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. (A Defense of Calvinism)
According to the doctrine of total depravity, man in his present condition since the fall is so polluted with a principle of evil that every aspect of his being and personality is affected by it. The term depravity refers to the moral disposition or inclination of fallen humanity’s nature toward evil and against good. This principle of sin and moral pollution is such that man is by nature opposed to what is true and righteous. The inclination of his heart, the delight of his soul, the orientation of his will is toward wickedness.
Nothing compels man to sin. He sins because he loves it. He revels in it. He has no taste for God, but relishes evil and pursues it with voluntary zeal. This may sound grim, but I believe that Scripture affirms it. (Chosen for Life, A Case for Divine Election)
Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy. (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist)
Charles H. Spurgeon:
A man in Christ is not the old man purified, nor the old man improved, nor the old man in a better humor, nor the old man with additions and subtractions, nor the old man dressed in gorgeous robes. No, he is a new creature altogether. As for the old man, what is to be done with him? Can he not be sobered, reformed, and made to do us useful service? No, he is crucified with Christ, and bound to die by a lingering but certain death. The capital sentence is passed upon him, for he cannot be mended and therefore must be ended. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
You cannot change the old nature, it is immutably bad, and the sooner it is put away as a filthy and unclean thing the better for us. The believer, so far as he is in Christ, is a new creation: not the old stuff put into a new fashion, and the old material worked up into an improved form, but absolutely a new creation. (Sermon entitled “Christ The Maker Of All Things New,” December 10, 1876)
J.C. Ryle (Commenting on Mt. 1:18-25):
Let us take care that we have clear views of our Lord Jesus Christ’s nature and person. It is a point of the deepest importance. We should settle it firmly in our minds, that our Savior is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is “God with us.” He had a nature like our own in all things, sin only excepted. But though Jesus was “with us” in human flesh and blood, He was at the same time very God. (Expository Thoughts on Matthew)
Along with the doctrine of chance, many Christians are also buying into the philosophy expounded by Rabbi Kushner that God is good but not sovereign. One Christian writer, for example, speaks of her pain as being utterly frustrating to God and gives thanks to God for being her devoted, caring, frustrated heavenly Father. Faced with the dilemma of how a loving, sovereign Father could allow her to experience such agonizing pain, she found relief in the belief that God was indeed frustrated about her pain, shedding tears with her, even as a mother may weep at the suffering of her child.
In fairness to this writer, she suffered excruciating pain for months. As one who has suffered less severe pain, and that only for several weeks at any one time, I realize I have not sat where she sat; I have not had to wrestle to the degree she has with the love of God in the midst of unbearable pain. But, as so often has been observed, we are to establish our beliefs by the Bible, not by our experiences. The Bible leaves us no doubt: God is never frustrated. “No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). It is true that God is involved in an invisible war with Satan and that the lives of God’s people often are battlegrounds, as seen in the life of Job. But even then Satan must get permission to touch God’s people (see Job 1:12; Job 2:6; and Luke 22:31-32). Even in this invisible war, God is still sovereign. (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided; three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)
In Luke 12:49-57 Jesus told His disciples that He had not come to bring peace, but division. He told them that He was bringing a baptism of fire to the earth, warning the crowd to flee the wrath to come.
This was the great moment of crisis in history. It was a time of urgency that swept the earth with the appearance of Jesus. Jesus’ coming to this planet in the fullness of time was a time of division, judgment, and separation.
It was a time of personal choosing, when eternal destinies were at stake. Everyone who encountered Jesus had to make a choice, to stand with Him or against Him. Thus, since the time of Jesus’ first appearance, the world has been gripped in a kind of crisis that will continue until the last great crisis, the last judgment.
How do men encounter Jesus today, thus facing their own crisis of history? Jesus is in heaven, but men and women encounter Him through His people, the church. The church is His body and His herald. The fiery baptism Jesus came to bring fell in one sense at Pentecost to ignite the tongues of His people so that they might bring the crisis of decision to all men.
Knowing these things should make us urgent in our proclamation of His name and make us insistent that the generation of our day be exposed to the Lord of lords.
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In the time of our trouble God causes us to see what an evil and bitter thing it is to grieve his good Spirit. When we are in the bitterness of our spirits, and want the Comforter, then we begin to call to mind how often we have grieved the Spirit which would have been a Comforter to us and have sealed us to the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); and say within ourselves in reference to the Spirit of God, as once the sons of Jacob said one to another in reference to Joseph, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21). In some such language, I say, will the soul in the hour of temptation bespeak itself? Ah, I am verily guilty concerning that tender Spirit of Grace and Comfort which hath often said, “O! Do not this abominable thing which I hate” (Jeremiah 44:4); but I would not hear. Is not this he whose rebukes I have slighted, whose counsels I have despised, whose warnings I have neglected, yea whose comforts I have undervalued, and counted them as a small thing? Ah wretch! How just is it now that the Spirit of God should withdraw? That he should despise my sorrows, and laugh at my tears; shut out my prayers, quench my smoking flax, and break my bruised reed? (cf. Isaiah 42:3). Well, if the Lord shall indeed be pleased to bring my soul out of trouble, and to revive my fainting spirit with his sweet consolations, I hope I shall carry myself for the future more obedient to the counsels and rebukes of the Spirit of Grace. (“Treatise on Affliction”)
The grace of God is proclaimed in the Gospel (Acts 20:24), which is to the self-righteous Jew a “stumbling block,” and to the conceited and philosophizing Greek “foolishness.” Why so? Because there is nothing whatever in it that is adapted to gratify the pride of man. It announces that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. It declares that apart from Christ, the unspeakable Gift of God’s grace, the state of every man is desperate, irremediable, hopeless. The Gospel addresses men as guilty, condemned, perishing criminals. It declares that the most chaste moralist is in the same terrible plight as the most voluptuous profligate; that the zealous professor, with all his religious performances, is no better off than the most profane infidel. (The Attributes of God)
We can never take God by surprise. We can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there ‘in the beginning’. Before we existed, God took action. Before we decided to look for God, God had already been looking for us. The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us.
Many people imagine God sitting comfortably on a distant throne, remote, aloof, uninterested, a God who doesn’t really care for our needs and has to be badgered into taking action on our behalf. Such a view is completely wrong. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to men and women to turn to him, while they are still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, takes the initiative, rises from his throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until he finds them. (Basic Christianity)
Thousands of Christians have experienced…injustices at the hands of teachers, coaches, fellow workers, and supervisors at work. Perhaps you have, too. When these events occur, they always hurt. We cannot dismiss them with the glib expression, “God is in control.” God is in control, but in His control He allows us to experience pain. The pain is very real. We hurt, we suffer. But in the midst of our suffering we must believe that God is in control, that He is sovereign. (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)
We must think of suffering in a new way, we must face everything in a new way. And the way in which we face it all is by reminding ourselves that the Holy Spirit is in us. There is the future, there is the high calling, there is the persecution, there is the opposition, there is the enemy. I see it all. I must admit also that I am weak, that I lack the necessary powers and propensities. But instead of stopping there . . . I say, ‘But the Spirit of God is in me. God has given me his Holy Spirit.’ . . . What matters . . . is not what is true of us but what is true of Him. (I highly recommend – Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure)
Can controversial teachings nurture Christ-likeness? Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith. If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy. We need not stay there. We can go home and feast if the day has been well spent. But we must buy there. As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dream world. There is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks that we can stand alone on truths that are noncontroversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy? (The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, Revised and Expanded Edition, p. 121-22)
That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. (A Defense of Calvinism)
The first thing our Lord said of us was, ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’; and it is only after this that He says, ‘Ye are the light of the world’. Why does He put it in that order instead of the reverse? . . . Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does. . . . Far too often we Christians tend to reverse the order. We have spoken in a very enlightened manner, but we have not always lived as the salt of the earth. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak; and if our lips speak more than our lives it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole life and demeanor has been a denial of it. The world does not pay much attention to them. Let us never forget this order deliberately chosen by our Lord: ‘the salt of the earth’ before ‘the light of the world’. We >are< something before we begin to >act< as something. The two things should always go together, but the order and sequence should be the one that He sets down here. (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Volume 1 [Eerdmans, 1959-60], p. 164-65)