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A Shot of Encouragement

The Reformers’ Days

Charles Spurgeon, “Holding Fast the Faith”:

Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want anyone else to do the same today. When you go to the…gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering about loose in the street? You tell me that would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are sort of a bear-pit or iron cage for him, but such a man today is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their (friends) had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great (racket), and get ourselves in disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake things will have grown better.”

Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers.

It is today as it was in the Reformer’s days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it.

Look you sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today.

… Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat you to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong. The Lord sustain you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Happy Reformation Day!

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A Shot of Encouragement

Ministers Learning Sympathy

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 155

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A Shot of Encouragement

Marching in the Dark

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables a man to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 155

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A Shot of Encouragement

Living Sacrifices

It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 157

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A Shot of Encouragement

His Blood is Bibline

He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings … continually make us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.

—In reference to John Bunyan. Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 159.

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Enjoying the Process

Making Ministers through Difficulties

I finished reading Lectures to My Students yesterday. The journey took almost two years and included some breathtaking sights. While creating my index inside the back cover I retread precious, providential, faith-focusing ground concerning how God makes His ministers through difficulties.

Afflictions make sensitive shepherds.

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. (155)

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. (155)

Troubles make clean vessels.

The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. (160)

Adversities make humble instruments.

Those who are honoured of the Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. (164)

Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. (164)

Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker. (163)

Trials make trusting servants.

Put no trust in frames or feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. (164)

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables a man to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy. (165)

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He Will Build His Church

Puritanic Rigidity Is not the Problem

Charles Spurgeon once wrote,

Ah, sirs! there may have been a time when Christians were too precise, but it has not been in my day. There may have been such a dreadful thing as Puritanic rigidity, but I have never seen it. We are quite free from that evil now, if it ever existed. We have gone from liberty to libertinism. We have passed beyond the dubious into the dangerous, and none can prophesy where we shall stop. (quoted by MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, p.87)

Even though Spurgeon was specifically confronting the church’s general lack of holiness in the Down-Grade, I think the quote applies equally well to our modern day disregard for the Lord’s day.

Perhaps we don’t value the Lord’s day because for all our talk, we’re not that desperate for God after all. We treat the Lord as if He were dispensable and we take delight in other things. Maybe if we hadn’t been busy all week trying to drink from broken cisterns we would thirst for the fountain of living waters and come for a corporate drink on His day.

Still the discipline of celebrating the Lord’s day every first day reminds us how much we need Him and how important His Body is. I think that’s why John Calvin said about Sunday corporate meeting,

we adopt it as a necessary remedy for preserving order in the Church. (Institutes, 2.VIII.33)

This is especially so for those of us in student ministry. I am convinced that the first mark of a healthy student ministry is that we are part of the local church. We will always be sickly and weak if we do not participate and praise the Lord on His day with His Body in “big church.”

As we lay to rest this series on the Lord’s day, let me conclude with one final thought. My son Calvin is almost two. He doesn’t know a lot of words but he’s at least learned (his own version of) the names of all the people living at our house. Since he can’t call things by what they are, he identifies an item by the person who owns it. He’ll circle the room and point out everything he recognizes by who uses it: books, chairs, ladders, coffee cups, cars, whatever. The question is, if someone looked at how you spend your Sunday, who would they say owned it? You? Or the Lord?

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He Will Build His Church

Good for Nothing Bricks

In December of 2003 I taught a short series of sermons under the banner “Church Life for Teens.” The initial motivation for that series was that I really wanted students to understand the importance of the biblical ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I tagged on a short message concerning church etiquette, hoping to instruct students about customary and polite behavior at church (such bottom line basics like not sleeping in church or getting up, leaving, and returning in the middle of a service).

Perhaps those connected to one28 remember the events that followed. As I was preaching through those messages on church life I realized I had missed a fundamental thing. My assumption was that the church was a priority. I was wrong. There were some parachurch groups becoming more and more popular at that time and a number of our own students were directing a good portion of their time and energy into things I argued were inferior to, if not in direct competition with, the church. So I taught a couple messages on the Potential Problems with Parachurch.

But almost four years later I see another trend. This trend is even more of a threat than parachurch groups or misunderstanding about proper church behavior or ignorance about the ordinances. This trend is more selfish and more dangerous and more disobedient and more dishonoring to God than perhaps all those others. The trend, the threat, is NEGLECTING THE LORD’S DAY.

There is an increasing pattern of neglecting the Lord’s Day, Sunday, in our culture. That is probably to be expected. But most alarming is the growing disregard for Sunday and corporate worship I see among my own students (and across the whole church).

I’ve given a lot of thinking effort in attempt to pinpoint why there is so much neglect. Maybe some students just don’t know. Perhaps the problem is plain old Bible ignorance about the priorities and practices of the Lord’s day. The only thing they know about the Lord’s day is that their parents have made them go all their life. It’s just the pattern, not their passion. If that’s the case, I hope some instruction will help stir up eagerness and energy for first-day gathering.

But I’m afraid there are more whose primary problem is not ignorance; it is selfishness and laziness. They know, either from past instruction or from their own conscience, that the Lord must be honored more on Sundays by them, but they refuse and neglect to dedicate and celebrate His day. Those need not only light, but heat; not only teaching but warning; not only truth, but loving pleading and prodding to get where they belong.

Now it is likely at this point that some are already defensive. Perhaps they are defensive because I couldn’t possibly know their particular sob story. They can’t make Sundays a priority. They just can’t change their schedule or they’re just doing what their parents want, etc. We’ll talk about that.

Others would say, Christians are saved individually. And I would agree, in some sense. But even if we agree that our relationship with Christ is personal, we cannot dismiss the fact that our relationship with the church is corporate. Students may be Christians by themselves, but every Christian is part of the church. Spurgeon called such disconnected Christians “good-for-nothing bricks.”

I know there are some who say, “Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church.” Now why not? “Because I can be a Christian without it.” Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.

Still others are defenders of faith, in other words, they love to hunt Pharisees and legalists. They fight against anything that even hints like it’s a rule or an external requirement because after all, we’re saved by faith alone. They beat the drum that church attendance can’t save us and we all know that God cares most about the heart. Those students are afraid of formality and tradition and going through the motions and routine. Fair enough.

But what if God holds us responsible, not for missing church meetings or sleeping during sermons or being distracted from worship itself per se, but what if He holds us responsible for those things because they demonstrate that our hearts weren’t right? I agree that God is not most concerned about our attendance…He’s concerned about our heart’s attention! We don’t want to be Pharisees, but we also don’t want to be servants who are defiant to our Lord.

Over the next week or so I’m going to blog a brief series that I pray God would use like a pointblank fire hose to douse our selfishness and direct us and drench us with love for the Lord’s day.