Thomas Watson: The Amazing Humility of Christ

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Thomas Watson describing the humility of Christ:

“Christ had all sin laid upon Him, but no sin lived in Him. ‘He was numbered among transgressors,’ (Isa. 53:12). He who was numbered with the persons of the Trinity, He is said ‘to bear the sins of many,’ (Heb. 9:28).

Now, this was the lowest degree of Christ’s humiliation. For Christ to be reputed as a sinner, never such a pattern of humility! That Christ, who would not endure sin in the angels, should Himself endure to have sin imputed to Him, it is the most amazing humility that ever was!”

(Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 197)

Optimize Your Commute

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Years from now, historians will look back at our day and observe — among other things — the disproportionate amount of time we spent commuting to work. I’m blessed with a commute that is only about 15 minutes each way, but I know many whose daily traverse eats up hours each day. I’ve recently been convicted that these hours should not be squandered away, but can and should be exploited. Your morning commute can become a very productive part of your daily routine.

Here are a few suggestions for improving your commute:

1. Listen to Audiobooks

If you’re like me, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything you want to. I’ve started taking advantage of several inexpensive (and even free) ways to listen to great books. I once listened to half of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the drive into the mountains. Another time, I listened to Dostoevsky’s 800-page classic The Brother’s Karamozov in about three weeks during my daily commute.

Most public libraries now have audiobooks on CD you can check out for free. I’ve recently discovered the iPhone app OverDrive that allows users to check out and download audiobooks to their phones and listen for 21 days. The biggest selection of audiobooks is at Audible. They offer audiobooks with a no-hassle return policy. I buy 12 credits every year.

2. Listen to Podcasts, Sermons, Classes, and Teachings

I also regularly use my iPod to listen to sermons, teachings, courses, and podcasts that are specific to areas in which I want to grow. You can use your commute to sharpen yourself vocationally and socially, as well as spiritually. Consider areas of your life you’d like to grow, and look for resources you might be able to listen to. Personally, I’m always looking for wisdom on interpersonal communication, leadership, teaching, and writing, and I have discovered several great resources.

3. Listen to Scripture

Keep an Audio Bible in your car and listen to the Scriptures. I prefer the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible. This has been a great aide to my study and teaching. I was once teaching a class on James at church and listened to the book upwards of 20 times as part of my preparation. It was a pretty easy way to become very familiar with the book. I recently committed to a focused study of the Prophets. I’m going to start it by listening through a few times. Reading through the Prophets feels daunting. Listening to them feels much less daunting.

4. Some Time Praying

The daily commute can be a good time to pray for your day. I spend many mornings praying over my deadlines and projects. It’s amazing how quickly prayer can disarm worries and anxieties. Many blog ideas and solutions to problems I’m dealing with have come to me during a prayerful commute. Coincidence? I think not. (Disclaimer: Boundless strongly recommends driving with your eyes open.)

5. Spend Time in Silence

As a general rule, our lives are too noisy. Some avoid the uneasiness of silence altogether, but we are wise to remember silence has long been considered a valuable spiritual discipline. I don’t do silence well or as frequently as I should. But I do recognize that regular times of silence are beneficial. Take a morning once and a while, and spend a portion of your commute in silence.

There are certainly other productive ways to optimize your commute, but most will find a little intentionality goes a long way. If there are audiobooks, podcasts, sermons, classes or other resources you’ve recently benefited from, please recommend them below. I’m always looking for new resources to add to my own commute queue.

Marriage Preparation Is Heart Work

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Are you ready for marriage?

It’s that time of year again. People seem to be pairing off like rabbits (at least in my newsfeed). Facebook has been lighting up with pictures of brides and bridal parties, and it is fun to see all the smiles and happy celebrations. Occasionally, an engagement announcement will pop up, and my first thought is, I wonder if they’re ready? I don’t mean it in a judgmental or even critical way. I just wonder what makes a couple ready for marriage.

Certainly, no one enters marriage with complete confidence that they are ready for all that awaits. There are all sorts of unknown variables that even the most calculating person couldn’t possibly anticipate. One of the great mysteries of marriage is that it’s a commitment made in trust. You must trust yourself, your new spouse, and God — the giver of marriage. But are we left to only trust and take the leap? Or is there a way to know if we are really ready for marriage?

I believe there is a good test we should keep before us on the road to marriage. It’s a test we should regularly take and retake, working daily as we grow. In fact, Jesus himself assessed those who came to Him by this same test. Of course, I’m talking about the state of the heart. On the road to marriage, it is extremely important to have an accurate understanding of your own heart and the heart of your future spouse. To misjudge the heart is not only foolish, it is downright dangerous.

The struggle with determining what is in the heart stems from the universal capacity to cover and hide what is really there. Jesus pointed this out when He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Think of the surprised looks when He said this. Jesus knew what was in their hearts and he saw when they were faking it. They were putting on a show and duping many, but Jesus wasn’t interested in how things appeared. He drilled right down to what was in their hearts.

As we prepare for marriage and look for a person to marry, we ignore the heart issue to our own hurt. We must protect and nurture our hearts consistently and expect the same of those who we commit ourselves to. I’m not looking for a perfect heart, but a growing heart. I want to find someone who knows of the weaknesses in their inmost being and is fighting daily to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. I fear far too many work only to mask whats really in their heart, instead of working to purify it.

On your road to marriage, here are a few heart questions to contemplate about yourself and the one whom you’d marry.

1. Do you habitually soak your heart in God’s Word?

Having a regular, organized time in God’s Word is essential for purity. Jesus made a habit of reading the Scriptures and asked God to sanctify His people in the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17). Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Christ makes His church holy by, “cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). God’s Word is compared to both food and water, because eating and cleaning are things we must do regularly. Your heart — much like your body — needs regular care and maintenance. In the same way you wouldn’t go days and weeks without a meal or a shower, you shouldn’t go long without feeding and washing your heart in God’s Word.

2. Do you habitually commune with God?

We must also recognize that heart work is ultimately the work of God in us. As Job wrote, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job 14:4). We cannot purify our own hearts, but we can plead with God to purify them for us. Ultimately, we need God to do a heart work in us. Those who would be pure must pray with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Spending regular time alone with God, asking Him to purify our hearts, is a sure way to grow a heart ready for marriage.

3. How do you respond to stress, pressure and exhaustion?

The heart often shows its true colors at points of stress and difficulty. If you want to know the state of a particular heart, pay attention to how it responds when life cracks around the edges or falls apart. The sinful attitudes, words and actions that flow from our hearts in these moments may reveal that we’ve been neglecting our hearts or need to refocus our efforts.

4. Are you aware of the sin in your heart, and do you quickly repent of it?

One of the key indicators of our heart’s position before God is how we respond when we sin. Those further along in their sanctification will quickly identify sins, confess them and turn from them. This process of intentionally abandoning sin is called repentance, and Jesus regularly used this word when calling people to himself. As Peter taught, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Be wary of heart tendencies to hide, negate, negotiate, or rationalize sin. Pure hearts turn from sin quickly, thoroughly and often.

5. Do you prefer the company of the pure in heart?

Lastly, the pure in heart will draw close to others who are pure in heart. In the same way “bad company corrupts good character” good company promotes good character. Look at a person’s closest friends and you will learn something about the state of their own heart. Many have found growing in Christ has meant finding new friends. Those who are growing closer to God will naturally surround themselves with others growing in the same.

It’s important to regularly consider the state of your own heart. Much like the cultivation of anything of great value, it requires intentionality and diligence. Those who are heading toward marriage should look closely at their own heart and at the heart of the one whom they might marry. Our culture tends to overemphasize what we can see with our own eyes, but the unseen quality of the heart is far more significant. No one will ever perfectly reflect the heart of Christ in this life, but let us be attracted to those who are doing the careful work of becoming pure in heart.

Originally published on Boundless.org.

J.I. Packer on Salvation and Repentence

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These are some of the most important 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)

J.C. Ryle on Christian Happiness

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“The only way to be really happy, in such a world as this is to be ever casting all our cares on God. It is the trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad … There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow, – a friend who pitied the poor, the sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth, – a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He lived thirty-three years amongst us, – a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,  – a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him.”

(J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, p.81)

 

Robert M’Cheyne’s Advice to Pastors

 

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“Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity. Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin … Remember it is God, and not man, that must have the glory. It is not much speaking, but much faith, that is needed…”

(Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoirs & Remains, p.93)

Haddon Robinson on Reading

Beloved preacher and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson writes on the importance of reading for ministers of the gospel:

Among the last words Paul wrote were in a letter to his young friend Timothy. “When you come,” he asked, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). The apostle was an old man facing death at the hands of the emperor. He was chained in a drafty dungeon in the city of Rome. He needed his cloak to keep the chill off his bones, but he needed his books and parchments to keep the rust off his mind.

Charles Spurgeon took a lead from these words when he observed, “Even an apostle must read. He is inspired and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord and yet he wants books…. He has been caught up in the third heaven, and he had heard things which it is unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books. He had written a major part of the New Testament and yet he wants books.” Paul had no more sermons to prepare and no more books or letters to write, but he needed to keep on reading. Even though life was running out on him, Paul needed books.

Ministers must read. We are required to read not as a luxury but as a necessity. We cannot go it alone. Our study of the Bible is enriched by the insights of scholars who have studied particular sections of the Bible more than we have. Only the lazy or stupid ignore the use of commentaries in their preparation. But we should also open our minds to wider vistas through reading books that are not sermon direct.

Working ministers cannot make this broader reading a top priority, but it can be done. Determine to read 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do that for 50 weeks, and you will have read 125 hours in a year. If you read 30 pages an hour, you will have read over 3,750 pages a year. If you keep up that pace for ten years, you will have read more than 150 books of 250 pages. If those books were well chosen, you could become an authority in any field. As the venerable adage puts it: “Constancy surprises the world by its conquests.”

If you have a book in your hand, you are never alone, and reading enables you to have continued education without having to pay tuition.

Each year during Easter week, I try to intentionally carve out space for extra reading, thinking, meditating and praying about what Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. While I try to think well during these times, my primary goal is to stir up stronger feelings and affections. Even as the Scriptures instructs us to:

In a sense, I want to be wrecked again by the high price Christ paid to atone for my sins and to overflow with love for and faith in our Savior.

50ReasonJesusCameToDieThis year, I’ve been reading through John Piper’s short book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Piper offers 50 biblical reasons why Jesus died for us. Even a cursory read of the chapter titles can be very inspiring, but the book – which is available as a free PDF – offers two-page explanations of all 50 statements. This Easter, take time to meditate on all Christ accomplished for you through His death and resurrection. May a deeper knowledge, faith and love be yours in Christ Jesus.

Christ Suffered and Died…

  1. To Absorb the Wrath of God
  2. To Please His Heavenly Father
  3. To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
  4. To Achieve His Own Resurrection From the Dead
  5. To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
  6. To Show His Own Love for Us
  7. To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
  8. To Become a Ransom for Many
  9. For the Forgiveness of Our Sins
  10. To Provide the Basis for Our Justification
  11. To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
  12. To Take Away Our Condemnation
  13. To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
  14. To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful
  15. To Make Us Holy, Blameless and Perfect
  16. To Give Us a Clear Conscience
  17. To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
  18. To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
  19. To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
  20. To Deliver Us From the Present Evil Age
  21. To Reconcile Us to God
  22. To Bring Us to God
  23. So That We Might Belong to Him
  24. To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
  25. To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God
  26. To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End
  27. To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest
  28. To Free Us From the Futility of Our Ancestry
  29. To Free Us From the Slavery of Sin
  30. That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
  31. So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God
  32. To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
  33. To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting
  34. To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him
  35. To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning
  36. To Create a People Passionate for Good Works
  37. To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness
  38. To Create a Band of Crucified Followers
  39. To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death
  40. So That We Would Be With Him Immediately After Death
  41. To Secure Our Resurrection From the Dead
  42. To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities
  43. To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel
  44. To Destroy the Hostility Between Races
  45. To Ransom People From Every Tribe and Language
  46. To Gather All His Sheep From Around the World
  47. To Rescue Us From Final Judgment
  48. To Gain His Joy and Ours
  49. So That He Would Be Crowned With Glory and Honor
  50. To Show That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good

Taken from: 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

Fifty Reasons Christ Came to Die

J.I. Packer: The Cross and the Destiny of Those Who Reject God

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J.I. Packer writes these sobering words of those who reject God:

Universalists suppose that the class of people mentioned in this heading will ultimately have no members, but the Bible indicates otherwise. Decisions made in this life will have eternal consequences. “Do not be deceived” (as you would be if you listened to the universalists), “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7). Those who in this life reject God will forever be rejected by God. Universalism is the doctrine that, among others, Judas will be saved, but Jesus did not think he would. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21) How could Jesus have spoken those last words if he had expected Judas finally to be saved?

Some, then face an eternity of rejectedness. How can we understand what they will bring on themselves? We cannot, of course, form an adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross.

On the cross, God judged our sins in the person of his Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God’s judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father’s presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness.

The physical pain, though great (for crucifixion remains the cruelest form of judicial execution that the world has ever known), was yet only a small part of the story; Jesus’ chief sufferings were mental and spiritual, and what was packed into less than four hundred minutes was an eternity of agony – agony such that each minute was an eternity in itself, as mental sufferers know that individual minutes can be.

So, too, those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good, and the best way to form an idea of eternal death is to dwell on this thought. In ordinary life, we never notice how much good we enjoy through God’s common grace till it is taken from us. We never value health, or steady circumstances, or friendship and respect from others, as we should till we have lost them. Calvary shows that under the final judgment of God nothing that one has valued, or could value, nothing that one can call good, remains to one. It is a terrible thought, but the reality, we may be sure, is more terrible yet. “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” God help us learn this lesson, which the spectacle of propitiation through penal substitution on the cross teaches so clearly; and may each of us be found in Christ, our sins covered by his blood, at the last.

(J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 194-195)

Two Ways to Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

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The following excerpt is taken from A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. In Chapter 49, “Thomas Manton on the Judgment according to Works,” the authors summarize Manton’s excellent comparison of the two states people will be in at the final judgment.

As judge, Christ will be a TERROR to those who have…

(1) despised God’s kingdom (Luke 19:27)

(2) refused God’s grace (Psalm 81:11)

(3) despised God’s benefits (Heb. 2:3)

(4) abused His grace and turned to lasciviousness (Jude 4)

(5) broken His commandments (John 15:10)

(6) questioned the truth of God’s promises (2 Peter 3-4)

(7) perverted God’s ordinances (Matthew 24:48-51)

Christ as judge will be a COMFORT to those who have:

(1) believed Christ’s doctrine (John 11:25)

(2) loved Christ (Ephesians 6:24; 1 Corinthians 16:22)

(3) warred against Christ’s enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh (Revelation 3:21)

(4) obeyed His commandments (1 John 2:28)

Believers will be comforted because the judge is their friend, their brother, their high priest, and the one who died for their sins.