Friday, June 30, 2023

Asleep in Jesus

 By Charles Spurgeon

Even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

Let us not imagine that the soul sleeps in insensibility. “Today you will be with me in paradise” is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They sleep in Jesus, but their souls are before the throne of God, praising Him day and night in His temple, singing hallelujahs to Him who washed them from their sins in His blood. The body sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass.

But what is this sleep? The idea connected with sleep is “rest,” and that is the thought that the Spirit of God would convey to us. Sleep makes each night a sabbath for the day. Sleep shuts tight the door of the soul and bids all intruders wait for a while, that the life within may enter its summer garden of ease. The toil-worn believer quietly sleeps, as does the weary child when it slumbers on its mother’s breast.

Happy are they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labors, and their works follow them. Their quiet repose will never be broken until God shall rouse them to give them their full reward. Guarded by angelic watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, they sleep on, the inheritors of glory, until the fullness of time shall bring the fullness of redemption.

What an awaking will be theirs! They were laid in their last resting place, weary and worn, but they will not rise in that condition. They went to their rest with furrowed brow and wasted features, but they wake up in beauty and glory. The shriveled seed, so devoid of form and beauty, rises from the dust a glorious flower. The winter of the grave gives way to the spring of redemption and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since through the divine power it removes our working clothes and dresses us with the wedding garment of incorruption. Blessed are those who sleep in Jesus.

A Righteous and Merciful God

 By Alistair Begg

The Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 11:7

A righteous God will not accept unrighteous requests. We cannot expect that God, who always does the right thing, will do the expedient thing just for our sake. In our prayers and decision-making processes, then, we ought not to ask ourselves, “What is the easy thing? What is the thing that will get me out of this difficulty the quickest?” Rather, we need to ask, “What is the right thing for me to do?” This is not to say that we will always know precisely what is right. But in our prayers and in our lives, we must remember that we call upon and walk before the face of a supremely holy and righteous God.

Thankfully, God is not only righteous but also merciful. David cries in Psalm 4:1, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” Just as it is unimaginable that a mother would forget the cry of a child that she nurtured at her own breast, so it is unthinkable that God would not hear the pleas of His children (Isaiah 49:15). Such mercy is an astounding truth. We live in a world that operates on the principle that we get what we “deserve,” that we get out what we put in: This is what you’ve earned, and what you’ve earned is what you’re going to get—whether good or bad. But when we come to God, we come to the one who is by His very nature rich in mercy, who gives us what we do not deserve. From Him, we get what we have not earned.

Perhaps your heart has been fractured or your life is buffeted by serious trouble. Still you can cry out to your righteous God: “I need Your unmerited kindness today. I’ve nothing with which to commend myself. Lord, be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”

When that is our approach to God, then we will find fostered within us an attitude of seeking to do what is right, not what is easy. The path to seeking to do “righteous deeds” is to know that the Lord is merciful to His children.

This does not mean that as we come to Him for mercy and seek to live righteously, God will give immediate deliverance. Nowhere has He promised His people immediate relief. He answers us out of the righteousness of His sovereign plan—and sometimes, in His providence, He allows the thorn to continue to pain us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Yet when the thorn remains, “though the fig tree should not blossom,” still you can “rejoice in the LORD” and “take joy in the God of [your] salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Because He is righteous, His mercy is never wrong. What may taste bitter for a time God will sweeten soon enough. And one day you will “behold his face,” not just by faith but by sight as you stand with the saints around His throne. With that day in mind, come to Him now for the mercy and strength you need to live righteously today.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Reckoning With Repentance

By Alistair Begg 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2

In Christ we find ultimate happiness. Peter tells us that our belief in Jesus can lead us to “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). But it’s not possible to be happy in Jesus while living in sin. To borrow the image of Psalm 24, how often do we attempt to ascend the hill of the Lord, in corporate or private worship, with dirty hands and hearts, wondering why the word of God doesn’t delight us in the midst of our sin? It’s spiritual insanity to think that we can rejoice in the Lord while seeking out pleasure in some hidden transgression.

As fallen creatures, we often develop patterns that trick us into thinking that we can make peace with our fallenness and can indulge some sin. Perhaps we have become accustomed to minimizing it or justifying it, so that we hardly even notice it. Yet Scripture knows no such pattern of thinking. David, for example, knew he was dirty and grimy before God, thoroughly permeated with sin: “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Elsewhere he asks the Lord, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults” (19:12). He knew he needed forgiveness from sins he didn’t even know about! But mercifully, David’s awareness of his own shortcomings led him to God, to whom he pleaded, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (51:10).

We need to recover this same disposition for our daily walk with Christ. Repentance isn’t a one-time event. We must continually battle sin. We must repeatedly turn away from temptation and look to Christ. We must press on to know Him better, so that He is ever more and more attractive to us than fleeting pleasures and sordid desires.

If you are a Christian, you have already died to sin. God has already granted that you “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Now, “by the Spirit,” you are called to “put to death the deeds of the body” (8:13)—that is, to take hold of the new life God has given you and slay the sins that still beset you. You have “died to sin.” Do not give in to the temptation of still living in it.

If you trust Christ, you are always acceptable to God. But when you give yourself fully to the cause of rooting out whatever weeds of sin keep creeping up, then you’ll reap a joy that is inexpressibly better than whatever false promises sin and temptation may make. Is there a sinful pattern you have grown used to? Is there something of which you need to repent, asking God to forgive you and change your heart? Joy will be found not in ignoring that prompting of the Spirit but in responding to it.

Looking to Jesus

 By Charles Spurgeon

Looking to Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2

It is always the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus. But Satan’s work is just the opposite; he is constantly trying to make us look at ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you do not have the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold on Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within.

But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that Christ is everything. Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, although that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, do not look so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ as to Christ; do not look to your hope but to Jesus, the source of your hope; do not look to your faith, but to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.

We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our deeds, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we are to overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking to Jesus.”

Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession be fresh upon your mind. When you waken in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

What Is faith?

 By Joshua Stone

“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

Faith is more than just hearing and giving mental assent, faith requires action as a response, here is an excellent example of the faith that God expects us to have in His Son Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

During the winter of 1858, the 34-year-old French acrobat named Jean Fran├žois Gravelet, better known as Monsieur Charles Blondin, traveled to Niagara Falls hoping to become the first person to make the crossing on a tightrope. He drew an enormous crowd and he said, “Do you believe that I can make the 1300 foot crossing over the falls on this tightrope?” The crowd roared saying, “Yes you can we believe in you!” Then Blondin said, “Do you think I can do the crossing with a man on my back?” The crowd responded once again saying, “Yes, we know you can do it!” Then Blondin said, who will trust me enough to get on my back for the crossing?” The crowd was silent, no one volunteered. The remainder of the story is a perfect example of faith and how it works between the Savior and those who trust in his salvation. Blondin successfully made the crossing, appearing on the Canadian end of the rope with his manager Harry Colcord clinging to his back. Blondin gave Mr. Colcord the following instructions: “Look up, Harry, you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place you become a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, you sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself, trust me lest you fall to your death.” 

Today is the day of your salvation if you by faith will acknowledge and trust in Him, repent of your shortcomings and ask Jesus to come into your heart.

The King Who Does Not Take

 By Alistair Begg

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots … He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards … He will take the tenth of your grain … He will take your male servants and female servants … He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

1 Samuel 8:11, 1 Samuel 8:13-17

All leaders always take: all except one.

When in Samuel’s time the Israelites requested a king so that they would be like the other nations, God granted their request. But He also told Samuel to solemnly warn the people about what to expect of a king’s ways (1 Samuel 8:7-9). The picture Samuel painted was of a king who would line his own pocket at the people’s expense and lead them back into a kind of slavery. It was a dismal prospect!

And it was one that, over the next few centuries, became a reality. Some kings had ups as well as downs, but the majority were corrupt; none of them were completely good. All the Israelites’ leaders always, in one way or another, took from them what the people had, instead of giving them what they had hoped.

Yet God would ultimately provide a King that was different from the rest. The New Testament begins with this King. “The time is fulfilled,” said Jesus, “and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). By establishing God’s kingdom, He was declaring Himself to be King. Afterward, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey, fulfilling the prophet’s words announcing that the King of God’s people would arrive in this manner (Zechariah 9:9). What kind of king comes on a donkey rather than in a chariot or on a war horse? The same King that would be crowned with thorns a few days later. Here was a King unlike any other king.

There is a great and prevalent lie that goes something like this: “If you trust Jesus, He’ll take away all the good stuff, and you won’t have a good time. If you want a good time, go with another leader. If you go with Jesus, it’ll be boring, restrictive, life-sapping.” But actually, the reverse is true! Unlike the kings of Israel, who would take from the people, Jesus was and is the King who gives—and He does so lavishly. He is the King who came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), who gives His sheep “eternal life, and they will never perish” (John 10:28), and who takes burdens and gives rest to those who accept His light yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).

Is Jesus your King? Many other voices will be attractive and persuasive—but if you let them rule you, you will be disappointed in the end. The Lord Jesus Christ will never disappoint you. He is the King who always gives all that you need, and the only thing He takes from you is your sin. Today, recognize and give thanks for the abundant goodness and generosity you have in your great King!

Bargaining like Pharaoh

 By Charles Spurgeon

Only you must not go very far away.

Exodus 8:28

This is a crafty word from the lip of the arch-tyrant Pharaoh. If the poor enslaved Israelites must leave Egypt, then he bargains with them that it shall not be very far away—not too far for them to escape the terror of his arms and the observation of his spies. After the same fashion, the world hates the nonconformity of nonconformity or the dissidence of dissent; it would rather we were more charitable and not deal with things too severely. Death to the world and burial with Christ are experiences that worldly minds treat with ridicule, and as a result baptism, which pictures them, is almost universally neglected and even condemned.

Worldly wisdom recommends the path of compromise and talks of “moderation.” According to this carnal policy, purity is admitted to be very desirable, but we are warned against being too precise; truth is of course to be followed, but error is not to be severely denounced. “Yes,” says the world, “be spiritually minded by all means, but do not deny yourself a little friendship with the world, the odd journey to Vanity Fair. What’s the good of denouncing this empty lifestyle when it is so fashionable and everybody does it?” Multitudes of professors succumb to this cunning advice, to their own eternal ruin.

If we are going to really follow the Lord, we must be prepared to walk the narrow path and join Moses who refused to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. We must leave behind the world’s maxims—its pleasure, and its religion too—and go far away to the place where the Lord calls His sanctified ones.

When the town is on fire, our house cannot be too far from the flames. When disease is rampant, it is hard to escape it. The further from a poisonous snake the better, and the further from worldly conformity the better. To all true believers let the trumpet-call be sounded: “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them.”1

  1. 2 Corinthians 6:17

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Searching for Lost Sheep

 By Alistair Begg

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

John 9:35

Jesus’ encounter with the blind man in John 9 is part of the great panorama of God’s redemptive purpose from all of eternity. This apparently inconsequential stop in the middle of the day was part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). It’s part of the great, ongoing, unfolding purpose of God to put together a company of people that no one can count from every tribe, nation, language, and tongue (Revelation 7:9).

The healing of this man, as well as what follows from it, is remarkable. It raises questions: How did Jesus find this man? And how did Jesus change this man? In the answers, we gain a better understanding of how Jesus finds men and women in their lostness and then changes them into sheep that have been found.

This story is not only an illustration of saving faith but also, as C.H. Spurgeon says, “an example of what you may do in endeavoring to lead [souls] to exercise faith in Jesus.” If you want to follow Christ’s example in reaching people, the first thing you must do, says Spurgeon, is “seek out the oppressed … seek out the sick, the sad, the weary, the poor, the broken-down ones, and especially such as have been put out of the synagogues.”

The people that no one wants and no one will have, Jesus wants and Jesus will have. Jesus has every right to anticipate that His followers will do the same. It’s only in knowing that you were once lost that you understand what it means to be found. Jesus has sought you and found you—and if He did that for you, He can do it for anyone! Our tendency is to spend time with those who are like us. But the Son of God did not do that—otherwise He would never have been born as a man, to seek and to save sinners like us. Who are the “broken-down ones” the Lord is calling you to reach out to with the gospel of the Son of Man? With God’s help, go out and tell them that Jesus is alive and that He seeks and saves those who are lost.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Invest in Eternity

By Alistair Begg 

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:1-2

Affliction is a significant means by which God forms our character, but it is also a means by which He reveals our character. While Scripture gives us many examples of affliction exposing weak moral fiber, there are numerous examples of affliction highlighting virtue, too. One such example is that of the Macedonian church. Paul said that these early believers were “in a severe test of affliction” and in “extreme poverty.” What did this affliction reveal? An “abundance of joy” and “a wealth of generosity.”

The Macedonian model is worth pondering. That’s precisely why Paul mentioned them: he wanted the Corinthian church to learn from them—to “excel in this act of grace” (2 Corinthians 8:7). Consider what made the Macedonians worth emulating:

1. “They gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Their generosity was simply an expression of their devotion to Christ. As Lord of all things, He ruled their finances.

2. They gave in response to God’s grace, which had been “given among the churches of Macedonia.”

3. They gave “beyond their means” (v 3). They were willing to forgo some legitimate wants in order that they might supply others’ real needs.

4. They gave “of their own accord” (v 3), not in response to external prodding.

5. They were “begging … earnestly for the favor” of giving to others (v 4)—generous giving was something they wanted to do, not what they felt they ought to do.

Paul wants us to compare ourselves with the Macedonians, so that we are prompted to ask ourselves questions such as these:

1. Am I giving myself first to the Lord?

2. Am I giving in response to God’s grace? Is that what directs the extent of my giving?

3. Am I giving beyond my comfort zone?

4. Am I giving without external compulsion, without being prodded and prompted?

5. Am I clamoring for the privilege of serving the saints?

We don’t know how the Corinthians responded. We can be sure, though, that God wants us to respond with faithful, joyful investment in eternal things. Eventually, we will all stand before Him, and none of that which offers earthly security—savings accounts, stock portfolios, real-estate investments, pension provisions—will mean a thing. On that day, all we will have is the treasure that we have laid up in heaven through our support for the gospel (Matthew 6:19-21). What does your giving reveal about your character?

Climbing a Mountain

By Charles Spurgeon

Get you up to a high mountain.

Isaiah 40:9

Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of the mountains in Wales. When you are at the base you see only a little: the mountain itself appears to be only half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley, you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain. Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go higher, and you see the country for four or five miles around, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. Higher still, and the scene enlarges; until at last, when you are on the summit and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all of England lying before you. There is a forest in some distant county, perhaps two hundred miles away, and here the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or the masts of the ships in a busy port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, “I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation.”

Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ, we see only a little of Him. The higher we climb, the more we discover of His beauty. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ that passes knowledge? When Paul had grown old and was sitting gray-haired and shivering in a dungeon in Rome, he was able to say with greater emphasis than we can, “I know whom I have believed,”1 for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole panorama of the faithfulness and love of Him to whom he had committed his soul. Get up, dear friend, into a high mountain.


Sunday, June 25, 2023

Save, O Lord

 By Alistair Begg

Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.

Psalm 12:1

God’s people in every age have learned that being a child of God does not make us immune to life’s difficulties. One reason why the Psalms are such a treasure is that they give us a record of God’s people enduring “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). And what the Psalms then provide is not a blueprint for how to fix our problems but a model for a faithful response to our problems.

David’s life was full of difficulties. He faced attempts to take his life by the likes of Goliath and Saul (1 Samuel 17; 19). He was the target of a coup perpetrated by his own son (2 Samuel 14 – 15). He confronted difficulties and tragedies that resulted from his own sin and folly (2 Samuel 11 – 12). Psalm 12, though, describes another sort of struggle: that of living in the midst of wicked people.

The evil surrounding David came in the form of double-talk: “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak” (Psalm 12:2). It came in the form of defiant tongues: “those who say, ‘With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?’” (v 4). It came from degraded values, seen in the way that “vileness is exalted among the children of man” (v 8). It’s not hard to imagine how difficult it would be to live in such an environment.

Imagine the ways David could have responded. He could have recorded his grumbling for us, written down his rage, or told us the way he took matters into his own hands. (And there is certainly a place for wise and righteous action!) But what is his first response? It’s in the opening words of the psalm: “Save, O LORD.” David’s response to the wretchedness around him is to humbly and urgently plead with God for help.

Some of us can look around and see much in common with what David describes in Psalm 12. We hear double-talk, we see defiance, and we watch as evil is celebrated as good. We know how David felt, and we share his struggle. But do we share his response? Paul tells us that if we want to be “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,” then we must “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14-15). Further, he tells us not to be anxious about anything but instead to pray for everything (4:6).

When confronted by ungodliness, it is easy to grow angry or proud or despairing. It is easy to give up and go with the flow. It is harder, but always better, to follow David’s example: pray, trust, and obey. A commitment to prayer is a powerful way of declaring your allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. Next time you are struck by an aspect of your community or culture that is wicked, pray; ask Him to save, help, and deliver you from evil. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).