J.I. Packer on Salvation and Repentence

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These are some of the best words J.I Packer ever wrote:

To the question; ‘what must I do to be saved?‘,

the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the further question; ‘what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’,

its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still, ‘how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things?’,

 it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on his mercy; ask him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write his law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from him. Turn to him and trust him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step . . . So do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on him till his light rises in your soul, as scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. ‘l believe – help thou mine unbelief’: this must become their cry.

(J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness)

Watch and Pray: Wisdom from J.C. Ryle

If you haven’t followed the coverage of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy this past week, it has been heart wrenching. People without power, entire cities under water and some dead as a result of this super storm. God, help those who have been impacted!!

I’ve heard experts saying we’ve never experienced a storm of this caliber in this area before. If fact, some noted that this is the third major storm to hit that region in under a year. When I hear the experts say “we’ve never seen a storm this severe” and “these super storms may be the new normal,” I can’t help but think about Christ’s own words about His return.

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:25-28)

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
(Matthew 24:7-8)

These verses and their immediate context plainly convey that natural disasters like earthquakes and the “raging of the sea” will be signs that Christ’s return is drawing near. In Matthew 24, Jesus chose a peculiar illustration to describe these signs: birth pains. Jesus meant that just as pain increases in intensity and frequency as birth approaches, so these signs will increase in intensity and frequency as His return approaches. And it’s happening…

I believe storms like Sandy are exactly what Jesus was talking about. He expected His followers would pay attention to signs – like this disaster – and understand that His return is approaching and that these signs will continue to grow worse and worse until He does. This doesn’t mean we start setting dates, but only that we pay attention. Or as Jesus said it, “Watch and pray.”

I’ve often wondered what it means to be a watchful Christian. What is the difference between the Christian who is watching and the Christian who isn’t watching? I’ve found great help from J.C. Ryle. Over a hundred years ago, he provided great wisdom on how to watch and keep ourselves in a state of readiness for Christ’s return.

Here are Ryle’s words in their entirety:

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and cause fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever watch and be on your guard.

Watch against SIN of every kind and description. Think not to say of any sin whatever, “Ah! that is one of the things that I shall never do.” I tell you there is no possible sin too abominable, for the very best of us all to commit! Remember David and Uriah. The spirit may be sometimes very willing — but the flesh is always very weak. You are yet in the body. Watch and pray!

Watch against doubts and unbelief as to the complete acceptance of your soul, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus finished the work He came to do — do not tell Him that He did not. The Lord Jesus paid your debts in full — do not tell Him that you think He left you to pay part. The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to every sinner that comes to Him — do not tell Him, even while you are coming, that you think He lies. Alas, for our unbelief! In Christ you are like Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar — nothing can harm you. The earth may be burned up with fire at the Lord’s appearing — but not a hair of your head shall perish. Doubt it not. Pray for more faith. Watch and pray!

Watch against inconsistency of walk — and conformity to the worldWatch against sins of temper and of tongue. These are the kind of things that grieve the Spirit of God, and make His witness within us faint and low. Watch and pray!

Watch against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that bad money is never marked bad — or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error — merely for the sake of a pound of truth. Do not tolerate a little false doctrine — one bit more than you would a little sin. Oh, reader, remember this caution! Watch and pray!

Watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual, but we may at last do it formally. Most backslidings begin in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some long hidden decay. Oh, watch and pray!

Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness towards others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren — and dim-sighted as the mole about the evil. Let your memory be a strong-box for their graces — but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray!

Watch against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, “Though all men deny You — yet I never will.” And presently he fell. Pride is the high road to a fallWatch and pray!

Watch against the sins of Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season, then lose their first loveand then become lukewarm. Watch and pray!

Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance — and yet have very bad motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose Antichrist — than to follow Christ. It is one thing to protest against error — it is quite another thing to love the truth. So watch and pray!

Oh, my believing readers, let us all watch more than we have done! Let us watch more every year that we live. Let us watch, that we may not be surprised when the Lord appears.

Let us watch for the world’s sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways, far more than we think. Let us aim to be plainly-written epistles of Christ!

Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is — so will be our peace. As our conformity to Christ’s mind — so will be our sense of Christ’s atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm?

And, above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Let us live as if His glory was concerned in our behavior. Let us live as if every slip and fall was a reflection on the honor of our King. Let us live as if every allowed sin, was . . .
one more thorn in His head,
one more nail in His feet,
one more spear in His side!

Oh, let us exercise a godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions — over motives, manners, and walk! Never, never let us fear being too strict. Never, never let us think we can watch too much. [excerpt from Are You Ready for the End of Time? by J.C. Ryle]

On the night our Lord was betrayed, He asked his disciples three times to watch and pray and each time they fell asleep. And consequently, they weren’t ready for what was coming upon them. They failed Christ in His greatest hour of need.

Likewise, Jesus calls us to “stay awake” and watch for His return. Let this be a mark of true Christians in our time, that we are watchful and prayerful. When we see things like Hurricane Sandy, we strive to finish the work He’s given us to do with hearts burning, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Prophecies Christ Fulfilled Through His Suffering, Death, and Resurrection

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Consider what the prophets foretold about the person and work of Christ.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:15)

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
(Psalm 22:14-18)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
(Psalm 34:19-20)

My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
(Psalm 38:10-11)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)

They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
(Psalm 69:21)

I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
(Psalm 109:25)

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
(Isaiah 50:6)

As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14)

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:2-12)

Then I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
(Zechariah 11:12)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
(Zechariah 12:10)

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
(Zechariah 13:7)

The Precious Promises of Christ

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There are times in life when we have to fight to believe what we know to be true. We may become bogged down by the disappointments and trials of life and slip into seasons of doubting and questioning our hope. If you’re discouraged and downcast in spirit, this post is for you.

Thomas Brooks once wrote, “Three things are called precious in the Scripture: the blood of Christ is called ‘precious blood,’ 1 Peter 1:19; and faith is called ‘precious faith’ 2 Peter 1:1; and the promises are called ‘precious promises,’ 2 Peter 1:4.”  Are the promises of Christ precious to you today?

I recently compiled a list of all Christ’s promises (Download the PDF). I highlighted conditions of the promises in red and the actual promise in yellow. This has become a sweet document to me. I regularly come and let the promises of Christ wash over me. Christ’s people are a blessed people. When I read through the promises I quickly become overwhelmed. There is so much the Lord has promised to do for us in his Word.

Here are a few of the the precious promises of Christ I’ve been savoring recently:

Matthew 5:8  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 10:9-10 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Revelation 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


“Furnish thyself with arguments from the promises to enforce thy prayers, and make them prevalent with God. The promises are the ground of faith, and faith, when strengthened, will make thee fervent, and such fervency ever speeds and returns with victory out of the field of prayer… The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.” ~William Gurnall

What are some of your favorite promises?

The Secret Key to Heaven (Thomas Brooks)

Last week, I bought a copy of Thomas Brooks’ The Secret Key To Heaven.

 

I admit I do have an affinity for the Puritans. If people are looking for me in heaven, I ‘ll probably have slipped into some Puritan family reunion somewhere.  I used to try to write entire seminary papers, citing only the Puritan writers, which might be why my contemporary worship paper didn’t make any sense…

I’ve been devouring this book on prayer! Brooks basically writes on one verse Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

He argues meticulously that secret prayer (or closet prayer) is one of the most important habits a Christian can cultivate. I’ve been greatly challenged and thankful that Thomas Brooks could walk me through how and why to increase in this “duty”.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“…nothing glorifies Christ more, nor exalts him more, than secret prayer”

“there is not a great hindrance to closet prayer than sloth and idleness”

“If there be any way or means on earth to bring us upon our knees before God in secret, it is the serious and solemn thoughts of eternity.”

“In all the ages of the world, the saints have kept up secret prayer. In spite of all opposers and persecutors, in prisons, in dungeons, in dens, in chains, on racks, in banishments, and in the very flames – the saints have still kept up this secret prayer. A Christian can as well…hear without ears, and live without food, and fight without hands, and walk without feet – as he is able to live without secret prayer!”

I highly recommend this Puritan classic. Like most Puritan works, it’s hours of chewing that leads to years and years of growth.

Valley of Vision: A Disciple’s Renewal

O MY SAVIOR,

help me.

I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights;

I am pained by my graceless heart,

my prayerless days,

my poverty of love,

my sloth in the heavenly race,

my sullied conscience,

my wasted hours,

my unspent opportunities.

I am blind while light shines around me:

take the scales from my eyes,

grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,

meditate on thee,

gaze on thee,

sit like Mary at thy feet,

lean like John on thy breast,

appeal like Peter to thy love,

count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be

more decision in my character

more vigour in my purposes,

more elevation in my life,

more fervour in my devotion,

more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world,

keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature

what can be found only in the creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanishes into sight.

Ride forth in me, thou king of kings and lord of lords,

that I may live victoriously, and in victory attain my end.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions p. 184

A Puritan Prayer Book: Valley of Vision

I’ve been spending time recently reading, thinking and praying through a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions called The Valley of Vision. The Puritans were thorough in their study, which spilled over into their prayers. Second only to the Psalms, these prayers are a great means of stretching our own verbage as we petition the throne of grace. Below is a personal favorite:

PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING

O MY GOD,

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,

my heart admires, adores, loves thee,

for my little vessel is as full as it can be,

and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee

ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,

ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,

ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,

crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou has created,

for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

for the body though has given me,

for preserving its strength and vigour,

for providing senses to enjoy delights,

for the ease and freedom of my limbs,

for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,

for a full table and overflowing cup,

for appetite, taste, sweetness,

for social joys of relatives and friends,

for ability to serve others,

for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,

for a mind to care for my fellow-men,

for opportunities of spreading happiness around,

for loved ones in the joys of heaven,

for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to they creatures

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

How to Pray for the Soul (Yours or Another’s) by John Piper

This morning I was reading in John Piper’s devotional Taste and See, about “savoring the supremacy of God in all of life.” I read an entry on how to pray for the human soul (both your own soul and the souls of others) and found it very helpful. I hope to begin praying this prayer for myself and others everyday. I have summerized Piper’s points and given the primary scriptures referenced.

1.Pray for an inclination to God and his Word.

“Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain” ~Psalm 119:36

2.Pray to have the eyes of your heart opened.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” ~Psalm 119:18

3.Pray for your heart to be enlightened with these “wonders”

“…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” ~Ephesians 1:18

4.Pray for your heart to be united for God.

“O LORD, I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear Your name”
~Psalm 86:11

5.Pray that your heart will be satisfied with God and not with the world.

“Satisfy us in the morning with Thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” ~Psalm 90:14

6.Pray that you would be strong in joy, persevering during the dark seasons.

“That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man”
~Ephesians 3:16

7.Pray that you would produce good deeds and works of love for others.

“That [we] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work” ~Colossians 1:10

8.Pray that the name of the Lord would be known and feared and loved and cherished and admired and praised and trusted because of your life and ministry.

“Hollowed be They name” ~Matthew 6:9