Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Hate Sin

 By Charles Spurgeon

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.

Psalm 45:7

“Be angry and do not sin.”1 There can hardly be goodness in a man if he is not angered by sin; he who loves truth must hate every false way. How our Lord Jesus hated it when the temptation came! Three times it assailed Him in different forms, but He responded with, “Be gone, Satan.” He hated it in others, no less fervently by showing His hatred often more in tears of pity than in words of rebuke; yet what language could be more stern, more Elijah-like, than such words as, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers.”

He hated wickedness so much that He bled to wound it to the heart; He died that it might die; He was buried that He might bury it in His tomb; and He rose that He might forever trample it beneath His feet. Christ is in the Gospel, and that Gospel is opposed to wickedness in every shape. Wickedness arrays itself in fine clothes and imitates the language of holiness; but the precepts of Jesus, like His famous scourge of small cords, chase it out of the temple and will not tolerate it in the church.

So, too, in the heart where Jesus reigns, what a war is waged between Christ and Satan! And when our Redeemer shall come to be our Judge, those thundering words, “Depart from me, you cursed” that are, indeed, but a prolongation of His life-teaching concerning sin shall manifest His abhorrence of iniquity. As warm as His love is to sinners, so hot is His hatred of sin; as perfect as is His righteousness, so complete shall be the destruction of every form of wickedness. Glorious champion of right, and destroyer of wrong, for this cause God has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows.

  1. Ephesians 4:26

Be Careful What You Ask For

 By Alistair Begg

The Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

1 Samuel 8:7-9

Have you ever wanted something, worked for it and secured it, and then realized that you were worse off than before? Sooner or later, most of us discover that all that glitters is not gold—and so we should be careful what we aim for, work for, and wish for.

The people of Israel were, by the eighth chapter of 1 Samuel, very sure of what they needed. And so they asked for and insisted on “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). But in doing so, the people of Israel had essentially rejected God as King. They no longer wanted to be known as a holy people and a distinctive nation. Instead, they wanted to be free of God’s perfect rule and absorbed into the surrounding culture.

To this entreaty God gave a solemn warning: Be careful what you ask for! He would give the people what they wanted—but His willingness to grant them a king would turn out to be an act of judgment for their foolish, faithless request. A king would take their children as soldiers and servants (1 Samuel 8:11-14). He would take their best possessions (v 15). Worse of all, He said, “You shall be his slaves” (v 17).

In the book of Romans, Paul recounts the folly of humanity that courses from the Garden of Eden through the whole history of the world: though we recognize there is a God, we don’t honor Him and instead exchange His glory for idols we deem to be better (Romans 1:21-23). “And since [we] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [us] up” to live according to our passions and desires—and to suffer the natural outcome of our choices (v 28-31). God’s present judgment is seen not in withholding from humanity what we want but in letting us have it. Sin is its own punishment.

How easy it is to declare, whether with our lips or by our decisions and our deeds, that we no longer want to live under God’s kingship—that we want to be free to be our own person and make our own decisions about who we are, what we have, and what we believe. But God’s kindness is seen in not giving us what we think we need. Having shown them in King Saul the insecurity and disappointment that the king they wanted would bring, God brought Israel the kind of king they had not asked for but truly needed—David. And He offers us today the Savior and Lord who we would never have asked for but who we desperately need. So, as you consider what you want in life, remember this: God has already given you what you most need in giving us His Son. And His kindness is seen not just in what He gives but what He withholds, for He knows better than you do what you truly need in your life.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Your Troubles Will End Soon

 By Charles Spurgeon

Whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:30

Here is a precious truth for you, believer. You may be poor or suffering or unknown, but for your encouragement take a moment to review your calling and the consequences that flow from it, and especially the blessed result spoken of here. As surely as you are God’s child today, so surely will all your trials soon come to an end, and you shall be rich to an extent that is hard to imagine.

Wait awhile, and your weary head will wear the crown of glory, and the worker’s hand shall grasp the palm-branch of victory. Do not bemoan your troubles, but rather rejoice that before long you will be where no longer “shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”1 The chariots of fire are at your door, and it will take only a moment to transport you to the glorified. The everlasting song is almost on your lip. The portals of heaven stand open for you.

Do not think that you can fail to enter into your rest. If He has called you, nothing can divide you from His love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fire of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain. You are secure; that voice which called you at first shall call you yet again from earth to heaven, from death’s dark gloom to immortality’s unuttered splendors. Rest assured, the heart of Him who has justified you beats with infinite love toward you. You will soon be with the glorified, where your portion is; you are only waiting here to be made ready for the inheritance, and with that done, the wings of angels shall carry you far away, to the mount of peace and joy and blessedness, where

Far from a world of grief and sin,
With God eternally shut in,

you shall rest forever and ever.

  1. Revelation 21:4

Make the Book Live to Me

 By Alistair Begg

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

Luke 24:44-45

Over the years, several films have sought to portray the sheer brutality surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion—the unrelenting, unmitigated torture that transformed Christ into little more than a barely conscious mass of blood and flesh by the time He reached Golgotha. After viewing such a horrific scene, we may respond with tears and feelings of pity and remorse, or with confusion, wondering, Why did this have to take place? What actually happened here?

But however moved we may be, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion—whether in person, as the disciples did, or through an artist’s rendering—is not enough in and of itself to bring an individual to saving faith. Rather, we meet Jesus savingly and definitively primarily through God’s word. The apostle Paul exhorted fellow believers along these lines: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15). The great need of every age is the proclamation of God’s word.

This was the purpose of Jesus’ interaction with the disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday. They were confused and despairing following Jesus’ crucifixion. Then, as they cowered in a locked room, their Savior appeared, frightening them (Luke 24:37). And how did He still their souls? He assured them of His physical resurrection; but He also pointed them back to God’s word, which He’d spoken to them before His resurrection and which they would still have after He had ascended back to heaven. He gave them information and then He gifted them with illumination: He “opened their minds to understand.”

What these disciples needed is what we need: to meet Jesus in the pages of Scripture. We may not be able to see Jesus physically, but we can read all that they read: all that is written about Him in the Old Testament and in the apostolic teaching of the New. We can see Him there as He opens our minds to do so. We need more than intellectual ability (though that is necessary); we need His supernatural activity. We need to ask the Spirit of God to show us the Lord Jesus, our Savior, as we read. May this humble prayer therefore be the cry of your heart today: “Lord, make the book live to me.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Freed From Death’s Grip

 By Alistair Begg

When Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit … Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.

Mark 5:2, Mark 5:5-6

The man possessed by demons in Mark 5 was utterly alone. He was alienated from his community and, in a very real sense, alienated from himself. He defined isolation. He was greatly in need of help.

We may think we are nothing like this man. After all, we go about clothed. We are able to reason. No one has tied us up. We are not possessed by demons. Yet this man serves as a sobering illustration of our spiritual condition. The Bible says that, by nature, we are all ruled by dark and sinister forces and are dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3). Outside of Christ, we may as well be living among the tombs. Outside of Christ, we are the living dead.

This reality is what makes an encounter with Christ so dramatic. For each of us, salvation is an encounter between life and death, light and dark, the power of Christ and the power of evil. The gospel does not just give purpose to life. The gospel is life itself.

This reality is also what makes our transformation in Christ so painful. We should not pretend that surrendering to Christ is easy. When this man possessed by demons encountered Jesus, he seemed to know that Christ was the one who could set him free—but at the same time, he was afraid of what that change would mean. Sinclair Ferguson says, “No man yields to Jesus easily by nature. Tragically, like [this man], men often hold on to their bondage in evil rather than yield to the pain of transformation by Christ’s power and grace.” It is painful to give up our little gods, painful to leave our dark captivity and emerge blinking into the light. But Jesus will allow no other gods before Him, for He will not allow any of His people to remain enslaved.

Only Jesus can cast out evil permanently. That is what this man experienced (Mark 5:15, 18-20), and that is what our lost friends and neighbors ultimately want. They don’t just need a religion or system to make them better people. When they’re honest, they know the problem lies primarily within them, not around them. Then they wonder, “Is there a power strong enough to conquer the evil within me?” There certainly is, and His name is Jesus—the one who went through His death in order to rescue us from ours!

Today, let God remind you of what you are apart from Christ: alienated, lonely, lost. And then ask Him to assure you of what you are in Christ: an ever-living recipient of His eternal mercy. By nature you are a sinner, and in Christ you are saved. The more you grasp this, the more humble and joyful you will be.

Friday, May 26, 2023

When Do You Pray?

 By Charles Spurgeon

Do not forsake me, O Lord!

Psalm 38:21

We frequently pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation, but we are prone to forget that we need to pray like this at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy, in which we can do without His constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation, we need always to pray, “Do not forsake me, O LORD!” “Hold me up, that I may be safe.”1

A little child, while learning to walk, always needs the nurse’s aid. The ship left by the pilot drifts immediately off course. We cannot do without continued aid from above; let it then be your prayer today, “Do not forsake me. Father, do not forsake Your child, lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, do not forsake Your lamb, lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Farmer, do not forsake Your crops, lest they wither and die. ‘Do not forsake me, O LORD,’ now or at any moment of my life. Do not forsake me in my joys, lest they absorb my heart. Do not forsake me in my sorrows, lest I murmur against You. Do not forsake me in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon and fall into despair; and do not forsake me in the day of my strongest faith, lest faith degenerate into presumption. Do not forsake me, for without You I am weak, but with You I am strong. Do not forsake me, for my path is dangerous and full of snares, and I cannot do without Your guidance. As the hen does not forsake her brood, so You, O Lord protect me, and permit me to find my refuge in You. ‘Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.’2 ‘Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!’”3

Forever in our cleansed breast,
May Thy Eternal Spirit rest;
And make our secret soul to be
A temple clean and pure for Thee.

  1. Psalm 119:117 
  2. Psalm 22:11 
  3. Psalm 27:9

Two Prideful Responses to the Gospel

 By Alistair Begg

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:31

There are two ways to respond wrongly to the good news of the gospel: the self-righteous response that refuses to see a need for Christ and the self-deprecating response that refuses to see Christ’s ability to forgive. Both issue from the common root of pride.

The self-righteous response says, “I’m actually a pretty good person. I’m not sure I need forgiveness. Maybe it’s good for some other people, but to be honest I don’t need it.” People who respond this way perhaps sense slight deficiencies in themselves and try to make up for them with good behavior. Maybe they even go to church to get some more “frequent attender miles” so that they’ll get better seats in heaven. But still, their place in eternity will be, they think, secured by themselves—their goodness, their efforts. The pride at the heart of this response is obvious: it is to think we are too good to need the gospel. Christ’s sacrifice is a nice example of love to us but unnecessary for us as a way to be saved.

The self-deprecating response says, “I’m such a mess that I don’t think there’s any hope for me. I am too terrible to deserve forgiveness. It must be great to know you’re forgiven, but to be honest I know I could never have that.” People who respond this way simply cannot bring themselves to believe that Jesus could ever love and forgive them. The pride in this response is subtler than in the first, but just as real: we believe we are too dreadfulfor the gospel, that our actions have taken us too far away for Jesus to reach us. Christ’s sacrifice is great for those who are better than us, but it could never be enough for us.

Whenever someone feels too good or too bad for the gospel (and Christians are not immune from this temptation), it is pride that is restraining them from coming to Christ. Their confidence—their boasting—lies in what they have done, for good or for ill. What pride misses, however, is that we can be neither good enough nor too far gone. The self-righteous among us need to hear that even our best days are filled with more flaws than we know. The self-deprecating among us need to hear that even our worst days are never beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Both responses miss the core gospel truth that Christ’s cross simultaneously knocks down your self-worth and lifts you from your worthlessness. When you’re tempted to boast about your worth, then, remember that what you most need—salvation—comes from Christ alone. And when you’re tempted to despair in worthlessness, remember that what you most need—salvation—was only ever yours because of Christ alone. No matter what, Christ is your confidence, your boast—and you can never brag about Him too 

A Sinner, but Forgiven

 By Alistair Begg

David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

2 Samuel 11:4

David’s affair with Bathsheba is one of the most awful moments of Old Testament history. It is an account of unhindered lust, adultery, treachery, and murder. Perhaps we would rather not think about it—yet the Bible does not cast a veil of silence over it. We are actually provided with far more than we would ever want to know about David—and far more than we want to face about ourselves.

David was the great king of Israel. For most of his life, he was a man of exemplary character. He had built a magnificent reputation by triumphing over God’s enemies, showing kindness to those who did not deserve it, and ruling with justice. By 2 Samuel 11, David was at the pinnacle of his power. He was able to command and to control every-
one and everything, it would seem—everyone and everything, that is, except himself. And so he used—in fact, abused—his power to compel a woman to break her marriage vow, as well as breaking his own, and then to cause a man to lose his life (v 14-15).

And yet, even with this great failure, David remained chosen of God. The prophet Samuel had been sent by God with the instructions, “I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” (1 Samuel 16:1). David was God’s designated king—and remained so. The promises of God had been given to him, and through him the purposes of God for His people were being set forward. David’s heinous sin did not alter that.

Is it really possible that God’s purpose in history could have been accomplished through this man? Yes. The Lord Jesus, the one man in history who exercised perfect self-control, who always protected women, and who came to bring life, was the descendant of great, flawed, repentant David. And so the story of David teaches us that God’s grace triumphs even over the greatest failures. God doesn’t only use those who are morally spotless—for, apart from His own Son, no human matches that description. In fact, God uses very sinful people like David; He uses very sinful people like me and like you.

Maybe you, like David eventually was, are very aware of your sins, and you are wondering if you are too filthy for God to forgive or to use. Be reassured and be encouraged. Though your sins have real consequences, they are utterly incapable of putting you beyond the reach of God’s grace. Nothing can. There is no one who does not need His forgiveness and there is no one who is beyond the reach of His forgiveness. The blood of Christ cleanses even the deepest stains, so long as you humble yourself and repent. And, cleansed by that blood, as a repentant sinner you are in that place where God is delighted to work in and through you—not for your glory but for His. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

He Completes What He Begins

 By Charles Spurgeon

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.

Psalm 138:8

It is clear that the confidence that the psalmist expresses is a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have enough grace to perfect that which concerns me—my faith is so steady that it will not falter—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it.” No, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we display a confidence that is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream; it will fall upon us and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion.

The psalmist was wise; he rested on nothing less than the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if He does not finish it, it never will be completed. If there is one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness that we must insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence—what the Lord begins, He completes. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do.

Unbelief insinuates: “You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart—you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you—you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” True, we would certainly perish if left to our own strength. If by ourselves we navigate the most frail vessels of our lives over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but thanks be to God, He will complete that which concerns us and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too eager to have such a trust.

The Downward Spiral of Sin

 By Alistair Begg

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

2 Samuel 11:2-3

How did David go from godly king to abusive adulterer? It happened by degrees, as sin tends to.

First, David was all alone. This may appear to be a minor detail, but 2 Samuel 11:1 reveals how it was “the time when kings go out to battle”—yet David, instead of leading his men, had sent Joab to do the fighting in his stead. And so, instead of fulfilling his role as king, David was all alone on the roof of his house.

From the roof, David saw a very beautiful woman bathing. He might have seen Bathsheba accidentally, but he could have prevented himself from staring at her. The problem wasn’t that he unintentionally caught a glimpse; the problem was that he started to gaze. The eye was the point of entry through which temptation came to David, as it so often is.

But David not only saw; he also sent. After seeing Bathsheba, he began to think about her. He could have put that thought away and ended his descent into sin right there. But having failed at this point, his thoughts led to action, and he sent for information about the woman. He learned that she was Bathsheba, the wife of one of his greatest warriors. The realization that Bathsheba was married to Uriah should have ended the matter for David. He knew the commandment of God: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Yet even this did not stop him! When lust grips, conscience fades, and reason is obliterated. And so “David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4). There is no sense that she was given a choice in the matter.

This narrative should serve as a great warning to all of us. Paul warned the Corinthians, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). If David, a man who was greatly loved by God, could fall in this way, then we must never think that we are incapable of such a fall. Complacency is often the mother of sin. If David had taken heed, he would have led his men to war. He would have looked away. He would have stopped his thoughts. He would not have misused his power to sleep with Bathsheba. God has promised that “with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And he provided David with many opportunities to stop. The tragedy is that David took none of them.

Like David, you will be tempted in this life—but God has promised that there will always be a way out. With which temptations are you particularly struggling at the moment? Thank God for His faithfulness. Pray that He will give you strength to endure temptation and so avoid sin’s downward spiral. Take heed.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Asking ‘Why?’

By Charles Spurgeon

He led them by a straight way.

Psalm 107:7

Changing circumstances often causes the anxious believer to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” I looked for light, but darkness came; for peace, but faced trouble. I said in my heart, my mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved. Lord, You hide Your face, and I am troubled. Only yesterday I could read my title clearly; but today my evidences are blurred, and my hopes are clouded. Yesterday I could climb the mountain and view the landscape and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance; today my spirit has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but great distress. Is this part of God’s plan for me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven?

Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope—all these things are just parts of God’s method of making you ready for the great inheritance, which you will soon enjoy. These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith—they are waves that wash you further upon the rock—they are winds that steer your ship more quickly toward the desired haven. What David wrote then will be true of you: “he brought them to their desired haven” (verse 30). By honor and dishonor, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace—by all these things your spiritual life is maintained, and by each of these you are helped on your way.

Do not think, believer, that your sorrows are out of God’s plan; they are necessary parts of it. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.”1 Learn, then, to “count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds.”2

O let my trembling soul be still,
And trust Thy wise, Thy holy will!
I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
Yet all is well since ruled by Thee.

  1. Acts 14:22 
  2. James 1:2


Put on Love

 By Alistair Begg

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:14

For quite some time now, Western culture has been enamored with the idea that love will solve all our problems. “All you need is love,” we sing. “Love conquers all,” we say. Now, there is some truth to that. God’s love could indeed fix quite literally everything if we all submitted ourselves to Him on His terms. But the problem is that by nature we do not submit to Him in this way; and, moreover, society at large tends to have a notion of what love is that bears little resemblance to real love as seen in and defined by its source—God Himself.

Often, what binds people together in “love” is shared interests or natural instincts. People who are like us or to whom we are attracted are those we instinctively are drawn toward and care for. In the church, however, our mutual love and affection is anchored in something outside of ourselves—namely, Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we are not bound together by some inherent characteristic or shared interest or even mutual attraction but by God, who has acted through Jesus Christ to tear down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14)—any barrier between people, such as race, class, gender, language, or nationality.

Despite what our culture desires, so long as we base our idea of love subjectively on whatever we choose and however we feel, a society defined by true love will remain an impossibility. Only an objective, unchanging love—the love of God for us in Christ—can bind “everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Only the steadfast love of God for us, through His Son and by His Spirit, can fill us enough so that we actually love one another in the way He has intended us to from the beginning.

Without God’s love as their soil, the seeds of love we plant in this life can never grow and flourish to their fullest eternal potential. So, as you seek God and His truth today, ask Him to fill you with mercy, kindness, compassion, grace—and, yes, love! And make sure that what matters most to your heart is not how others feel about you, or how you feel about others, but how your Father feels about you because, by faith, you are united with His Son, the Lord Jesus. Knowing that “this is love … that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10, emphasis added)—knowing that you could not be more loved by God than you already are—is what both shows you how to love others and frees you from needing anything from them so that you are able simply to give to them. So, “put on love”; for your loving Father in heaven will be more than pleased to sustain you as you seek to love Him and others more and more.