Boil it down. Find the common denominator. Get to the heart of the matter. These are figures of speech we use in reference to reaching the marrow of a matter. What is the marrow of the gospel? What is the common denominator, when we boil it down? The deeper, richer, higher truths of the gospel are astounding. But in our astonishment, could it be that we occasionally lose site of the basic blessing? At times we need the simple comforts of simple gospel doctrine. If this makes sense to you, here’s a boiled down comfort to which we may cling and return time and again.
Through the power of the gospel, the Lord provides us with every spiritual blessing and all things to enjoy. At the center of these blessings and joys is the covenant of promise. We are captured, changed, and adopted into an irrevocable covenant with Christ. The reality of this covenant membership lies at the center of the gospel. Boiled down, God works through the gospel to accomplish one primary goal — and all other blessings flow from this one glorious reality. In 11 simple words: They will be my people and I will be their God. This is the central work and comfort of the gospel. Throughout Scripture the reverberating celebration of grace is the inauguration of a forever Kingdom, ruled by a forever King who forever Shepherds His forever people. Beginning in the Old Testament, the covenant of promise finds climax in Revelation 21:1-3,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.’ -Revelation 21:1-3
We enjoy presently, as well as look forward to, a day when the final soul will join this covenant of grace and with finality we will hear His voice: These are my people! Are you a part of God’s covenant? This gospel comfort is for you.Read More
In every age false teaching requires opposition and correction. In some ages, false teachers and their lessons heighten our sensitivity and zeal. When this happens, zeal leads to a broadening of the definition of the term false teacher. Teachers who are weak in one or more areas-but who are not truly false teachers-find themselves counted among the heretics. These times require a sober remembrance of the Scriptural view of false teaching, leading to wise discrimination between weak teaching and false teaching. In the fury of doctrinal protection, some teachers are wrongly declared false. Some preachers love Gospel truth but struggle to preach it as well as we think they should. These are not false teachers. Many classic Christian writings include examples of this distinction.
In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian meets Mr. Worldly Wiseman at the base of a terrifying mountain. Worldly Wiseman persuades Christian to forgo his Gospel-journey for the better way (law-keeping) to remove his miserable burden (sin). Christian follows his advice and diverts his course in search of Mr. Legality, who is promised to remove his burden. After Christian fails to conquer the legalistic mountain (Ten Commandments), despair sets in as he is stranded beneath the precipice. Yet Christian’s previous guide, Evangelist, re-enters the story to help Christian return to the Gospel path. In the process, Evangelist reveals how Christian was falsely taught by Mr. Worldly Wiseman and Evangelist teaches Christian how to avoid these law-obsessed wiles in the future. The interchange between Evangelist and Christian sheds light on the true nature of false teachers and their teaching. Noting Evangelist’s three points helps readers appropriately narrow their definition of false teaching, allowing them to uproot tares (false teachers) without abusing under-developed wheat (true teachers in the making). There is some old English in the section, but the point will still be clear.
And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s counsel. And with that he saw Evangelist coming to meet him; at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer; and coming up to him, he looked upon him with a severe and dreadful countenance, and thus began to reason with Christian.
EVAN. “What dost thou here, Christian?” said he: at which words Christian knew not what to answer; wherefore at present he stood speechless before him. Then said Evangelist further, “Art not thou the man that I found crying without the walls of the City of Destruction?”
CHR. “Yes, dear Sir, I am the man.”
EVAN. “Did not I direct thee the way to the little wicket-gate?”
CHR. “Yes, dear Sir, said Christian.”
EVAN. “How is it, then, that thou art so quickly turned aside, for thou art now out of the way?”
CHR. “I met with a gentleman so soon as I had got over the Slough of Despond, who persuaded me that I might, in the village before me, find a man that would take off my burden.”
EVAN. “What was he?”
CHR. “He looked like a gentleman, and talked much to me, and got me at last to yield; so I came hither; but when I beheld this hill, and how it hangs over the way, I suddenly made a stand lest it should fall on my head.”
EVAN. “What said that gentleman to you?”
CHR. “Why, he asked me whither I was going, and I told him.”
EVAN. “And what said he then?”
CHR. “He asked me if I had a family? And I told him. But, said I, I am so loaden with the burden that is on my back, that I cannot take pleasure in them as formerly.”
EVAN. “And what said he then?”
CHR. “He bid me with speed get rid of my burden; and I told him that it was ease that I sought. And said I, ‘I am therefore going to yonder gate, to receive further direction how I may get to the place of deliverance.’ So he said that he would shew me a better way, and short, not so attended with difficulties as the way, Sir, that you set me in; ‘which way,’ said he, ‘will direct you to a gentleman’s house that hath skill to take off these burdens,’ so I believed him, and turned out of that way into this, if haply I might be soon eased of my burden. But when I came to this place, and beheld things as they are, I stopped for fear (as I said) of danger: but I now know not what to do.”
EVAN. Then said Evangelist, “Stand still a little, that I may shew thee the words of God.” So he stood trembling. Then said Evangelist, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” He said, moreover, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” He also did thus apply them: “Thou art the man that art running into this misery; thou hast begun to reject the counsel of the Most High, and to draw back thy foot from the way of peace, even almost to the hazarding of thy perdition.”
Then Christian fell down at his feet as dead, crying, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” At the sight of which Evangelist caught him by the right hand, saying, “All manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men. Be not faithless, but believing.” Then did Christian again a little revive, and stood up trembling, as at first, before Evangelist.
Then Evangelist proceeded, saying, “Give more earnest heed to the things that I shall tell thee of. I will now shew thee who it was that deluded thee, and who it was also to whom he sent thee: The man that met thee is one Worldly Wiseman, and rightly is he so called; partly, because he savoureth only the doctrine of this world (therefore he always goes to the town of Morality to church): and partly because he loveth that doctrine best, for it saveth him best from the cross. And because he is of this carnal temper, therefore he seeketh to pervert my ways though right.
Now there are three things in this man’s counsel, that thou must utterly abhor.
1. His turning thee out of the way.
2. His labouring to render the cross odious to thee. And,
3. His setting thy feet in that way that leadeth unto the
administration of death.
First, Thou must abhor his turning thee out of the way; and thine own consenting thereunto: because this is to reject the counsel of God for the sake of the counsel of a Worldly Wiseman. The Lord says, ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate, the gate to which I sent thee; for strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ From this little wicket-gate, and from the way thereto, hath this wicked man turned thee, to the bringing of thee almost to destruction; hate, therefore, his turning thee out of the way, and abhor thyself for hearkening to him.
Secondly, Thou must abhor his labouring to render the cross odious unto thee; for thou art to prefer it before the treasures of Egypt. Besides the King of glory hath told thee, ‘that he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that cometh after me, and hateth not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’ I say, therefore, for man to labour to persuade thee, that that shall be thy death, without which, THE TRUTH hath said, thou canst not have eternal life; this doctrine thou must abhor.
Thirdly, Thou must hate his setting of thy feet in the way that leadeth to the ministration of death. And for this thou must consider to whom he sent thee, and also how unable that person was to deliver thee from thy burden.
He to whom thou wast sent for ease, being by name Legality, is the son of the bond-woman which now is, and is in bondage with her children; and is, in a mystery, this Mount Sinai, which thou hast feared will fall on thy head. Now, if she, with her children, are in bondage, how canst thou expect by them to be made free? This Legality, therefore, is not able to set thee free from thy burden. No man was as yet ever rid of his burden by him; no, nor ever is like to be: ye cannot be justified by the works of the law; for by the deeds of the law no man living can be rid of his burden: therefore, Mr. Worldly Wiseman is an alien, and Mr. Legality is a cheat; and for his son Civility, notwithstanding his simpering looks, he is but a hypocrite and cannot help thee. Believe me, there is nothing in all this noise, that thou hast heard of sottish men, but a design to beguile thee of thy salvation, by turning thee from the way in which I had set thee. After this, Evangelist called aloud to the heavens for confirmation of what he had said: and with that there came words and fire out of the mountain under which poor Christian stood, that made the hair of his flesh stand up. The words were thus pronounced: As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Now Christian looked for nothing but death, and began to cry out lamentably; even cursing the time in which he met with Mr. Worldly Wiseman; still calling himself a thousand fools for hearkening to his counsel; he also was greatly ashamed to think that this gentleman’s arguments, flowing only from the flesh, should have the prevalency with him as to cause him to forsake the right way. This done, he applied himself again to Evangelist in words and sense as follow:
CHR. “Sir, what think you? Is there hope? May I now go back and go up to the wicket-gate? Shall I not be abandoned for this, and sent back from thence ashamed? I am sorry I have hearkened to this man’s counsel. But may my sin be forgiven?”
EVAN. Then said Evangelist to him, “Thy sin is very great, for by it thou hast committed two evils: thou hast forsaken the way that is good, to tread in forbidden paths; yet will the man at the gate receive thee, for he has goodwill for men; only, said he, take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”
Then did Christian address himself to go back; and Evangelist, after he had kissed him, gave him one smile, and bid him God-speed. So he went on with haste, neither spake he to any man by the way; nor, if any asked him, would he vouchsafe them an answer. He went like one that was all the while treading on forbidden ground, and could by no means think himself safe, till again he was got into the way which he left, to follow Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s counsel.
To recap, Evangelist instructs Christian to know false teaching by at least three marks:
1. His turning thee out of the way.
A false teacher turns hearers out of the way of Gospel grace. It may be through invoking self-righteousness, justification by law-keeping, or even directing the hearers to pursue their own pleasures, not the pleasures of Christ.
2. His labouring to render the cross odious to thee. And,
A false teacher works to drain the cross of its glory and power. Perhaps this is accomplished through weakening the law by reducing its demands, or through legalizing the gospel by overemphasizing God’s hatred of sinners to the ignoring of His determination to reconcile sinner through love for them.
3. His setting thy feet in that way that leadeth unto the administration of death.
A false teacher redirects hearers to hope and trust in another way–a way that leads to death. Of course the alternative re-directions are endless (ranging from degrees of legalism to license).
Does this help you humbly identify false teachers by biblical criterion, not a criterion of personal preference?Read More
Charles Spurgeon said and preached and prayed it well, time and time again. Here is a brief snippet of one such prayer.
Well may we lay those fruits at Thy feet that were grown in Thy garden, and that gold and silver and frankincense which Thou Thyself didst bestow, only first give us more! Oh, to love the Saviour with a passion that can never cool; Oh, to believe in God with a confidence that can never stagger! Oh, to hope in God with an expectation that can never be dim! Oh, to delight in God with a holy overflowing rejoicing that can never be stopped, so that we might live to glorify God at the highest bent of our powers, living with enthusiasm, burning, blazing, being consumed with the indwelling God who worketh all things in us according to to His will! Thus, Lord, would we praise and pray at the same time, confess and acknowledge our responsibilities, but also bless the free, the sovereign grace that makes us what we are. O God of the eternal choice, O God of the ransom purchased on the tree, O God of the effectual call, Father, Son and Spirit, our adoration rises to heaven like the smoke from the altar of incense. Glory and honour and majesty and power and dominion and might be unto the one only God, for ever and ever, and all the redeemed by blood will say, Amen. -Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Pastor in Prayer: A Collection of the Sunday Morning Prayers of C.H. Spurgeon, 2004.
James Henley Thornwell spoke highly of the Law when reflecting upon the Gospel. He wrote, “He that stands beneath the cross and understands the scene dares not sin; not because there is a hell beneath him or an angry God above him, but because Holiness is felt to reign there the ground on which he treads is sacred, the glory of the Lord encircles him, and, like Moses, he must remove the shoes from his feet. The Cross is a venerable spot. I love to linger around it, not merely that I may read my title to everlasting life, but that I may study the greatness of God. I use the term advisedly. God never appears to be so truly great, so intensely holy, as when from the pure energy of principle, He gives Himself, in the person of His Son, to die, rather than that His character should be impugned. Who dares prevaricate with moral distinctions and talk of death as a greater evil than dishonor, when God, the mighty Maker, died rather than that truth and justice should be compromised? Who at the foot of Calvary can pronounce sin to he a slight matter?”Read More
April 6, 2013 we will enjoy a free block party at Maryland Elementary School. This is a great opportunity to kick off Spring with fun, fellowship, and food. The Block Party is open to all is completely free.
Rain or Shine. If it shines, the block party will be outside. If it rains, the block party will be inside the gymnasium. Make plans to walk or drive over and we’ll see you Saturday. Invite your friends!
The more, the partier!Read More
The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the pivotal point in human history and God’s revelation in the Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus Christ is the central figure. The purpose of His coming was foretold in the Old Testament and then announced and celebrated in the New Testament. For this reason, understanding why Christ died (and rose from the dead) is of paramount importance. Although from a careful study of Scripture, we may conclude many more reasons, here we will recall five of the reasons that quickly rise to the surface; moving from the general to the particular.Read More
Are you good at encouraging young (or new) Christians in their zeal for Christ. Below is a wonderful reminder from Charles Spurgeon on the importance and opportunity to press young believers forward in the faith.
Clear Shining after Rain – 2 Sam. 23:4
I love to see young converts with all the freshness of their new-born faith; they have not borrowed their language from other people. I like to see them with their zeal; they are not quite so prudent as some of us older people are. You will find that they are doing this, and doing that, and doing the other good thing, and the prudent people tell them not to do too much. My dear young friend, do not listen to them! There is many an old saint who has been spokesman for the devil when he has tried to hold a young Christian back from doing more for Christ.
I had a number of kind friends when I began labouring for the Lord, and especially when I began to preach; and these kind friends provided me with an unlimited quantity of blankets, and very wet blankets they were, too. They were afraid that I should get too hot in my Master’s service, so they were always ready with wet blankets to damp my ardour. I do think that, sometimes, when Satan wants to repress the zeal of young converts, he finds more efficient servants among good people than he does among bad ones. Brethren, let the young converts grow; they will not grow too fast. Let them serve God zealously; they will not do too much for Him. Let them burn with vehement zeal; there are plenty in the world who will try to cool it down. God grant that our young friends may be able to resist that chilling influence, and still may be full of earnest might and spiritual strength in the service of their Saviour!
On Sunday, Jan 27 the focus of our Bible passage was the importance of loving other Christians (the Brethren). As we do each week, we gave away a book. This week, we gave away How to Love Difficult People by Will Smith. No, not that Will Smith. We mean: William P. Smith. Get your copy here.Read More
Thomas Boston was a Scottish Puritan in the 18th century. Although he called it “scribble,” his little booklet The Art of Manfishing: A Puritan’s view of Evangelism still holds much value for today’s reader. In it, Boston unpacks what is the art of manfishing (evangelism) and how to grow in this art.
About halfway through the book, Boston gives a side-by-side comparison of what he calls Carnal Wisdom and Spiritual Wisdom regarding evangelism. Perhaps this may be helpful to you. It has been helpful to us.
We’d like to link you to an article by Russell Moore. It is an encouraging and compelling thought on the future of the church and who will lead. The article is here.
Also take time to read the rest of what Dr. Moore says on his blog, Moore to the Point.Read More