Thursday, August 31, 2023

Rich in Poverty, Strong in Weakness

 By Charles Spurgeon

And for my arm they wait.

Isaiah 51:5

In seasons of severe trial the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust, and so he is compelled to cast himself on God alone. When his vessel is capsizing, and no human deliverance is at hand, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! Sometimes the multitude of our friends keeps us from God; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he runs into his Father’s arms, and is blessed to be there! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so specific that he cannot tell them to anyone but God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.

Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives you to your Father! Now that you have only God to trust, make sure that you put your complete confidence in Him. Do not dishonor your Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Show rich men how rich you are in your poverty when the Lord God is your helper. Show the strong man how strong you are in your weakness when underneath you are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord your God will certainly, as surely as He built the heavens and the earth, glorify Himself in your weakness and magnify His might in the face of your distress. The grandeur of heaven’s arches would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the physical eye. May the Holy Spirit enable you to rest in Jesus on this closing day of the month.

The Power of Proper Thinking

By Alistair Begg

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Many of us begin the day with anxious thoughts. The “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) never seems to reach us in the middle of the night or when we first open our eyes. Instead, as the morning comes we say to ourselves, “There is so much to think about. So many things are dancing around in my mind. I’ve got so many challenges.” Thoughts such as these so easily produce anxiety and stultify our commitment to prayer.

Paul helps us to overcome these draining, even crippling feelings by directing our gaze toward those virtues which will liberate our thinking. A mind that is filled with the content described in Philippians 4:8 will have little space for anxiety-producing, peace-disrupting, joy-destroying notions.

What Paul was encouraging his readers to adopt is a distinctly Christian way of thinking. A Christian mind, he taught, is not a mind that is trained to think only about “Christian topics” but one that has learned to think about everything from a Christian perspective. Ultimately, we are what we think about. It is in our minds that our affections are stirred, and it is through our minds that our wills are directed. It is in the mind that we conceive of and produce every action. It is therefore imperative that we learn to think about what is right and godly.

The Bible is not concerned with mere mental reflection for its own sake. The Christian is not called to sit on a high hill and think blessed thoughts in abstraction, removed from the routines of everyday existence. Rather, Paul provides us with a list that will establish us in our motives, our manners, and our morals. Each of us is called to live in the realm of the real, not the phony; the serious, not the frivolous; the right, not the convenient; the clean, not the dirty; the loving, not the discordant; and the helpful, not the critical. In short, we are called to think like Jesus.

Paul is not simply calling you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, though. This is not a rallying cry to try your best to perform the list. Sanctification by self-effort is not God’s agenda. The multifaceted virtue Paul speaks of is the fruit which grows on the tree of salvation. This fruit is brought forth by those whose roots are embedded in grace. So, let your heart be gripped by God’s grace, and train your mind to think on that which is truly praiseworthy. When those influences converge, your life will be one that brings glory to God. Aim to make His grace, and this fruit, the first thing you think about when you wake up tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

God’s Protective Word

 By Alistair Begg

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

John 17:15

When Jesus prayed these words for His disciples, He prayed them aloud. And so this prayer was also an instruction to them about how to interact with the surrounding world. The life that Jesus sets forth here is one that is neither comfortably indistinguishable from the world nor comfortably separate from it.

This is Jesus’ vision for His people: to be in the world but distinct from it. This is, in fact, what God’s people have always been called to, as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:61 Peter 2:9-10). The Psalms are abundantly clear that evil is a present danger. People are described as “enemies” and “bloodthirsty men” (Psalm 59:1-2), “evildoers” are all around (94:4), and there are some whose ways can only be described as “crooked” (125:5). Therefore, the great challenge is knowing how to honor Christ’s words—how to refrain from being compromised by the evil which surrounds us.

Our greatest form of defense is seen in Jesus’ request to the Father: “Keep them from the evil one.” Protection is available to all who entrust themselves to God. This truth is articulated in the Psalms too, where we read of God’s protection being offered to the needy. The Lord says that “because the needy groan, I will now arise” (Psalm 12:5). In other words, it is not the arrogant and boastful that He protects but those who recognize their dependence on Him. Theirs are the groanings the Lord hears. And the Lord’s protection for the needy is also protection from the wicked. David confesses that God “will guard us from this generation forever” (v 7). Wicked people may hurt God’s people but they cannot do so in any permanent way, for ultimately they cannot hurt our souls. God will keep us from everlasting harm.

The protection of God is for the needy and from the wicked, but how does it come to us? Through the word of God, which provides a lamp for our feet and a light to our paths (Psalm 119:105). His every word proves true, offering a shield against all foes (18:30). If we want to live faithfully in the world, we must devote ourselves to the Scriptures. To think rightly about the evil around you, then, the word of God must be in your heart, in your mind, and on your tongue. God has given it to you to keep you.

Do you pray for yourself what Jesus prayed for His followers on that night before He died? Consider whether you are more in danger of becoming like the world or of removing yourself from it. Ask the Lord for the love, wisdom, and courage required to live as He did: in the world and yet gloriously distinct from it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Mercy for the Believer

 By Charles Spurgeon

Have mercy on me, O God.

Psalm 51:1

When one of God’s choice servants, William Carey, was suffering from a dangerous illness, the inquiry was made, “If this sickness should prove fatal, what passage would you select as the text for your funeral sermon?” He replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature is unworthy to have anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.’” In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more should be cut on his gravestone:

“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm On Your kind arms I fall.”

Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honored of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. We need the Lord to have mercy upon our good works, our prayers, our preaching, our offerings, and our living sacrifices. The blood was not only sprinkled on the doorposts of Israel’s houses, but upon the sanctuary, the mercy-seat, and the altar, because as sin intrudes upon our holiest things, the blood of Jesus is needed to purify them from defilement. If mercy is needed to be exercised toward our duties, what will be said of our sins? How sweet the remembrance that inexhaustible mercy is waiting to be gracious to us, restore our backslidings, and make our broken bones rejoice!

Remember Your Creator

 Byu Alistair Begg

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Not everyone ages at the same rate or in the same way. Some people are full of life well on into their twilight years, while others fade long before their time. But all of us, no matter how young or old, no matter how we feel or how frail we are, are moving one day at a time toward the day that the lights finally go out.

It’s with that end in mind that the author of Ecclesiastes calls us to remember our Creator while we still have time. But when he says “Remember,” he’s not calling us to a mechanical exercise such as recalling irregular English verbs or multiplication tables. The call to remember encourages us to drop every sense of self-sufficiency and to cast ourselves unreservedly on God as our Creator and Sustainer. To “remember your Creator” means to know Him, love Him, and serve Him as your highest joy.

The timeframe in which this exhortation is to be responded to is significant: the writer specifically urges his readers to remember God “in the days of your youth.” If you are no longer young, don’t worry—this may apply to you much more than you think! The Bible is far more flexible concerning youthfulness than we are. Even so, there is no question that those who are younger particularly need to heed these instructions.

We must beware of saying to ourselves, “I’ll get around to the serious stuff when the serious time comes.” This is the serious time! The days will soon come when you will not be able to see as you once saw, hear as you once heard, or walk as you once walked. However fast or slowly, the house of your life is breaking down. How tragic it would be to assume that you can remember your Creator tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, but never today, and then find that there is no more tomorrow. Beware of allowing the best years of your life to pass filled with things that will ultimately prove to be worthless. Remember your Creator while you have the opportunity. And if you feel your best years are already behind you, remember this also: God is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). It is better to remember now than to spend eternity with regret.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Path Toward Rejoicing

 By Alistair Begg

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

Happiness cannot be turned on like a tap. Joy does not come at the flip of a switch. As Christians, we have highs and lows like anyone else. Sometimes we feel great; other times we feel stuck. So what do we do with a command that tells us to be joyful continually—or, as the text has it, to “rejoice … always”?

Some people conceive of joy as something that ebbs and flows according to our circumstances. If this were so, the path to joy would be to ensure that our circumstances contain as many good things as possible and that we cut out anything, and anyone, that brings us down. But the apostle Paul offers us a different take. The Christian joy he describes is intended to be steady and stable. Paul clues us in to the source of this joy here: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The key is the phrase in between “Rejoice” and “always”—“in the Lord.” Those three little words make all the difference in the world! If we let our joy ebb and flow with our circumstances, then we’re inevitably going to find ourselves in trouble. Hard times will come, sooner or later. But if we rejoice in the Lord, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), then our joy is anchored in someone unchanging, and so it will be unfading.

Christian joy is a joy that can coexist with deep sadness. Your circumstances may bring you grief, but they need not extinguish your joy if you find it “in the Lord”—in who He is, how He loves you, and what He has promised you. Place your hope in Him and remind yourself of His unchanging nature and you will be on the path toward rejoicing always, even in hardship. Today, no matter your circumstances, you can find solace, rest, and, yes, even joy in the glorious truth that God is with you through it all and will one day set all things aright.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Doubt and Unbelief

 By Charles Spurgeon

How long will they not believe in me … ?

Numbers 14:11

Strive with all diligence to keep out the monster of unbelief. It is so dishonoring to Christ that He will withdraw His visible presence if we insult Him by tolerating it. It is true it is a weed that we can never entirely remove from the soil, but we must aim at its root with zeal and perseverance. Among hateful things it is the most to be defeated. Its hurtful nature is so poisonous that he that uses it and he upon whom it is used are both harmed by it. In your case, believer, it is most wicked, for the mercies of your Lord in the past increase your guilt in doubting Him now. When you distrust the Lord Jesus, He may well cry out, “Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.” To doubt is to crown His head with thorns of the sharpest kind.

It is very cruel for a well-beloved wife to mistrust a kind and faithful husband. The sin is needless, foolish, and unwarranted. Jesus has never given the slightest ground for suspicion, and it is hard to be doubted by those to whom our conduct is consistently affectionate and true. Jesus is the Son of the Highest and has unlimited wealth; it is shameful to doubt Omnipotence and distrust His sufficiency. The cattle on a thousand hills will be enough for our most hungry feeding, and the granaries of heaven are not likely to be emptied by our eating. If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust His fullness, but who can drain a fountain? Countless believers throughout the ages have drawn their supplies from Him, and not one of them has complained at the insufficiency of His resources.

Dispel this lying traitor unbelief, for his only errand is to cut the bonds of communion and make us mourn an absent Savior. Bunyan tells us that unbelief has “as many lives as a cat”; if so, let us kill one life now, and continue the work until the whole nine are gone. Down with you, traitor, my heart detests you.

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?

 By Alistair Begg

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 15:1-2

“Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” The question that David poses in the first verse of this psalm is of utmost importance. It may strike us as a question that’s tied only to worship in ancient Israel, but in truth it takes us to the very doorstep of heaven and asks us, Who will enter these gates?

While the answer is explained in the rest of Psalm 15, the general point is one we find throughout Scripture. The writer of Hebrews advised his readers to “strive for … the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The Lord Jesus similarly instructed that “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). Those who will stand on the holy hill of the Lord and enjoy His presence for eternity, then, are those who arrive there by the narrow way, striving after holiness.

The sad truth is that too many assume they will dwell on God’s holy hill because they once said a prayer, walked down an aisle, or are a member of a church. It is a grave mistake to think that those acts on their own will merit eternal life if they are accompanied with a way of life that gives no evidence of knowing Christ as Lord. Charles Spurgeon once preached, “If the man does not live differently from what he did before … his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction.”

So, who will ascend the hill of the Lord? It is the one who “walks blamelessly,” in a way that cannot be confused with that of an unbeliever, and whose life manifests the reality that God has saved him or her. It is the one whose talk is not marked by slander but who “speaks truth in his heart.” This is someone who doesn’t merely say what is correct but says what is true, with no gap between what is said and what is lived.

The combination of reading Psalm 15 and looking honestly at ourselves will very likely be discouraging. Only the Lord Jesus embodies the psalm’s portrayal of holiness to perfection; only He deserves to dwell on His Father’s holy hill, and only because He chose to die for His people’s sins and clothe them with His perfection are we invited to live with Him there. But it is good and right to let the light of God’s word shine on our hearts and expose what is there, for it will move us to repentance and to gratitude to our Savior. And those who know they will stand there because of Him will seek to be like Him. Consider your walk and your words, and pray that you would be ever more conformed to the image of Christ until you dwell with Him on God’s holy hill.

                                                        Psalm 15

Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent?
    Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right,
    and speaks truth from his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue,
    and does no evil to his friend,
    nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
in whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest,
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Subtle Influence of Error

 By Alistair Begg

There are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

Titus 1:10-11

Beware the danger of empty talkers.

The church in Crete was threatened by some within the community of faith who were nevertheless marked by rebellion. They were like those who enlist in the army, report for duty, and put on a uniform, but as soon as battle commences, they refuse to obey their commanding officer.

Such insubordinate individuals are, Paul says, “empty talkers.” They talk about nothing, but they make it sound as if it’s the most important thing that you’ve ever heard in your life. They want to deviate from the main things and the plain things of Scripture and get everybody to focus on the sidelines, on their traits. And shockingly, although they are “deceivers,” they are able to draw people after them.

Some people are peculiarly susceptible to this kind of nonsense. It’s not possible to have a product that sells unless you’ve got a market that is buying. If a congregation is not well versed in the truth, and if it doesn’t have elders like those described in Titus 1:5-9 to safeguard the flock, then it will be vulnerable to individuals who rise from among the believers and seek to draw the faithful away.

The greatest danger is not necessarily an all-out onslaught from outside the body of faith. More often than not, it is creeping and subtle, and it comes from inside. Those who deceive in this way are not necessarily easy to recognize. They won’t say, “Follow me, I’m turning away from the truth.” Rather, they say, “Follow me, because I know the key teachings that you need to believe. You need to make sure that you’re doing these things and not doing those things.”

The gospel is the amazing story that through Jesus and His work upon the cross, God completely transforms the lives of His children. Along with this change in our hearts, He gives us the unchanging truth of His word—and that truth is worthy of our prayers for the church and its elders. It is worth defending with all our might. So let Paul’s words be a reminder to guard against deceitful empty talkers and to be vigilant as you check your own heart. Listen to those whose words are full of grace and truth, and ensure that your own words are saturated with those two hallmarks of the true Christian life, too.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Where to Turn When Your Thoughts Go Dark

 By Alistair Begg

Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.”

1 Samuel 27:1

Sometimes our thoughts are our greatest enemy.

However difficult his circumstance, David had always placed his confidence in God. Indeed, in the final conversation that ever took place between King Saul and David, David declared to Saul that although he didn’t know what would happen, he knew that God would deliver him from his troubles (1 Samuel 26:23-24). David had good reason for such confidence: deliverance had been a theme throughout his life. Whether it was from the lion, the bear, or the Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17:37), or, later, from Saul’s murderous pursuit of him, David was quick to attest to God’s rescue.

It is surprising, then, that having just avowed his commitment to the delivering hand of God, David then convinced himself in his heart that Saul would eventually kill him. Rather than reflecting on God’s goodness and faithfulness, he allowed his thoughts to go to dark places. His confidence gave way to depression and his faith gave way to fear, and so he went to seek security in the company of the enemy (1 Samuel 27:2)—a decision that would lead to a mess of deceit and difficulty (v 8-11).

Our thoughts really matter; they give rise to our actions. An old saying reminds us of this principle: Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.

You may be able to look back on chapters in your own life when, like David, you began to talk nonsense to yourself, made foolish choices, and found yourself trapped. You may be in that place right now, struggling to stop your thoughts spiraling downwards and leading you into a course of action that you know, deep down, is unwise or wrong. David didn’t just need saving from threats to his life; he needed saving from himself—and so do you and I. But the good news is that we can’t exhaust God’s kindness and mercy, even if our thoughts have gone in the wrong direction and even if our actions have taken us off course. As God rescued David, so He has rescued us through the cross of Christ. When you find your thoughts turning to dark places, then, remind yourself of God’s goodness, deliverance, and faithfulness, and let that shape your heart’s response to the difficulties you face, and shape the course you take as you navigate them.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Christ’s Victory

By Charles Spurgeon

He who opens the breach goes up before them.

Micah 2:13

Inasmuch as Jesus has gone before us, things are not as they would have been if He had never passed that way. He has conquered every foe that obstructed the way. Cheer up now, you faint-hearted warrior. Not only has Christ traveled the road, but He has defeated your enemies. Do you dread sin? He has nailed it to His cross. Do you fear death? He has been the death of Death. Are you afraid of hell? He has barred it against the advent of any of His children; they shall never see the gulf of perdition. Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment that renders us invulnerable to fire.

The sword that has been forged against us is already blunt; the instruments of war that the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may march safely on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are already conquered. What will you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is share the plunder. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight will be with a defeated foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength will not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all measure

Proclaim aloud the Savior’s fame,
Who bears the Breaker’s wond’rous name;
Sweet name; and it becomes him well,
Who breaks down earth, sin, death, and hell.


What Are You Waiting For?

 By Alistair Begg

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Philippians 3:20-21

Life is filled with waiting. Whether it’s waiting for the weekend, for an upcoming vacation, or for the birth of a child or grandchild, we’re always waiting for something. And the Christian life itself is a waiting period; Paul says that, as citizens of heaven already, we now “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

For Christians, this waiting should be one of the defining features of our lives. There is an otherworldly dimension to our existence—and it’s important. We are not to be consumed by, controlled by, constrained by, or riveted to “earthly things” (Philippians 3:19), but we are to “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1) as we eagerly await our Savior and the fullness of the benefits He will shower on us. We are to be a waiting people, not a settling people.

If you have ever been separated from a close loved one for an extended period, perhaps you have felt the pangs of intense longing. You may be just fine for a few days or even a few weeks, but soon you feel as if a part of you is missing. You eagerly anticipate your reunion—and when the day finally draws near, you can hardly stand the wait any longer!

Paul wants us to wait expectantly for our Lord Jesus Christ with the same sort of longing. We will do that as we remember that “the appointed time has grown very short” (1 Corinthians 7:29) and that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). However long or short the wait is from our perspective, Jesus will return in due time—and when He does, He will transform us to be like Himself, forever.

That reunion may come sooner than you think—and it will certainly come “soon” when compared to the vastness of the eternity that awaits us! But for now, you and I are still left to watch and wait for the return of our King. So, until that day when you are brought into the presence of your Savior forever, be sure not to settle for what this world has to offer, becoming more excited about the “now” than the “not yet.” Instead, say with the psalmist, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6). However today goes, make it a day of waiting for what is to come.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

No Weeping in Heaven

 By Charles Spurgeon

I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.

Isaiah 65:19

In heaven the glorified do not weep, for all outward causes of grief are gone. There are no broken friendships, nor unfulfilled longings in heaven. Poverty, famine, danger, persecution, and slander are unknown there. There will be no pain to distress us, no anxious thoughts of death or bereavement to sadden. Those there do not weep, for they are perfectly sanctified. No evil heart of unbelief prompts them to depart from the living God; they are faultless before His throne and fully conformed to His image. Well might they stop mourning since they have stopped sinning. They do not weep, because all fear of change is past. They know that they are eternally secure. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They are safe in a city that will never be taken; they bask in a sun that shall never set; they drink of a river that will never run dry; they pluck fruit from a tree that will never wither. Countless cycles may revolve, but eternity will not be exhausted; and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall endure with it.

They are forever with the Lord. They do not weep because every desire is fulfilled. They cannot wish for anything that they do not have. Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire and will—all the faculties are completely satisfied; and although our present ideas of what God has prepared for those who love him are imperfect, still we know by the revelation of the Spirit that the saints above are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight, is in them. They bathe themselves in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite blessing. That same joyful rest awaits us. It may not be too long before the weeping willow is exchanged for the palm-branch of victory, and sorrow’s tears will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss. “Therefore encourage one other with these words.”1

  1. 1 Thessalonians 4:18