30 November 2011

Hypocrisy in the Christmas Culture War

The following was posted today at Letter of Marque
Calling Out The Blatant Hypocrisy in the Christmas Culture War
The Christmas Holiday Season is here again. That means we'll all have the heart warming joy of watching the renewal of hostilities in the ongoing perennial Christmas Culture Wars. Once again, valiant and brave defenders of Christmas will make their lists and check them twice in order to warn the unwary public about those naughty retailers and municipalities who’ve joined with the devil and her conspiracy to remove Christ from Christmas.
What boggles my mind about a growing number of "Christmas Culture Warriors" is their blatant hypocrisy. These are people who will call for a boycott of a local drugstore if they are not greeted with the words “Merry Christmas” at the check out counter. Yet, these same folks attend and tithe at churches where Jesus is rarely if ever preached and proclaimed. These same folks will threaten to hold a recall election for any local city council member who would dare suggest removing the town’s nativity scene from the court house lawn. YET, these same Christmas defenders attend and tithe at churches that will be closed this Christmas because it inconveniently fell on a Sunday this year.
This is madness!
Why is it that so many church people threaten to punish non-Christians for allegedly removing Christ from Christmas, YET these same church people give their “pastor” a complete pass when he removes Christ from Christianity Sunday after Sunday?
Shouldn’t Christians instead clean house and boycott all the churches and mega churches that are guilty of removing Christ from Christianity week in and week out?
Fact is, many who call themselves Christians have no moral authority to fault people in the world for saying “Happy Holidays” because they’re hypocrites. Those same church people surround themselves with feel good, ear tickling, self-esteem boosting, narcissistic, find your destiny, dream the impossible dream “pastors”. They brag about how much they love Jesus but prove that they hate Him by financially supporting those who incessantly twist and warp His word.
Think about it.
Do you really believe that on the Last Day that Jesus is going to throw people into hell for saying “Happy Holidays”? Or will He instead say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” to those who claimed to be Christians but attended churches where Christ was not proclaimed and sinners were not driven to sorrow for their sins and where the message of the free forgiveness of sins won by Christ’s death on the cross was not preached?
The Apostle Peter said it best when he said, “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17)
"Shouldn’t Christians instead clean house and boycott all the churches and mega churches that are guilty of removing Christ from Christianity week in and week out?" I couldn't say it any better. Amen and amen.

25 November 2011

This 'n' That

Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when it seems like all 7 billion people in the world are in Target at the same time. The time of year when people think it's okay to wear a santa hat wherever they go. The time of year when we decide we need to boycott stores that won't say "Merry Christmas," as if we expect a pagan organization to acknowledge Christ and adhere to some sort of Christian ideal. The time of year when you get "Jingle Bells" stuck in your head instead of some mind-numbingly repetitive praise song (the jury's still out on which of these is worse). Yes, the holiday season has officially begun. It's likely that most of us have resolved, as in years past, that this will be the year when we focus less on the worldly elements of the season, and more on the true meaning of Christmas. And it's just as likely that, when December 26 rolls around, we'll realize that we once again failed in this endeavor. I urge you to address this in prayer this season. I know I will be! Wrapping paper rips, bows crumple, toys break, and clothes shrink. Jesus Christ and the free gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone...now there's a present worth sharing.

I know it's the day after Thanksgiving and there's still a lot to do. Some of you have perhaps already emptied out the mall, catching the best in Black Friday deals. Some of you still have to wash yesterday's dishes. And some of you have big plans to spend the day napping on the couch. Whatever your agenda calls for today, take some time out to enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Not our own righteousness:

24 November 2011


There are many grievous happenings in the world today. Perhaps the most atrocious of these are happening under the guise of "churches" and in the name of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Though none of this is new - there has always been apostasy, blasphemy, false teachers - it does indeed seem as though the activity has rapidly increased in recent years and months. And yet, dear Christian, we remain joyful. We stand in certainty. We praise our God. Why? Because He does not change. Our great Lord and Savior stands unwavering. Truly He is the same today as He was yesterday, and as He will be forever (Hebrews 13:8)! And yet, He is not idle. He is ever-working (John 5:17), ever-interceding (Romans 8:34), and ever-reigning (Hebrews 1:8). Even now, He sustains the universe "by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3)." At the same time, He hears the prayers of those who love Him and is active and working and sovereign over our lives. We serve a great, mighty, powerful, loving, tender, all-consuming, perfect, holy God! And I am thankful, though I can never be thankful enough.
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
Today, we will be thankful for family and for friends, for health and for laughable memories. We ought also to be thankful for the trials we have encountered, for through them God purifies us and continues His work of refining us to be more like Him. Above all, we ought to be thankful for the gift of Jesus Christ, without whom no one would be saved!

All of us, in spite of good intentions and laudable works, are great, wicked sinners. Each man, each woman, who has ever taken a breath has transgressed the perfect law of God, and without perfection we cannot expect to see the glories of Heaven. Instead, we deserve to have the full wrath of God unleashed upon us for all of eternity! And yet, God, in His grace and mercy, provided a way. His perfect Son, sent from Heaven, became a man and lived the perfect, sinless life that we cannot. Then, the sins of all who would ever trust in Him were placed upon Him. As He was beaten, tortured, crucified, He suffered and endured the wrath of God that each one of us deserves. He died. Three days later He rose again, proving His victory over death, sin and Satan. And now, all those who come to Him broken and repentant, aware of their own hopelessness before God, may be saved from the wrath they deserve. To believe upon Him, to trust solely in His blood, His perfect and complete work on the cross, is to receive eternal life. At the moment of salvation, the perfect righteousness of Christ will be imputed to those who believe, and they will be seen as justified before God. Because of the work of Christ, we may now draw near to this perfect God, and come before His throne with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) We serve a great, merciful, gracious, forgiving, amazing God!
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Do you worry you have not come to this place of repentance? God will bring you there (2 Corinthians 2:25). Do you fear you have not reached this place of faith? God will bring you there. Indeed, these are gifts from God above and yet, all those who call upon Him will be saved! Oh yes, we serve a saving God!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) 
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
And so we are thankful. We are thankful for the temporal gifts entrusted to us by God, yet we are more thankful still for those eternal gifts given to us by Him. We are thankful for the gift of Christ, the gift of salvation, and we are thankful for the promise of a perfect, undefiled inheritance which we enjoy even now (Ephesians 1:3-14). In the midst of the busyness, when the world threatens to suffocate our eternal perspective, let us not forget to turn to Him who will one day make all things new. He who has perfectly orchestrated history continues to reign in sovereignty and we must rest in this while keeping our eyes ever vigilant and fixed upon Him. We serve the one and only true and living God.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:17-18) 
Give thanks, give praise, give glory, to God Almighty!
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)
Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled, "The Treasure of Grace," and was preached on January 22, 1860.
Come then, my brethren, into this glittering mine of the attributes of the grace of God. Every one of God's attributes is infinite, and therefore this attribute of grace is without bounds. You cannot conceive the infinity of God, why, therefore, should I attempt to describe it. Recollect however, that as the attributes of God are of the like extent, the gauge of one attribute must be the gauge of another. Or, further, if one attribute is without limit, so is another attribute. Now, you cannot conceive any boundary to the omnipotence of God. What cannot he do? He can crate, he can destroy; he can speak a myriad universe into existence; or he can quench the light of myriads of stars as readily as we tread out a spark. He hath but to will it, and creatures without number sing his praise; yet another volition, and those creatures subside into their naked nothingness, as a moment's foam subsides into the wave that bears it, and is lost for ever. The astronomer turns his tube to the remotest space, he cannot find a boundary to God's creating power; but could he seem to find a limit, we would then inform him that all the worlds on worlds that cluster in space, hick as the drops of morning dew upon the meadows, are but the shreds of God's power. He can make more than all these, can dash those into nothingness, and can begin again. Now as boundless as is his power, so infinite is his grace. As he hath power to do anything, so hath he grace enough to give anything—to give everything to the very chief of sinners.

23 November 2011

Thankful for the Word

    Your testimonies are wonderful;
        therefore my soul keeps them.
    The unfolding of your words gives light;
        it imparts understanding to the simple.
    I open my mouth and pant,
        because I long for your commandments.
    Turn to me and be gracious to me,
        as is your way with those who love your name.
    Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
        and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
    Redeem me from man's oppression,
        that I may keep your precepts.
    Make your face shine upon your servant,
        and teach me your statutes.
    My eyes shed streams of tears,
        because people do not keep your law.
    Righteous are you, O LORD,
        and right are your rules.
    You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
        and in all faithfulness.
    My zeal consumes me,
        because my foes forget your words.
    Your promise is well tried,
        and your servant loves it.
    I am small and despised,
        yet I do not forget your precepts.
    Your righteousness is righteous forever,
        and your law is true.
    Trouble and anguish have found me out,
        but your commandments are my delight.
    Your testimonies are righteous forever;
        give me understanding that I may live.
(Psalm 119:129-144)

21 November 2011

Pithy Puritan Quotes of the Day

"There may be several things which may help to make the life fair in the eyes of men; but nothing will make it amiable in the eyes of God, unless the heart be changed and renewed. All the medicines which can be applied, without the sanctifying work of the Spirit, though they may cover, they can never cure the corruption and diseases of the soul." - George Swinnock
"Regeneration is a universal change of the whole man...it is as large in renewing as sin was in defacing." - Stephen Charnock
"Reader, make sure of this inward change; otherwise, though thy conversation may be specious, it can never be gracious, nor thy profession durable ... I wonder not that many professors disown the Lord Jesus, when they are ignorant why they at any time owned Him. He that takes up religion on trust, will lay it down when it brings him into trouble. He that follows Christ, he knoweth not why, will forsake Him, he knoweth not how." - George Swinnock

20 November 2011

Sunday Morning Praise

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

18 November 2011

100 Days of Favor - That's It?

Word-Faith prosperity preacher Joseph Prince was excited to announce this morning that his book, 100 Days of Favor, is now available for Kindle. 100 days, huh? Will each of those be like a Friday? In order to maintain the favor, do I have to re-read it once the 100 days are up?
(Online Source)
Well, I hate it when I'm not apprised and up-to-date on the latest Scripture-twisting efforts of the prosperity preachers, so I hastened to Amazon to read more.
In 100 Days Of Favor, Joseph Prince invites you to embark on a purposeful and powerful journey in discovering and experiencing the unmerited favor of God. Dive headfirst into the vast ocean of God’s favor and learn how it releases good success in your life. You will develop a strong sense of favor-consciousness and see God empowering you with every blessing to overcome every challenge in your life.

Beloved, take a rest from the stress that comes with depending on your own strength, willpower and intelligence to achieve the results you desire. Pull yourself away from the busyness of life to saturate yourself in life-transforming truths from God’s Word. As you step into the realm of God’s unmerited favor, you will discover how you can experience a victorious life God’s way, with results that will be far more awesome and effective than you can ever achieve on your own.

Make the decision today to dive into the vastness of God’s love for you. Delve into 100 Days Of Favor and immerse yourself in a journey that will impact and change your life forever! (Online Source)
"Dive headfirst into the vast ocean of God’s favor and learn how it releases good success in your life. You will develop a strong sense of favor-consciousness and see God empowering you with every blessing to overcome every challenge in your life." Um, do I need a scuba suit for this dive? And what is "favor-consciousness?" I'm honestly beginning to wonder if these preachers are just reading a different Bible entirely. I suppose we could applaud Prince for his creativity, but that's about all we could cheer, and even that would be done while gritting our teeth! But what do we do with this claim of the "favor-consciousness" allowing us to be empowered "with every blessing to overcome every challenge in your life." The word "every" is a loaded one, and it's not to be tossed around flippantly. Of course, that's never stopped the Word-Faith teachers in the past. If we're going to discuss blessings, then, let's turn to Ephesians 1, for it is an excellent passage to examine the blessings that belong to the believer:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)
I see a lot of wonderful blessings in the above verses. Amazing promises from God to His children. Indeed, the Apostle Paul declares that those who are in Christ have received every spiritual blessing! And while we most certainly do enjoy each of these even now, we know that we will experience these in their fullness upon the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Wait a minute, what did Peter say? "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials..." But, according to Joseph Prince, once you achieve "favor consciousness," then you will "see God empowering you with every blessing to overcome every challenge in your life." So who is correct, the Apostle Peter or Joseph Prince? According to Peter, the believer experiences and rejoices in his God-granted blessings, as well as in the promise of his full inheritance upon the revelation of Christ. Yet, at the same time, the believer knows that he will be afflicted by worldly trials and tribulations...otherwise known as challenges. 

Joseph Prince says, "As you step into the realm of God’s unmerited favor, you will discover how you can experience a victorious life God’s way, with results that will be far more awesome and effective than you can ever achieve on your own." One must wonder if this book will describe what a "victorious life God's way" actually looks like, as set forth in Scripture.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:25-28)
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.' (John 15:18-25)
I have a sneaking suspicion that Joseph Prince's definition of a "victorious life" is not the same as God's definition. So while 100 days of favor may sound like a hot deal, I think I'll opt instead for an eternal inheritance and trust in the pure truths of God's Word.

This 'n' That

This morning, Gene Veith's blog pointed me to a very interesting article in the Washington Post about why no two snowflakes are the same.
We’re talking about real snowflakes, which have something on the order of a quintillion molecules. (That’s the number 1 with 18 zeros.)
Consider the math, which Libbrecht helps explain using a bookshelf analogy. He points out that, if you have only three books on your bookshelf, there are only six orders in which you can arrange them. (That’s 3 times 2 times 1.) If you have 15 books, there are 1.3 trillion possible arrangements. (Fifteen times 14 times 13, etc.) With 100 books, the number of combinations increases to a number that is far, far greater than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. 
An ordinary snowflake has hundreds of branches ribs, and ridges, all arranged in minutely different geometries. To be sure, lots of snowflakes have fallen in the world, but not nearly enough to render two identical snowflakes a reasonable possibility.
Libbrecht estimates that around a septillion — that’s a 1 with 24 zeros — snowflakes fall every year. (Online Source)
To be sure, this should not surprise those of us who believe in the amazing creativity of our great Creator. Nevertheless, stop and think about this for a moment. A septillion snowflakes fall every year. And not one of them evolved out of nothing! No, each one was deliberately and no doubt delicately designed and created by God. The same God to whom we may come in prayer with our confessions, our concerns, our thanks and our praise. What a truly amazing God we serve!

Okay, now that you've pondered the intricacies of the snowflake, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • Patricia King makes me cringe and cry and...well, laugh. But in the end, I'm so glad to finally have learned of the "entrepreneur anointing."
  • "The most terrifying truth of Scripture is that God is good."
    Please share the above Gospel presentation with as many people as possible.

17 November 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

This entire sermon is wonderful. I simply cannot find just one excerpt to share, rather it must be read in its entirety. I will not apologize for the length of this post, because once you read it, you will understand why I chose to post the full content of this sermon.

The following is entitled, "Repentance Unto Life" and was preached on September 23, 1855.
"Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."—Acts 11:18.
ONE OF THE GREATEST obstacles which the Christian religion ever overcame, was the inveterate prejudice which possessed the minds of its earliest followers. The Jewish believers, the twelve apostles, and those whom Jesus Christ had called from the dispersed of Israel, were so attached to the idea that salvation was of the Jews, and that none but the disciples of Abraham, or, at any rate, the circumcised ones, could be saved, that they could not bring themselves to the thought that Jesus had come to be the Saviour of all nations, and that in him should all the people of the earth be blessed. It was with difficulty they could allow the supposition; it was so opposite to all their Jewish education, that we find them summoning Peter before a council of Christians, and saving to him, "thou wentest in to men uncircumcised and didst eat with them." Nor could Peter exonerate himself until he had rehearsed the matter fully, and said that God had appeared unto him in a vision, declaring, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common," and that the Lord had bidden him preach the gospel to Cornelius and his household, inasmuch as they were believers. After this the power of grace was so mighty that these Jews could no longer withstand it: and in the teeth of all their previous education, they at once assumed the broad principle of Christianity," and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Let us bless God that now we are free from the trammels of Judaism, and that we are not under those of a Gentilism which has in its turn excluded the Jew, but that we live so near the blessed time that is coming, when Jew and Gentile, bond and free, shall feel themselves one in Jesus Christ our Head. I am not now, however, about to enlarge upon this, but my subject this morning is "Repentance unto life." May God give me grace so to speak to you that his word may be as a sharp sword, "piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow."
    By "Repentance unto life," I think we are to understand that repentance which is accompanied by spiritual life in the soul, and ensures eternal life to every one who possesses it. "Repentance unto life," I say, brings with it spiritual life, or rather, is the first consequent thereof. There are repentances which are not signs of life, except of natural life, because they are only effected by the power of the conscience and the voice of nature speaking in men; but the repentance here spoken of is produced by the Author of life, and when it comes, it begets such life in the soul, that he who was "dead in trespasses and sins," is quickened together with Christ; he who had no spiritual susceptibilities, now "receives with meekness the engrafted word;" he who slumbered in the very center of corruption, receives power to become one of the sons of God, and to be near his throne. This I think is "repentance unto life,"—that which gives life unto a dead spirit. I have said also, this repentance ensures eternal life; for there are repentances of which you hear men speaks which do not secure the salvation of the soul. Some preachers will affirm that men may repent, and may believe, and yet may fall away and perish. We will not consume our time by stopping to expose their error this morning; we have often considered it before, and have refuted all that they could say in defense of their dogma. Let us think of an infinitely better repentance. The repentance of our test is not their repentance, but it is a "repentance unto life;" a repentance which is a true sign of eternal salvation in Christ; a repentance which preserves us through this temporary state in Jesus, and which when we are passed into eternity, gives us a bliss which cannot be destroyed. "Repentance unto life "is the act of salvation of the soul, the germ which contains all the essentials of salvation, which secures them to us, and prepares us for them.
    We are this morning to give a very careful and prayerful attention to the "repentance" which is "unto life." First, I shall devote a few minutes to the consideration of false repentance; secondly, I shall consider the signs that mark true repentance; and after that, I shall extol the divine beneficence, of which it is written, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
    I. First, then, we will consider certain FALSE REPENTANCES. I will begin with this remark—that trembling beneath the sound of the gospel is not "repentance." There are many men who when they hear a faithful gospel sermon, are exceedingly stirred and moved by it. By a certain power which accompanies the Word, God testifies that it is his own Word, and he causes those who hear it involuntarily to tremble. I have seen some men, while the truths of Scripture have been sounded from this pulpit, whose knees have knocked together, whose eyes have flowed with tears as if they had been fountains of water. I have witnessed the deep dejection of their spirit, when—as some of them have told me—they have been shaken until they knew not how to abide the sound of the voice, for it seemed like the terrible trumpet of Sinai thundering only their destruction. Well, my hearers, you may be very much disturbed under the preaching of the gospel, and yet you shall not have that "repentance unto life." You may know what it is to be very seriously and very solemnly affected when you go to God's house, and yet you may be hardened sinners. Let me confirm the remark by an instance:—Paul stood before Felix with the chains upon his hands, and as he preached of "righteousness, temperance, and of judgment to come," it is written, "Felix trembled," and yet procrastinating Felix is in perdition, among the rest of those who have said, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season I will call for thee." There are many of you who cannot attend the house of God without being alarmed; you know what it is often to stand aghast at the thought that God will punish you; you may often have been moved to sincere emotion under God's minister; but, let me tell you, you may be after all a castaway, because you have not repented of your sins, neither have you turned to God.
    Further still. It is quite possible that you may not only tremble before God's Word, but you may become a sort of amiable Agrippa, and be "almost persuaded" to turn to Jesus Christ, and yet have no "repentance;" you may go further and even desire the gospel; you may say: "Oh! this gospel is such a goodly thing I would I had it. It ensures so much happiness here, and so much joy hereafter, I wish I might call it mine." Oh! it is good, thus to hear this voice of God! but you may sit, and, while some powerful text is being well handled, you may say, "I think it is true;" but it must enter the heart before you can repent. You may even go upon your knees in prayer and you may ask with a terrified lip that this may be blessed to your soul; and after all you may be no child of God. You may say as Agrippa said unto Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian;" yet, like Agrippa, you may never proceed beyond the "almost." He was "almost persuaded to be a Christian," but not "altogether." Now, how many of you here have been; almost persuaded" and yet you are not really in the way of eternal life. How often has conviction brought you on your knees and you have "almost" repented, but you have remained there, without actually repenting. See that corpse? It is lately dead. It has scarcely acquired the ghastliness of death, the color is still life-like. Its hand is still warm; you may fancy it is alive, and it seems almost to breathe. Every thing is there—the worm hath scarcely touched it dissolution hath scarcely approached; there is no foeted smell—yet life is gone; life is not there. So it is with you: you are almost alive; you have almost every external organ of religion which the Christian has; but you have not life. You may have repentance, but not sincere repentance. O hypocrite! I warn you this morning, you may not only tremble but feel a complacency towards the Word of God, and yet after all not have "repentance unto life." You may sink down into the pit that is bottomless, and hear it said, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
    Yet, again, it is possible for men to progress even further than this, and positively to humble themselves under the hand of God, and yet they may be total strangers to repentance. Their goodness is not like the morning cloud and the early dew that passeth away, but when the sermon is heard they go home and commence what they conceive to be the work of repentance, they renounce certain vices and follies, they clothe themselves in sack-cloth, their tears flow very freely on account of what they have done; they weep before God; and yet with all that, their repentance is but a temporary repentance, and they go back to their sins again. Do you deny that such a penitence can exist? Let me tell you of a case. A certain man named Ahab coveted the vineyard of his neighbor Naboth, who would not sell it for a price, nor make an exchange. He consulted with his wife Jezebel, who contrived to put Naboth to death, and thus secure the vineyard to the king. After Naboth was put to death, and Ahab had taken possession of the vineyard, the servant of the Lord met Ahab, and said to him, "Hast thou killed, and also taken possession. Thus saith the Lord, in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall the dogs lick thy blood, even thine. Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy prosperity "We read that Ahab went awe, and humbled himself; and the Lord said, "Because Ahab humbleth himself before me I will not bring evil in his days." He had granted him some kind of mercy; but we read in the very next chapter that Ahab rebelled, and in a battle in Ramoth-Gilead, according to the servant of the Lord, he was slain there; so that "the dogs licked his blood "in the very vineyard of Naboth. You, too, I tell you, may humble yourselves before God for a time, and yet remain the slaves of your transgressions. You are afraid of damnation, but you are not afraid of sinning: you are afraid of hell, but you are not afraid of your iniquities; you are afraid of being cast into the pit, but not afraid to harden your hearts against his commands. Is it not true, O sinner, that you are trembling at hell? It is not the soul's state that troubles you, but hell. If hell were extinguished, your repentance would be extinguished; if the terrors awaiting you were withdrawn, you would sin with a higher hand than before, and your soul would be hardened, and would rebel against its sovereign. Be not deceived, my brethren, here; examine yourselves whether you are in the faith; ask yourselves if you have that which is "repentance unto life;" for you may humble yourselves for a time, and yet never repent before God.
    Beyond this many advance, and yet fall short of grace. It is possible that you may confess your sins, and yet may not repent. You may approach God, and tell him you are a wretch indeed; you may enumerate a long list of your transgressions and of the sins that you have committed, without a sense of the heniousness of your guilt, without a spark of real hatred of your deeds. You may confess and acknowledge your transgressions, and yet have no abhorrence of sin; and if you do not in the strength of God resist sin, if you do not turn from it, this fancied repentance shall be but the guilding which displays the paint which decorates; it is not the grace which transforms into gold, which will abide the fire. You may even, I say confess your faults, and yet have not repentance.
    Once more, and then I have gone to the farthest thought I have to give on this point. You may do some work meet for repentance, and yet you may be impenitent. Let me give you a proof of this in a fact authenticated by inspiration.
    Judas betrayed his Master; and after having done so, an overwhelming sense of the enormous evil he had committed seized upon him. His guilt buried all hope of repentance, and in the misery of desperation, not the grief of true regret, he confessed his sin to the high priests, crying, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us, see thou to that." Whereupon he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, to show that he could not bear to carry the price of guilt upon him; and left them there. He went out, and—was he saved? No. "He went out and hanged himself." And even then the vengeance of God followed him: for when he had hanged himself he fell from the height where he was suspended, and was dashed to pieces; he was lost, and his soul perished. Yet see what this man did. He had sinned, he confessed his wrong, he returned the gold; still after all that, he was a castaway. Does not this make us tremble? You see how possible it is to be the ape of the Christian so nearly, that wisdom itself, if it be only mortal, may be deceived.
    II. Now, having thus warned you that there are many false kinds of repentance, I propose to occupy a short time by some remarks on TRUE REPENTANCE, and the signs whereby we may discern whether we have that "repentance" which is "unto life."
    First of all, let me correct one or two mistakes which those who are coming to Jesus Christ very often make. One is, they frequently think they must have deep, horrible, and awful manifestations of the terrors of law and of hell before they can be said to repent. How many have I conversed with, who have said to me what I can only translate into English to you this morning something in this way: "I do not repent enough, I do not feel myself enough of a sinner I have not been so gross and wicked a transgressor as many—I could almost wish I had; not because I love sin, but because then I think I should have deeper convictions of my guilt, and feel more sure that I had truly come to Jesus Christ." Now it is a great mistake to imagine that these terrible and horrible thoughts of a coming judgment have anything to do with the validity of "repentance." They are very often not the gift of God at all, but the insinuations of the devil; and even where the law worketh and produceth these thoughts, you must not regard them as being part and parcel of "repentance." They do not enter into the essence of repentance. "Repentance" is a hatred of sin; it is a turning from sin and a determination in the strength of God to forsake it. "Repentance" is a hatred of sin, and a forsaking it. It is possible for a man to repent without any terrific display of the terrors of the law; he may repent without having heard the trumpet sounds of Sinai, without having heard more than a distant rumble of its thunder. A man may repent entirely through the power of the voice of mercy. Some hearts God opens to faith, as in the case of Lydia. Others he assaults with the sledge hammer of the wrath to come; some he opens with the picklock of grace, and some with the crowbar of the law. There may be different ways of getting there, but the question is, has he got there? Is he there? It often happens that the Lord is not in the tempest or in the earthquake, but in the "still small voice."
    There is another mistake many poor people make when they are thinking about salvation, and that is—that they cannot repent enough; they imagine that were they to repent up to a certain degree, they would be saved. "Oh, sir!" some of you will say, "I have not penitence enough." Beloved, let me tell you that there is not any eminent degree of "repentance" which is necessary to salvation. You know there are degrees of faith, and yet the least faith saves; so there are degrees of repentance, and the least repentance will save the soul if it is sincere. The Bible says, "He that believeth shall be saved," and when it says that, it includes the very smallest degree of faith. So when it says, "Repent and be saved," it includes the man who has the lowest degree of real repentance. Repentance, moreover, is never perfect in any man in this mortal state. We never get perfect faith so as to be entirely free from doubting; and we never get repentance which is free from some hardness of heart. The most sincere penitent that you know will feel himself to be partially impenitent. Repentance is also a continual life-long act. It will grow continually. I believe a Christian on his death-bed will more bitterly repent than ever he did before. It is a thing to be done all your life long. Sinning and repenting—sinning and repenting, make up a Christian's life. Repenting and believing in Jesus—repenting and believing in Jesus, make up the consummation of his happiness. You must not expect that you will be perfect in "repentance" before you are saved. No Christian can be perfect. "Repentance" is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense! There are no conditions of salvation. God gives the salvation himself; and he only gives it to those to whom he will. He says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy "If, then, God has given you the least repentance, if it be sincere repentance, praise him for it, and expect that repentance will grow deeper and deeper as you go further on. Then this remark I think, ought to be applied to all Christians. Christian men and women, you feel that you have not deep enough repentance. You feel that you have not faith large enough. What are you to do? Ask for an increase of faith, and it will grow. So with repentance. Have you ever tried to get deep repentance? My friends, if you have failed therein, still trust in Jesus, and try every day to get a penitential spirit, Do not expect, I say again, to have perfect repentance at first; sincere penitence you must have, and then under divine grace you will go on from strength to strength, until at last you shall hate and abhor sin as a serpent or a viper, and then shall you be near, very near, the perfection of repentance. These few thoughts, then, in opening the subject. And now you say, what are the signs of true "repentance" in the sight of God?
    First, I tell you, there is always sorrow with it. No man ever repents of sin without having some kind of sorrow with it. More or less intense, it may be, according to the way in which God calls him, and his previous manner of life, but there must be some sorrow. We do not care when it comes, but at some time or other it must come, or it is not the repentance of the Christian. I knew a man once who professed that he had repented, and he certainly was a changed character, so far as the external was concerned, but I never could see that he had any real sorrow for sin, neither when he professed to believe in Jesus did I ever see any marks of penitence in him. I considered in that man it was a kind of ecstatic jump into grace; and I found afterwards he had just as ecstatic a jump into guilt again He was not a sheep of God, for he had not been washed in penitence: for all God's people have to be washed there when converted from their sins. No man can come to Christ and know his pardon without feeling that sin is a hateful thing, for it put Jesus to death. Ye who have tearless eyes, unbended knees, unbroken hearts, how can ye think ye are saved? The gospel promised salvation only to those who really repent.
    Lest, however, I should hurt some of you, and make you feel what I do not intend, let me remark that I do not mean to say that you must shed actual tears. Some men are so hard in constitution that they could not shed a tear. I have known some who have been able to sigh and to groan, but tears would not come. Well, I say, that though the tear often affords evidence of penitence, you may have "repentance unto life" without it. What I would have you understand is, that there must be some real sorrow. If the prayer may not be vocal, it must be secret. There must be a groan if there is no word; there must be a sigh if there be no tear, to show the repentance, even though it be but small.
    There must be in this repentance, I think, not only sorrow, but there must be practice—practical repentance.

"'Tis not enough to say we're sorry, and repent,
And then go on from day to day just as we always went" 
Many people are very sorry and very penitent for their past sins Hear them talk. "Oh!" they say, "I deeply regret that ever I should have been a drunkard; and I sincerely bemoan that I should have fallen into that sin; I deeply lament that I should have done so." Then they go straight home; and when one; o'clock on Sunday comes you will find them at it again. And yet such people say they have repented Do you believe them when they say they are sinners, but do not love sin? They may not love it for the time; but can they be sincerely penitent, and then go and transgress again immediately, in the same way as they did before? How can we believe you if you transgress again and again, and do not forsake your sin? We know a tree by its fruit, and you who are penitent will bring forth works of repentance. I have often thought it was a very beautiful instance, showing the power of penitence which a pious minister once related. He had been preaching on penitence, and had in the course of his sermon spoke of the sin of stealing. On his way home a laborer came alongside of him, and the minister observed that he had something under his smock-frock. He told him he need not accompany him farther; but the man persisted. At last he said, "I have a spade under my arm which I stole up at that farm; I heard you preaching about the sin of stealing, and I must go and put it there again." That was sincere penitence which caused him to go back and replace the stolen article. It was like those South Sea Islanders, of whom we read who stole the missionaries' articles of apparel and furniture, and everything out of their houses; but when they were savingly converted they brought them all back. But many of you say you repent, yet nothing comes of it; it is not worth the snap of the finger. People sincerely repent, they say, that they should have committed a robbery, or that they have kept a gambling-house; but they are very careful that all the proceeds shall be laid out to their hearts' best comfort. True "repentance" will yield works meet for repentance," it will be practical repentance.
    Yet farther. You may know whether your repentance is practical by this test. Does it last or does it not? Many of your repentances are like the hectic flush upon the cheek of the consumptive person which is no sign of health. Many a time have I seen a young man in a flow of newly acquired, but unsound godliness, and he has thought he was about to repent of his sins. For some hours such an one was deeply penitent before God, and for weeks he relinquishes his follies. He attends the house of prayer, and converses as a child of God. But back he goes to his sins as the dog returns to his vomit. The evil spirit has gone "back to his house, and has taken with him seven others more wicked than himself; and the last state of that man is worse than the first." How long has your penitence lasted? Did it continue for months? or did it come upon you and go away suddenly? You said, "I will join the church—I will do this, that, and the other, for God's cause." Are your works lasting? Do you believe your repentance will last six months? Will it continue for twelve months? Will it last until you are wrapped in your winding-sheet?
    Yet again, I must ask you one question more. Do you think you you'll repent of your sins if no punishment were placed before you? or do you repent because you know you shall be punished for ever if you remain in your sins? Suppose I tell you there is no hell at all; that, if you choose, you may swear; and, if you will, you may live without God. Suppose there were no reward for virtue, and no punishment for sin, which would you choose?. Can you honestly say, this morning, "I think, I know, by the grace of God, I would choose righteousness if there were no reward for it, if there were nothing to be gained by righteousness, and nothing to be lost by sin." Every sinner hates his sin when he comes near to the mouth of hell; every murderer hates his crime when he comes to the gallows; I never found a child hate its fault so much as when it was going to be punished for it. If you had no cause to dread the pit—if you knew that you might give up your life to sin, and that you might do so with impunity, would you still feel that you hated sin, and that you could not, would not, commit sin, except through the infirmity of the flesh? Would you still desire holiness? Would you still desire to live like Christ? If so—if you can say this in sincerity—if you thus turn to God and hate your sin with an everlasting hatred, you need not fear but that you have a "repentance" which is "unto life."
    III. Now comes the concluding and third point, and that "THE BLESSED BENEFICENCE OF GOD in granting to men "repentance unto life." "Repentance," my dear friends, is the gift of God. It is one of those spiritual favors which ensure eternal life. It is the marvel of divine mercy that it not only provides the way of salvation, that it not only invites men to receive grace, but that it positively makes men willing to be saved. God punished his Son Jesus Christ for our sins, and therein he provided salvation for all his lost children. He sends his minister; the minister bids men repent and believe, and he labors to bring them to God. They will not listen to the call, and they despise the minister. But then another messenger is sent, a heavenly ambassador who cannot fail. He summons men to repent and turn to God. Their thoughts are a little wayward, but after he, the Divine Spirit, pleads with them, they forget what manner of men they were, and they repent and turn. Now, what would we do if we had been treated as God was? If we had made a supper or a feast, and sent out messengers to invite the guests to come, what would we do? Do you think we should take the trouble to go round and visit them all, and get them to come? And when they sat down and said they could not eat would we open their mouths? If they still declared they could not eat, should we still make them eat? Ah! beloved, I am inclined to think you would not do so. If you had signed the letters of invitation, and the invited would not come to your feast, would you not say, "You shall not have it." But what does God do? He says, "Now I will make a feast, I will invite the people, and if they do not come in, my ministers shall go out and fetch them in bodily. I will say to my servants, go ye out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that they may partake of the feast I have prepared." Is it not a stupendous act of divine mercy that he actually makes them willing? He does not do it by force, but uses a sweet spiritual suasion. They are first as unwilling to be saved as they can be; "but," says God, "that is nothing, I have power to make you turn to me, and I will." The Holy Ghost then brings home the Word of God to the consciences of his children in so blessed a manner, that they can no longer refuse to love Jesus. Mark you, not by any force against the will, but by a sweet spiritual influence changing the will. O, ye lost and ruined sinners! stand here and admire my Master's mercy. He sets not only a feast of good things before men, but he induces them to come and partake of them, and constrains them to continue feasting until he carries them to the everlasting eternal mansion. And as he bears them up, he says to each one, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore, by my lovingkindness I have drawn thee. Now, dost thou love me?" "Oh, Lord," they cry, "thy grace in bringing us here proves that thou dost love us, for we were unwilling to go. Thou saidst, you shall go, we said we would not go, but thou hast made us go. And now, Lord, we bless thee, and love thee for that force. It was sweet constraint." I was a struggling captive, but I am now made willing.
Oh! sovereign grace, my heart subdue!
I would be led in triumph too;
A willing captive to my Lord
To sing the honors of his Word." 
    Well now, what say you? Some of you will say, "Sir, I have been trying to repent for a long time. In pains and afflictions I have been praying and trying to believe, and doing all I can." I will tell you another thing: you will try a long time before you will be able to do it. That is not the way to get it. I heard of two gentlemen travelling. One of them said to the other, "I do not know how it is, but you always seem to recollect your wife and family, and all that is doing at home, and you seem as if you connected all things around you with them; but I try to bring mine to my recollection constantly, and yet I never can."; No," said the other, "that is the very reason—because you try. If you could connect them with every little circumstance ye meet, you would easily remember them. I think at such and such a time—now they are rising; at such and such a time—now they are at prayers; at such and such a time—now they are having their breakfast. In this way I have them still before me." I think the same thing happens with regard to "repentance." If a man says, "I want to believe," and tries by some mechanical means to work himself into repentance, it is an absurdity, and he will never accomplish it. But the way for him to repent is by God's grace to believe, to believe and think on Jesus. If he picture to himself the wounded bleeding side the crown of thorns, the tears of anguish—if he takes a vision of all that Christ suffered, I will be bound for it he will turn to him in repentance. I would stake what reputation I may have in spiritual things upon this—that a man cannot, under God's Holy Spirit, contemplate the cross of Christ without a broken heart. If it is not so, my heart is different from any one's else. I have never known a man who has thought upon, and taken a view of the cross, who has not found that it begat "repentance," and begat faith. We look at Jesus Christ if we would be saved, and we then say. "Amazing sacrifice! that Jesus thus died to save sinners." If you want faith, remember he gives it, if you want repentance, he gives it! if you want everlasting life, he gives it liberally. He can force you to feel your great sin, and cause you to repent by the sight of Calvary's cross, and the sound of the greatest, deepest death shriek, "Eloi! Eloi! lama sabachthani?" "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" That will beget "repentance;" it will make you weep and say, "Alas! and did my Saviour bleed; and did my Sovereign die for me?" Then beloved, if you would have "repentance," this is my best advice to you—look to Jesus. And may the blessed Giver of all "repentance unto salvation" guard you from the false repentances which I have described, and give you that "repentance," which existeth unto life.
"Repent! the voice celestial cries,
Nor longer dare delay;
The wretch that scorns the mandate, dies,
And meets a fiery day. No more the sovereign eye of GOD
O'erlooks the crimes of men;
His heralds are despatch'd abroad
To warn the world of sin.
The summons reach thro' all the earth
Let earth attend and fear;
Listen, ye men of royal birth,
And let your vassals hear!
Together in his presence bow,
And all your guilt confess
Embrace the blessed Saviour now,
Nor trifle with his grace.
Bow, ere the awful trumpet sound,
And call you to his bar:
For mercy knows the appointed bound.
And turns to vengeance there."

16 November 2011

Two Classes of Christ's Church

Until the Bridegroom comes there will always be some in the visible Church who have grace—and some who have no grace. Some will have nothing but the name of Christian—others will have the reality. Some will have the profession of religion—others will have the possession also. Some will be content to belong to the church—others will never be content unless they also belong to Christ. Some will be satisfied if they have only the baptism of water—others will never be satisfied unless they also feel within the baptism of the Spirit. Some will stop short in the form of Christianity—others will never rest unless they have also the substance.
The visible Church of Christ is made up of these two classes. There always have been such; there always will be such until the end. Gracious and graceless, wise and foolish, make up the whole Church of Christ. You are all written down in this parable yourselves. You are all either wise virgins—or foolish . You have the oil of grace—or you have none. You are all either members of Christ—or not. You are all either traveling towards heaven—or towards hell.
~ J.C. Ryle
HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

14 November 2011

A Note of Caution for Those Who Love the World

From today's post at Pyromaniacs, "Friend of the World; Enemy of God" by Phil Johnson:
You can think about it like this: you will spend eternity with whatever you truly love the most. If your heart is fixed on the things of the Lord; if you love righteousness; if you find your sweetest joy in fellowship with Him, that's where you will be throughout eternity. But if your affections are set on the things of this world, if what really delights you the most is the things that are passing away—if your life is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—then like Lot's wife you will perish in the destruction of all that you truly love.
Read this post in its entirety here.

13 November 2011

10 November 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from A Defense of Calvinism:
I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free-will. I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the doctrines of sovereign grace. Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit. Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life—no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me—warnings were cast to the wind—thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, "He only is my salvation." It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady—

"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o'erflow;" 

and coming to this moment, I can add—

"'Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."

04 November 2011

This 'n' That

"Business as usual." Those who work in the corporate world know that this phrase actually means, "We're going to institute changes that will completely disrupt business, but we need everything done efficiently and with excellent quality anyway." Thinking about this reality this week eventually led me to pondering this from a different perspective. There is a lot of disturbance in the world, as there has been for years. Once again, things are heating up in Israel, America's outlook continues to be bleak, especially in the economic realm, and morals have declined at such a rapid pace that it's nearly impossible to keep up (although, who would want to?). And for the Christian, things must continue to be "business as usual," but perhaps with a slight twist. There is an urgency to the times. From my perspective, the rapid decline of churches and once-trusted Christian leaders is the most alarming indicator that we are indeed in the last of the last days. Of course, it could still be years, decades or longer before Christ returns, but nevertheless, we must feel the urgency today. The Church in the first-century felt it, so why do so many Christians today seem downright complacent, even lethargic? We must be about the business of sharing the great Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is returning. Soon, I hope! So while our business as Christians is always to share the Gospel, let us be reminded of the times in which we live, and let it urge us out of our complacency and move us into action. We do, after all, have the best news...EVER!

Now, having said all that, here's your abbreviated week in review (kind of):
  • The president still thinks the national motto is "E pluribus unum."
  • Vance Havner speaks about discernment in the church (or the lack thereof):

In Which god Does America Trust, Anyway?

Earlier this week, Congress confirmed that the phrase "In God We Trust" is indeed America's motto. This is good news, for it is grievous to see the ways in which government seeks to remove God from so many aspects of life. However, (and this may get me in a bit of trouble) I have to ask: does it really matter anymore? Don't get me wrong, I'd much prefer that this country claim trust in God than trust in state. Yet, claiming this as the country's "motto" doesn't mean that God is going to grant some extra blessing upon America, and I fear that is the interpretation that many patriotic-minded Christians will employ. If we're honest, we have to ask ourselves: in which God does America trust? Atheists affirm the god of themselves, there is the Mormon god, the Muslim the god, the hip "Jesus is my homeboy" god, the Jehovah's Witness god, the Buddhist god, the New Age god of the inner self, and on and on it goes. So nowadays it sadly seems as if there is very little point in declaring, "In God We Trust," at least for many Americans. We have too many gods, and the phrase has simply lost its meaning.

In March of 2010, the The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that this phrase did not constitute a state establishment of religion, and therefore did not need to be removed from currency and other locations. And that was good news, just like this week's ruling. At the time of that decision, however, Al Mohler noted something worthy of consideration:
But, what does it mean? Christians should pay close attention to the logic employed by the court in these two decisions. Consider this section of the court’s opinion in which it cites its own precedent in the case Aronow v. United States:
It is not easy to discern any religious significance attendant the payment of a bill with coin or currency on which has been imprinted ‘In God We Trust’ or the study of a government publication or document bearing that slogan. . . .   While ‘ceremonial’ and ‘patriotic’ may not be particularly apt words to describe the category of the national motto, it is excluded from First Amendment significance because the motto has no theological or ritualistic impact. As stated by the Congressional report, it has ‘spiritual and psychological value’ and ‘inspirational quality.’

In other words, the phrase “In God We Trust” as our national motto is theologically and religiously meaningless, having “no theological or ritualistic impact,” but only a “spiritual and psychological value.” 
The court is arguing that the phrases in question are not really theological statements at all, presumably because if the court found theological significance in the phrases it would have been led to rule otherwise.
This legal logic is recognizable, but so is the theological dimension of all this. The court has ruled, in effect, that the language of these contested phrases represents what is rightly called “civil religion.” In essence, civil religion is the mass religion that serves the purposes of the state and the culture as a unifying force — a rather bland and diffused religiosity — an innocuous theology with little specificity.
Christians must never confuse civil religion with the real thing. When our fellow citizens recite the pledge, it is not to be taken as a statement of personal faith in God. In that sense, Christians are rightly concerned that we make clear what authentic faith in God requires and means. Confusing civil religion with Christianity is deadly dangerous.
On the other hand, Christians are well aware of the constant danger of idolatry, and no entity rivals a powerful government in terms of the idolatrous temptation. In that sense, it is healthy and good that we employ language that relativizes the power and authority of the state. It is both important and healthy that our motto places trust in God, and not in the state. And the knowledge that the nation exists “under God” is no small matter.

So, we should welcome the decision of the Ninth Circuit panel but not read too much into the decision or the language at stake. Another legal challenge is always right around the corner. The task of defining true faith in God falls to us right now.  (Online Source)
Mohler's thoughts are important, and we ought not read too much into this latest ruling either. Nevertheless, "patriotic" Christians are in abundance, and last evening this story appeared at Christian Newswire:
The Cross Spangled Banner Combines the World's Two Most Powerful Symbols to Reawaken the Virtue America has Forgotten

The Most Powerful Symbol in the World is Needed to Reawaken the Virtues this Country Was Founded On

MILWAUKEE, Nov. 3, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United States, stated, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this -- that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

It is to be expected that as the moral character of a people degenerate, their political and social character must follow. We must judge the tree by its fruits.

As Christians, America is our responsibility second only to the Lord. And America has forgotten God.

We have adapted a Christian flag of the United States, designed to do away with an arbitrary element: the star, which is proudly used, too, on the flags of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Somalia, Bosnia and, sadly, more like these.

What better way for us to bless the very nation we have built with the one universal symbol of His virtue?

This flag is a small symbolic act that contributes to the course of history and can help bring salvation to millions -- every Christians responsibility.
(Online Source, emphasis mine) 
"America is our responsibility second only to the Lord." Book, chapter and verse, please, because that is not in the Bible! It seems a case can be made for God first, spouse second, family third, and then draw your priorities from there. Regardless, believers are not called to moralize a nation, so if God remains one's first priority, then that one ought to know that changing behaviors will not result in saving souls.

Speaking of saving souls, how is it exactly that a flag with crosses on it is going to "help bring salvation to millions?" Answer: it won't. What will? The Gospel. The truth of God's Word.

How refreshing it would be if American Christians would realize that our job is not to "save" or moralize or "Christianize" this country, but rather our command is to preach the Gospel, the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20)

03 November 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following struck me last night as I read from the November 2 evening devotion in Spurgeon's Morning and Evening:
Psalm 119:53
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.
My soul, feelest thou this holy shuddering at the sins of others? for otherwise thou lackest inward holiness. David's cheeks were wet with rivers of waters because of prevailing unholiness; Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains that he might lament the iniquities of Israel, and Lot was vexed with the conversation of the men of Sodom. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem. It cannot but grieve gracious souls to see what pains men take to go to hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze. Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates a holy law, which it is to every man's highest interest to keep; it pulls down the pillars of the commonwealth. Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the baseness of his own heart: when he sees a transgressor he cries with the saint mentioned by Bernard, "He fell to-day, and I may fall to-morrow." Sin to a believer is horrible, because it crucified the Saviour; he sees in every iniquity the nails and spear. How can a saved soul behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart, dost thou sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, the just God will have it, or repay His adversary to his face. An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries, lest thou come to smile at sin itself. It is thine enemy, and thy Lord's enemy-view it with detestation, for so only canst thou evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.