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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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THE NEW BIRTH AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

George WhitefieldGeorge Whitefield:

We might as soon attempt to stop the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and calm the most tempestuous sea, as to imagine that we can subdue, or bring under proper regulations, our own unruly wills and affections by any strength inherent in ourselves. And therefore, that I may keep you no longer in suspense, I inform you, that this heavenly potter, this blessed agent, is the Almighty Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the third person in the most adorable Trinity, coessential with the Father and the Son. This is that Spirit, which at the beginning of time moved on the face of the waters, when nature lay in one universal chaos. This was the Spirit that overshadowed the Holy Virgin, before that holy thing was born of her: and this same Spirit must come, and move upon the chaos of our souls, before we can properly be called the sons of God. This is what John the Baptist calls “being baptized with the Holy Ghost,” without which, his and all other baptisms, whether infant or adult, avail nothing. Continue reading

Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God

JohnWilburChapmanIf you do not love a person, he can grieve you very little. On the other hand, if you love someone – that person has the power to hurt you. In Ephesians 4:30, we find evidence of the love of the Holy Spirit for the Christian. In this verse, Paul commands us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1917) shares his thoughts on this below:

“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” (Ephesians 4:30)

Of all the epistles that ever came from the heart of the great Apostle Paul, this letter to the Ephesians seems to me about the sweetest and best. It is the epistle in which we find “the heavenly places” mentioned so many times; it is the epistle in which we find so many different names applied to our Father in heaven; and I suppose it is the letter in which we find the very highest spiritual truth presented in all the Bible. But while we find the very highest idea of spiritual things, we also find the Apostle Paul turning to give us instructions concerning the most ordinary affairs of daily life. Some rules are here concerning Christian conversation. Some suggestions are made touching the relation which the husband sustains to the wife, and the wife to the husband. Indeed, if one should live in the spirit of this letter to the Ephesians, he would do nothing less than live what has been called by some “the life of surrender,” and others “the victorious life,” but which Paul calls “the life in the heavenly places.” Paul makes all these different suggestions, and then adds: “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,” as if He could be grieved by a wrong atmosphere in the home, or by a wrong use of the lips; and this is true.

While many of us would shrink from doing things plainly inconsistent with our Christian profession, we would be astonished if we could be made to understand that the way we have used our lips has grieved the Holy Spirit.

First of all, the very fact that we may grieve Him proves by inference His personality. You cannot grieve an influence. It seems to me that we may grieve the Spirit by even stopping to prove that He has a personality equal to the Father and to the Son, for it is so self-evident. Yet many men and women do not seem to have grasped the truth of His personality, and thus must grieve Him. In the second place, the fact that we may grieve Him proves His sensitiveness. In John 1:32, it is said: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove.”

The dove stands for all that is sensitive in the family of birds. I have been told that the dove has been known to tremble when there was held before it one single feather of a vulture’s wing. The Spirit of God is so sensitive that that which has even the appearance of the evil in it hurts Him. . . .

There are several different expressions in the New Testament in line with my text. “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). I believe that only the unregenerate resist Him. In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul says, “Quench not the Spirit.” That may refer especially to the life of the Holy Ghost in the church, so that we may quench Him by ignoring Him in the government of the church. If we would have a blessing sweeping over our land from sea to sea, from north to south, I believe that we must begin by conforming the life of our churches to the teachings of the Holy Ghost.

“Grieve not the holy Spirit of God.” Only a child of God may grieve the Spirit, and that is the sad part of it. How many times we have heard these words referred to and read as if they admonished us not to grieve away the Spirit of God! It seems to me that we must at least grieve the Spirit when we add to or take from any part of revealed truth. It would be contrary to Scripture to say that we could grieve away the Spirit. If the Spirit of God comes to abide in us, He comes to stay, and there is no power on earth that can separate us from Him, when once He takes possession of us. We have been born of the Spirit, and we cannot grieve Him away. That would mean a change of all God’s plan for us, for we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. I believe that I am a part of God’s great plan for ages to come, and if I should fall out it would mean a change of all God’s plans for time and eternity. We cannot grieve away the Holy Spirit of God; no, but we may grieve Him. (“Grieving the Spirit”)

Continual Inspiration

The apostles could not have any true and real knowledge of the spiritual blessings of Christ’s redemption, or a divine call, or fitness to preach until the Holy Spirit opened their hearts and minds to the mysteries of a redeeming Savior. William Law writes concerning this:

The necessity of a continual inspiration of the Spirit of God, both to begin the first, and continue every step of a divine life in man, is a truth to which every life in nature, as well as all scripture, bears full witness. A natural life, a bestial life, a diabolical life, can subsist no longer, than whilst they are immediately and continually under the working power of that root or source, from which they sprung. Thus it is with the divine life in man, it can never be in him, but as a growth of life in and from God. Hence it is, that resisting the Spirit, quenching the Spirit, grieving the Spirit, is that alone which gives birth and growth to every evil that reigns in the world, and leaves men, and churches, not only an easy, but a necessary prey to the devil, the world, and the flesh. And nothing but obedience to the Spirit, trusting to the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, praying with and for its continual inspiration, can possibly keep either men, or churches, from being sinners,or idolators, in all that they do. For everything in the life, or religion of man, that has not the Spirit of God for its mover, director, and end, be it what it will, is but earthly, sensual, or devilish. The truth and perfection of the gospel state could not show itself, till it became solely a ministration of the Spirit, or a kingdom in which the Holy Spirit of God had the doing of all that was done in it. The apostles, whilst Christ was with them in the flesh, were instructed in heavenly truths from his mouth, and enabled to work miracles in his Name, yet not qualified to know and teach the mysteries of his kingdom. After his resurrection, he conversed with them forty days, speaking to them of things pertaining to the kingdom of God; nay though he breathed on them, and said, “receive ye the Holy Ghost,” &c., yet this also would not do, they were still unable to preach, or bear witness to the truth, as it is in Jesus. And the reason is, there was still a higher dispensation to come, which stood in such an opening of the divine life in their hearts, as could not be effected from an outward instruction of Christ himself. For though he had sufficiently told his disciples the necessity of being born again of the Spirit, yet he left them unborn of it, till he came again in the power of the Spirit. He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” yet that which was said and done was not the thing itself, but only a type or outward signification of what they should receive, when he, being glorified, should come again in the fullness and power of the Spirit, breaking open the deadness and darkness of their hearts with light and life from heaven, which light did, and alone could, open and verify in their souls, all that he had said and promised to them whilst he was with them in the flesh. All this is expressly declared by Christ himself, saying unto them … “But if I go away,” says he, “I will send him unto you, and when the comforter, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; he shall glorify me” (that is, shall set up my kingdom in its glory, in the power of the Spirit) “for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you: I said of mine, because all things that the Father hath are mine,” John xvi. (An Address to the Clergy)

Jonathan Edwards On The Earnest Of Our Inheritance

Jonathan Edwards

The Holy Spirit comprises all good things: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11 ESV) In Luke it is, chapter 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” This is the sum of the blessings that Christ died to purchase for us. The Spirit of God is called “the Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). This promised thing, Christ received to bestow on all that he had redeemed. This is the holiness and happiness of the redeemed in God. Jonathan Edwards explains:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the “river of the water of life,” that runs, and “the tree of life” that grows, in the midst of the paradise of God. The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will for ever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another; but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.

The redeemed have all their inherent good in God. Inherent good is twofold; it is either excellency or pleasure. These, the redeemed, not only derive from God, as caused by him, but have them in him. They have spiritual excellency and joy by a kind of participation of God. They are made excellent by a communication of God’s excellency: God puts his own beauty, i.e., his beautiful likeness, upon their souls: they are made partakers of the divine nature, or moral image of God (2 Pet. 1:4). They are holy by being made partakers of God’s holiness (Heb. 12: 10). The saints are beautiful and blessed by a communication of God’s holiness and joy, as the moon and planets are bright by the sun’s light.

The saint hath spiritual joy and pleasure by a kind of effusion of God on the soul. In these things the redeemed have communion with God; that is, they partake with him and of him.

The saints have both their spiritual excellency and blessedness by the gift of the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, and his dwelling in them. They are not only caused by the Holy Ghost, but are in the Holy Ghost as their principle. The Holy Spirit becoming an inhabitant is a vital principle in the soul: he, acting in, upon, and with the soul, becomes a fountain of true holiness and joy, as a spring is of water, by the exertion and diffusion of itself. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Compared with chapter 8:38-39, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; but this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” The sum of what Christ has purchased for us, is that spring of water spoken of in the former of those places, and those rivers of living water spoken of in the latter. And the sum of the blessings, which the redeemed shall receive in heaven, is that river of water of life that proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb (Rev. 22: 1). Which doubtless signifies the same with those rivers of living water, explained, John 7:38-39, which is elsewhere called the “river of God’s pleasures.” Herein consists the fullness of good, which the saints receive by Christ. It is by partaking of the Holy Spirit, that they have communion with Christ in his fullness. God hath given the Spirit, not by measure unto him, and they do receive of his fullness, and grace for grace. This is the sum of the saints’ inheritance; and therefore that little of the Holy Ghost which believers have in this world, is said to be the earnest of their inheritance. (“God Glorified In Man’s Dependence”)

Charles H. Spurgeon: “I Wish You From This Day A Blessing”

Charles H. Spurgeon

From the Pulpit of Charles H. Spurgeon:

I thought when I came in here that I should have a picked congregation; and so I have. You are one of them. Wherever you come from, I want you now to seek the Lord. He has brought you here, and He means to bless you. Yield yourselves to Him while His sweet Spirit pleads with you. While the heavenly wind softly blows upon you open wide every window. You have not felt that you wanted it; but that is the sure proof that you need it; for he that does not know his need of Christ, is most in need. Open wide your heart that the Spirit may teach you your need; above all, breathe the prayer that He would help you . . . to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, for “there is life in a look at the Crucified One—there is life at this moment for you.” “Oh,” you say, “if I were to begin I should not keep on.” No; if you began perhaps you would not; but if He begins with you He will keep on. The final perseverance of the saints is the result of the final perseverance of the Holy Spirit; He perseveres to bless, and we persevere in receiving the blessing. If He begins, you have begun with a divine power that fainteth not neither is weary. I wish it might so happen that . . . I, God’s servant, may have spoken to you such a word by the witness of the Holy Ghost, “From this day will I bless you”! Go away with that promise resting upon you. I would like to give a shake of the hand to every stranger . . . and say, “Brother, in the name of the Lord I wish you from this day a blessing.” Amen and amen. (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

One Nation’s Understanding Of What Is Indispensable

First Continental Congress In Prayer

On November 1, 1777 the Continental Congress declared “it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of. . . .” The congress then set aside Thursday, December 18th for “solemn thanksgiving and praise”:

That with one Heart and one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand, and to prosper the Means of Religion for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, that servile Labor, and such Recreation as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

[This proclamation can be found in: Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. II, pp. 309-310]

The Eye Of Faith

Richard Sibbes

Richard Sibbes reminds us here of the personal nature of the transformation that takes place when we first see our Savior:

The very beholding of Christ is a transforming sight. The Spirit that makes us new creatures, and stirs us up to behold this Savior, causes it to be a transforming beholding. If we look upon him with the eye of faith, it will make us like Christ; for the gospel is a mirror, and such a mirror, that when we a look into it, and see ourselves interested in it, we are changed from glory to glory, 2 Cor. iii. 18. A man cannot look upon the love of God and of Christ in the gospel, but it will change him to be like God and Christ For how can we see Christ, and God in Christ, but we shall see how God hates sin, and this will transform us to hate it as God cloth, who hated it so that it could not be expiated but with the blood of Christ, God man. So, seeing the holiness of God in it, it will transform us to be holy. When we see the love of God in the gospel, and the love of Christ giving himself for us, this will transform us to love God. When we see the humility and obedience of Christ, when we look on Christ as God’s chosen servant in all this, and as our surety and head, it transforms us to the like humility and obedience. Those that find not their dispositions in some comfortable measure wrought to this blessed transformation; they have not yet those eyes that the Holy Ghost requireth here. ‘Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul delighteth.’ (Extract from “A Description of Christ”)

Living Unto God

Robert Murray McCheyne

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Why do believers in Christ still sin? Believers do sin and unbelief is the cause of their sinning. However, if we Christians were to live with our eyes focused ever so closely on Christ – who bore our sins – and freely offers His righteousness for all our sins, then this constant view of the love of Christ maintained within us would provide the peace that rests on nothing in us. This is peace in Christ, which constrains us, helpless as we are, to live holy lives to the honor of God. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) explains further:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

I appeal to those of you who know what it is to be just by believing. What is it that still clouds the brow, which represses the exulting of the spirit? Why might we not always join in the song of thanksgiving: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all thine iniquities”! If we have received double for all our sins, why should it ever be needful for us to argue as does the psalmist: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul: and why are thou disquieted within me?” My friends there is not a man among you who has really believed, who has not felt the disquieting thought of which I am now speaking. There may be some of you who have felt it so painfully, that it has obscured, as with a heavy cloud, the sweet light of gospel peace, the shining in of the reconciled countenance upon the soul. The thought is this: “I am a justified man; but, alas! I am not a sanctified man. I can look at my past life without despair; but how can I look forward to what is to come?”

Now it is to the man precisely in this situation, crying out at morning and at evening, “How shall I be made new?” What good shall the forgiveness of my past sins do me, if I be not delivered from the love of sin? It is to that man that we would now, with all earnestness and affection, point out the example of Paul, and the secret power which wrought in him. “The love of Christ” (says Paul) “constraineth us.” We, too, are men of like passions with yourselves; that same sight, which you view with dismay within you, was in like manner revealed to us in all its discouraging power. Ever and anon the same hideous view of our own hearts is opened up to us. But we have an encouragement which never fails. The love of the bleeding Savior constrains us. The Spirit is given to them that believe; and that almighty agent has one argument that moves us continually – the love of Christ.

[The] hand of the Spirit . . . . [moves] the believer to live unto God; how so simple a truth as the love of Christ to man, continually presented to the mind by the Holy Ghost, should enable any man to live a life of gospel holiness. (Sermon: “The Love of Christ”)

Spurgeon On The Worm That Devours Usefulness

Charles H. Spurgeon

We need to have genuine faith in everything that God has revealed through the Bible. We must have faith in the truth and in its power. The preacher’s faith must be one of absolute certainty that if God’s Word is preached, it will produce fruit. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

If our declarations of truth are fairly and honestly stated, and then argued against—well and good; but when they are misrepresented, and tortured to mean what we never meant them to mean, then we are not careful to reply. When this happens to you, count it no strange thing. Reckon that because they cannot overcome the truth itself, they fashion an image of it stuffed with straw, and then burn it with childish exultation. Let them enjoy their game as they may. Brethren, I do not believe that God will set his seal to a ministry which does not aim at being strictly in accordance with the mind of the Spirit. In proportion as a ministry is truthful, other things being equal, God can bless it. Would you have the Holy Ghost set his seal to a lie? Would you have him bless what he has not revealed, and confirm with signs following that which is not truth? I am more and more persuaded that if we mean to have God with us we must keep to the truth. It is an almost invariable rule, that when men go aside from the old faith they are seldom successful in soul-winning. I could appeal to all observers whether it is not so, and whether men, powerful in other ways, do not become barren and unfruitful as to the salvation of others when they become doubters rather than believers. If you enquire into the worm which has devoured the root of their usefulness, you will find that it is a want of faith upon some great, cardinal principle—a want of faith which may not be displayed in their public ministry, but lurks within, poisoning their thoughts. You must be with the Holy Ghost if you are to have the Holy Ghost with you. (Sermon: “The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it”)

There Is A Need For Guilt

Only those who are humble in heart will enter the Kingdom of God. Modern philosophy and psychology tell us that we must believe we are “OK” and that others are “OK” also. Thus, modern man would avoid being confronted by the consequences of his sins. The truth, however, is that I am not “OK”. I am a sinner in need of God’s help and I will never enter His Kingdom without the intervention of God. J. C. Ryle elaborates on this thought:

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)

A sense of sin, guilt, and poverty of soul, is the first stone laid by the Holy Ghost, when He builds a spiritual temple. He convinces of sin. Light was the first thing called into being in the material creation. (Gen. i. 3.) Light about our own state is the first work in the new creation. Thirsting soul, I say again, you are the person that ought to thank God. The kingdom of God is near you. It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step towards heaven. Who taught thee that thou was naked? Whence came this inward light? Who opened thine eyes and made thee see and feel? Know this day that flesh and blood hath not revealed these things unto thee, but our Father which is in heaven. Universities may confer degrees, and schools may impart knowledge of all the sciences, but they cannot make men feel sin. To realize our spiritual need, and feel true spiritual thirst, is the A B C in saving Christianity. It is a great saying of Elihu, in the book of Job, – “God looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited not; He will deliver his soul from death, and his life shall see the light.” (Job xxxiii. 27, 28.) Let him that knows any thing of spiritual “thirst” not be ashamed. Rather let him lift up his head and begin to hope. Let him pray that God would carry on the work He has begun, and make him feel more. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

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