Saturday, February 23, 2008
unknown, but evocative
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Friday, February 22, 2008
1. The final victory belongs to Jesus Christ and his Bride.I would sum all this up by the simple phrase, "God is Sovereign." We forget that - we forget it a lot, and we do so to our detriment.
At his feet “every knee shall bow,” not only Christians, not only back-slidden and schismatic Christians, not only Jewish and Muslim branches of the Abrahamic tradition, not only the ancient Eastern religions, not only the religions of town and city nor of village and forest, but every city, nation, and land will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. Every tongue and tribe and nation, if need be, even the rocks and trees and the stars will praise the Lord.
2. Scientific/Intellectual inquiry is a moral obligation. Philosophical and scientific inquiry are not (as is commonly thought) antithetical to religious devotion. Rather, all three fall under a third and greater pursuit: Obedience. The pursuit of wisdom (philosophy) and the understanding of the workings of nature (science) and the practice of ethical behavior, civil responsibility, love for family, and ultimately, acceptance and conformity to the specific features of the historic Christian religion all find their root in something as simple and human as obedience to our father. Obeying our parents and paternal caregiver is as familiar and inescapable as breathing. Depending on them, trusting their greater wisdom and experience, faithfully (or begrudgingly) following their example and instruction is the lifeblood of familial life, of personal psychology, of civil order. Obedience to our heavenly father is indeed the binding force of all these and more, for he commands us to follow him in all ways and at all times, and gives us the help we need (and the forgiveness we require) to do so.
3. We must “keep our minds in hell and despair not.” Julian of Norwich is most famous for her succinct summary of the final truths of theology and philosophy. “All is well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” One modern translator updated the (beautiful) old saying in a somewhat less attractive but nonetheless helpful phrase: “Everything is all right, everything will turn out all right, every kind of thing will turn out right.” If you haven’t made it all the way through the political and philosophical poetry of the Divine Comedy, fear not: this is Dante for Dummies. This is the Revelation of Julian which echoes the Revelation of John.
So much around us seems overwhelming. Whatever your interest, you may seem as if it is falling apart and there is nothing you can do. Maybe you are into politics and your candidate is not doing so well. Maybe you are overwhelmed by your studies. Maybe you feel your faith challenged by what you read this week. Maybe you see your congregation falling apart.
Whatever it is, God is sovereign and our role is to see it through out of obedience. Why, because we trust in our Sovereign even when we do not know His designs. You see all the calamity, all the problems, all you fear, He is in control.
We do not have His vision, nor do we have His depth of understanding. All we have is Him.
He will lead us to the future, and it will be good.
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Pretty soon a snow plow came by, and she started to follow it. She followed the plow for about forty-five minutes. Finally the driver of the truck got out and asked her what she was doing. She explained that her dad had told her if she ever got stuck in the snow, to follow a plow.
The driver nodded and said, "Well, I'm done with Wal-Mart, now you can follow me over to K-Mart"
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Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Value of Corporate Prayer
It builds community
Shared prayer unites us in the Holy Spirit in a way that I have never experienced any other way. This is why I think, for example that, praying in unison, or at least have the prayer printed and available for the congregation to read is valuable. We unite, completely, in reaching out to God.
When music works right in worship, it has this same effect, but I think that is because it should be a form of prayer.
It places the community before God.
If indeed the church is the communion of believers than what better to put that church in front of the Throne of Grace than for all the members of the communion to speak to God together.
Frankly, I can think of no more important activity when it comes to maintaining perspective on who we are, and what the church is. I think this is especially true of corporate prayers of confession, wherein we join in proclaiming our unsuitability for God's grace individually AND AS A CHURCH.
Imagine for a moment a church that understand through prayer, as we as individuals can, its sinfulness. That church will change the world.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Images and Understanding
When I think about many of the battles that rage in Christianity today, I can’t help but think that most result from a kind of theological blindness. We easily fall into oversights that see our position clearly, but cannot see what our opponents believe is obvious.You see, here is the thing: As creature, not creator, as subject not ruler, as servant, not master, as fallen human, not perfect God, our understanding will always be insufficient, limited, incomplete. Now corollary to that is the fact that the other guy must therefore have something of value in his incomplete picture.
The Holy Spirit leads into all truth if we do not actively oppose Him. Living lifestyles given to blinders will never let us embrace the fullness of God’s truth. Most of all, we will fail to see Jesus clearly.
How is it that we treat Jesus—as the blind men in the famous story treated the elephant—as pieces?
Any student of Church history can tell us about the rise of Roman Catholicism, the splinter with Eastern Orthodoxy, and the the coming of the Protestant Reformation. What we won’t hear, though, is how those churches chose which pieces of Jesus they wished to uphold.
And yet, we cling to our labels so hard and work so little to understand. I have said it again and again, such mostly demonstrates a lack of confidence in our own position, or at least a lack of understanding of our own position - we hold the label, but lack the understanding.
But the key to all this is the greatest trait of a Christian that so few Christians demonstrate - humility. You see it takes humility to admit our understanding is incomplete. (And lest I am accused of being holier-than-thou here, I probably lack humility in how I hammer on this point.) It takes humility to see the value in the others point of view.
You see, in the end, our faith rests not in what we know, but in who we know. Says Solomon:
How often we place our trust in what we know instead of who and how often that leads us down the path to unrighteousness.
Prov 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Sometimes I get so tired of all this, and especially in blogging. Without face time our discussions turn into wars, without relationship, words assume too much significance. Humility is the only thing that can over come that.
That is my prayer for blogging and for each of us,
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Speaking To The Unchurched
At the same time, his choice of language and means of expression lacks a certain confidence and candor that such a discussion requires. I point to this example in order to remind us all -- all who speak of these transforming truths in public -- of the necessity of speaking with honest and straightforward confidence about what the Bible teaches.Why not just shout down your opponents Al? And by the way, isn't part of showing candor in all this being honest about our own doubts?
Essentially, Mohler is arguing here to overcome intellectual inquiry with bluster. And people wonder why Christians are belittled by the secularists. There are two really important points to draw from this
1) Our faith is not completely intellectually rigorous.
Oh, I know, we work very hard to think very clearly about what we believe and why we believe it, but if you think that out faith is somehow intellectually airtight, you are mistaken. Best class I ever took in college was from a pagan prof that was writing a book tearing holes in all of C.S. Lewis' apologetics works. I argued my heart out in that class, and I altered the guys manuscript tremendously, but in the end, he won.
There is a difference between convincing and proof. We can convince a lot of people, but we can prove nothing.
2) Therefore, No One is argued fully into the Kingdom of God
People come to Jesus for a lot of reason, but growing roots, getting serious and becoming committed transformed people will never and can never be the result of argument - it is a result of the witness of the LIVES of God's people and the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the individual.
What is fascinating is that I am willing to bet the Holy Spirit used the Archbishop's apparent lack of confidence to move as many people towards Him as Mohler's bluster has moved.
We are not out to win arguments here, we are out to win people, their whole lives, parts of their lives, they do not even know they have. If there is a cautionary note in all this - that's it. Mohler's bluster offends as many as Williams mush-mouth.
Think about it.
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Monday, February 18, 2008
We’re kicking this study off on a bruising, but all-too-common experience that can leave your teeth on edge and bitterness in your heart. Psalm 73 is our passage and the title is “When You Get a Raw Deal.” Anybody here know what I’m talking about? When you did the right thing, but got the back of the hand anyway. Have you ever been betrayed? Ever been gossiped about? Who did you in financially? Who put the screws to you? Who did something unfair to you at work? Maybe it happened at home with a parent or grandparent, your husband or wife or best friend.His advice is good, but he is leaving out one very important person who can "put the screws to you" - THE CHURCH.
Sadly, most people I think deal reasonable well with disappoints in family and loved ones, but I know of little that can crush a spirit faster than to be crushed by the church. To be able to handle such an onslaught requires insight and maturity that is beyond many, if not most, Christians and frankly is the reason behind much of the "backsliding" that I have seen.
Despite the fact that the church is flawed as we are individually, it is supposed to deal with those flaws, through the mechanism of community, much more adeptly than we do in personal settings. So, when you are screwed by one soul, there is supposed to be some other soul to move along side you and offer you comfort and solace and help guide you towards healing.
But what so often happens is that the screwer lines up the politics such that you, the offended party, ends up ostracized, outcast, and adrift. Pretty hard to find God in those circumstances unless you are already quite secure in your relationship with Him.
Am I crying sour grapes here, is this the pride of envy to which the MMI author refers? Well, certainly in such circumstances we need to enter into self examination, discover our own weaknesses and work on them, but there is often much more to the situation than that. Most of one's own weaknesses are not worthy of the kind of outcasting that often happens in these circumstances. Such is the result of the pride of the offender, putting their political position in front of the call to minister to the weak.
The question that rings in my mind in these circumstances is "Where is justice?" Why are the offenders allowed to stay in the church, while the offended find themselves on the outside?
Here is where faith is required. God has plans, but I do not know what they are. And I note that the movement of Christ Himself was outside the releigious mainstream and institutions of His time. Food for thought...
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Sunday, February 17, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
Robert Hall, Baptist divine, was born at Arnesby, near Leicester, England, in 1764. Destined for the ministry, he was educated at the Baptist Academy at Bristol, and preached for the first time in 1779. In 1783 he began his ministry in Bristol and drew crowded congregations of all classes. The tradition of Hall’s pulpit oratory has secured his lasting fame. Many minds of a high order were fascinated by his eloquence, and his conversation was brilliant. His treatment of religious topics had the rare merit of commending evangelical doctrine to people of taste. Dugald Stewart declares that his writings and public utterances exhibited the English language in its perfection. He died in 1831.
But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. - John 5:42.
The persons whom our Lord addressed in these words made a high profession of religion, valued themselves upon their peculiar opportunities of knowing the true God and His will, and proclaimed themselves as the Israel and the temple of the Lord, while they despised the surrounding pagans as those who were strangers to the divine law. Yet the self-complacent Pharisees of our Savior‘s age were as far from the love of God, he assures them in the text, as any of those who had never heard of His name. In this respect, many of “the first were last, and the last first.” The rejection of the gospel evinces a hardness of heart which is decisive against the character; and, in the case of the Pharisees, it gave ample evidence that they possessed no love of God. Had they really known God, as our Lord argues, they would have known Himself to be sent by God: whereas, in proving the bitter enemies of Christ, they proved that they were in a state of enmity against God. By parity of reason, we, my brethren, who know God and His Word. in the way of Christian profession, ought not to take it for granted that we possess the love of God, and are in the way of eternal life; the same self-delusion may overtake us also and similar admonitions may be no less necessary to many present, than to the Pharisees of old. Suffer then, my brethren, the word of exhortation, while I invite each individual seriously to consider this subject, with a view to the discovery of his real character.
In proceeding to lay down certain marks of grace, let it be premised, that either these marks partake of the nature of true religion, or they do not. If they do, they must be identified with it, and here the mark is the thing: if they do not partake of its nature, some of them may exist as indications where genuine religion is not. It is necessary, then, that we combine a ‘variety of particular signs of grace: any one taken by itself, may, or may not, exist, without true religion; but where many are combined, no just doubt can remain.
Whether you have the love of God in your soul presents a most critical subject of inquiry; since the love of God will be acknowledged by all to be the great, the essential, principle of true religion. The simple question, then, to which I would call your attention, is this: “Am I, or am I not, a sincere lover of the Author of my being.“
In endeavoring to assist you in the decision of this momentous question, as it respects yourselves. I shall entreat your attention while I suggest a variety of marks which indicate love to God; and supposing the conviction produced by the statement to be, that you have not the love of God, I shall point out the proper improvement of such a conviction.
In suggesting various marks by which you may ascertain whether you love God or not, I would mention the general bent and turn of your thoughts, when not under the immediate control of circumstances; for these, you are aware, give a new and peculiar bias to our thoughts, and stamp them with an impress of their own. There is an infinite variety of thoughts continually passing through the mind of every individual: of these, some are thrown up by occasions; but others, and often the greater part, follow the habitual train of our associations. It is not to thoughts of the former kind that I refer; it is to those of the latter class - those involuntary thoughts which spring up of themselves in the mind of every person: it is these, not the former, that afford clear indication of the general temper and disposition. The question I would propose to you is, what is the bent of your thoughts when, disengaged from the influence of any particular occurrence, you are left to yourselves, in the intervals of retirement and tranquility, in the silence of the midnight watches, and, in short, whenever your mind is left free to its own spontaneous musings? Are the thoughts most familiar to your mind, at such times, thoughts of God and the things of God - or are they thoughts that turn upon the present world and its transient concerns? Are they confined, for the most part, within the narrow circle of time and sense; or do they make frequent and large excursions into the spiritual and eternal world? The answer to this question will go far to decide whether you have, or have not, the love of God. It is impossible that such an object as the divine Being should be absent long from your thoughts; impossible that his remembrance should long remain merged in the stream of other imaginations; unless you are supposed chargeable with a decided indifference to divine things! Unless you are destitute of love to God you can never be so utterly uncongenial in sentiment and feeling with the psalmist, when he says, “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips, while I meditate upon thee in the night watches.” “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, 0 God!” When that man of God gazed upon the starry heavens, his mind was not merely wrought into astonishment at the physical energy there displayed; he was still more deeply lost in grateful admiration of the mercy of Providence as manifested to man - a sinful child of dust, and yet visited by God in the midst of so magnificent a universe! But when day passes after day, and night after night, without any serious thoughts of God, it is plain that He is not the home of your mind, not your portion, center, and resting-place: and if this is the case, it is equally plain that you are not in a state of acceptance with Him; since nothing can be more certain than that, as our thoughts are, such must be our character. I do not ask what are your thoughts at particular times, or under the influence of some particular event: there may be little difference, on some occasions, between those who remember, and those who neglect, God habitually. The charge against the ungodly is, that “God is not in all their thoughts.” If there are any here who feel this charge as bearing against themselves, let them take that solemn warning given by God himself at the close of the fiftieth psalm, “Oh, consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you!”
Let me request you to consider seriously how you stand disposed to the exercises of religion. If God is the object of your love, you will gladly avail yourselves of the most favorable opportunities of cultivating a closer friendship with the Father of your spirits: on the contrary, he who feels no regard for these opportunities, proves that he has no love to God, and will never be able to establish the conviction that God is his friend. Wherever there exists a sincere friendship, opportunities of cultivating it are gladly embraced, and the opposite privations are regretted. Where a habitual neglect of sacred exercises prevails it must be interpreted as if it said, like those whom the prophet describes, “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from amongst us. Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy way!” If your closets seldom witness your private devotions, if your moments in retirement are languid and uninteresting - your religion can have no hold on your heart; and the reason why your religion has no hold on your heart is because you have no love of God. There are some whose religion sits easy and delightful upon them; its acts and functions are free and lively: there are others who seem to bear their religion as a burden, to drag their duties as a chain - as no vital part of themselves, but rather a cumbrous appendage: this is a decisive and melancholy symptom of a heart alienated from God. There is no genuine religion, no real contact of the heart with the best of beings, unless it makes us continually resort to Him as our chief joy. The psalmist is always expressing his fervent desires after God: after the light of the divine countenance, and the sense of the divine favor: but do you suppose such desires peculiar to the state of believers under the Old Testament? No, my brethren; there exist more abundant reasons than ever, since the gospel of Christ has been displayed in all the glorious fullness of its blessings, why our souls should be inflamed with such feelings as those which inspired the psalmist, when he exclaimed, “As the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, 0 God!”
If you would ascertain whether you love God, consider how you stand affected toward the Word of God. We can entertain no just thoughts of God, but such as we derive from His own Word: we can acquire no true knowledge of God, nor cherish any suitable affections toward Him, unless they are such as His own revelation authorizes. Otherwise we must suppose that revelation insufficient for its specific purposes, and set the means against the end. All, therefore, who sincerely love God, are students of His Word; they here, also accord in soul with the psalmist, and like him, can say, “0 how I love thy word! in it is my meditation all the day:” they eat it as food for their souls, and find it sweeter than honey. They go to it as to an inexhaustible fountain, and drink from it streams of sacred light and joy. A neglected Bible is too unambiguous a sign of an unsanctified heart; since that blest book can not fail to attract every one that loves its divine Author. How is it possible to delight in God, and yet neglect that Word which alone reveals Him in His true and glorious character - alone discovers the way by which He comes into unison with us, and condescends to pardon us, to love us, and to guide us through all this mysterious state of being? It is observable that the only persons who are inattentive to their own sacred books are to be found among Christians. Mohammedans commit large portions of the Koran to memory; the Jews regard the Old Testament with reverence; the Hindu Brahmans are enthusiastically attached to their Shastra; while Christians alone neglect their Bible. And the reason is, that the Scriptures are so much more spiritual than the religious books received by others; they afford so little scope for mere amusement or self-complacency; they place the reader alone with God; they withdraw him from the things that are seen and temporal, and fix him among the things that are unseen and eternal; they disclose to his view at once the secret evils of his own condition, and the awful purity of that Being with whom he has to do. No wonder the ungodly man hates their light, neither comes to their light, but retires from it farther and farther into the shades of guilty ignorance. How melancholy the infatuation of such a character!
Estimate your character in respect to your love of God, by reflecting, with what sentiments you regard the people of God. God has a people peculiarly His own: they are not of that world to which they outwardly belong - not conformed to it in the spirit of their mind; they stand apart, many of them at least, in conspicuous conformity to Jesus Christ, and in earnest expectation of the glory which He had promised. How, then, do you regard these decided followers of God? Do you shun their society with aversion and secret shame; or do you enjoy their communion as one of the most delightful among your Christian privileges? Are you content merely to be the companion of those who “have a name to live, but are dead”: or can you say with the psalmist, “My delight is in the excellent of the earth”? or, with the beloved disciple, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren”? for, as he adds, “He that loveth him that begot, loveth him that is begotten”; if you do not love the image which you have seen, how can you love the unseen original? If the features of holiness and grace in the creature are not attractive to your view, how can your affections rise to the perfect essence? How can you ascend to the very sun itself, when you can not enjoy even the faint reflection of its glory? He who knew the heart, could alone say to those around Him, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you”: but though none can address you now in the same tone of divine authority, yet we may hear it uttered by a voice -the voice of your own conscience: you may know, without any perturbations of hope or fear, by the spiritual in-sensibility and inaction of your soul - by this you may know, with equal certainty as by a voice from heaven, that you have not the love of God in you.
Consider the disposition you entertain toward the person and office of the Son of God. “If ye had loved the Father, ye would have loved me also,” was the constant argument of Jesus Christ to those Pharisees whom He addresses in the text. For Jesus Christ is the express image of God: the effulgence of the divine character is attempered in Him, to suit the views of sinful humanity. In the life of Jesus Christ we see how the divine Being conducts Himself in human form and in our own circumstances: we behold how He bears all the sorrows, and passes through all the temptations, of flesh and blood. Such, indeed, is the identity, so perfect the oneness of character, between the man Christ Jesus and the divine Being - that our Savior expressly assures us, “He that bath seen me, hath seen the Father; I and my Father are one.” The purpose for which God was mani¬fested in the flesh was not to reveal high speculations concerning the nature of the Deity: it was to bear our sorrows, and to die for our sins. But can you contemplate Him, thus stooping to your condition, thus mingling with every interest of your own, and not be moved by such a spectacle? - not be attracted, fixed, filled with grateful astonishment and devotion - crucified, as it were, on the cross of Christ, to the flesh, and to the world? What mark, then, of our possessing no love of God can equal this, that we are without love to Jesus Christ ?—that neither the visibility of His divine excellence, nor His participation of all our human sufferings, can reach our hearts and command our affections?
In examining whether you love God, examine how you are affected by His benefits. These are so numerous and so distinguished that they ought to excite our most ardent gratitude: night and day they are experienced by us; they pervade every moment of our being. We know that favors from an enemy derive a taint from the hands through which they are received, and excite alienation rather than attachment: but the kindness of a friend, by constantly reminding us of himself, endears that friend more and more to our hearts; and thus, he that has no love to God receives all His favors without the least attraction toward their Author, whom he regards rather as an enemy than as a friend. But the Christian feels his love of God excited by every fresh goodness. The mercies of God have accompanied you through every stage of your journey; and they are exhibited to you in His word as stretching through a vast eternity. Are these the only benefits you can receive without gratitude, and suffer to pass unregarded How, then, can any love of God dwell in your bosom?
Consider, in the next place, in what manner you are impressed by the ‘sense of your sins. The question is not whether you have any sins, - none can admit a doubt on this point; the only inquiry is, how you are affected by those sins? Are they remembered by you with a sentiment of tender regret, of deep con¬fusion and humiliation, that you should ever have so requited such infinite goodness? And is this sentiment combined with a sacred resolution to go and sin no more, - to devote yourself to the service of your divine Benefactor? If you can live without an habitual sense of penitential tenderness and reverential fear, be assured you can not love God; you have no experience of those Scripture declarations: “They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days;” “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou may be feared;” you know not that “the goodness of God leadeth to repentance.” If the mind is softened by the love of God, all His favors serve to inflame its gratitude, and confirm its devotion to His will: but he who has no love of God in his soul, thinks of nothing but how he may escape from God’s hand, and selfishly devours all His favors, without an emotion of gratitude to the Giver.
Finally, let me remind you to consider how you are affected to the present world. If you could only be exempt from its afflictions, would you wish it to be your lasting home? If you could surround yourself with all its advantages and enjoyments, would you be content to dwell in it forever? Yet you know that it is a place of separation and exile from the divine majesty; that it is a scene of darkness, in comparison with heaven, very faintly illuminated with the beams of His distant glory; that its inhabitant is constrained to say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but mine eye hath not yet seen thee”; - while heaven is the proper dwelling-place of God and His people! Could you then consent to remain here always, without ever seeing as you are seen - seeing light in His light - without ever beholding His glory; without ever drinking at the fountain, and basking in that presence which is fullness of joy, and life forevermore? always to remain immersed in the shadows of time - entombed in its corruptible possessions? never to ascend up on high to God and Christ and the glories of the eternal world? If such is the state of your spirit, you want the essential principle of a Christian - you want the love of God. The genuine Christian, the lover of God, is certain to feel himself a “stranger on the earth.” No splendor, no emolument of this world, - not all the fascinations of sensual pleasure, - can detain his heart below the skies, or keep him from sympathizing with the sentiment of the psalmist: “As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I wake in thy likeness.” I do not ask whether you have, at present, “a desire to depart”: perhaps you may not be as yet sufficiently prepared and established to entertain so exalted a desire; but still, if you have received a new heart, you will deprecate nothing so much as having your portion in this life, - as having your eternal abode on earth. It is the character of faith to dwell much in eternity: the apostle says, in the name of all real believers, “We look not at the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
And now, my brethren, supposing the preceding remarks to have produced in any of you the conviction that you have not the love of God in you, permit me very briefly to point out the proper improvement of such a conviction.
First, it should be accompanied with deep humiliation. If you labored under the privation of some bodily organ, requisite to the discharge of an animal function, you would feel it as in some degree a humiliating circumstance; but what would be any defect of this kind, however serious, in comparison with that great want under which you labor - the want of piety, the calamity of a soul estranged from the love of God! What are the other subjects of humiliation compared with this - a moral fall, a spiritual death in sin: and this, unless it be removed, the sure precursor of the second death - eternal ruin! “This is a lamentation indeed, and it shall be for a lamentation.”
Suppose the children of a family, reared and provided for by the most affectionate of parents, to rise up in rebellion against their father, and cast off all the feelings of flial tenderness and respect; would any qualities those children might possess, any appearance of virtue they might exhibit in other respects, compensate for such an unnatural, such an awful deformity of character? Transfer this representation to your conduct in relation to God: “If I,” says He, “am a father, where is my fear? if I am a master, where is my honor ‘1” “Hear, 0 heavens, and give ear, O earth! I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me: the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
And let your humiliation be accompanied with concern and alarm. To be alienated from the great Origin of being; to be severed, or to .sever yourself from the essential Author and element of all felicity, must be a calmity which none -can understand, an infinite woe which none can measure or conceive. If the stream is cut off from the fountain, it soon ceases to flow, and its waters are dissipated in the air: and if the soul is cut off from God, it dies! Its vital contact with God,—its spiritual union with the Father of spirits through the blest Mediator, is the only life and beauty of the immortal soul. All, without this, are dead – “dead in trespasses and sins”! A living death - a state of restless wanderings, and unsatisfied desires! ‘What a condition theirs! And, oh! what a prospect for such, when they look beyond this world! who will give them a welcome when they enter an eternal state? What reception will they meet wiih, and where? What consolation amid their losses and their sufferings, but that of the fellow-sufferers plunged in the same abyss of ruin? Impenitent sinners are allied to evil spirits, they have an affinity with the kingdom of darkness; and when they die, they are emphatically said to “go to their own place”!
This is an awful state for any to be in at present; but, blest be God, it is not yet a hopeless situation. Let no person say, “I find by what I have heard, that I do not love God, and therefore I can entertain no hope.” There is a way of return and recovery open to all. Jesus Christ, my dear brethren, proclaims to you all, “I am the way. No man can come to the Father but by me”; - but every one that will may come by this new and living way; and, if you lose life eternal, you lose it because - according to his words just before the text - because “you will not come to Christ that you may have life.” If you feel the misery, deformity, and danger of your state, then’ listen to His invitation, and embrace His promise. See the whole weight of your guilt transferred to His cross! See how God can be at once the just and the justifier! Take of the blood of sprinkling, and be at peace! His blood cleanseth from all sin: He will send that Spirit into your heart which will manifest Him to you; and where that Spirit is, there is liberty and holy love. He is the mystical ladder, let down from heaven to earth, on which angels are continually ascending and descending, in token of an alliance established between God and man. United by faith to Jesus Christ, you shall become a habitation of God through the Spirit; the Father will make you a partaker of His love, the Son of His grace, angels of their friendship; and you shall be preserved, and progressively sanctified, until, by the last change, all remains of the great epidemic source of evils shall be forever removed from your soul; and the love of God shall constitute your eternal felicity.
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