Sorrows, because they are lingering guests, I will entertain but moderately, knowing that the more they are made of the longer they will continue: and for pleasures, because they stay not, and do but call to drink at my door, I will use them as passengers with slight respect. He is his own best friend that makes the least of both of them.
God sends ten thousands truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.
Whatever is only almost true is quite false, and among the most dangerous of errors, because being so near truth, it is the more likely to lead astray.
There is a rest for souls to be found in the Scriptures. When men search the scriptures, their minds are made easy by the truth; and in consequence, they walk therein. John Gill writes:
Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
[If you doubt] the doctrine of Election, read over the sacred volumes, and there you will find, that this is an eternal and sovereign act of God the Father, which was made in Christ before the foundation of the world; that it is to holiness here, and happiness hereafter; that the means are sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; that it is irrespective of faith and good works, being before persons had done either good or evil; that faith and holiness flow from it, and that grace and glory are secured by it; Whom he did predestinate, then; he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 9:21; 8:30).
If you have any hesitation about the doctrine of Original Sin, look into your Bible; there you will see, that the first man sinned, and all sinned in him; that judgment, through his offense, came upon all men to condemnation; and that by his disobedience many were made sinners; that men are conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity; that they are transgressors from the womb, go astray from thence, speaking lies, and are by nature children of wrath (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Isa. 48:8, Eph. 2:3).
If the matter in debate is the Satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ, read over the epistles of his holy apostles, and they will inform you, that he was made under the law, and became the fulfilling end of it, in the room of his people; that he yielded perfect obedience to it, and bore the penalty of it, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them; that he was made sin for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him; and a curse for them, that he might redeem them from the curse of the law; that he offered himself a sacrifice for them, in their room and stead to God, for a sweet-smelling savor; that he suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring them nigh to God; and died for their sins according to the scriptures, and made reconciliation and atonement for them (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3, 4; 10:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 5:2; l Pet. 3:18; l Cor. 15:3; Heb. 2:17). (“The Scriptures: The Only Guide in Matters of Faith”)
God – the eternal God – is Himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless. Well, child of God, remember that when thou art at thy worst and lowest, yet “underneath” thee “are everlasting arms.” Sin may drag thee ever so low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the uttermost”; and to the uttermost He saves. Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are “the everlasting arms.” He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”-they are underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm him avail nothing. This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker in the service of God. It implies a promise of strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty. And, further, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst of Jordan, we shall be able to say with David, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We shall descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the “everlasting arms”-arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for “the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.” (Morning & Evening)
“Behold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet your heavenly Father careth for them.” He expatiates on a single flower, and draws from it the delightful argument of confidence in God. He gives us to see that taste may be combined with piety, and that the same heart may be occupied with all that is serious in the contemplations of religion, and be at the same time alive to the charms and the loveliness of nature.
I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference. Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation. (The Warfare of the Spirit)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)
On this fourth Sunday of the Advent season, let us pause to consider two names given to the Son of God. Jesus was actually a very common Jewish name often given in memory of Joshua (Hebrew form of the name Jesus). Jesus (Joshua) means “God is Savior”. Jesus would save people from their sins.
He saves from the guilt of sin by offering His blood as the atonement for sins. (Romans 5:8-9) Jesus also saves us from the power of sin by sending the Holy Spirit to break sin’s dominion through sanctification. (Romans 8:1-2 and 12-14) Only Jesus can save us from the wrath of God to come.
The name of Jesus should, therefore, be a very encouraging name to us. We may have salvation through this name. Through Jesus we find mercy as He intercedes on our behalf. For us, the name of Jesus is a very precious name.
Matthew, however, continues to record another name which is also significant to us:
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)
Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin giving birth to a child, who would be called Immanuel, may be found in Isaiah 7:14. This name reveals the nature of Jesus; He is God! Isaiah goes on to declare that He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV) We may find in the name Immanuel a strong foundation for our faith and hope; for Christ has come in the flesh, “so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18 ESV)
The son of a virgin and raised by a carpenter, Immanuel proved true to His name by His resurrection from the dead. He is truly “God with us!” The names Jesus (God is Savior) and Immanuel (God with us) should inspire our confidence in the preservation of our salvation from the eternal consequences of sin.
During the remaining time of the Advent season, think on these two names given to our Lord. Consider how they might apply to the following verses:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)
Bishop J. C. Ryle:
It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would any one know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.
1) We must hear with FAITH, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The word in old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).
2) We must hear with REVERENCE, remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s message, “not as the word of men, but the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
3) We must bear with PRAYER, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.
Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared; as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we will hear with profit, and return with praise. (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 258-259)
Matthew Vogan provides us with an updated version of Richard Baxter’s (1615 – 1691) “How to Spend the Day with God”:
A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.
The Only Motive:
Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.
Redeeming The Time:
Place a high value upon your time; be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, television, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.
Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.
Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.
Eating and Drinking:
Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.
Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.
The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13). (“How to Spend the Day with God”)
Quoting J. C. Ryle:
A right heart is a PURIFIED heart (Acts 15:9; Matt. 5:8). It loves holiness, and hates sin. It strives daily to cleanse itself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). It abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. It delights in the law of God, and has that law engraved on it, that it may not forget it (Psalm 119:11). It longs to keep the law more perfectly, and takes pleasure in those who love the law. It loves God and people. Its affections are set on things above. It never feels so light and happy as when it is most holy; and it looks forward to heaven with joy, as the place where perfect holiness will at length be attained.
In the words of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5-6 ESV)
From the writings of Samuel Rutherford:
There is nothing which commends and makes heaven fair, or earth, or the creature that is not in Jesus in infinite perfection. For fair sun and fair moon are black, and think it shameful to shine before His fairness.
Base heavens, and excellent Jesus! Weak angels and strong and mighty Jesus! Foolish angel-wisdom and only wise Jesus! Short-living creature and long-living and ever-living Ancient of days! Miserable, and sickly, and wretched are those things that are within time’s circle, and only, only blessed is Jesus!
If you can come into His love (and He gives you consent to love Him, and allurements also), what a second heaven’s paradise, a young heaven’s glory, is it to be hot and burned with fevers of love-sickness for Him! The more you drink of His love; there is the more room, and the greater delight and desire for this love. Hunger for a feast of His love, for that is the border of heaven. Nothing has a nearer resemblance to the color, and hue, and luster of heaven, than Christ loved, and to breathe out love-words and love-sighs for Him.
Remember what He is! When twenty thousand million of heaven’s lovers have worn their hearts threadbare of love, all is nothing, yes, less than nothing, to His matchless worth and excellency. Oh so broad and so deep is the sea of His desirable loveliness! Glorified spirits, triumphing angels, the crowned and exalted lovers of heaven stand outside His loveliness, and cannot put a circle on it.
Oh if sin and time were from between us and that royal King’s love, that high majesty (eternity’s Bloom and Flower of high lustered beauty) might shine upon pieces of created spirits, and might bedew and overflow us, who are portions of endless misery and lumps of redeemed sin. Alas! what do I? I but spill and lose words in speaking highly of Him who will be above the music and songs of heaven, and never be enough praised by us all; to whose boundless and bottomless love I recommend you….”
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Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:
God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. Every stream of holy love, yes, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds from God. In heaven, this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yes, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!
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It is easy to praise the Lord from the heights of His love, but it is rich to worship Him from the depths of His love. If you are in a time of testing or trial may I encourage you today to stop and worship the Lord. Find comfort in His word and in the obedience that comes from surrendering our will and rights to Him. Job prayed in the course of his trials, “Though He may slay me, I will hope in Him.” Our Lord is sovereign – He is in control of all things. There is mercy in the wilderness dear friend. Come to Christ Jesus today, worship Him in spirit and truth, and drink of His mercy as He molds you to Himself.
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From the words of Brother Lawrence:
We must, during all our labor and in all else we do, even in our reading and writing, holy though both may be – I say more, even during our formal devotions and spoken prayers – pause for some short moment, as often indeed as we can, to worship God in the depth of our heart, to savour Him, though it be but in passing, and as it were by stealth. Since you are not unaware that God is present before you whatever you are doing, that he is at the depth and centre of your soul, why not then pause from time to time at least from that which occupies you outwardly, even from your spoken prayers, to worship Him inwardly, to praise him, petition him, to offer him your heart and thank him? What can God have that gives Him greater satisfaction than that a thousand times a day all His creatures should thus pause to withdraw and worship him in the heart?
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