Man’s Maker was Made Man

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

That bitter root, indwelling sin!

By John Newton:

The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!

Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.

That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”

John Newton, April 1772

The Great Birthday

The shepherds were keeping their flocks by night. Probably a calm, peaceful night, wherein they felt the usual difficulty of keeping their weary eyelids open as sleep demanded its due of them. All of a sudden, to their amazement, a mighty blaze lit up the heavens and turned midnight into midday! The glory of the Lord, by which, according to the idiom of the language, is meant the greatest conceivable glory as well as a divine glory, surrounded and alarmed them! And in the midst of it they saw a shining spirit, a form, the like of which they had never beheld before, but of which they had heard their fathers speak, and of which they had read in the books of the prophets so that they knew it to be an angel. It was, indeed, no common messenger from heaven, but “the angel of the Lord,” that choice presence angel, whose privilege it is to stand nearest the heavenly majesty, “’mid the bright ones doubly bright,” and to be employed on weightiest errands from the eternal throne of God. “The angel of the Lord came upon them.” Are you astonished that at first they were afraid? Would you not be alarmed if such a thing should happen to you? The stillness of the night, the suddenness of the apparition, the extraordinary splendor of the light, the supernatural appearance of the angel—all would tend to astound them and to put them into a quiver of reverential alarm—for I doubt not there was a mixture both of reverence and of fear in that feeling which is described as being “sorely afraid.” They would have fallen on their faces to the ground in fright had there not dropped out of that, “glory of the Lord,” a gentle voice, which said, “Fear not.” They were calmed by that sweet comfort and enabled to listen to the announcement which followed. Then that voice, in accents sweet as the notes of a silver bell, proceeded to say, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” They were bid to shake off all thoughts of fear and to give themselves up to joy! Doubtless they did so and, among all mankind, there were none so happy at that dead of night as were these shepherds who had seen an amazing sight! They would never forget that night and now were consulting whether they should not hasten away to gaze upon a sight which would be more delightful still, namely, the Babe of which the angel spoke!

Mark well that believing what they did, these simple-minded shepherds desired to approach nearer the marvelous babe. What did they do but consult together and say, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass”? O beloved, if you want to get the joy of Christ, come near to Him! Whatever you hear about Him from His own book, believe it! But then say, “I will go and find Him.” When you hear the voice of the Lord from Sinai, draw not near unto the flaming mountain—the law condemns you, the justice of God overwhelms you. Bow at a humble distance and adore with solemn awe. But when you hear of God in Christ, hasten there! Hasten there with all confidence, for you are not come unto the mountain that might not be touched, and that burned with fire—you are come unto the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than that of Abel! Come near, come nearer, nearer still! “Come,” is His own word to those who labor and are heavy laden, and that same word He will address to you at the last—“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” If you want joy in Christ, come and find it in His bosom, or at His feet! There John and Mary found it long ago. And then, my brothers and sisters do what the shepherds did when they came near. They rejoiced to see the babe of whom they had been told! You cannot see with the physical eye, but you must meditate—and so see with the mental eyes this great, grand and glorious truth of God that the word was made flesh and dwelt among us! This is the way to have joy today, joy such as fitly descends from heaven with the descent of heaven’s King! Believe! Draw near! And then fixedly gaze upon Him, and so be blest!

The Great Birthday Sermon #1330 http://www.spurgeongems.org Volume 22 2 2

The Lord’s Prayer

O, God, who has become our Father through Christ. We give thanks that you have taught us to pray and promised us that you will much less deny us what we ask in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things.  Teach us not to think of your heavenly majesty in an earthly manner, and to expect from your almighty power all things we need for body and soul. Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you, and sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works, in which shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised. 

By your Word and Spirit, govern us that more and more we would submit to you. Grant that your Church would be preserved and increased here on earth. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you, and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of your kingdom comes, wherein you shall be all in all.

Assist us that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good. Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.

For the sake of Christ’s blood,do not impute to us, wretched sinners; any of our transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us, as we also find this evidence of your grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour.

In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us. Therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.

All this we ask knowing that as our King, having power over all things, You are both willing and able to give us all that is good, and because your holy name will be forever glorified. We confess and take comfort that you have much more certainly heard our prayer than we feel in our hearts that we desire this of you. Amen.

-Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, LD 46-52

Precious in the sight of the Lord…

Psalm 116 is a beautiful song and one of my favourites. It describes God’s loving care for his children and how we should respond to the mercy he has shown us. The promises and confessions in this psalm are a great comfort after the death of a loved one, or when we feel that God is distant from us. Here are two great commentaries on this Psalm and one short prayer.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains. (Psalm 116, NIV)

 

At birth, Lord, I was born in thy house; I am the son of thine handmaid, and therefore thine. It is a great mercy to be children of godly parents. By redemption, Lord, thou hast loosed my bonds, thou hast discharged me from them, therefore I am thy servant. The bonds thou hast loosed shall tie me faster unto thee.  – MHCC

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
116:10-19 When troubled, we do best to hold our peace, for we are apt to speak unadvisedly. Yet there may be true faith where there are workings of unbelief; but then faith will prevail; and being humbled for our distrust of God’s word, we shall experience his faithfulness to it. What can the pardoned sinner, or what can those who have been delivered from trouble or distress, render to the Lord for his benefits? We cannot in any way profit him. Our best is unworthy of his acceptance; yet we ought to devote ourselves and all we have to his service. I will take the cup of salvation; I will offer the drink-offerings appointed by the law, in token of thankfulness to God, and rejoice in God’s goodness to me. I will receive the cup of affliction; that cup, that bitter cup, which is sanctified to the saints, so that to them it is a cup of salvation; it is a means of spiritual health. The cup of consolation; I will receive the benefits God bestows upon me, as from his hand, and taste his love in them, as the portion not only of mine inheritance in the other world, but of my cup in this. Let others serve what masters they will, truly I am thy servant. Two ways men came to be servants…

Doing good is sacrifice, with which God is well pleased; and this must accompany giving thanks to his name. Why should we offer that to the Lord which cost us nothing? The psalmist will pay his vows now; he will not delay the payment: publicly, not to make a boast, but to show he is not ashamed of God’s service, and to invite others to join him. Such are true saints of God, in whose lives and deaths he will be glorified.

John Calvin’s Commentary on Ps 116:15:

15. Precious in the eyes of Jehovah is the death of his meek ones. He goes on now to the general doctrine of God’s providential care for the godly, in that he renders them assistance in time of need; their lives being precious in his sight. With this shield he desires to defend himself from the terrors of death, which often pressed upon him, by which he imagined he would instantly be swallowed up. When we are in danger and God apparently overlooks us, we then consider ourselves to be contemned as poor slaves, and that our life is regarded as a thing of nought. And we are aware that when the wicked perceive that we have no protection, they wax the more bold against us, as if God took no notice either of our life or death. In opposition to their erroneous doctrine, David introduces this sentiment, that God does not hold his servants in so little estimation as to expose them to death casually. [384] We may indeed for a time be subjected to all the vicissitudes of fortune and of the world; we will nevertheless always have this consolation, that God will, eventually, openly manifest how dear our souls are to him. In these times, when innocent blood is shed, and the wicked contemners of God furiously exalt themselves, as if exulting over a vanquished God, let us hold fast by this doctrine, that the death of the faithful, which is so worthless, nay, even ignominious in the sight of men, is so valuable in God’s sight, that, even after their death, he stretches out his hand towards them, and by dreadful examples demonstrates how he holds in abhorrence the cruelty of those who unjustly persecute the good and simple. If he put their tears in a bottle, how will he permit their blood to perish? Psalm 56:8 At his own time he will accomplish the prediction of Isaiah, “that the earth shall disclose her blood,” Isaiah 26:21. To leave room for the grace of God, let us put on the spirit of meekness, even as the prophet, in designating the faithful meek ones, calls upon them to submit their necks quietly to bear the burden of the cross, that in their patience they may possess their souls, Luke 21:19.

Heart-work is hard work indeed

“Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and careless spirit, will cost no great difficulties; but to set yourself before the Lord, and to tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him: this will cost you something.

repentance-before-god

To attain ease and dexterity of language in prayer and to be able to put your meaning into appropriate and fitting expressions is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin while you are actually confessing it; melted with free grace even while you are blessing God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled through the awareness of God’s infinite holiness, and to keep your heart in this state not only in, but after these duties, will surely cost you some groans and travailing pain of soul.”– JOHN FLAVEL

 

This is something I certainly struggle with. Yes I can confess my sins, but do I really give thought to what I have done? I’ve sinned against an infinitely holy God. More than that I’ve dishonoured the one who died for me, who loved me before I even knew his name, who made a covenant with me and promised me eternal life. Yet the words all too often ring hollow on my lips, “forgive us our debts.” My debt is infinite and yet it seems I can’t even utter a heartfelt prayer. Surely this is what John Donne meant when he wrote ‘My heart was broken to think it would not break.’

How humbling it is to realize that my prayers do not merit me anything in God’s sight. That God hears my prayers is yet another gift of grace.

Thanks be to God that he has given us an intercessor, that the Spirit would perfect our prayers!

 

My faith doth lay its hand

On that dear head of thine,

While, like a penitent, I stand

And there confess my sin.

Loving Shepherd

Daily VerseLoving Shepherd,

Draw near to your sheep and preserve them from the wolves that seek to harm and destroy. Preserve their lives as they walk through dark valleys, and comfort them when they pass through places of loneliness and weeping.

You are the faithful Shepherd, seek out your wandering and lost sheep so that your flock might be whole and your name glorified. I pray that you would take special care of those nurturing young whether inside or outside of the womb. Be near to those dealing with sickness and trials of many kinds. Help them to cling to your promises and rest in your faithful love. All our lives are in your hands, enable us to live each moment for your glory. Deliver us from sin and give us the strength to resist the devil, the world, and our flesh.

I ask this in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

 

John 10 (NIV)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture.10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”