Grace Gems for JULY 2021

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Christ takes the garbage!

(Charles Spurgeon LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Jewelers can only prepare and polish the choicest diamonds.
But Jesus Christ polishes a common pebble, and makes a jewel of it!

Jewelers make their precious treasures, out of precious materials.
Christ makes His precious things, out of dross!

He always begins with bad material. Christ takes . . .
  the despicable,
  the vilest,
  the scum,
  the off-scouring,
  the filth,
  the garbage of the world,
and out of such stuff and matter as that, He builds up a holy temple, and gathers to Himself trophies for His honor and praise!

"Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

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Something to ponder
Don Fortner: "All true doctrine entirely rests upon the Word of God—upon the plain statements of Holy Scripture; and not upon history, religious creeds, religious traditions; or human inferences, logic or reason of any kind."

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If we were directing the affairs of our own lives!

(J.R. Miller, "The Lesson of Love" 1903)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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We often think we could do better, if we were directing the affairs of our own lives.
We think we could get more happiness and greater good out of life, if things were in our hands.
We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot.
We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows.
We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life.
Our days would all be sunny with blue skies, and no clouds or storms.
Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers—without thorns or any rough places.
Would we not be happier if we could direct our own affairs—and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful?

So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world—would be to have the direction of the affairs, and the shaping of the experiences of our lives, put into our own hands!

We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life—there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today, might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.

We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity—but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.

We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.

We should always remember that the object of living in this present world is not merely . . .
  to have unlimited pleasure and comfort,
  to get along with the least trouble,
  to gather the most we can of the world's treasures,
  to win the brightest fame.
We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God's will that belongs to us!

There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world, and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life—something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives, we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good—and His glory. 

It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours, since He is infinitely wiser than we are and loves us so. It may be painful and hard—but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.

Of course we may not know all the reasons there are in the divine mind, for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God's design for us in these trials is. Yet without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love, and whose wisdom also is infinite!

When we get to Heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans, and spoiled our pleasant dreams!

It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor foolish hands—but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father!

"My times are in Your hands!" Psalm 31:15

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He who holds the pruning-knife!

(J.R. Miller, "Looking at the Right Side" 1888)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener . . . He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit." John 15:1-2

Our Father is the gardener; we are branches under His care. He watches over our lives. The painful afflictions which cut into our very souls, the taking from us of objects that are dear to us, as when the gardener with his sharp knife removes luxuriant branches from the vine—are our Father's prunings! No hand but His, ever holds the knife! We are sure, then, that there is never any careless cutting, any unwise or mistaken pruning, any needless removing of rich branches or growths.

We really need to go no farther than this. A strong, abiding confidence that all the trials, sorrows and losses of our lives are parts of our Father's prunings—ought to silence every question, quiet every fear and give peace and restful assurance to our hearts, in all their pain. We cannot know the reason for the painful strokes, but we know that He who holds the pruning-knife is our Father! That is all we need to know.

The other thought in the Lord's parable, is scarcely less full of comfort to a Christian. Jesus says, that it is the fruitful branches which the Father prunes: "He prunes every branch that produces fruit, so that it will produce more fruit."

Afflictions are not, then, a mark of God's anger or disapproval; rather, they are a mark of His favor. The branches into which He cuts, from which he trims away the luxuriant growths—are fruit-bearing already. He does not prune the fruitless branches—He cuts them off altogether as useless, as mere cumberers, absorbing life and yielding nothing of blessing or good.

Some Christians have the impression that their many troubles indicate that God does not love them—that they cannot be true Christians, or they would not be so chastened. This teaching of Christ shows how mistaken they are. The much chastening shows that the Father is pruning His fruitful branch, to make it more fruitful! All whom the Father loves, He chastens!

It is the fruitless branch that is never pruned; the fruitful branch is pruned, and pruned—not by one without skill, not by an enemy, but by the wise Father! Thus we see how we may rejoice, even in our trials and afflictions!

One who was altogether ignorant of the art and purpose of pruning, who should see a man with a sharp knife cutting off branch after branch of a luxuriant vine, would at first suppose that the pruner was ruining the vine. So at the time it seems—but by and by, it appears that the prunings have made the vine more fruitful. In the season of vintage, the grapes are more luscious, with a richer flavor in them—because of the cutting away of the superfluous branches.

In like manner, if an angel who had never witnessed anything of human suffering, and who knew nothing of its object, were to see the Father causing pain and affliction to His children—it would seem to him that these experiences could be only destructive of happiness and blessing. But if the angel were to follow those chastened lives on to the end, he would see untold blessing coming out of the chastenings! The Father was but pruning the branches, that they might bear more and better fruit!

We should never lose sight of the divine purpose in all trials—to make our lives more fruitful.

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Something to ponder

Mary Winslow: "Oh, for stronger faith and more filial submission to all His blessed, loving, holy will!"

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He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up His clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:34

"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, he said: Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39

He Who hung in sheer and marvelous mercy on the Cross craves a trophy of grace, and will not be satisfied until He has it. Out of the ranks of cruel paganism, He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!

The Savior had been praying, and it is evident now that His prayer was not in vain: "Father, forgive them!" He had entreated God for the very Roman centurion who had nailed Him to His tree of shame, and then had sat down and barbarously gambled for His clothes. Yet he is . . .
  fully and instantly forgiven,
  led bound in blessed thraldom by Him whose arms he had fettered,
  transformed into the confessor of the Man he crucifies!

Let me rejoice that nothing is too hard for the prayers of Jesus. He asks God for . . .
  my salvation and pardon,
  the conquest of my unthinking and earth-chained mind,
  the renewal of my selfish, proud and disobedient life.
In the heavenly place He lifts His holy and pierced hands on my behalf. And the Father gives Him His heart's desire, and does not withhold the request of His lips.

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Something to ponder
John Newton: Trials are medicines which our great and wise Physician prescribes because we need them. He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what our case requires. Let us trust in His skill, and thank him for His prescription!

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I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens." Mark 4:28

There is a similar quietness and calm and steadiness as He deals with my soul.

So it is when He first saves me. For the most part, there is no stir when Christ revolutionizes my heart. Yet, as quiet and inexplicable as the work is—it is thoroughly done.
My mind is illuminated.
My conscience convinces me of my sin.
My heart is enlivened.
My will is subdued.
I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love, from which I shall never leave!

In the same way, my practical sanctification progresses gradually, rather than by leaps and bounds. My ascent up the strait and narrow way to the Celestial City is slower and more agonizing than I had dreamed. My day has cold in it, and tempest, and tears—as well as sunshine and warmth.

Yet He is ruling within me as . . .
  the Teacher of my ignorance,
  the Finisher of my faith,
  the Gardener who matures my spiritual life, even if my growth takes time and my lot is troubled.

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day!" Proverbs 4:18

"The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand!" Psalm 37:23-24

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!" Philippians 1:6

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The thief!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Hour of Silence" 1899)   LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!"
   Luke 23:42-43

"Twas a thief," Robert Browning writes, "who said the last kind word to Christ."

In the morning the thief was OUT of Christ:
  far from God and far from righteousness,
  the helpless captive of sin,
  the child of despair and death.

At noon the thief was IN Christ:
  remembered graciously by the Savior of the lost,
  redeemed with an everlasting redemption,
  endowed with the new heart,
  and freely and perfectly justified.

In the evening the thief was WITH Christ:
  gazing on the glories of paradise,
  safe at home with his good Shepherd and adorable Redeemer.

What a crowded and memorable day this was in his history! So much was pressed into these few hours. Such a glorious and unprecedented transition they brought, from the cruel cross—to Heaven's glory!

OUT of Christ,
then IN Christ,
then WITH Christ!

then grace,
then glory!

Hopelessly lost in the far country,
then safe under the Savior's wings,
then beside the Lord on His glorious throne!

Are these the three stages in my spiritual biography?

I know the first only too well.
Am I growing more and more familiar with the second?
Is it my joy to look forward to the third?

"I ask not the favor given to Paul," Copernicus said, "I seek not the grace bestowed upon Peter—but I beg the mercy granted to the thief on the cross!"

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I would have carried the whole human race to Hell with me!

(Letters of John Newton LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

October 27, 1778
My dear friend,
How industriously is Satan served! I was formerly one of his most active under-tempters! Not content with running down the broad way which leads to destruction by myself, I was indefatigable in enticing others! And, had my influence been equal to my wishes, I would have carried the whole human race to Hell with me! And doubtless some have already perished, to whose destruction I was greatly instrumental, by tempting them to sin, and by poisoning and hardening them with principles of infidelity. And yet I was spared! When I think of the most with whom I spent my ungodly days of ignorance, I am ready to say, "I alone have escaped alive!"

Surely I have not half the activity and zeal in the service of Him who snatched me as a brand out of the burning, as I had in the service of His enemy! Then the whole stream of my endeavors and affections went one way; now my best desires are continually crossed, counteracted, and spoiled, by the sin which dwells in me! Then the tide of a corrupt nature bore me along; now I have to strive and swim against it.

Had my abilities and opportunities been equal to my heart desires, I would have been a monster of profaneness and profligacy! A common drunkard or harlot is a petty sinner, compared to what I once was! I had unabated ambition, and wanted to rank in wickedness among the foremost of the human race!

"O to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!"

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
 That saved a wretch like me!"

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Something to ponder
John Newton:
Wonderful is the love of God in giving His Son to die for such wretches as we are!
The more vile we are in our own eyes, the more precious Jesus will be to us!

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When you were marching to Hell!

(Thomas Watson, "The Mischief of Sin")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy." 1 Timothy 1:13

Literally, "I was bemercied." Christians, why might not you have been in the number of those who persist in sinning? Because God has bemiracled you with mercy!

See what cause you have to admire the stupendous goodness of God, who has wrought a change in you—and checked you in your full career of sin!

Christians, you who are vessels of election, were by nature as wicked as others; but God had compassion on you and plucked you as brands out of the fire! He stopped you in your course of sinning—when you were marching to Hell! He turned you back to Him by sincere repentance. Oh, here is the banner of love displayed over you!

Behold sovereign grace! Let your hearts melt in love to God. Admire His royal bounty. Set the crown of all your praises, upon the head of free grace! "By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy!" Titus 3:4-5

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Something to ponder
Six vital certainties:
  1. Life is short and uncertain.
  2. Death is sure.
  3. Judgment is inevitable.
  4. Sin is exceeding sinful.
  5. Hell is a dreadful reality.
  6. Christ alone can save you.
J.C. Ryle

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God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way!

(J.R. Miller, "The SILENT Christ")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession!' Jesus did not answer her a word!" Matthew 15:22

We are apt to forget that the aim of God with us, is . . .
  not to flood us with tenderness all the time,
  not to keep our path always strewn with flowers,
  not to continually give us everything we want,
  not to save us from all manner of suffering.

No! God's aim with us, is . . .
  to make something of us,
  to build up strong and noble character in us,
  to mature qualities of grace and beauty in us,
  to make us more like Christ!
To do this, He must ofttimes deny us what we ask for, and must seem indifferent to our cries. "Jesus did not answer her a word!"

There are 'sentimental ideas of God' prevalent, which are dishonoring to Him. There are those who imagine that God's love means tenderness that cannot cause pain. They think that He cannot look a moment on suffering, without relieving it; that He must instantly hear and answer every cry for the removal of trouble.

Not such a God, is the God of the Bible! When suffering is the best thing for us, He is not too sympathetic to let us suffer—until the work of suffering is accomplished in us. He is not too kind to be silent to our prayers, when it is better that He should be silent for a time, to allow . . .
  faith to grow strong,
  self-confidence to be swept away, and
  the evil in us—to be burned out in the furnace of pain!

There is a danger with all of us—our tenderness lacks strength. We cannot tolerate to see people suffer, and so we hasten to give relief, before the ministry of suffering is accomplished. We think of our mission to others, as being only 'to make life easier for them'. We are continually lifting away burdens, which it were better to have left resting longer on our friend's shoulder! We are eager to make life easy for our children, when it were better if it had been left hard.

We must learn that God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way. He is not too tender to see us suffer, if more suffering is needed to work in us the discipline that will make us like Christ! Here we have the key of many of the 'mysteries of Providence'.

Life is not easy for us—and God does not intend it to be easy!

Suppose for a moment, that God immediately gave us everything we ask for—and immediately removed every little pain, trouble, difficulty, and hardness that we seek to have removed. What would be the result on us? How selfish it would make us! We would become weak—unable to endure suffering, to bear trial, to carry burdens, or to struggle. We would be only children always, and would never rise into manly strength. God's over-kindness to us—would pamper in us all the worst elements of our nature, and would make us only poor driveling creatures!

On the other hand, however, God's wise and firm treatment of us, teaches us the great lessons which make us strong with the strength of Christ Himself.
He teaches us to yield our own will to Him.
He develops in us patience, faith, love, hope and peace.
He trains us to endure hardness, that we may grow heroic, courageous and strong.

It is well for us to make careful note of this—that in all God's delays when we pray, His aim is some good in us.

Perhaps we are willful, asking only for our own way—and must learn to say, "May Your will be done."

Perhaps we are weak, unable to bear pain or to endure adversity or loss—and we must be trained and disciplined into strength.

Perhaps our desires are only for earthly good, not for heavenly blessings—and we must be taught the transitory character of all worldly things, and led to desire things which are eternal.

Perhaps we are impatient, and must be taught to wait for God.
We are like children in our eager restlessness, and need to learn self-restraint.

At the least, we may always know that silence is not refusal—that God hears and cares; and that when our faith has learned its lessons—He will answer in blessing!

"The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6

"God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10

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Something to ponder:
"I am unworthy of the least crumb of mercy that falls from His own dear, loving hand." Mary Winslow

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Behold the creeping worm!

(Thomas Guthrie, "Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints" 1803-1873)

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Behold the creeping worm,
   it is bred in corruption,
   it crawls on the ground,
   its food is the coarsest fare.

But in time, it undergoes its wonderful metamorphosis. The wriggling caterpillar—becomes a winged and painted butterfly! And at this change, along with its old skin—it casts off its old habits and instincts. Now, it has a will as well as wings to fly. Now . .  .
 its bed is the bosom of a flower,
 its food is the honeyed nectar,
 its home is the sunny air, and
 new instincts animate its frame.
The change within, corresponds to the change without. It now spurns the ground—and, as you may gather from its merry, mazy dance—the creature is happy, and delights in the new duties which it is called to perform.

Just so it is in that change which grace works in sinners!
Their nature is now so accommodated to their redeemed state,
their wishes are so fitted to their wants,
their hopes are so fitted to their prospects,
their aspirations are so fitted to their honors,
and their will is so fitted to their work—
that they would be less content to return to their old polluted pleasures—than the beautiful butterfly would desire to be stripped of its silken wings, and condemned to pass its days amid the old, foul garbage, its former food!

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Something to ponder
Thomas Guthrie: "A most amazing spectacle is here—the Son of God turns His back on Heaven! He leaves the bosom and happy fellowship of his Father, He bares his own bosom to the sword of justice, and in the depths of a love never to be fathomed—He dies on that accursed tree, the just for the unjust, that we might be saved!"

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God-pardoned, God-reconciled, Sin-delivered, God-arrayed, Heaven-entitled souls!

(Archibald Brown, "What Christ Has Done for Me!" 1872)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul!" Psalm 66:16

No one word can fully express all that God has done for my soul, though in general it may be described as saved. Saved! Ah, that is a grand word worthy of being written in letters of gold! A saved soul includes many things—I can only mention them:

1. A saved soul is a God-pardoned soul. All its sins are forgiven, and its iniquities are drowned in that deluge of pardoning love that rises high above the topmost peaks of all its mountain sins!

2. A saved soul is a God-reconciled soul. Once at enmity, God and the sinner are now at peace. All differences are at an end. The prodigal sinner has been embraced and kissed by the father. The rebel has thrown down his weapons, and bent his knee to the Monarch—and the Monarch has raised him up, and with a smile of love, has put him among His children. If I may so express it, God and the sinner have met and shaken hands beneath the shadow of the cross! They are at at-one-ment there.

3. A saved soul is also a sin-delivered soul. This is something more than pardon, or reconciliation. It is a higher blessing. Pardon remits the punishment of sin, but leaves the guilt of sin. But justification acquits the person of every charge. Believer, your sins are not merely forgiven—but they are done away with, put out of sight, removed from you as far as the remotest east is from the extreme west! In the eye of God, you are as guiltless as His spotless Son! "You are altogether beautiful, My love; there is no flaw in you!" Song of Songs 4:7

4. A saved soul is also a God-arrayed soul. This is higher still. The former blessing was a negation of guilt, this is a possession of righteousness. A righteousness, mark you, that is not capable of improvement, but a righteousness that is superlative in its quality—it is the righteousness of God Himself! A saved soul, even to the omniscient eye of Deity, is not only without spot or wrinkle or any such thing—but it is altogether lovely and glorious, robed in the splendor of "Jehovah Tsidkenu"—"The Lord our Righteousness!"

5. A saved soul is a Heaven-entitled soul. This crowns all. Not merely am I delivered from Hell, but in my hand is placed a title-deed to eternal glory! This is no fiction or flight of imagination, but a blessed fact. Possessed by every saint, is a title to Heaven that God Himself will declare to be valid to all eternity.

Now believer, if all these things are included in what God has done for our souls, then did I not say rightly that many words were necessary to describe the work? Let us then, as God-pardoned, God-reconciled, Sin-delivered, God-arrayed, Heaven-entitled souls—call on all, far and near, to come and listen to our joyous tale.

God looks upon His redeemed people as the masterpieces of His love and power; and He will before assembled worlds exhibit us as the grandest trophies Heaven contains!

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God saves sinners apart from the preaching of the gospel

(Don Fortner)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Romans 10:17

No one is saved apart from the hearing of the gospel.

Let no one deceive you in this matter. The issue is not whether or not God can save His people without the use of means. The issue is whether or not He will. We know that He will not, because He has revealed it plainly in His Word. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." It pleased God to save His elect by the foolishness of gospel preaching. All who are begotten of God, are begotten of Him by the gospel. All who are born again, are born again by the incorruptible seed of God's Word, which is preached to them in the gospel.

These things are so plainly revealed in holy Scripture that there is no excuse for error regarding them (1 Corinthians 1:21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Those who teach that God saves sinners apart from the preaching of the gospel, fly in the face of holy Scripture. It is therefore no surprise to see them favor emotionalism, experiences, dreams, custom, and religious tradition above the Word of God.

The preaching of the gospel is God's chosen, ordained means of grace, by which He calls chosen, redeemed sinners to salvation in Christ by the irresistible power and grace of His Holy Spirit. The New Testament universally declares that the preaching of the gospel is vital to the salvation of God's elect.

Our message is always the same.
We do not have one message for children, and another for adults.
We do not have one message for one group, and another for another group.

The preaching of the gospel is a proclamation . . .
  of the unsearchable riches of Christ,
  of salvation by His grace,
  of peace with God,
  of pardon of sin,
  of righteousness, and life and salvation by Him.

The Scriptures plainly declare that no one will ever be saved who does not . . .
  hear the gospel (Romans 10:17),
  believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16),
  acknowledge and confess his sin (1 John 1:9),
  repent of his sins (Luke 13:5), and
  persevere in the faith (Matthew 10:22).

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Something to ponder
Mary Winslow: "This poor world is but a wilderness. Who would desire to dwell forever in a wilderness?"

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All of His glorious attributes and perfections are yours!

(William Nicholson, Pearls of Great Price! 1855)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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It is the privilege of Christians to say, "For this God is our God forever and ever! He will be our guide even to the end!" Psalm 48:14

The believer is also called an heir of God, which implies that he is entitled, through grace, to all that the Infinite Jehovah possesses, so far as shall be needful to make him completely and eternally happy.

Christians, rejoice that God Himself is yours! All of His glorious attributes and perfections are yours!

His mercy is yours . . .
  to save you,
  to remove your guilt,
  to sympathize with you in times of distress.

His wisdom is yours . . .
  to provide for you,
  to counsel you,
  to direct all things for your good.

His omnipotence is yours . . .
  to guard and protect you in the hour of danger,
  to support you in every conflicting scene,
  to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom.

His goodness is yours . . .
  to supply all your needs,
  to enrich you with the best of blessings,
  to grant you unfading happiness in the mansions of glory.

His omniscience is yours . . .
  to behold you in every situation, adverse or prosperous,
  to foresee all the attacks your adversaries intend to make upon you,
  to provide for your present and everlasting security.

His omnipresence is yours, therefore He has said:
  "In six troubles I will be with you, and in seven I will not forsake you."
  "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
  "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world."

His justice is yours . . .
  to fulfill all covenant engagements,
  to reward you with a dwelling-place in the realms of bliss,
  to punish all those hostile powers incessantly opposing you.

His immutability is the rock of your security, and the source of your unspeakable joy!

His faithfulness is yours, as the pledge for the accomplishment of all those promises which are exceeding great and precious to those who believe.

Such, Christians, is your happiness. Rejoice in it, and say, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him!"

How great is the condescension of God, in becoming the eternal portion of such worthless worms!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Ugly corners made beautiful

(J.R. Miller, "Christian Manliness" 1909)

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"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely . . ." Philippians 4:8

Beauty is another quality of true manliness. It is not enough for a man to be true, to live honorably, to be just, to be pure and clean—he must also have in his life, whatever is lovely.

All God's works are beautiful. He never made anything that was not beautiful. It is sin which spoils everything!

There are many lives that are not lovely in every feature. You see things in others which you cannot admire, things which are not beautiful.

Fretting is not beautiful.

Bad temper is unlovely.

Discontent, jealousy, irritability, unkindness, selfishness are unattractive.

It is the work of God's grace, to make lives beautiful. All that grace does in us, is toward the fashioning of beautiful Christian character in us.

On a florist's signboard are the words, "Ugly corners made beautiful". The florist had reference to what he could do to beautify an ugly spot or a piece of landscape. He would trim out the weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and transform a wilderness into a garden.

That is what grace can do in our lives. Some men seem to think that the fine and graceful things are only for women, not for men. But Christ was a man—a perfect, complete man, and there was not a single unlovely thing in His life.
  He was strong, but also gentle.
  He was just, but kindly.
  He was firm, but patient.
  He was righteous, and his indignation burned like fire against all hypocrisy and injustice—but his tenderness never failed.

Fine manliness is beautiful, like Christ. "Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder
John Newton: "A daily portion of both comforts and crosses, each one the most suitable to our case—is adjusted and appointed by the hand which was once nailed to the cross for us!"

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It took the baby out of the young mother's arms the other night!

(J.R. Miller, "Afterward You Will Understand" 1909)

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He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now; but afterward you will understand."
John 13:7

We are assured that God has a plan for each individual life of His redeemed children. Jesus had a purpose in washing the feet of his disciples that night. It was not an idle thing that He was doing. He meant to teach these men a great lesson.

He has a purpose in every smallest thing, in each event in our lives. His plans run on through all the years, and are woven of the threads of the common events of our lives. We do not know the meaning of the small things in our everyday experiences—but the least of them is in some way connected with the great divine plan.

God's plan for each life includes the smallest affairs of that life. The things that come into our experience are not mere chance. 'Chance' is not a good word; at least we may not use it to mean something that broke into our life independently of God. Nothing ever comes into our experience by chance, in the sense that it is outside of God's purpose for our life, and beyond God's control.

Suppose someone wrongs you, treats you unkindly, even cruelly. If you are God's child, your Father takes the evil into His hands, and it becomes thenceforth, a secret of blessing; it will be overruled so as to be among the "all things" that work together for your good.

The purpose of God for His children—is always good, always love. It could not be otherwise, for God is love. This does not mean that His plan for us never involves suffering. Ofttimes it does:
It brings death to a mother, and pain and grief to her family.
It took the baby out of the young mother's arms the other night!

It leaves the young widow broken-hearted, with little children to provide for.
It permits loss of property to come, leaving a family to suffer pinching poverty and hard struggle.
It allows a man to lose his work in the time of financial depression, and to endure experience of sore need.
It brings sickness with its pain and cost.
It lets us have bitter days of suffering.

Godly people ofttimes have to endure bitter things, which are hard and most trying. Nevertheless, the plan of God for our lives is good. It is a plan of love. "What I am doing"—it is the Master who says this, and what He does must be good.

Is affliction good? Can it be good to endure bereavement, to suffer injustice, to bear pain? Some day we shall know that many of the best things in life, are the fruit of these very bitter experiences. Our redemption comes from the sorrow and suffering of Jesus Christ. Just so, the best blessings and the holiest beauties of God's saints—are the harvest of pain.

We must not forget that the things which are painful, are also parts of Christ's chosen way for us, and that they are always good. In all our life Christ is making us—making godly people of us, fashioning Christian character, transforming us into His beautiful image.

Let not life's pains and trials dismay you. Submit to God, accept the providences that come as part of His discipline, and take the lessons, the enrichings which He sends. Some day you will know that you have learned many of your sweetest songs, in the darkness.

"What I am doing, you do not understand now; but afterward you will understand."

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Look up!

(J.R. Miller,  "Unto the Hills!" A Meditation on Psalm 121)

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"I will lift up my eyes
unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

It is good always to look up. Thousands of people dwarf their lives, and hinder the possibilities of growth in their souls—by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere earthly sights, and miss the glories of the hills that pierce the clouds, and of the heavens that bend over them!

A story is told of a boy who one day found a gold coin on the street. Ever after this—he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked, watching for coins. During a long lifetime, he found a good number of coins—but meanwhile he never saw the flowers and the trees which grew in such wondrous beauty everywhere; he never saw the hills, the mountains, the sweet valleys, the picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue sky. To him, this lovely world meant only a dusty road, dreary and unbeautiful, merely a place in which to look for coins.

This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their eyes off the earth! They live only to gather money, to add field to field, to scheme for power or to find pleasure. Or, if their quest is a little higher, it is still only for earthly things. They never lift up their eyes to God! There is no blue sky in their picture. They cherish no heavenly visions. They are without God in the world.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:1-2

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder
Charles Spurgeon: "There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father's palace! To the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing from his sins and infirmities! Death to the wicked is the King of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, and the commencement of glory!" 

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The picture of the ideal Christian life!

(J.R. Miller, "A Word About TEMPER" 1888)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Most of us are bad-tempered in various degrees. The dictionary has been well-near exhausted of adjectives, in giving the different shades of bad-temper: aggressive, angry, bickering, bitter, capricious, choleric, contentious, crotchety, despotic, domineering, easily offended, gloomy, grumpy, hasty, huffy, irritable, morose, obstinate, reproachful, peevish, sulky, surly, vindictive—these are some of the qualifying words!

We do not like to believe that the case is quite so serious, that many of us are unamiable in some offensive degree. It is easier to confess our neighbor's faults and infirmities, than our own! So, therefore, quietly taking refuge for ourselves among the few good-tempered people—we are willing to admit that a great many of the people we know, have at times rather ungentle tempers. They are easily provoked; they fly into a passion on very slight occasion; they are haughty, domineering, peevish, fretful or vindictive!

What is even worse, most of them appear to make no effort to grow out of their infirmities of disposition! The sour fruit does not come to mellow ripeness in the passing years; the roughness is not polished off the diamond to reveal its lustrous hidden beauty. The same petulance, pride, vanity, selfishness and other disagreeable qualities are found in the life, year after year!

Where there is a struggle to overcome one's faults and grow out of them, and where the progress toward better and more beautiful spiritual character is perceptible, though ever so slow—we should have sympathy. But where one appears unconscious of one's blemishes, and manifests no desire to conquer one's faults—there is little ground for encouragement!

Man-like it is—to fall into sin.
Fiend-like it is—to dwell therein.
Saint-like it is—for sin to grieve.
God-like it is—for sin to leave.

Bad temper is such a disfigurement of character, and, besides, works such harm to one's self and to one's neighbors, that no one should spare any pains or cost to have it cured!

The ideal Christian life, is one of unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love, the love whose portrait is drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." That is the picture of the ideal Christian life!

We have but to turn to the gospel pages, to find the story of a life in which all this was realized. Jesus never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried Him at every point—some by their dullness, others by their bitter enmity and persecution—but He never failed in sweetness of disposition, in patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed; like the odoriferous wood which bathes the axe which hews it with fragrance; the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love—to the rough impact of men's harshness and wrong. That is the pattern on which we should strive to fashion our life and our character! Every outbreak of violent temper, every shade of ugliness in disposition—mars the radiant loveliness of the 'picture' we are seeking to have fashioned in our souls!

Bad-tempered people are continually hurting others, ofttimes their best and truest friends.

Some people are sulky, and one person's sulkiness casts a chilling shadow over a whole household!

Others are so sensitive, ever watching for slights and offended by the merest trifles—that even their nearest friends have no freedom of fellowship with them!

Others are despotic, and will brook no kindly suggestion, nor listen to any expression of opinion!

Others are so quarrelsome that even the meekest and gentlest person cannot live peaceably with them!

It would be easy to extend this portrayal of the evils of bad temper, but it will be more profitable to inquire HOW a bad-tempered person may become good-tempered. There is no doubt that this happy change is possible in any case. There is no temper so obdurately bad, that it cannot be trained into sweetness. The grace of God can take the most unlovely life, and transform it into the image of Christ!

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A new eye!

(Thomas Watson, "A New Creature")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

The new creature is new all over. Grace, though it is but in part—yet it is in every part. Not a new ear or a new tongue—but a new man; there are . . .
  new dispositions,
  new principles,
  new aims,
  "all things are become new!"

In the new creature, there is a new UNDERSTANDING. The first thing an artist draws in a portrait, is the eye. When God newly draws us and makes us new creatures, the first thing He draws in our souls is a new eye. The new creature is enlightened to see that which he never saw before!

He knows Christ after another manner. An unconverted man, by the light of common grace, may believe Christ to be the Son of God. But the new creature knows Christ after another manner, so as . . .
  to esteem Him above all,
  to adore Him,
  to touch Him by faith,
  to fetch a healing virtue from Him!

The new creature knows himself better than he did. When the sun shines into a room, it reveals all the dust and cobwebs in it. Just so, when the light of the Spirit shines into the heart, this reveals that corruption which before lay hidden; it shows a man his own vileness and nothingness! "Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4

A wicked man, blinded with self-love, admires himself. He is like Narcissus who, seeing his own reflection in the water—fell in love with it. Saving knowledge works self-abasement.

Has this day-star of knowledge shined on your mind?

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Something to ponder
Thomas Watson: "Take heed of abusing the mercy of God. To sin because mercy abounds, is the devil's logic! He who sins because of God's mercy, shall have judgment without mercy!"

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The new birth!

(Octavius Winslow, "From Grace to Glory" 1864)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

How comprehensive the words—how vast the change!
The effect produced by the new birth is radical and thorough:

The HEART, once so hateful and hating—has now become a fountain of sweet waters, transmitting its pure and holy streams throughout the whole soul, changing the entire conduct of the individual, and working out, in its degree, a universal holiness of his whole being.

The WORLD he once loved—is now as a crucified thing.

The PLEASURES he once indulged—have lost their charm.

The SINS he once committed—are now loathed and forsaken.

The SOCIETY he once enjoyed—no longer attracts or pleases.

The new birth will be manifest in our Christlike temper and mind and spirit . . .
  the moroseness and churlishness,
  the pride and selfishness,
  the worldliness and frivolity,
  the levity and man-pleasing,
which cropped up so luxuriantly from the soil of our unsanctified heart—will now, in a great measure be supplanted by the fruits of righteousness springing from a heart which has been changed, sanctified, and occupied by the Spirit of God.

The walk and conversation of a renewed man, will be the outward and visible reflection of an inward and invisible grace.

As a parent, and as a child, as a brother, a sister—so let your light shine, so let your life evidence its reality, so let your religion be visible in its lowliness and gentleness, its lovable and loving spirit, as to command from all who see it the admiring exclamation, "Behold! he is a new creature; old things have passed away; all things are become new!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

"Let us aim to act, and speak, and live as if Christ were at our side!
And so He is, though we may not be sensible of it."  Mary Winslow

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Study the 'two pictures' together, to see what grace can do for a man!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

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"He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, He gave the name Peter" Mark 3:16

In an art gallery in Europe are shown, side by side—the first and the last works of a great artist. The first is very crude and most faulty; the last is a masterpiece. The contrast shows the results of long culture and practice.

These two names, are like those two pictures:

Simon shows us the crude fisherman of Galilee, with all his rashness, his ignorance, his imperfectness.

Peter shows us the apostle of the Acts and the Epistles; the firm and secure rock; the man of great power, before whose Spirit-filled eloquence, thousands of proud hearts bow; the gentle, tender soul whose words fall like a benediction; the noble martyr witnessing to the death for his Lord.

Study the 'two pictures' together, to see what grace can do for a man!

It is not hard to take roses, lilies, fuchsias, and all the rarest flowers—and make forms of exquisite beauty with them. But to take weeds, dead grasses, dried leaves, and trampled and torn and faded flowers, and make lovely things out of such base materials—is the severest test of skill.

It would not be hard to take an angel, and train him into a glorious messenger. But to take such a man as Simon, or as Saul, or as John Newton, or as John Bunyan, and make him into a holy saint or a mighty apostle—that shows great power and ability!

Yet that is exactly what Christ did with Peter, and has been doing ever since. He takes the poorest stuff, despised, worthless and vile—ofttimes the outcast of men; and when He has finished His gracious transforming work—we behold a saint whiter than snow!

The sculptor beheld an 'angel' in the rough, blackened stone which had been thrown away. And when he was finished—behold! men saw an angel cut from the rejected block!

Just so, Christ can take us, as rough, as unpolished and as vile as we are—and in His hands, our lives shall grow into purity and loveliness, until He presents us at last before the celestial throne, faultless and perfect! "For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!" Romans 8:29

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Something to ponder

There is a very short distance between an ungodly man's grave and his Hell!
"The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment . . ." Luke 16:22-23
Thomas Shepherd, 1665-1739

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God can take the most sin-soiled soul!

(J.R. Miller LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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Queen Victoria stopped one day at a paper-mill near Windsor Castle, and was shown through it by the foreman. He did not know who she was, as she was alone and was plainly dressed. The queen was intensely interested in every process of the paper-maker's art. She was conducted at last to a place where a number of rag-pickers were emptying out the dirty rags which they had gathered from the gutters and alleys of the great city. There was a large pile of these filthy, blackened rags, which looked as if they never could be made clean. The queen asked the foreman what he would do with these. To her amazement, he told her that he would make them into the finest, whitest paper.

When the queen had gone, the foreman learned who she was. Some days after, there was received at the palace—a package of the purest, most delicate paper, having the queen's likeness stamped upon it, with a note from the foreman of the mill, telling her that this paper was made from the very rags she had seen on her visit!

In the same way, the Holy Spirit takes human lives, ruined and blackened by sin—makes them whiter than snow, and stamps upon them the holy image of Jesus!

No life is hopeless in its ruin, which the transforming grace of God renews.

God can take the most sin-soiled soul, and give to it radiant beauty!

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder

William Dyer:
"The Lord will give grace and glory!" Psalm 84:11
  Grace is glory begun—and glory is grace made perfect!
  Grace is the first degree of glory—glory is the highest degree of grace!
  Grace is the seed—glory is the flower!
  Grace is the ring—glory is the sparkling diamond in the ring!

   ~  ~  ~  ~


The lot of free grace!

(Thomas Watson, "A New Creature")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

The new creature is a work of free grace. There is nothing in us, to cause God to make us anew. By nature we are full of pollution and enmity—yet now God forms the new creature. Behold the banner of love displayed! The new creature may say, "By the grace of God I am what I am!"

In the creation, we may see the strength of God's arm; in the new creature, we may see the working of God's heart! That God should consecrate any heart, and anoint it with grace—is an act of pure love! That He should pluck one out of the state of nature, and not another—must be resolved into sovereign grace! This will increase the saint's triumphs in Heaven, that the lot of free grace should fall upon them—and not on others.

The new creature is a work of rare excellency. A natural man is a lump of dirt and sin mixed together. God loathes him! But upon the new creature is a spiritual glory—as if a piece of clay was turned into a sparkling diamond!

Those are not new creatures, who continue in their sins and are resolved so to do. These are in the gall of bitterness, and are the most miserable creatures that ever God made—except for the devils. These stand in the place where all God's arrows fly! These are the center where all God's curses meet!

An unregenerate person is like one in debt—who is in fear of being arrested by death, and carried prisoner to Hell! Can that traitor be happy, who is fed by his prince in prison—only to be kept alive for his execution? God feeds the wicked like prisoners. They are reserved for the day of wrath!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:
"Make a journey every day to three mountains:
   Go to Mount Sinai, and see your sins.
   Go to Mount Calvary, and behold the Lamb of God.
   Go to Mount Zion, and view the Heavenly City."
Frederick Marsh

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The new birth!

(William Nicholson, "The Character and Dignity of Christians" 1862)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God!" 1 Peter 1:23

No one is born a Christian. No one comes into the world with a pure heart.

The new birth is not effected by baptism—yet some have wickedly declared that we are regenerated by baptism, made children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven. A person may be baptized in infancy, or in riper years—and yet like Simon Magus, remain "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity!" Acts 8:23

The new birth is not merely external, nor does it consist in mere religious duties. Some people have been preserved from immoralities, yet they too must be born again.
A man may perform a multitude of religious duties, and yet have an unholy heart.
He may be honest and fair in his dealings, and yet be an enemy to God.
He may be of a generous disposition to others, and yet not of a gracious disposition.
He may be able to say with the young ruler, "All these things have I kept from my youth up," and yet lack the one thing needful.

The new birth is not merely a profession of faith. Not all who profess Christ, possess Him.

The new birth
is a change wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit in the understanding, will, and affections of a sinner—which is the commencement of a new kind of life; and which gives another direction to his judgment, desires, pursuits, and conduct.

This new birth is a divine change. Thus He who gave man his physical being at first, can alone create him in Christ Jesus unto good works. He alone can enstamp His own image, and make us partakers of a Divine nature. To give life to the dead, and to bring a clean thing out of an unclean—is the work of Omnipotence, and the effect of sovereign grace! "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God!" John 1:13 

This new birth is an inward and invisible change.
The understanding is enlightened,
the judgment is informed,
the affections and desires are purified,
the will is subdued, and subjected to the will of God,
the soul is turned from the love of the world and the creature, to the great Creator and His service.
Regeneration cleanses the corrupt fountain of the heart, and demolishes the strongholds of Satan. It is a change . . .
  from heart wickedness, to heart holiness,
  from enmity to God, to love to God,
  from the image of Satan, to the image of God.

This new birth is a universal change, extending to the heart and life. Not only the mind—but the man is renewed. The tree is made good, and its fruit is good. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

He who is born again, gives evidence that he has passed from death to life. It is visible in his conduct—the observer of him perceives the change. How different now, from what he once was!

The following are the principal evidences of regeneration:
(1) Hatred to sin.
(2) Victory over the world.
(3) Brotherly love.
(4) Delight in spiritual duties.
(5) A life of holiness.
(6) Self-loathing, and constant faith in the sacrifice of Christ.
(7) Sincere love to Christ.

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It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!

(Arthur Pink, "The Sovereignty of God")  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

In the new birth, God exerts a quickening influence or power upon His own elect. Regeneration is very, very much more than simply shedding a few tears because of some temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or "joining the church." The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf, but is the inception and reception of a new life! It is no mere reformation, but a radical transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!

In the new birth:

God lays hold of one who is spiritually dead, and quickens him into newness of life!

God takes up one who was shaped in iniquity and conceived in sin, and conforms him to the image of His Son!

God seizes a drudge of the Devil, and makes him a member of His holy family!

God picks up a destitute beggar, and makes him joint-heir with Christ!

God comes to one who is full of enmity against Him, and gives him a new heart that is full of love for Him!

God stoops to one who by nature is a rebel, and works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure!

By His irresistible power, God transforms . . .
  a sinner—into a saint;
  an enemy—into His friend,
  a drudge of the Devil—into His beloved child!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Something to ponder:
George Everard: "Every soul saved by Christ is a jewel of priceless worth! It is taken out of the mire of sin and ignorance—and fixed in the Redeemer's crown, to shine brightly there for evermore!"

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Growth in grace

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 3:18

When I speak of growth in grace, I only mean an increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power—of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the like, may be . . .
  little—or great,
  strong—or weak,
  vigorous—or feeble, and
may vary greatly in the same person at different periods of his life.

When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply that . . .
  his sense of sin is becoming deeper,
  his faith is becoming stronger,
  his hope is becoming brighter,
  his love is becoming more extensive,
  his spiritual-mindedness is becoming more marked,
  he feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart—and he manifests more of it in his life.

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The imperativeness of the new birth

(Arthur Pink, 1952)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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"You must be born again!" John 3:7

The imperativeness of the new birth is evident from the fact that man is a fallen creature. Originally he was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), fitted to enjoy fellowship with Him. But upon his apostasy, he . . .
  was alienated from his Maker,
  became unsuited unto the Holy One,
  and fled from Him.

The natural man is . . .
  totally depraved,
  a slave of Satan,
  dead in sin,
and, therefore, it is no marvel that he needs to be born again.

He is devoid of . . .
  any love to God,
  any delight in Him,
  any relish for heavenly things,
  any ability to perform spiritual acts.

A miracle of grace, then, must be wrought upon him before he is qualified to enter the Father's house. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people—for those who have been made "fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12), for without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

An unregenerated person would be entirely out of harmony with the ineffable purity of the celestial courts, and could no more enjoy their company and activities, than could a deaf man enjoy an oratorio, or a blind man enjoy the beauties of an exquisite sunset. A spiritual kingdom requires a spiritual nature, and in order to the acquisition of that, the natural man must be regenerated—divinely regenerated, for the creature can no more quicken himself than he could give himself a natural being.

Regeneration is no . . .
  mere outward reformation,
  process of education, or
  even religious cultivation.
No, it consists of a radical change of heart and transformation of character—the communication of a gracious and holy principle, producing new desires, new capacities, and a new life. Then, do not marvel that in order thereto, a man must be born from above.

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Something to ponder:
Arthur Pink: "Corrupt Christianity is more offensive to Christ than open infidelity!"

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Their photograph flatters them!

(J.R. Miller, "What God Thinks of Us" 1909)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what God thinks of us.

One has pointed out that in every man, there are four different men:
the man whom the neighbors see,
    the man whom one's family sees,
    the man whom the person himself sees,
    and the man whom God sees.

The community knows us only in a general way, superficially. What people think of us, we sometimes call 'reputation'—what we are reputed to be. It is a composite made up of all that people know about us, gathered from our conduct, our acts, our dispositions, our words, the impressions of ourselves we give to others.

The knowledge the community has of a man, is only superficial. It is evident that the world's opinion about people is not infallible, is not complete, is not final.

A person may be better than his reputation; his external manner may do him injustice. Some men, by reason of their shyness, their awkwardness, or some limitation in power of expression, fail to appear at their true value. The world knows only a man's outward life, and there may be good things in him which it does not know.

Then some people, on the other hand, are worse than their reputation. Their photograph flatters them! What they pretend to be, exceeds the reality. They practice tricks which give a glamour to their lives, so that they pass in public for more than they are. They wear veils, which hide defects and faults in them, and thus they seem better than they are.

Hence we cannot accept the judgment of the community, regarding anyone—as absolutely true, fair, and final.

But there is another man in us—the man GOD sees. And this is most important of all. We do not even know all the secret things of our own hearts. There is an Eye that sees deeper than ours! It is pleasant to have people commend us, when we have tried to do our duty. It gives us great joy to have the approval of our own hearts. But if we do not have the commendation of the Master, human praise and self-approval amount to nothing! "What does God think of me?" is always the final question.

Men are cruel. They judge often harshly. They know only part of the truth concerning us. They are not patient with our infirmities. But we are safe in the hands of God. He knows the worst in us, but He also knows the best. We may trust our lives, therefore, to God's judgment—even if they are full of defects and flaws. He knows all, and will bring to light all the hidden things.

"Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23-24

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Something to ponder
Thomas Watson: "It was wonderful love that Christ should die for us rather than for the fallen angels. They were creatures of a more noble extract, and in all probability might have brought greater revenues of glory to God. Yet that Christ should pass by those golden vessels, and make us clods of earth into stars of glory—Oh, the hyperbole of Christ's love!"

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God's love is revealed and made known by these six deeds of indescribable love!

(Don Fortner)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" 1 John 3:1

We rejoice to know that "God is love!" Love is an attribute of His holy Being, without which He would not be God. We know that God is love, because His love is revealed and made known by His deeds. Love is active. It is never dormant. Like fire, it must break out. It cannot be contained. It is known only when it is experienced—not by words, but by deeds. We know the love of God is that love that "surpasses knowledge." Yet, God's love is revealed and made known by these six deeds of indescribable love:

The first act of God's love was our ELECTION in Christ (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Election is not a hard doctrine. It is a delightful doctrine. Were it not for God's electing love toward sinners, there would be no salvation (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). We would never have come to know and love Christ, had He not first loved us (John 15:16; 1 John 4:19).

The second act of God's love was our REDEMPTION by Christ (Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). Because He loved us, the Son of God assumed our nature, assumed our sin, assumed our guilt and died under the wrath of God as our Substitute, to put away our sins. "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me!"

The third act by which God reveals His love to sinners is His EFFECTUAL SAVING GRACE (Jeremiah 31:3).
Those whom the triune God loved—the Father chose to save.
Those whom the Father chose to save—the Son redeemed.
And those whom the Son redeemed—the Holy Spirit will effectually call by His irresistible grace to life and faith in Christ.

The love of God is revealed fourthly in the absolute PRESERVATION of His elect in a state of grace (John 10:28; Romans 8:39). Can you imagine one who is loved of God—falling from a state of grace, perishing and suffering the wrath of God forever in Hell? Such a notion is worse than nonsense, it is utter blasphemy! The love of God is . . .
  without cause,
  without beginning,
  without condition,
  without change,
  and without end!
It is free.
It is sovereign.
It is indestructible.
It is everlasting.

Fifthly, God's love for His elect is seen in our Savior's TENDER, PROVIDENTIAL CARE for us (John 11:35-36). Our Savior really is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We really are the apple of His eye.

But there is one act of love that goes beyond election, redemption, effectual calling, preservation, and providential care. As great and marvelous as those things are, there is one act of God that goes beyond them all. If the climax of God's love is our redemption by Christ, then the apex of God's love is our ADOPTION into the family of God! (1 John 3:1-3)

By birth, we are all fallen, depraved and spiritually dead (Romans 5:12).
By our deeds, we show ourselves to be children of the devil, sinful, deceitful, and wicked (John 8:44).
By nature, we are all children of wrath (Ephesians 1:3), a people deserving the wrath of God.
But by grace, we who believe are the sons of God!

Election is the great fountain of grace.
Redemption is the greatest mystery of grace.
And adoption is the greatest privilege of grace.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!"

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Something to ponder
Don Fortner: "When sinful men make their reason the basis of believing something, there is no limit to the nonsense that will be passed off as Bible doctrine! Always be prepared to give up any doctrine or practice that is not found in holy Scripture; and to embrace everything revealed in the Book of God—no matter what the sacrifice, no matter what the consequence!"

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Our conception of Christian living

(J.R. Miller, "Being Christians on Weekdays" 1888)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

True religion is intensely practical. Only so far as it dominates one's life, is it real. We must get the commandments out of God's Word, and give them a place in the hard, dusty paths of our earthly toil and struggle. We must get them off the tables of stone, and have them written on the walls of our own hearts! We must bring the Golden Rule into our daily, actual life.

We are too apt to imagine that holiness consists in mere good feeling toward God. It does not! It consists in obedience in heart and life to the divine requirements. To be holy is, first, to be set apart for God and devoted to God's service, and it necessarily follows that we must live for God.

Our hands are God's, and can fitly be used only in doing His work.
Our feet are God's, and may be employed only in walking in His ways and running His errands.
Our lips are God's, and should speak words only that honor Him and bless others.
Our hearts are God's, and must not be profaned by thoughts and affections that are not pure.

True holiness is no vague sentiment, it is intensely practical. It is nothing less than the bringing of every thought and feeling and act, into obedience to Christ! We are quite in danger of leaving out the element of obedience, in our conception of Christian living. If we do this, our religion loses its strength and grandeur, and becomes weak, nerveless and forceless.

Our religion must touch every part of our life, and transform it all into the beauty of holiness.

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Something to ponder:

"I am among those who believe that our Western civilization is on its way to perishing. It has many commendable qualities, most of which it has borrowed from the Christian ethic—but it lacks the element of moral wisdom that would give it permanence. Future historians will record that we of the twentieth century had intelligence enough to create a great civilization, but not the moral wisdom to preserve it!" A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963

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Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!

(J.R. Miller, "Losses" 1880)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

"God Himself has said: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

This truth ought to bring unspeakable comfort to God's children, who are called to suffer earthly losses. If they have GOD left to them, no other loss is irreparable!

A wealthy man came home one evening with a heavy heart, and said that he had lost everything. Bankruptcy had overtaken him. "We are utterly beggared!" he said. "All is gone; there is nothing left! We must leave our home, and beg for tomorrow's bread!" His little five year old daughter crept up on his knee, and, looking earnestly into his despairing face, said, "Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!"

Just so, what are temporal and worldly losses of the sorest kind—while God remains? Yes, what is the loss of money, houses, costly furniture, and other possessions—while God's love remains? There is surely enough in Him, to compensate a thousand times for every earthly loss!

Our lives may be stripped bare: home, friends, riches, comforts—gone; every sweet voice of love, every note of joy—silenced; and we may be driven out from brightness, tenderness and shelter—into the cold ways of sorrow! Yet if we have God Himself left—ought not this to suffice? Is He not in Himself, infinitely more than all His gifts? If we have Him, can we really need anything else?

"The Lord is my Shepherd—I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1

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Something to ponder:

"Dear friend, let your sad heart rest upon the loving heart of your Savior." Mary Winslow