weak; and
helps, guides, sustains and comforts us.
He has . . .
a perfect knowledge of our needs,
an unspeakable compassion for them,
and full power to supply them all.
His mercy is everlasting. It will never wear out — and never come to an end.
As for us, we are frail and short-lived. Let but a few years pass, and . . .
the strongest will have fallen to the scythe of death,
the longest-lived will have all passed away, and
our own course here below will have come to a close.
"Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone — as though we had never been here!"
Not so is the mercy of the Lord, and the things which He has prepared for those who love Him. They are from everlasting to everlasting. His promises will never fail. Jesus is . . .
an all-sufficient Savior,
an unfailing Advocate,
an everlasting portion!
Well may every believer join with the Psalmist in rejoicing and praising God,
"Praise the LORD, O my soul — all my inmost being, praise His holy name!
Praise the LORD, O my soul — and do not forget all His benefits!" Psalm 103:1-2
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The one unfailing source of help and comfort!
(Francis Bourdillon, "Come unto Me!" 1864)
"Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Matthew 11:28
Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden, to come unto Him. Not sufferers of one kind only — but all sufferers. Not those alone who feel the weight of this particular burden or that — but all the heavy laden.
The poor and needy,
the weak and sickly,
the toiling father,
the anxious mother,
he who feels the weight of his sins,
he whose conscience testifies against him,
he who finds no comfort in this world, and yet fears that he is not prepared for the next
— all are invited to come to Jesus!
Their cases are widely different, the burdens that press upon them are by no means alike — yet all are invited to one Helper and Comforter, "Come unto Me!" He does not bid one sufferer go for comfort to this source — and another to that. He invites all to Himself — as the one unfailing source of help and comfort!
"Come unto Me!" We do not deserve to be thus invited. Many are suffering the consequences of their own sins — and all of us are sinners. If we met with only what we deserve — then He might justly say to us, "Go away from Me!" Instead of this, Jesus bids us come to Him. Whatever we may have been — however thoughtless, however ungrateful, however wicked — yet if we are now in need or trouble, that is enough. He bids us come to Him.
We are not to stop and think about our own unworthiness. He says nothing here about that. He only says, "Come unto Me." That is what He invites us to do — that is what we are to do, and we are to do it at once!
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The sanctifying power of the cross!
(John L. Dagg, "Manual of Theology")
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14
It may be profitable to yet linger a little while at the cross — that we may again survey its glory, and feel its soul-subduing power.
In the cross of Christ — all the divine perfections are gloriously and harmoniously displayed. Infinite love, inviolable truth, and inflexible justice are all seen, in their brightest and most beautifully mingled colors. The heavens declare the glory of God — but the glory of the cross outshines the wonders of the skies! God's moral perfections are here displayed, which are the highest glory of His character.
The cross of Christ is our only hope of everlasting life. On Him who hangs there, our iniquities were laid — and from His wounds, flows the blood that cleanses from all sin. Our faith views the bleeding victim, and securely relies on the great atoning sacrifice. It views mercy and grace streaming from the cross — and to the cross it comes to obtain every needed blessing.
In the cross, the believer finds the strongest motive to holiness. As we stand before it, and view the exhibition of the Savior's love — we resolve to live unto Him who died for us.
The world ceases to charm. We become crucified to the world — and the world crucified to us.
Sin appears infinitely hateful. We regard it as the accursed thing which caused the death of our beloved Lord — and we grow strong in the purpose to wage an exterminating war against it. By all the Savior's agonies, we vow to have no peace with sin for ever.
The cross is the place for penitential tears. We look on Him whom we have pierced, and mourn. Contemplating Jesus' sin-atoning sacrifice, is the highest motive to holiness. Our hearts bleed at the sight of the bleeding sufferer, murdered by our sins — and we resolve that the murderers shall die!
The cross is a holy place, where we learn . . .
to be like Christ,
to hate sin as He hated it, and
to delight in the law of God which was in His heart.
In the presence of the cross, we feel that omnipotent grace has taken hold of our heart — and we surrender to dying love.
The doctrine of the cross needs no other demonstration of its divine origin — than its power to sanctify the heart, and bring it into willing and joyful subjection to Christ.
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Harder to tame than wild beasts!
"The tongue has the power of life and death!" Proverbs 18:21
"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man — but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison!" James 3:6-8
The tongue is a very troublesome member! It is a very important member, however — and with it we can do great good.
Our words, if they are true and loving — carry blessings wherever they are heard. But the tongue is hard to control. When we have really gotten our tongue under control — we are almost perfect. One who can govern his speech — can govern every other part of his life.
A small bit keeps a spirited horse in check — and a little rudder turns a great ship in its course. Just so the tongue, though so small a member, controls the whole life!
The tongue is harder to tame than wild beasts! There has been but one Man who never spoke foolishly, rashly, bitterly. Jesus never did — His words were always pure, sweet, helpful, and inspiring.
We ought to set ourselves the task of mastering our tongues — for then we can do untold good with them. Only Christ can help us to do it. He mastered everything — demons, diseases, winds, waves, death itself. He alone can help us to master the most unruly tongue!
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This good, old couple!
"They were both righteous before God — walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord." Luke 1:6
It is a beautiful thing which we read of this good, old couple, Zacharias and Elisabeth — that they were righteous before God. Some people appear to men to be righteous — who before God have no such record.
Real character is what our hearts are — our hearts make us. We ought not to be satisfied only doing well, the things which men can see. We ought to work and live ever for God's eye.
Sometimes we say that it is does not matter how we do certain things, because nobody will see them. But we should remember that God will see them — and surely we should never do careless, faulty work for His eye.
The word "commandments" suggests that the holiness of these people was of a very practical kind.
Some people's religion is chiefly emotional. They talk about loving God — but they pay little heed to His commandments.
God is pleased with ardent devotions, but He wants us to prove our religion by obedience — doing the things which He gives us to do.
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(Francis Bourdillon, "The Lord Our Portion!" 1864)
"You are my portion, O Lord" Psalm 119:57
"You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living." Psalm 142:5
God is a satisfying portion. At least He ought to be. And indeed He is — in proportion as He is enjoyed.
As a grown-up person no longer cares for toys — so a spiritually-minded person does not care for the trifles of the world, as he used to care for them. The world's pleasures are but toys to him — he has found something better. The Lord is his portion. That is enough. He wants no more.
All that comes to him, he takes as part of his portion — because it is from the hand of God. Be it much or little, be it what he would have chosen or not — it is what God sends, his allotted portion. So he is content — content and thankful and happy; for with all that God gives, He does not withhold . . .
the sense of His favor and blessing,
the humble yet firm persuasion of His pardoning mercy,
His love and grace in Christ Jesus.
What portion can the world give like this?
God is a sure portion too. An earthly inheritance, however safe it may seem, may be lost. Earthly joy may quickly be turned into sorrow. Everything earthly may be changed or lost. But the Christian's portion is a sure one — for God is his portion — and God never changes.
"God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26
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A splendid sum in addition!
"ADD . . .
to your faith, virtue;
to virtue, knowledge;
to knowledge, self-control;
to self-control, perseverance;
to perseverance, godliness;
to godliness, brotherly kindness; and
to brotherly kindness, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7
Our verses presents us with a splendid sum in addition! These graces are to be added one to another.
Faith comes first. But faith cannot stand-alone, so we add to our faith, virtue — that is, conformity of one's life and conduct to the highest moral and ethical principles.
Next we are to add knowledge. Knowledge, of course, of the true kind — wisdom for life, spiritual knowledge, knowledge of God, and of God's will as found in His Word.
Self-control comes next — this is the key of all noble life. No matter how strong we are, or how much we know — if we have not self-control, then something is lacking. He who can rule himself is strong — while he who lacks self-mastery, no matter what other gifts he may have, is pitiably weak.
Self-control produces another element — perseverance, perseverance in all Christian duties.
Another quality to be added to patience is Godliness — Godlikeness, Christlikeness.
Then comes brotherly kindness — affectionateness and forbearance to those among whom we mingle.
Last of all — love, the crowning gift and blessing!
These elements of character make up Christian maturity.
"For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:8
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A cheat, a deceiver, and a destroyer!
Sin is an obvious fact of experience, of observation, and of Scripture revelation.
I feel it in my own heart — and I see in others, even in my best friends and loved ones.
The policeman pursues it,
the physician prescribes for it,
the law reveals it,
conscience condemns it,
God surely punishes it,
and yet nobody likes to own it!
As a matter of fact — sin is all that anyone really owns; he is merely a steward of everything else he may possess. As obvious as sin is, there is a proneness to treat it like some folks treat their trashy relatives — it is ignored and even denied.
Sin may be defined — but it cannot be fully explained. How sin got started in the universe, is a profound mystery. It had no place in the original creation, which God pronounced good. Sin is a parasite, an interloper in the moral system, and a terrible monstrosity. Sin made its appearance on earth in a garden of delights — and then it turned this fair earth into a wilderness of woe! In the original creation we read only of Heaven and earth — but after sin entered, we are told of everlasting fire prepared for the Devil, his demons, and all the unrepentant.
Sin is a cheat, a deceiver, and a destroyer!
It promises pleasure — and pays off in pain!
It promises life — and pays off in death and damnation!
It promises profit — and pays off in poverty, and the loss of all good!
Every sin is committed for profit or pleasure. Nobody would sin if he did not think that it would profit in some form or other. There is some profit in sin — but it is short-lived.
Moses took a long look and made the wise choice. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God — rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. He chose in view of the day of judgment.
Sin is dangerous beyond expression and description. Sin is violation of the moral law of God — and violated divine law cries out for just retribution. Sin is against God, the Judge of all the earth — and must be accounted for before God.
Human society may and often does punish crime — but only God can punish sin. At times, human society may fail to punish the criminal — but God will not fail to punish the sinner who is without a Savior.
All crime against men — is also sin against God.
But not all sin against God — is a crime against men.
Human society punishes men for what they do — but God also punishes men for what they are.
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The Word of God has in it an efficacy which no other book in the world has!
"From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness — that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17
It is a great thing to be brought up on the Holy Scriptures. No other book can do for a life, what the Bible can do. It is able to make one wise in the best way — for salvation through faith in Jesus.
The Word of God has in it an efficacy which no other book in the world has!
It is profitable for doctrine — instructing in holy things, the things of God and eternal life.
It is profitable for reproof — convicting us of sin and declaring God's judgment against evil.
It is profitable for correction — not only showing us our faults, but leading us away from them, freeing our lives from errors and making straight what was crooked.
It is profitable for instruction in righteousness — telling us how God would have us live, what qualities of character He would have us attain.
One who is trained under the tuition of the Scriptures will come to be a complete Christian, furnished for usefulness and prepared for doing whatever good work he may be called to do.
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It is not our business to re-write Bible verses!
"I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips." Psalm 34:1
It is not hard to praise the Lord at some times.
There are days when all is bright.
There is no sickness in our house.
No recent sorrow has left our heart sad.
It is easy then, to praise the Lord.
But there are other times when things are different. Business is not prosperous — or health is broken.
We begin to say this verse — but we cannot get through it: "I will praise the Lord at . . . "
We cannot bless the Lord for the broken health — or for the empty chair. Yet there the words stand. We cannot make them read: "I will praise the Lord at some times; His praise will be on my lips on certain days — days when the sun shines."
It is not our business to re-write Bible verses — but it is our business rather to bring our lives up to the standard of the inspired words. So we must learn to say the verse just as it is written.
We must learn to bless the Lord on the dark days — as well as the bright days.
We must learn to praise God in pain — as well as in pleasure.
Have we learned this lesson?
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"They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him . . . During his lifetime, Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King's Valley as a monument to himself . . . He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom's Monument to this day." 2 Samuel 18
It has been said that every man lives for a funeral — that is, a man's funeral often tells what kind of a man he has been. Absalom had already built a splendid monument, which he meant should mark his grave. Instead, however, of being laid away to rest in honor by a weeping nation, beneath the shadows of a noble monument — his mangled body was hurled in dishonor into a pit in the forest, and covered with a large heap of rocks.
It was still true, however, that Absalom built his own monument. His own hand dug the grave of shame into which his body was cast. Sin's harvest is sure and terrible!
Too many young men think that it is unmanly to be holy, true-hearted, and pure — and that a "fast life" is the manly one. We have, in the story of Absalom, an illustration of the career of one who lived such a life — and we must notice that the story is written out to its last chapter.
The trouble too often is, that men do not think of what the end will be.
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We need to be on our guard against Solomonian religion!
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God." 1 Kings 11:4
The trouble was all in Solomon's heart! It is the heart which needs watching and keeping with all diligence. The heart must be wholly devoted in its aim and motive, to God and His service.
Solomon had a corner in his heart for the Lord — and then other corners for the gods of all the other nations. The Savior's words are: "You cannot serve both God and mammon."
We need to be on our guard against Solomonian religion! There is plenty of it these days. It abhors the preaching of the stern truths of God's Word about sin and punishment, and about holiness. It sends well-near everybody to Heaven — and regards Hell as a mere fable! It calls holy Christians "puritanic" or "strait-laced." It calls great sins "escapades," and finds no use for such psalms as the fifty-first.
It is not hard to see in this verse, however — which of the two kinds of religion pleases God best, and which leads to the best end.
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Asahel Nettleton quotes (1783-1844)
Only Christ could build a bridge to God, with only two pieces of wood!
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The conversion and salvation of sinners is owing entirely to the sovereign mercy of God!
It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs — because sinners always will wrong, and always run wrong.
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Every sinner is now on trial — he is now invited to the bleeding Savior.
He is urged by all the horrors of Hell, to enter Heaven.
But death closes the possibility for ever!
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The Christian life is a life of paradoxes:
We must realize we are blind — to see.
We must become fools — to be wise.
We must suffer — to reign.
We must die — to live.
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If I might be the means of saving one soul — I would prefer it to all the riches and honor in the world.