Grace Gems for OCTOBER, 2020

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Would we really rather have things our way?

(Frank Hall)

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"Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" Psalm 27:14

Will we ever learn this? If we would live in this world for the honor and glory of Christ, we must understand that it is our glorious privilege and responsibility to wait on our God. If we would honor the Lord Jesus we must wait on Him faithfully . . .
  believing His Word,
  trusting His promises,
  resting in His finished work as our Savior,
  hiding beneath His precious blood,
  depending on Him for righteousness, salvation and acceptance with our God.

We must wait on Him patiently . . .
  without murmuring,
  without complaint,
  without dissatisfaction,
  without discontent.
God does not always work immediately, but He always works. He never performs His works on our carnal schedule, but according to His all wise eternal purpose of grace. Let us be patient. God knows what's best for His glory and our immortal souls. He knows when, where, and how to work deliverance for us—far better than we do.

We must wait submissively. We must submit our vain wills to His sovereign, almighty, perfect will. We must wait on Him with a spirit of humility and submission—as children waiting on their father to help them, feed them, teach them and provide for them. His name is Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord Will Provide). Our God will not forget us. It is our responsibility to submit ourselves to Him, His will and His ways.

We must wait on Him gladly. We quickly forget that not only is it our duty to wait on him, but our privilege to wait on His Majesty. Would we really rather have things our way? Has not our way proved to be abject misery and shame, countless times before? Would we rather have our foolish way—than His who is Love, Mercy, and Wisdom? Let us, as the dear children of God, wait on Him cheerfully.

We must wait on Him expectantly.
He will do all that He has promised.
He will save us.
He will remember us.
He will destroy our enemies.
He will bring us to Himself.
He will dispel the darkness.
He will accomplish His purpose for us and in us.
Let us wait on Him who cannot fail, with earnest expectation and lively hope.

We must wait on Him prayerfully. We must have our eyes perpetually fixed upon Him. Let us give ourselves to constant prayer, so that day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment—we are looking to Him for fresh supplies of mercy and grace to sustain us, strengthen us, and keep us to the end.

We must wait on Him with persistence and perseverance. We must be resolute and determined to wait on Him forever if needs be. In His time, on His terms, when the time is best, right, and perfect—He will come and He will deliver us from all our sorrows, all our troubles, and all our fears.

Children of God—our Savior will never leave us to ourselves!
He is with us always!
He loved us!
He chose us!
He suffered, bled, and died for us!
He redeemed us with His own precious blood!
He called us by His Spirit and gave us life from the dead!
He has staked His glory as God, upon our everlasting salvation!

He has promised to do us good, and to withhold no good thing from us!
How can we not faithfully, joyfully and patiently wait on such a God as this?

"Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!"

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What a pillow on which to rest your aching head

John MacDuff

"Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through many trials." 1 Peter 1:6

"If need be!" 
Three gracious words!

Not one of all my tears has been shed for nothing!

Not one stroke of the rod has been unneeded, or that might have been spared!

Your heavenly Father loves you too much, and too tenderly, to bestow harsher correction than your case requires!

Is it loss of health, or loss of wealth, or loss of beloved friends?
Be still! there was a needs be!

We are no judges of what that "needs be" is. Often through aching hearts we are forced to exclaim, "Your judgments are a great deep!"

But God here pledges Himself that there will not be one unnecessary thorn in the believer's crown of suffering!

No burden too heavy will be laid on him.

No sacrifice too great will be exacted from him.

God will temper the wind to the shorn lamb.

Whenever the "need be" has accomplished its end, then . . .
  the rod is removed;
  the chastisement is suspended;
  the furnace is quenched.

"If need be!" Oh! what a pillow on which to rest your aching head—that there is not a drop in all your bitter cup but what a God of love saw to be absolutely necessary!

Trust His loving heart
—even though you cannot trace His mysterious hand!

Do not be too curious to prying into the "Why it is?" or "How it is?"
But satisfied that "So it is," and, therefore, that all must be well.

"What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." John 13:7  

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For you—a vile sinner, a rebel worm!

(David Harsha, 1827-1895)

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"He loved me, and gave Himself up for me!"
Galatians 2:20

Ponder the amazing love exhibited in the death of Christ. Would you see the highest manifestation of eternal love? Then contemplate Christ crucified! Here is the grand exhibition of infinite love.

In the crucifixion of the glorious Redeemer, the brightest love that ever shone on earth is displayed.

What boundless love is seen here—the infinite love of Christ, shining in all its glory!

What but infinite love brought Him . . .
  from the height of glory and bliss—to the depths of suffering;
  from the throne of Heaven—to the cross of Calvary!

What but infinite love, made Him a suffering man and a dying Savior!

What but infinite love, made Him hasten to Jerusalem to suffer for rebellious sinners!

What but infinite love, led Him to Gethsemane to endure those agonies for sinners, where His blessed form was covered with bloody sweat!

What but infinite love, nailed Him to the cross, there to bleed and die for sinners!

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But oh! the greatest wonder in the universe is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!

Think of this, wonder at it, be amazed at it!

Christ, the glorious Son of God—dying for you, a vile sinner, a rebel worm!

O admire that love which pitied you in your lost condition, visited your world, and raised you from the depths of sin and suffering—to become an heir of eternal life and of eternal glory!

How vast is this love! The all-surpassing love of a dying Savior!
Your breadths and lengths have never been compassed by a human thought;
your depths never fathomed by a created intelligence;
your heights never scanned by a seraph's gaze!

Stupendous love!

What a theme—the dying love of the crucified Son of God!

Well may angels desire to dwell on this mystery!

Well may saints be enraptured with this profound subject!

What heart is so obdurate as not to be melted by its touching exhibition—or so benighted as not to be dazzled by its glory!

How wonderful! That He who kindled up the stars of Heaven—should take upon Him our nature, and die in our room and stead!

Amazing love!

This is the wonder of wonders—the unsearchable riches of Christ!

Truly, the love of Christ surpasses knowledge!

Those, and those alone, who have stood by the cross and viewed Immanuel in agonies and death, bleeding and dying for their sins; and have felt that healing balm applied to their diseased souls; and have seen all their sins washed away with the blood of God, their ransom paid, and their pardon sealed—will appreciate the astonishing love of Christ!

"When we were God's ENEMIES, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son!" Romans 5:10

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Weary mariner on life's tempestuous ocean 

(David Harsha, 1827-1895)

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"My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when He corrects you. For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:11-12

To the children of God, afflictions are sent in mercy.

They are directed by love.

They are designed . . .
  to unite us more closely to the Savior,
  to mortify indwelling sin,
  to purify our hearts,
  to wean us from earth,
  to elevate our affections to that blessed world where there shall be no more pain.

Every breeze of earthly sorrow is only wafting
us to those high and heavenly abodes, where temporal ills are forever unknown.

"The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble." Psalm 9:9

Oh, then, when ready to sink under the accumulated ills of life, let us come to the Savior in the time of trouble.

Our help is from Him.

He is our defense.

He will not allow our foot to be moved.

He will keep our souls in safety.

His eye will ever watch over us.

He will preserve us from all evil.

"For You are my hiding place;
 You protect me from trouble.
 You surround me with songs of victory." Psalm 32:7

Weary mariner on life's tempestuous ocean
, when afflictions cloud your sky and billows roar around you—cling to the Savior in grateful, confiding love.

Amid all your difficulties and dangers
, He will whisper consolation to you, and support your fainting soul with the richest consolation and the choicest promises. You will then be enabled to bear the trials of life with composure, knowing that, like the Captain of our salvation, you must also be made perfect through suffering; and that these light and momentary afflictions are working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

You will then experience the sweetness of the divine promises, and in the midst of outward trouble, enjoy inward peace.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life!" Psalm 138:7

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Had one of those holy angels

(David Harsha, "The Death of Christ")

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"Christ died for the ungodly!" Romans 5:6

O the dying love of the Savior!

If we would learn something of the vastness of redeeming love, we must consider the character and dignity of Him by whom it was manifested.

Had one of those holy angels
who minister in the presence of God clothed himself with garments of humanity, and amid the most intense and indescribable sufferings, finished his earthly course on a cross, for the purpose of redeeming a race of sinners from everlasting destruction—how immeasurable would have been the benevolence displayed in such a condescending act! It must have filled us with amazement, and excited the strongest feelings of gratitude.

But how shall we express our admiration and praise . . .
  when we see Him whom seraphim adore, stooping from heaven to earth—to encircle vile sinners in the arms of His mercy;
  when we see Him, who is infinite in power, and majesty, and riches and glory—voluntarily placing Himself in the room of rebels on earth;
  when we see Jesus, the brightness of His Father's glory, stretched upon the cross, racked with the most intense pain of body and soul, and suffering for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God!

How amazing that He, who, by His infinite power, could have at once annihilated our rebellious race, or consigned us to everlasting punishment—should, for a season . . .
  divest Himself of His heavenly glory,
  visit rebellious earth,
  stoop so low in humiliation,
  become so poor,
  suffer so much,
  endure such a shameful, painful, and accursed death—
for the purpose of making vile sinners eternally rich, holy, and happy in the Paradise of God! 

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully!" Ephesians 3:18-19

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Pity your foolish child!

(Newman Hall, "Leaves of Healing from the Garden of Grief" 1891)

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"He went on a little farther and fell face down on the  ground, praying: My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not Mine." Matthew 26:39

Throughout His life Jesus was the Man of Sorrows; and many of His disciples go mourning all their days by reason of continued . . .
  successive sorrows,
  stripes repeated before the former wounds are healed
—one woe treading on the heels of another, as with Job.

Some thorn is always rankling.

When one rocky crag has been surmounted, another has to be scaled.

When one troublous torrent has been waded, another and yet another roars across our path.

You may plead that your heavenly Father would . . .
  relieve the pain,
  heal the sickness,
  spare the life,
  remove the danger,
  calm the anxiety,
  restore the love,
  restrain the sin,
  abate the anger,
  disperse the cloud,
  calm the storm,
  send the sunshine.

"My Father, pity your foolish child, but bear with me while I confess that this bitter cup depresses my spirit, raises doubts, disturbs my faith, irritates my temper, drives me to frivolity, hinders prayer and tempts me to seek relief wrongfully. I am taught that affliction should make me humble and patient, gentle to others, weaned from earth, submissive to You—but this cup seems to produce opposite results. Oh, let this cup pass from me! My soul is bowed down to the dust! My tears have been my food day and night! O my God, my soul is cast down within me; all Your waves and Your billows are gone over me. Abba, Father, let this cup pass from me!

"Behold me, even me; listen to my complaint. Behold this cup—how bitter it is, how full, how long I have had to drink it! In my ignorance it seems unsuited to my temperament. How wearied and faint I am! How earnestly I desire to be spared the further drinking of it. O my Father! witness these tears, hear these cries, consider my soul's agony! Abba, Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want Your will, not mine."

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Steep, craggy, and beset with foes! 

(Newman Hall, 1816-1902)

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There are many variations in the Christian's path. Sometimes it is smooth and flowery, with sunny slopes, and sylvan shades, and prospects which entrance the soul with loveliness. There are seasons when no doubts perplex the spirit, and when our circumstances in life are in harmony with duty, so that the right path is an easy path.

But this is the exception.

Often the road is steep, craggy, and beset with foes! Sometimes it is a "Hill Difficulty" throughout, and Apollyon stretches himself across the way aiming his fiery darts at the pilgrim. Then some bypath attracts us by its pleasantness, while Satan whispers that a thorny and painful road, cannot be the true one.

But Jesus never promised to lead us only in smooth places. It is not necessary that we should always rejoice—but it is necessary that we always follow. Wherever He goes, rough or smooth—there we also must go.

"My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28

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Singled out by the sovereign grace of God!

(Frank Hall)

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In the days of Noah the entire world was given over to ungodliness, sin and corruption. Violence, hate, and wickedness had reached an all time high. All men without exception were proud, arrogant and ungrateful. They, like all natural men, were opposed to the rule of God over them. These ignorant unthankful rebels sought to shove God off His throne, so that they, like Adam and Eve in the garden, might "be as gods."

Hear the Spirit's testimony concerning the days of Noah: "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them!' But NOAH found grace in the eyes of the LORD." Genesis 6:5-9

As it was in the days of Noah, so it is now.
Our generation is just as wicked as Noah's generation.
Spiritually, men have not improved one iota.
Lost men are still corrupting God's truth and God's worship upon the earth.
Men still love darkness and hate light.
Men are still grieving God with their sin.
Every imagination of the thoughts of our heart are still evil continually.
Nothing has changed.
Men still serve themselves, not God.
They love themselves, and hate God.
They still oppose and exalt themselves above God.

But the day is fast approaching when God's fury will once again be unleashed upon all the children of disobedience . . .
  who will not have Christ to reign over them;
  who will not believe the gospel of His grace;
  who will not trust Him for life, righteousness and salvation;
  who will not turn from their wicked ways to serve the only true God.

Noah was just like everyone else by nature:
  born dead in trespasses and sin;
  corrupt to the very core;
  self-serving, self-centered, self-willed and self-righteous;
  wholly given over to the lusts of his own flesh;
  under the complete control and dominion of the prince of the power of the air.

The fact that Noah found grace in God's eyes, is proof enough that he was sinful and vile; for were he righteous and holy in himself, he wouldn't need God's grace. Noah was singled out by the sovereign grace of God to be saved from the flood of God's wrath! Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD . . .
  not because he was worthy of God's favor,
  not because he was better than others,
  and not because he deserved it—
but because God is gracious to whom He will be gracious!

"Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD!" What grace?
  Redeeming grace.
  Justifying grace.
  Sanctifying grace.
  Pardoning grace.
  Regenerating grace.
  Preserving grace.
  Glorifying grace.
  All grace!

"Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD!" What kind of grace?
  Free, undeserved grace!
  Eternal, everlasting grace!
  Almighty, overpowering grace!
  Effectual, irresistible grace!
  Saving grace!

If we would be . . .
  forgiven of our sins,
  saved from the wrath to come,
  cleansed from all our filth,
  protected from the avenger of blood,
  preserved forever from falling away, and
  live forever, blameless before the presence of God's glory
—then we must come to Christ by faith and receive from Him what only He can give—SOVEREIGN, FREE, AMAZING GRACE!

God's grace is distinguishing grace:
Noah was no better than any man who was destroyed in the flood. He was saved by God's sovereign, discriminating, distinguishing grace! God . . .
  set His heart on Noah,
  loved him by His grace,
  chose him by His grace,
  redeemed him by His grace,
  regenerated and called him by His grace,
  preserved him by His grace,
  and saved him by His grace!
The God of all grace made the difference, not Noah!

God's grace is effectual grace:
  grace that saves absolutely and everlastingly;
  grace that cannot successfully resisted or denied.
This grace, this irresistible grace . . .
  raises dead sinners to life,
  dispels the darkness of unbelief,
  causes sinners to trust Christ, and,
  keeps them from departing from Him.

Only effectual grace will save you—for it cannot be resisted, overturned, successfully opposed, or lost. The grace that chosen sinners find in the eyes of the LORD, is effectual grace!

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God's all wise, gracious, and adorable providence!

(Frank Hall)

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"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

We often find ourselves in . . .
  trying circumstances,
  inexplicable difficulties,
  and perplexing situations.
Experience teaches us daily that life is filled, not with joy and happiness only—but with troubles, heartache, and pain. We prove the words of brother Job every single day of our lives, that, "Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble!"

Is there consolation to be had in such times of trouble? Indeed there is! If there is a verse of Scripture that ministers comfort to my doubting fearful heart, it is the verse before us. Romans 8:28 is . . .
  help for the helpless,
  comfort for those in trouble, and
  a beacon of light that guides believers on the tumultuous sea of life.

My beloved brothers and sisters in trouble and strife—all remains well with our souls.
  Not only has the Father elected us unto salvation,
  not only has the Son redeemed us from our sins,
  not only has the Spirit regenerated us and given us spiritual life,
but God our Father works all things together for our eternal good! God is our Father, and our God is on His throne ruling all things for the glory of His name, and the everlasting salvation of our immortal souls!

Who knows? Paul begins this comforting verse with two precious words, "WE know!" 
  The people of God know,
  believers know,
  the redeemed of the Lord know,
  those who are "the called according to God's purpose" know.
This is knowledge that only the saints of God have.
They know, not with a bare theoretical head knowledge—but by faith rooted in their hearts.
They know because God has taught them this knowledge effectually by His Spirit and grace.
They know because they believe His infallible Word of truth.
They know in such a way as to find solace and comfort in what He has revealed.

God's people are here identified by two distinct characteristics:
  they love God, and
  they are called according to His purpose.

1. All of God's people love God! They love His glorious person and rejoice in all of His perfections as God:
  His righteousness,
  His immutability,
  His holiness,
  His sovereignty,
  His wisdom,
  His power,
  His love,
  His grace.
They love . . . .
  His will,
  His Word,
  His ways,
  His gospel,
  His Son,
  His Spirit,
  His purpose,
  His providence,
  and His people.
God's people love God—and all that pertains to God.

2. All of God's people are "called according to His purpose!" They are a particular, distinct, special people, here named the "called." They have been graciously and effectually called in grace, by God's Spirit through the gospel—not according to their works, merit, or choice—but according to God's eternal purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world.  

All things do not work together for the good of ALL men—but for God's people alone, because their God providentially rules over all things for their eternal good and salvation. God rules . . .
  all things,
  all men,
  all angels,
  all demons,
  all circumstances,
  all events,
  in every place,
  at all times—
and He does so for the good of His people!

What do we know? "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Things may appear to be against us, but it only seems that way. We should not judge God's purpose by His providence—but His providence by His purpose. If we judge using the former method, we are sure to misjudge and we will never have peace in this life.

All pleasures, joys, and delights are certainly ruled by our God—but that's only half of His rule. He rules all evil—as well as all good.
All death,
all opposition,
all sickness,
every disaster,
every problem,
all our pain, and
all our sorrow—
are sovereignly ruled, governed, ordered, and controlled by our God—to bring about eternal good for our souls. God does not tells us how He does this—only that He does.

Whatever my God brings to pass in time, is the outworking of His purpose of grace—and it's for my good, whether it be in my little sphere of existence, or in the universe at large.

Oh God help me to believe Your Word! Teach me not only to submit to your providential rule—but to rejoice and rest in it! Set a watch upon my mouth, that I murmur not!  Arrest my heart by your grace, and give me peace! Keep me from sinning with my lips and complaining against Your all wise, gracious, and adorable providence, for it is good!

God controls and directs all things with . . .
  infinite power,
  absolute sovereignty, and
  unfailing wisdom and grace!
Nothing can . . .
  hinder Him from doing His will,
  keep Him from having His way, or
  stop Him from accomplishing His purpose.

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

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God's workmanship!

(Frank Hall)

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"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

There is an infinite difference between the materials that men employ to construct and compose their masterpieces—and the materials that God uses to create sinners anew in Christ Jesus. Men work with the best of materials to showcase their talents, but God works with the worst—to showcase His power, wisdom and skill.

The most gifted sculptors carve their creations out of the finest pieces of ivory, marble and jade. The best jewelers seek only the finest gold and silver to form their bracelets and rings—they utilize only the most desirable gems to adorn their jewelry; rubies of the highest grade, diamonds of most exquisite clarity, and emeralds of impeccable luster. Da Vinci painted on a clean canvas with fresh paint when he painted the Mona Lisa. Beethoven and Bach chose blank sheets of clean white paper upon which to compose their symphonies.

But God is not like men. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. God employs, not the best, not the finest, not the most appealing of materials when creating His masterpieces—but the worst! He uses what no one else wants. He uses the off-scouring of humanity—to display His handiwork and magnify His grace. God constructs His masterpiece, not from a perfectly shaped piece of ivory—but from a deformed, twisted, marred chunk of hard rough stone that has no attraction.

God has purposed to conform His redeemed people into the pristine image of His darling Son. While keeping His eye fixed upon His Son, using the chisel of His grace—God sculpts rebel sinners into the likeness of Christ!

God paints, not on a clean white canvas—but on a canvas that has been . . .
  stained with sin,
  spotted with corruption, and
  bespattered with the filth of the fall.
As the perfect Painter, God looks to Christ His Model, and, with the brush of omnipotent mercy in His ever steady hand of sovereign power—He begins to paint His children, one by one, into the family portrait; tracing every line with divine precision, filling in every grace with unfailing accuracy, accentuating every corner of their character with a whole array of heavenly hues:
  blues of faith and surrender,
  violets of honesty and godly fear,
  greens of tenderness and gratitude,
  reds of love and compassion,
  yellows of patience and perseverance—
painting them all in the similitude of Christ His beloved Son!

God does not compose His symphony on a blank piece of sheet music. Rather, He blots out the discordant notes of sin, rebellion, and impurity—and with the permanent ink of immutable grace, He rewrites the sorrowful sonnet of sin, transforming it into the song of salvation, inscribing on our hearts the heavenly notes of free forgiveness, eternal life, and everlasting righteousness through Christ our Savior! With heavenly wisdom and unseen skill, God makes the sad song of human misery—into a glorious gospel melody, a tune that sounds best when played on the broken instruments of contrite hearts!

Our God has . . . .
  done the unthinkable,
  saved the unsavable,
  fixed the unfixable!
He has created a masterpiece using a rotting chunk of fallen humanity as His workpiece! What a wonder! By the grace and power of God, "The king's daughter is all glorious within!"

When God's work is all done,
when His poem is finished,
when His symphony composed,
and His masterpiece complete—
He will present us to Himself holy and without blemish, "a glorious church, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!"

God's work of grace in us begins in regeneration and conversion. It continues until the day when our salvation is consummated in resurrection glory, when we will be perfectly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ!

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!" Romans 8:29

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See, grace lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, and makes him to sit among princes!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:21

The reign of sin is a gloomy contemplation. Permitted to come into this world as a usurper—having mounted its throne upon the heart of man by flattering blandishments, and crafty pleasantries—it was not long before sin fully developed itself. Its first act was to smite Eden with blast and mildew by its breath; its next act was to slay the second child of man and that by the hand of the eldest born. Since then, its reign has been . . .
  scarlet with blood,
  black with iniquity, and
  fraught with everything that can make the heart of man sad and wretched.

Oh sin, you tyrant monster, all the demons that ever sat upon the throne of Rome, were never such as you are! All the wicked men who have come forth as the scourges of man, the destroying angels of our race, though they have waded up to their knees in the blood of mortals—have never been so terrible as you are.

You have reigned unto death, and that a death eternal—a death which casts innumerable souls into an eternal grave—a grave of fire!

Our apostle now changes the subject, and represents man under the gracious state, as rejoicing in another government and ruled by another King. Just as sin has reigned, and with despotic and irresistible power has ground his subjects in the very dust, and then cast them into the flames—so does grace reign with irresistible goodness, constrain the chosen multitude to yield obedience, and thus prepares them for eternal bliss.

See, grace lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, and makes him to sit among princes! Mark its shining course, and behold it blessing the sons of man wherever it stretches out its silver scepter, chasing away the misery of night, and giving the joy of gospel day.

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The most precious thing in heaven or earth

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Lettie Cowman

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

In giving Christ to die for poor sinners, God gave the richest jewel in His cabinet; a mercy of the greatest worth, and most inestimable value.

Heaven itself is not so valuable and precious as Christ is! Ten thousand thousand worlds—as many worlds as angels can number, would not outweigh Christ's love, excellency and sweetness! O what a lovely One! What an excellent, beautiful, ravishing One—is Christ!

Put the beauty of ten thousand paradises, like the garden of Eden, into one; put all flowers, all fragrances, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness into one; O what a lovely and excellent thing would that be!

And yet it should be less to that loveliest and dearest well-beloved Christ—than one drop of rain compared to all the seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths!

Now, for God to bestow the mercy of mercies, the most precious thing in heaven or earth, upon poor sinners; and, as great, as lovely, as excellent as His Son was—what kind of love is this!

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1 

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Which of our senses shall be most enthralled?

"Christ Precious to Believers" Andrew Gray, 1634-1656

"My Beloved is radiant and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!" Canticles 5:10

When we shall come to Heaven, we will not know which of our senses shall be most enthralled.

The eye shall be enchanted. What joy to see there the sparkling brightness in the face of Christ! There you may see the lily and the rose mixed—white and reddish. Canticles 5:10.

The ear shall be filled with melody. What joy to the spouse to hear Christ's voice—to hear Him say, "My love, My dove, My undefiled!"

The smell shall be filled with sweet savor. What joy to smell that fragrancy and perfume which comes from Christ! All His garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia—giving forth His fragrance as the wine of Lebanon.

The taste shall be delighted. O what joy is there to be drinking in the fountain of Christ, who is the water of life!

The touch shall be charmed. The saints shall be forever in the embraces of Christ! "Behold My hands and My feet—handle Me, and see." That will be our occupation in Heaven, when we shall dwell between those sweet arms that were once stretched out upon the cross!

"My Beloved is radiant and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!" Canticles 5:10

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A meaningless gospel, a meaningless god, and a meaningless savior!

(Don Fortner)

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"You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21

The angel's message to Joseph was a message of grace, redemption and salvation to sinners. By God's command, He was named, "JESUS," Savior, because He was sent by God to save His people from their sins. What He is called, that He is—Jesus, our Savior.

The Lord Jesus came into the world to save "His people" from their sins. Those He came to save were His people before He came to save them, His by eternal election. There are some people in this world, an elect multitude, chosen in Him before the world began, who are peculiarly and distinctively His people, the objects of His everlasting love, chosen in Him unto salvation (Ephesians 1:2-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

The Lord Jesus Christ is an almighty, effectual Savior! He saves His people from . . .
   the penalty of their sins—by His blood atonement,
   the dominion of their sins—by His regenerating Spirit,
   the being of their sins—when He takes them out of this world,
   all the evil consequences of their sins—in resurrection glory!

Universal love, universal grace, and universal redemption—is meaningless love, meaningless grace, and meaningless redemption. To preach such, is to preach a meaningless gospel, a meaningless god, and a meaningless savior!

"You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Broken people! 

(Don Fortner)

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"The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion are the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. All men by nature are exceedingly proud, selfish people.

Preachers today, knowing man's natural pride, have capitalized upon it. They have developed a flesh-pleasing theology of pride. Our forefathers exalted the dignity, the majesty, and the supremacy of the eternal God. But the smooth-tongued preachers of deceit in our day have set themselves to exalt the dignity, majesty, and supremacy of puny man! It seems that religion today is dedicated not to the honor of God, but to the honor of man. Its purpose is to make man feel good about himself. Therefore we hear little about . . .
  brokenness of heart,
  contrition of the soul, and
  the subduing of man's will.

The Lord God declares, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word!" (Isaiah 66:2). God will have broken hearts with which to build His kingdom. Sooner or later, the Lord God will bring us to nothingness before His presence. God's people, all of God's people are a broken people.

No man has ever experienced the grace of God in salvation, until his heart is thoroughly broken before the holy Lord God, revealed in the crucified Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever a man finds out:
  who he is,
  who God is,
  who the Lord Jesus Christ is,
  and what He has done for sinners
—he will be a broken man!

When Job saw himself in the presence of his three miserable friends, he vindicated himself. But when he stood in the presence of God, he was a broken man; and he spoke as a broken man. He saw himself in all the hideousness of his sin; and he saw God in all the holiness of His glorious majesty. Then he said, "Behold I am vile! I have 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!" There is no pride and egotism here, no haughtiness, no self-vindication. Once Job had seen the Lord—he was broken, he loathed himself and blamed himself. Once Job saw the Lord—he honored God and vindicated Him. The truly broken heart will always vindicate God, no matter the cost.

This brokenness can be produced in proud, stubborn, sinful men and women—only by the saving revelation of Christ in our hearts. Brokenness is found at the cross—only at the cross. Have you been to the cross? Have you had the crucified Christ revealed in your heart? Has your heart been broken by the knowledge of the Lord? O Lord, evermore break our hearts before You!

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17

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None are too sinful, too base, too vile, or too far gone 

Don Fortner, Play Audio  Download Audio
You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you READ the text below.

"A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
 Jesus said to him: Today salvation has come to this house!" Luke 19:2, 9

It is always profitable for our souls to read about the conversion of a sinner by God's omnipotent grace. It is especially profitable to read and study the stories of God's converting grace given to us in the pages of Holy Scripture. We should read them often and study them with care, asking God the Holy Spirit to teach us the wonders of His grace. When we read about these conversions we find our hearts saying, "That is what the Lord has done for me!"

We see here the story of Zacchaeus' conversion by the Lord Jesus. He was saved by omnipotent grace. What He did for Zacchaeus, He still does for sinners today. Never cease to adore and give thanks to God our Savior for His sovereign, distinguishing grace! He who has mercy on whom He will have mercy, has not left us to ourselves!

Grace Omnipotent

Zacchaeus' conversion tells us that the grace of God that brings salvation is omnipotent and irresistible. None are too sinful, too base, too vile, or too far gone for Christ to save! His arm is not shortened that He cannot save. Oh, no! His mighty arm is omnipotent in the operations of His grace! None are beyond the reach of His omnipotent mercy!

Here is a notorious publican transformed into a saint.
Here is a rich man made to pass through the needle's eye into the kingdom of God.
Here is a covetous man transformed instantaneously into a self-sacrificing philanthropist!

Our all-glorious, ever-gracious Christ is able to save to the uttermost! Here is a Physician before whom none are incurable! Yes, Jesus Christ still makes the lame to walk again and causes the blind to see!

Sovereign Election
Salvation comes to chosen sinners because the purpose of God according to election is sure. Like you and me, Zacchaeus was . . .
  a sinner by birth,
  a sinner by nature,
  a sinner by choice, and
  a sinner by practice.
But he was distinguished from all others in the crowd that day by God's distinguishing grace, and effectually called because God had from the beginning chosen him to salvation.

O my soul, roll these things over in your heart day by day. Never lose sight of them. The Son of God had His eye upon you from eternity, just as He had his eye upon Zacchaeus.
You were chosen by Him in everlasting love! (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Your name was written in the Book of Life before the worlds were made! (Revelation 13:8; Luke 10:20)
You were one of those sheep given to the Good Shepherd by the Father from old eternity! (John 10:27-29).

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There is no such thing as "chance" "luck" or "accident"

Don Fortner, Play Audio  Download Audio
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"But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered! Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

With these words, our Lord Jesus Christ assures us that none of God's elect shall ever be in any real danger or suffer any real harm, for we are under the special care and protection of God Himself. I see several things in this sentence, which are a constant source of peace and encouragement to my soul.

1. The Blessed Fact of Divine Predestination
The text might be better translated "the very hairs of your head have all been numbered." Before the world began, our heavenly Father counted up and ordained the number of hairs that were to be upon your head at this very moment! This is meticulous predestination. What does it tell us? God's sovereign purpose of grace in predestination, includes all that we do and all that we experience.

2. A Comforting Assurance of Divine Providence
The primary intent of the text is to show us our Father's constant rule of all things. The sparrow cannot fall to the ground, and a hair cannot fall from your head without your Father's eternal decree in predestination, and His direction in providence.

3. Our Heavenly Father's Perfect Knowledge of All Things Concerning Us
Our God, who predestined all things and rules all things—knows all things! We are so well known by God, that He has even numbered the hairs of our heads. "Your Father knows." We need no other comfort. The Lord's knowledge of us is constant and entire. His knowledge of us is the knowledge of a tender, sympathetic Father.

4. Our Father's Constant Care
He who takes the trouble to number the hairs of our heads, must surely care for us. We are the apple of His eye. Cast all your care upon Him. "He cares for you!"

5. The Honor and High Esteem our God has for His Elect
God has numbered our hairs because He values them. He holds us in honor and high esteem above all the people of the world, because of His gracious purpose toward us in Christ, because He has made us one with His darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 43:3-5; 1 John 4:9-11).

6. The Promise of Divine Protection
The hairs of our head are all numbered, because our God intends that "Not a hair of your head shall perish!" Trials are certain. Temptations are sure. Tribulations are constant in this world. But there is no cause for fear. "The very hairs of your head are all numbered!"

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to one of God's elect—without God's decree and direction. The providential government of our great God over everything in this world, is a truth which is clearly revealed and constantly taught in the Word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of God's hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect—so the Book of God teaches us that there is an infinite wisdom, Divine order, and gracious design in all the events of our daily lives. There is no such thing as "chance" "luck" or "accident" in God's creation, or in our journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God, our heavenly Father. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God's hand in all our affairs. Our Father's hand measures out our daily portion. All our steps are ordered by Him who loves us with an everlasting love. Confidence in God's wise and good providence, is a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. In the day of trial and disappointment, as in the day of joy and happiness—all is right and all is well done. When we are laid on the bed of sickness, there is a "needs be" for it. Else, it would not come to pass. Because it comes to pass, the very fact that it comes to pass should assure us that it is for our souls' advantage. Let us bow and be still, and bear all things patiently. Ours is "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure" (2 Samuel 23:5). That which pleases our God, ought to please us. Truly, "He has done all things well!" And He will yet do all things well.

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The flood came and swept them all away!
by Edward Griffin, "Noah's Ark"

"He wiped out every living thing that was on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth! Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark!" Genesis 7:23

Finally, the frightful morning began! The heavens gathered blackness. Angry tempests conflicted in the skies. The lightnings flashed over the world! Word was spread, that Noah and his family had entered into the ark. The ungodly then began to fear!

Before long, floods of water poured from the sky. Some now began to turn their eyes towards the ark; others stood doubting; others still dared to scoff!

The waters go on to increase. The rivers fill, and start to overflow. The waters begin to rise in the streets. Some flee into their houses; others, more intimidated, hasten to the hills! Others are now convinced, and with dreadful fright, are seen wading towards the ark!

The fountains of the great deep are now broken up! The waters rise more rapidly, and begin to rush with impetuous force. With difficulty they stand against the stream. They struggle for their lives to reach the ark! Thousands come—some wading, some swimming, some sinking, some hanging onto the ark with the grasp of death—all screaming for admission!

But it is too late! Time was, when the ark was open and they might have entered in, but that time is past! Where are now those tongues which derided the enormous vessel and the man who built it? Now what do you think of him, who for more than a century has borne the character of a fool and madman! They would give a thousand worlds to be in his condition now!

Those nearest to the ark cry and plead for admission, but in vain! The waters roar! The ark is lifted up! They sink and are seen no more!

By this time, every wretch on earth is thoroughly convinced. Hear their cries from the tops of the houses, which are answered by wails from those on the hills. See the multitudes who have fled to the mountains. How like frightened sheep they crowd together! Now the waters, roaring and foaming, have reached their feet! They flee up to the highest ridge, but the floods pursue them there! Some are able to climb the lofty oaks, and the waves overtake them there! They flee to the highest branches, and for a moment have time to reflect on their former madness: "How could I disbelieve the Lord's prophet? Where is now the ark which I scorned? Where am I going? O eternity! eternity! What a dreadful God have I despised!" On the topmost bough, the impetuous torrent sweeps them away! Their hold is broken, and they sink to rise no more!

The ark floats by, and sails over the heads of the revilers and persecutors! Only that blessed family in the ark are safe!

The same terrors will seize an unbelieving world when Jesus comes again! "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!" Matthew 24:37-39

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If you meet that poor wretch who thrust his spear into My side!

(Benjamin Grosvenor, 1676-1758, "The Temper of Jesus Christ towards His Enemies, and His Grace to the Chief of Sinners")

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"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:47

It is very affecting that the first offers of grace should be made to those who, of all people in the world—had done Him the most harm! One would rather have expected the apostles would have received another kind of charge, and that Christ would have said, "Let repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached—but do NOT carry it to Jerusalem, that wicked city, that has been the slaughter-house of my prophets, whom I have often sent. Last of all, I myself, the Son, came—and with wicked hands, they have crucified and murdered Me! They may do the same to you! Do not let the gospel enter those wicked gates, through which they led Me, its Author, to crucifixion!"

But Christ singles out exactly these murderous people of Jerusalem—to make monuments of His mercy, and commands the first offer of eternal life to be made to them! As if our Lord had said: "Lest the poor house of Israel should think themselves abandoned to eternal despair—as cruel and vile as they have been—go, make the first offer of grace to them! Let those who spilled My blood—be welcome to its healing virtue. Tell them that there is repentance and forgiveness, even for them!
"Nay, if you meet that poor wretch who thrust his spear into My side, tell him that there is another way, a better way of coming to My heart—even My heart's love! Tell him, that if he will repent, and look upon Me whom he has pierced, and will mourn—then I will cherish him in that very bosom which he has wounded! Tell him that he shall find the blood which he has shed—to be an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it! And tell him from Me, that he will put Me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of My blood—than when he first drew it forth!"

"For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance!" Matthew 9:13

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Who am I that God should be so mindful of me?

(Frank Hall)

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"What is man that You are mindful of him?" Psalm 8:4

What is man that God should even look in his direction? Who am I that the infinite, glorious, triune God should glance my way—much less be mindful of me?

Beloved in Christ, understand that your God is without a doubt ever-mindful of you. He has . . .
  numbered every hair on your precious head,
  appointed the bounds of your habitation, and
  determined the very second of your death.

He . . .
  bottles your every tear,
  knows your every sorrow,
  records your every work, and
  remembers every cup of cold water given in His name. He is deeply concerned for your immortal soul, has purposed to do you good, and has staked His glory on your everlasting salvation. Your God is more mindful of you, your soul, your life, and your welfare than you will ever understand in this life.

In the light of such staggering knowledge—who God is, and what you are—do you not ask yourself in utter astonishment, "Who am I that God should be so mindful of me?"

As mere creatures such a thought is beyond profound, but as guilty sinners the thought surpasses the unthinkable!

"Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated!" Romans 9:13

God loved Jacob, and hated Esau. Who am I that I should be identified with the former, and not the latter? Christ died for His elect and put away their sins forever by the sacrifice of Himself—and the rest of humanity He leaves to themselves.

Who am I that my name should be written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world? The Sovereign dispenser of all grace and all blessedness has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. Who am I that I should be a vessel of honor prepared for glory, and not a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction?

Who are we, brothers and sisters, that we should . . .
  partake of the boundless provision of grace in Christ,
  be redeemed, justified, and forgiven,
  should live forever with Him in glory?

Who are we that the incomprehensibly glorious God would be so mindful of us, that He not only took on our nature, but . . .
 lived a perfect life for us, that we could never live,
 died a sin-atoning death for us, that we could never die, and
 satisfied a Law for us, that we could never satisfy?

"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

The only difference between a saved sinner and a lost sinner—is the difference that God makes by His distinguishing grace! It is not our decisions, lives, prayers, or works that make the difference, but God and God alone.

Though all who read these lines deserve to be in Hell for their sin—God has been pleased to save some freely by His grace. Though all are equally sinful, equally guilty, and equally deserving of everlasting torment—God has been pleased to save some for no other reason than His own glory.

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He shall save His people from their sins!

(Frank Hall)

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"You shall call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21

Glorious Jesus, Your name is . . .
  the cure for sin-sick hearts,
  the resting place for the weary pilgrims of Zion,
  heavenly manna for every true Israelite wandering through this barren wilderness of darkness and sin.

This name, "which is above every name" . . .
  calms the troubled sea within,
  sweetens every bitter trial,
  illuminates every sad and lonesome path,
  dispels the darkness of doubt and despair,
  and soothes the trembling heart
—of every redeemed child of God.

This precious verse teaches us that Jesus Christ cannot fail to save His people from their sins. He established perfect righteousness for them by His obedience unto death, and obtained eternal redemption for them with His own precious blood. When He shouted from the cross, "It is finished" . . .
  salvation was finished,
  God's holiness was appeased,
  satisfaction for sin was made,
  and judgment was over
—for all the people of God.

God did not send His Son into this world to save all men from their sins; rather, He sent His Son into this wicked world to save "His people" from their sins. 

God's salvation, in its entirety, is for His elect people, who are identified in the Scriptures as "the people of God." All that the Lord Jesus did, does, and will do—is, has always been, and will always be for His chosen people. He came into this world, was born of a virgin, lived under the law, was in all points tempted like as we are, and perfectly obeyed the will of God in all things for one reason—that He might save His elect people with an everlasting salvation. He loved them, chose them, and gave Himself for them—them, and only them.

He was born for His people.
He kept the law for His people.
He suffered for His people.
He was made sin for His people.
He died for His people.
He arose from the dead for His people.
He ascended into glory for His people.
He rules all things for His people.
He intercedes for His people.
He is coming again for His people.

Listen to the reverberation of God's distinguishing grace as the apostle Paul sounds the gospel trumpet: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . . to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!" Ephesians 5:25-27

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Let us ever wear the garment of . . .

(John Fawcett, "An Essay on Anger" 1824)

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

Let us be very assiduous to cultivate . . .
  the Christian virtues of kindness and forgiveness,
  a ready and hearty submission to the Word of God,
  and a cheerful resignation to His all-wise providence.

Let us be modest, humble, and lowly in our behavior towards men. Let us ever wear the garment of humility, and the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. This will be more to the honor of our divine Savior and more to the credit of our holy religion, than the most exact orthodoxy.

If we are wholly destitute of a true Christian temperament, the mind that was in Christ Jesus—then we are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. It matters not to what sect of Christians we professedly adhere. If pride, anger, wrath, and malice reign in our hearts and govern our lives—then all our religion is hypocrisy!

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An all-sufficient Savior—and a needy sinner!

(Frank Hall)

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"Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved!" Psalm 55:22

Why are we so determined to carry our own burdens, when we have proved countless times that we are utterly insufficient for the task? Is it not due to our sinful flesh, carnal pride, and foolish self-sufficiency? We often mope about in sadness and depression with heavy hearts—because we foolishly, ignorantly, and obstinately refuse to cast our burden on the LORD.

The Lord Jesus has proven Himself fully capable and willing to carry our heaviest burdens. The heaviest load that has ever been carried was carried by Him, for "the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!" Isaiah 53:6. It was the tremendous weight of our sins made His—which laid Him low in the garden of Gethsemane, and pressed His blood through the pores of His skin. In infinite mercy and grace, He bore our sins, our guilt, and our shame in His own body on the cruel tree, and was made a curse for us—that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He not only carried our sins to Calvary's cross, He took them away forever by the sacrifice of Himself. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us!" Psalm 103:12 

Children of God, let us forever cease from fleshly self-dependence—and cast every burden on our mighty Savior. It doesn't matter what the burden is, or how heavy the load is—the Lord Jesus is ready, able, and willing to bear it for us. We need not bear it even for a moment. It is our glorious right and God-given privilege as the beloved children of God, to cast every care and every burden on our Savior.

Are your struggling to carry a burden of guilt and sin? Struggle no longer and stumble no more. Cast your sin and guilt on Him! He will . . .
  sustain you,
  forgive you,
  receive you,
  and embrace you!

Are your responsibilities stressful and overwhelming your soul? Do not neglect them, but do not presume that you are sufficient to do anything on your own.
Cast them on Him,
seek His grace,
depend on His mighty arm
—and He will sustain you!

Is your heart laid low with heavy cares and secret troubles? Cast them all on Christ!

In love, grace, and wisdom, your Savior gave you these cares and troubles—not to see how far you could carry them on your own—but to bring you to the end of yourself. He gave you these cares to show you your inability, your weakness, and your need of Him—that you would cease from your carnal self-confidence and find your all in Him:
  full salvation,
  infinite strength,
  unceasing aid,
  everlasting sufficiency,
  and perfect help. 

His power and grace are sufficient for us in all things . . .
  in every trial,
  in every circumstance,
  and in every temptation.
He will sustain us to the end. He will never allow His righteous ones to be moved. He loves them with an everlasting immutable love! They will never be utterly forsaken or cast down. He . . .
  keeps them,
  protects them,
  helps them,
  preserves them,
  provides for their souls, and
  sustains them freely forever by His almighty grace!

No two things fit more perfectly together, than an all-sufficient Savior—and a needy sinner!

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time; casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you!" 1 Peter 5:6-7

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Who makes you differ from another?

(Frank Hall)

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"Who makes you differ from another?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

What made the difference . . .
  between Cain and Abel,
  between Esau and Jacob,
  between Judas and Peter?

What makes the difference . . .
  between believers, and unbelievers;
  between the righteous, and the wicked;
  between the elect, and the reprobate;
  between the godly, and the ungodly;
  between one who has saving knowledge of God, and a heathen infidel?

It is not "what," but "who." "WHO makes you differ from another?" It is the God of all grace who makes one man to differ from another!

Contrary to popular opinion, men do not make the difference in salvation—God does.
He loves some, but hates others.
He chooses some, but passes by others.
He blesses some, and curses others.
He saves some, but destroys others.

This is God's sovereign right as God. "Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" Romans 9:21

God always does with men as He pleases. Who are men to reply against God? "Shall the thing formed say to him who formed it: Why have you made me thus?" Romans 9:20

Will not the all wise God do what is best, just, and good? How dare fickle ignorant men call the most high God into question! "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter: What are you making?" Isaiah 45:9

"Why do you strive against Him? For He gives no account of His matters." Job 33:13
It is we who must answer to Him—not He to us.
He is on the throne—and we are but His footstool.
He is the Potter—and we are the clay.
He is the Creator—and we are His creatures.
He is God—and we are not.

The God of all grace made the difference between His people and the reprobate from eternity. Before the foundation of the world, God the Father justly elected some of humanity to salvation—and passed by all the rest.

The Lord Jesus made the difference between His church and the world, at Calvary where He laid down His life, poured out His blood, and effectually redeemed all whom the Father elected to salvation.

The sovereign Spirit makes the difference between the souls of His people and the souls of the ungodly in regeneration, effectually calling chosen redeemed sinners to life and faith in Christ.

The triune God does this, not because His people are better, more deserving, or more worthy of salvation—but because He will, because He is pleased to do so.

In all things God makes the difference, not us. There is no difference between God's saints and the wicked by nature, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23. The only difference is the difference that God makes by His distinguishing grace. We, as God's elect, have . . .
  nothing to boast of,
  nothing to be proud of, and
  no reason to look down on others as being inferior to us.
We were born just like everyone else—dead in trespasses and sins. By nature we lived in rebellion against God, just like everyone else. We walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, living to fulfill the lusts of our flesh, and were by nature children of wrath even as others. We have nothing to brag about—but much to be thankful for!

In sovereign grace . . .
  He loved us,
  He chose us,
  He blessed us,
  He set His affection on us,
  and He saved us.

In distinguishing mercy our Savior . . .
  was born for us,
  lived for us,
  suffered for us,
  bled for us, and
  reigns for us.

In discriminating love He . . .
  sought us out,
  chased us down,
  subdued our hearts,
  gave us spiritual life, and
  blessed us with the gift of everlasting salvation!

Thank God for His sovereign, discriminating grace!

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My shepherd!

(Frank Hall)

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"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1

The Lord Jesus is everything to my needy soul!

He is my majestic King, the imperial one who graciously rules my heart and my life with His sovereign scepter of righteousness.

He is my Prophet, the one who effectually teaches God's Word to my soul.

He is my great High Priest, my Mediator, the one who intercedes with God on my behalf.

And He is Jehovah-Rohi, the LORD my Shepherd! My glorious Shepherd is He who graciously forces my soul to lie down and rest in the green pastures of God's goodness and love. He ever leads my soul beside the still waters of satisfaction, peace, and prosperity.

When, in selfishness, carnality and sin, my flesh is smitten with desire for the poisonous fodder of this decaying world, and I wander from Him—He does not cast me off. Rather, He faithfully corrects my sin and graciously restores my soul to Himself. He perpetually leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. All this and more, my merciful Shepherd does for me freely by His grace! My Shepherd surpasses, in every way and at all times, all the would-be shepherds of this world.

Never slumbering, He protects me perfectly from all harm with His omnipotent hand of sovereign power! He feeds, sustains, and fills my hungering soul out of the abundance of His infinite store! Though . . .
  the way is rough and long,
  the path winding and narrow,
  the days dark and dismal,
  the valleys bleak and dreary
—He gently leads me in infinite mercy and unfailing wisdom, ever guiding me to that land above that abounds with milk and honey! 

Brothers and sisters, our Shepherd will stop at nothing to bring every one of His beloved sheep home to Heaven. He says of Himself, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Oh precious revelation of grace!

Sheep of His fold, I urge you to pause and consider the death of the good Shepherd! Behold with wonder the sacrifice of your Shepherd! He died—that you might live forever! He esteems us more precious than His own life! Oh blessed Shepherd, thank You for taking our sins to Yourself and putting them away by Your own precious blood. Children of God, let us ever sing with brother David, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want!"

Christ's sheep lack nothing for time and eternity—because He is their all-sufficient Shepherd. "For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace!" The Lord our Shepherd will withhold no good thing from the sheep of His pasture. In Him we have all the fullness of God's free salvation, which can never be lost.

"We shall not want!" We receive the fullness of His grace in time, because we possessed that very same fullness in Him from the foundation of the world. We are the possessors of . . .
  everlasting life,
  perfect righteousness,
  eternal redemption,
  pardon from all our sin,
  impeccable holiness,
  unending peace, and
  unalterable acceptance with God our Father!

We lack nothing, because in Him we have all things. His boundless provision for our souls has no end. His provision is perfect, infinite, and everlasting. God help us to depend on Him . . .
  His fullness,
  His mercy,
  His grace,
  His power,
  His all-sufficiency as the Lord our Shepherd.

"My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ!"

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need!"

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Lost unregenerate men know nothing of this struggle!

(Frank Hall)

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"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you would." Galatians 5:17

In this one verse the apostle Paul describes the thing that continually plagues every Christian.
We, as the people of God, desire more than anything to love God perfectly, but can't.
We long to cease from sin and ungodliness, but can't.
We strive to worship our God with our entire being, but can't.
We try to do good and honor God in all things, but can't.

Why do we continually do, say, feel, and think things that are evil?
Why are we so hard-hearted, unforgiving, and ignorant?
Why can't we do what we desire most?

It's because we have two natures called . . .
  flesh and spirit,
  sin and righteousness,
  Adam and Christ.

We do indeed believe our God, but not as we would.
We do love our Savior, but not as we would.
We do live for His honor and glory, but not as we would.

Our flesh won't allow us. It always interferes. It keeps us from doing the things that we would. When we would do good—then evil is present with us.
Our most fervent faith, is mixed with unbelief.
Our most selfless sacrifices, are mixed with selfishness.
Our most ardent prayers and supplications, are marred by our infirmities.
Our most spiritual moments, are contaminated by our sickening carnality.
Our meekest hours of submission and dependence on God, are corrupted by our self-will and pride.
Every mountain top experience of spiritual pleasure, is tinged with shameful wanderings within.
Our clearest views of Christ are darkened by error, misconceptions, and preconceived notions.
Even when our hearts seem to be most fixed on God's glory, they are torn between this world and the next.

The reality is, that as long as we live in this world—we will be at war within ourselves! The flesh will not submit to the Spirit—and the Spirit will not submit to the flesh. We will be . . .
  pulled this way one moment—and that way the next;
  believing one moment—and doubting the next;
  praising God in the morning—then murmuring at night;
  seeking God's will today—and our will tomorrow.
As long as we live in this body of flesh there will be a constant struggle within us—a struggle between flesh and Spirit.

Lost unregenerate men know nothing of this struggle! This internal warfare is peculiar to believers. Unbelieving, unregenerate, impenitent, rebellious, lost sinners know nothing of this fight with SELF. They don't loathe themselves as all believers do; they love themselves. They have but one nature—and that is sin, which rules in their hearts supremely. Lost men do not have grace within, to oppose the works and motions of the flesh. All they have is a nature that is dead in trespasses and sin, that walks according to the course of this world.

The struggle doesn't begin within a man, until that man is born of God's Spirit and given the gift of life and faith in Christ.

This war between our flesh and Spirit is best for us. If it were not so, then God would not allow it. God is in control of this fight, and has ordained it for us in His infinite wisdom and grace. This constant battle within our hearts is good for us, because it keeps us looking to Christ—ever seeking Him, His grace, His help, His power. This lifelong fight will make the prize that much sweeter—when Jesus will present us "to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!" Ephesians 5:27

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Tender kisses!

(Frank Hall)

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"Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Your love is better than wine." Song of Solomon 1:2

Of all the relationships that we as believers share with our blessed Savior, perhaps none is more intimate and comforting than that of marriage. Jesus has betrothed us to Himself in holy matrimony and covenant grace. We are  . . .
  His beloved bride,
  the apple of His eye,
  the darling of His heart;
and He is the gracious Husband of our immortal souls!
We are, by sovereign grace, forever one with Jesus our Husband.

Oh what a glorious privilege it is to be joined to Jesus in the blessed bond of marriage.
He loves me.
He cares for me.
He defends and protects me.
He provides for my every need.
He comforts, supports, and cherishes me.
I have His heart—and He has mine!
"I am my Beloved's—and my Beloved is mine."
I belong to Him—and He belongs to me.

Oh that my Beloved would "kiss me with the kisses of His mouth," that He would . . .
  embrace my soul,
  draw me to Himself,
  caress my heart ever so gently with His merciful touch,
  and grant me sweet tokens of His love for me.

Oh how I long for Him to express His love and affection to me with the tender kisses of . . .
  sovereign love,
  free grace,
  immutable faithfulness,
  and undying compassion,
"for His love is better than wine."

Wine makes glad the heart, but His love is better than the finest wine. His love . . .
  causes my broken heart to rejoice,
  renews my strength,
  brightens my vision,
  causes me to walk uprightly in the paths of righteousness, and
  moves my heart to take flight through the heavens with wings as an eagle.

Excess wine intoxicates men, and is forbidden by God. Too much wine will ruin a man. It alters the state of men's minds, seizes control of men, dulls their senses, and destroys their ability to exercise sound judgment and reason.

But Jesus' love is better than wine. It is not possible to overindulge in the intoxicating love of Jesus, nor is it forbidden. Indeed, the gospel encourages love to Jesus.
The wine of His love doesn't ruin men—it transforms them.
His love for us, invigorates our love for Him . . .
  intoxicating our hearts,
  seizing control of them,
  overpowering our wills and our senses,
  giving us sound reason and spiritual judgment.

Oh blessed Lord, we beg you, give us this wine!
Fill our cups full.
Cause them to overflow.
Pour into our hearts the intoxicating love of Jesus the Lord.

The desire of a believer's soul can be summed up in one word, JESUS. "Whom have I in Heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside You." Psalm 73:25

We desire Him . . .
  His person,
  His love,
  His glory,
  His grace,
  His will,
  His salvation,
  His righteousness,
  His way.

All we want is in Jesus.
All we need is in Jesus.
All we have is in Jesus.

Jesus is all—and Jesus is better.
Better than the treasures of kings.
Better than all earthly possessions.
Better than passing pleasures and prestige.
Indeed, He is better than all earthly delights combined!

If we don't have Jesus, then we have nothing.
If we have Him, then we have everything.

"Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in thee I find."

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Why are we here? What is our purpose?

(Frank Hall)

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"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

Before there was a Milky Way—there was God!
Before there were galaxies, solar systems, constellations, and nebulae—there was God!
Before Mercury, Venus, and Mars were plugged into their sockets—there was God!
Before Polaris was fastened above the North Pole—there was God!
Before Orion the hunter had a belt, and Saturn had its rings—there was God; all alone, perfect and content, glorious in His solitary existence as the eternal I AM!

Before there was a sun, a moon, or an earth;
before there was grass to clothe the field, and flowers to adorn it;
before the mountains were brought forth, and the sea filled the depths;
before the eagle soared through the sky, and the fish swam through the sea;
before angels, devils, and men had their being—there was God alone!

If we would understand things aright, we must not begin with man, but with God, for He is the beginning of all things. To begin with man is folly, for man is but a creature—a production of the Creator. We must back up and begin where the Bible begins, with God!

God's people know, and have always known what continues to baffle the minds of the scholars and scientists of our day, that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Through faith, God's people understand the mystery of creation.

I ask you, "Why are we here? What is our purpose? What is God's purpose?" Can we even know the answer to these questions? Indeed we can. 

The twenty four elders seated around God's throne in Heaven give us the answer in Revelation 4:10-11, "The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and for Your pleasure they exist and were created!"

You, me, angels, animals, plants, rocks, and all other things, exist and were created for one reason—the pleasure of the Creator. We were created according to His will and purpose, for His pleasure and glory. 

God did not create the Heaven and the earth arbitrarily. He created them to be the stage upon which He would perform His eternal purpose of grace, and reveal all the wonders of His goodness and mercy toward His elect. It is upon the stage of time, that God displays His eternal purpose and shows forth His glory in the salvation of chosen sinners. He created this world for the salvation of His people, that they would be recovered from their sin by His almighty grace.

"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying: My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure!" Isaiah 46:9-10

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All that we see within is foul, ugly and grim!

(Frank Hall)

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"You are complete in Him!" Colossians 2:10

Oh desponding Christian, is not your grief caused by looking within yourself? Is not that miserable feeling of failure and disappointment, caused by your strange fixation upon your hollow heart of iniquity? You look within, hoping to find something good, something pure, something precious, something clean—but what do you see? Nothing but sin! To stare into one's self—is to stare into a bottomless pit of despair and hopelessness! "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked!" Jeremiah 17:9

Will we ever learn this? There is nothing within us to give us hope, rest, or peace. Have we ever found anything within us that gave us joy? Of course not! Then why do we continue to stare into the darkness? All that we see within is foul, ugly and grim! One glance within ought to sicken us. We would sooner find diamonds in a dunghill or roses growing in a sewer—than find goodness dwelling within!

In ourselves we are sinful, guilty and vile! But bless God forever!
Our standing before God is not in ourselves; it is in Christ! He is . . .
  our Salvation,
  our Righteousness,
  our Hope,
  our Holiness, and
  our Acceptance with God!

Change the direction of your gaze—and look up! Stop staring into the empty void of your heart—and fix your eyes upon Jesus your Lord, in whom all fullness dwells. Our hope is not within, but without, seated at the right hand of the Father! Lift up your head that is bowed down with guilt and shame! Behold Christ your Savior! Behold your glorious Redeemer! Bid sorrow goodbye and fear depart! Rejoice, for "You are complete in Him!"

Believers are perfect in Christ. To be complete in Christ, is to be perfect in Christ. Perfect is not something that we will be, or strive to be—but something that we are right now, by virtue of our eternal union with God's darling Son.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are, by the free grace of God, complete in Christ our Savior!
We lack nothing!
All that He is—we are in Him!
All that He has—we have in Him!
All that He has done—we've done in Him!
We possess the infinite fullness of eternal life and everlasting salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord!

We are completely righteous in Him!
We are completely holy in Him!
We are completely forgiven in Him!
We are completely accepted in Him!
We are completely, everlastingly, perfectly sinless in Him!

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!" Hebrews 12:2

"For every look at SELF—take ten looks at CHRIST!"
Robert Murray McCheyne

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When you have felt the wickedness of your own heart to the uttermost

(Robert Murray McCheyne, 1813-1843)

"The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6:5

"If God places no trust in His holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in His eyes—how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!" Job 15:15-16

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.
 Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

Learn to be humbled far more than you have ever been. None of you has ever been sufficiently humbled under a sense of sin, for the reason that none of you has ever fully seen the plague of your own heart.

There are chambers in your heart you have never yet seen into;
there are caves in that ocean you have never fathomed;
there are fountains of bitterness you have never tasted.

When you have felt the wickedness of your own heart to the uttermost, then lie down under this solemn truth: that you have only seen a few yards into a pit that is bottomless; that you carry about with you a slumbering volcano, a heart whose wickedness you do not and cannot know.

John Berridge: O heart, heart! You are a mass of foolishness and absurdities—the vainest, foolishest, craftiest, wickedest thing in the world. Yet the Lord Jesus asks me for this heart—woos me for it—died to win it! O wonderful love! Adorable condescension!

Charles Spurgeon: There is no wolf or lion or serpent which is so brutish as that beast, man!
Men will never value a Redeemer so well as when they have a very clear consciousness of the ruin from which He has redeemed them.
Look to the cross, and hate your sin—for sin nailed your Well-Beloved to the tree!

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William Gurnall's choice excerpts on PRIDE

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"I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13

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"The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
 Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." Proverbs 16:5

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A man may be very zealous and painstaking in preaching—and all the while pride is the master whom he serves, though in God's livery.

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It is hard starving this sin of pride—it can live on almost anything!

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Nothing is so sacred, but pride will profane it.

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So far as pride prevails, the proud man prays and preaches to be thought good by others—to enthrone himself, rather than Christ, in the opinion and hearts of his hearers.

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Pride loves to climb up, not as Zaccheus, to see Christ—but so that others may see himself.

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"God resists the proud" (James 4:6). The humble man may have Satan at his right hand to oppose him; but the proud man shall find God Himself there to resist him. We must either lay self aside—or God will lay us aside.

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A proud sinner and a humble Savior will never agree.
Christ is humble and lowly, and so resists the proud—but gives grace to the humble.

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"If God," says Augustine, "did not spare the angels when they grew proud; will He spare you—who are but dust and sin?"

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Choice gems from William Gurnall

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The gospel is God's heart in print!

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That book must be worth reading—that has God for the author!

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Do not say that  you love Christ, so long as you can lay those sins in your bosom—which plucked His heart out of His bosom! It were strange if a child should keep, and delight to use, no other knife but that with which his mother was stabbed to death!

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The pleasures of sin must needs be short, because life cannot be long—and they both end together.

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Cease to pray—and you will begin to sin.
Prayer is not only a means to prevail for mercy—but also to prevent sin.

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To forsake sin, is to leave it without any thought reserved of returning to it again.

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The sheep may fall into a ditch—but it is the swine that wallows in it!
Take heed of deliberate sins!

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"He who is his own teacher, is sure to have a fool for a master!"

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Of all men out of Hell, none more to be pitied than he who hangs over the mouth of it, and yet is fearless of his danger.

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A Christian should deny himself of the world's carnal joys and delights, lest the ungodly say, "These Christians draw their joy out of our cistern!"

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He who has God's heart—cannot lack His arm!

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It is impossible for an evil heart, to think well of an afflicting God.

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"Faithful are the wounds of a friend—but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Proverbs 27:6
God's wounds cure—sin's kisses kill.