“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I read a powerful thought this morning in Richard Sibbes’ comments on 2 Corinthians 4:11: “We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” There are no wiser thoughts in this world than judging rightly the condition of earthly things, and the condition of our own hearts in relation to them. Wisdom is seeing the vanity of this world, and our own mortality. We are “earthen vessels”, our mortal bodies are subject to decay and death. The wise person is always keeps in mind the fleeting nature of this life. This wisdom will keep us from setting our affections on things that will not last long. It is the foolishness of youth to put so much emphasis on the appearance of the body. If we have wisdom, the “life of Jesus” will be seen in us. People should see something very different and very compelling in Christians.
Friday, September 24, 2010
“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). This is one of the most fascinating and provocative verses in all of the Bible. A great deal could be said, and a great deal has been written, concerning it. Thomas Manton’s perspective on this passage in Romans inspired a few thoughts I would like to share. Manton said that the fundamental teaching here is that the Holy Spirit directs and orders our prayers so that they will be in harmony with our ultimate purpose, which is to glorify and enjoy God. I think that is a good framework from which to approach this passage. It is our natural tendency to focus our prayers on all the things we desire God to do for us. Our prayers tend to cleave to the things of this world. The many things our bodies need everyday often crowd out concern for our souls. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that too often in prayer we try to employ God as a servant of our worldly desires. In many situations we simply do not know what is best for us or for others. What should we pray for? What would best serve their highest interests? Now the Holy Spirit intercedes in our prayers, directing them with respect to God’s will, His glory and our eternal good.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14). The distinguishing characteristic which is singled out for special consideration here is the spiritual strength of these Christians. This is the strength that comes from God’s grace; strength to overcome temptations, to govern our passions and affections in the fear of God, to do the things which He commands. Proverbs 16;32 gives us some indication of how greatly this excels outward physical strength: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit , than he who captures a city.” By grace there is sufficient power for the Christian to perform all spiritual duties. This strength enables us to bear afflictions with patience, to resist temptations successfully, and to cheerfully do God’s will. We see in this passage what we find throughout Scripture—that spiritual strength comes from God’s word. The two are always intimately connected in the Bible. The believer who is strong is the one on whom the word has made a deep impression. Laziness is the neglect of God’s word and this enabling grace.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Jonathan Edwards wrote a famous treatise on the essence of Christianity, entitled The Religious Affections. It deals with the heart of a Christian’s relationship with God. The great Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes addressed the same subject a century earlier. It is so fundamentally important, and yet is often neglected today. I recently read Sibbes’ thoughts on this subject in one of his sermons. He said that the Christian religion is especially seen in our lives in moderating our affections. Biblical religion purges our affections from the evil that is in them. A large part of spiritual growth has to do with moderating our sorrow and our joy over earthly things. The mature Christian can show the power of religion both in restraining grief in the midst of suffering and managing prosperous times without living for the things of this world. Sibbes said Christian maturity is seen in knowing how to grieve well and how to rejoice well, and that we should ask God to give us the grace to govern our affections. The Christian who has learned this has learned the purpose of religion.
Monday, September 20, 2010
“I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me” (Psalms 119:93). Whatever our difficulty or condition might be, there is enough comfort in God’s word to support us. If His word dwells richly in our souls, it will keep our faith strong and vigorous. But God’s word is the only source for that kind of spiritual strength. Why only God’s word? Because it contains the knowledge and promises that meet our specific needs. It is filled with the serious considerations and arguments that nourish faith. It is the only source of knowledge that has the glorious authority of God behind it, and can therefore persuade us that His commands are reasonable. If this wonderful revelation from God cannot move our hearts, what can? The Holy Spirit delights to use the word as His instrument to influence us and transform us.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
“I shall delight in Your statutes, I shall not forget Your words” (Psalms 119:16). The Christian duties that God requires of us each day are meant to be done with delight. Reading and hearing God’s word should refresh us; it should be our recreation. The true character of a Christian will be manifested in recreation as well as in business, in simple daily activities as much as in religious ones. If we were as we should be, free from the influence of sin, reading the Bible and contemplating spiritual things would be immense pleasure to us. If we love something, it is because we have found joy in the object that we love. Delight in God sets all of our other affections in order. Our highest desire and delight should be reserved for God. All of the earthly things He has created are to be used in serving Him. We have liberty to enjoy earthly things, but excess is forbidden. If we delight in creation more than in God, our desire for Him will degenerate, our capacity to love Him will decay. The wonderful affections God has endowed us with, such as love, joy, fear, reverence, etc., are intended to enable us to enjoy and serve Him with everything that is in us.
Friday, September 17, 2010
“I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (Psalms 119:14). The Bible teaches that the true riches in life are the gracious favor of God, genuine knowledge of God, and faith. A rich person is one who is emptied of self and filled with God. Why are such spiritual things the true riches? True riches are what makes a person more valuable; they are what imparts an intrinsic worth to a person, which material wealth cannot do. Do we judge the value of a horse by the richness of its saddle? People, made by God as reasonable creatures, should be valued for something higher than the size of their bank accounts. True riches are what makes us valuable in the esteem of God, who is best able to judge. True riches are what can support us in our darkest hours. When death approaches, and we are stripped of all other comforts, the exploits of our favorite football team will be meaningless.