[O]ften, our trials bring us very near to our God. Your children run down the meadow to play, and they get a good way off from home in the sunny day, as they ramble along gathering their buttercups and daisies; but by-and-by, the sun sets, and night comes on, and now they cry to be at home. Just so; and you, in all your pretty ways of pleasure in your happy home, though you are a child of God, sometimes forget him. Sorrowfully must you remember that sad fact. But now the night comes on, and there is danger all around you; so you begin to cry for your Father, and you would fain be back to fellowship with him; and that is a blessed trouble which brings us near to our God. Christ’s sheep ought to be thankful for the ugly black dog that keeps them from going astray, or fetches them back when they have wandered from the Shepherd. Perhaps Christ will call that black dog off when he has answered the Master’s purpose, and brought you near his side.
Yesterday while I was thinking about this next sermon in the Job series, I was also wrestling with the frustrations and failures and injustices that led to the recent horror we witnessed together in Minneapolis via someone’s cell phone camera–namely, the slow choking death of George Floyd as he lay in handcuffs on the ground, with a police officer’s knee on his neck. I thought about the fact that he probably left his home with the idea that it was any other night, and it would end like any other night. I’m aware of the statements about the forged bill and all that, but it hardly seems relevant, let alone in proportion to what happened.
I find myself looking at this as another in a long series of microcosms pointing to the evils and injustices not just hiding in a corner, but out in the wide open ruling over this world. I thought about how so many people have to consider their actions carefully every day, not knowing what may happen to them just like George Floyd had no idea what would happen to him. We all value our ability to live safely and feel safe at home, yet it’s such a shell, so easily broken whether on purpose or accident.
It’s easy, when considering these things, to begin to feel their weight very deeply. I have to often remind myself that when I confess faith in Christ, I’m not simply saying “I believe Jesus exists and that He did a thing.” What I’m saying is, I trust Him with my all. I trust Him to be who He says He is–the King, the Savior, and the One who is guiding me every step of the way. That reminder, that confession, is needed when despair creeps in, and it creeps in easily at times like this.
It’s difficult for Christians often to process the horrors and evils and frustrations, both personal and corporate, of living in a sinful and broken world. We look at our holy, just, and loving God, and we ask the same question any other person would ask at such times: Why? Why does a just God allow injustice to continue its iron-fisted rule? Why does a loving God allow loveless fury to reign in the streets and in the hearts of so many?
Put not your trust in anything beneath the stars; remember that “Change” is written on the fore-front of nature. Say not therefore, “My mountain standeth firm: it shall never be moved;” the glance of Jehovah’s eye can shake thy mountain into dust, the touch of his foot can make it like Sinai, to melt it like wax, and to be alttogether on a smoke. “Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and let your heart and your treasure be where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.”
The weight on the hearts of believers everywhere is of a sort that I don’t know we’ve experienced in the lifetimes of any but a few currently living. We have become accustomed to individual struggles and sufferings, but it seems to me that few of us have a real concept for mass or cultural sufferings that is actually our own.
For Western Christians we have been used for a long time to having the sufferings we face be more limited in that way. Though our culture may regard us with a general side-eye of distrust, they don’t actively oppress or persecute us. Though they may say silly and ridiculous things about “hate” regarding our theology, they don’t turn away from hospitals with denominational names emblazoned across the front. And we have enjoyed, for the most part, a great deal of liberty to worship our Lord. Many have preached the gospel boldly and at the same time sought to encourage human flourishing by demonstrating that a culture that may disbelieve, yet still practices life in line with His commandments at least to some extent, succeeds and enjoys the benefits of His grace more than one that practices pagan unbelief as a matter of course.
Now we are face to face with what is, at the very least, a time of extreme discomfort and uncertainty, which threatens to grow into a time of greater disease, possibly followed by poverty, and a loss of many freedoms as well as lives. Like with Job, it seems to have come upon us rather suddenly. I know personally, I was spending the beginning of this year making plans for what I wanted this year to include, only to see so many of them dashed to pieces as businesses closed and all the ways we have been able to divert ourselves suddenly are shuttered.
Yet even though our whole culture is affected by this suffering en masse, each individual has their own particular story. I wanted to take this time, as we all walk through the frustrations and losses and heartaches that each of us finds ourselves assigned to in this time, to point to the story of Job and his dark night of the soul, as it were. I know my tendency when encountering hard times is to grit my teeth and just try to sit it out until it goes away. I am willing to bet that experience is true of a lot of people out there.
Job the Faithful Servant
The book of Job is one that I think is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. I would encourage that if you haven’t watched it already, you should take a few minutes and watch the Bible Project’s video on the book:
Job is found in the Bible alongside Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as a part of the wisdom literature. It isn’t set in an identifiable time period, although it is explicitly set in a land that was not Israel (the land of Uz), and Job was ostensibly not an Israelite. Whether or not he actually existed is unknown, but the story of Job ties together the other two wisdom books in a way that Solomon’s wisdom could not: a man who walks in the way of the wise in Proverbs seems to be reaping instead the fruit of the way of the foolish, prompting him to begin to experience the frustration and cynicism of Ecclesiastes as he pours out his deep pain to his friends.
What is more remarkable is the fact that we see clearly that God has, in fact, allowed his suffering! There is no room for debating the control God may or may not possess over evil in this narrative. We see God on the throne, allowing the enemy latitude to attack a man who God regards as a faithful and beloved servant. The question is: why? We tend to view suffering of this sort, if God is involved at all, as something that is targeted at the deserving. Surely Job is who God says he is: a faithful servant who walks in His ways joyfully.
Without spoiling too much of what is to come as we get further into the book, I want to set the theme for everything by pointing far past it deep into the words of Paul to the Romans: “All things work together for good for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.” This sentence is a load-bearing beam in the house that is the truth of Christ we call our home, if one is truly a believer. It is not my design today to answer all the questions I have set out about Job, but rather to lay them out before you. I would propose that we all spend time considering them in light of our current experiences, and lay upon them the truth of Romans 8:28.
This is not light work, but neither is it dreary and joyless. On the contrary: when suffering comes, when the enemy has been loosed to wreak havoc, we as believers must take heart in two key truths. First, as Charles Spurgeon noted, the enemy is on a leash. The Lord may give him latitude but every blow he strikes will fall short of its mark, and in fact will serve the devil’s opposite purpose: it will sharpen and refine you, as the Lord brings before your eyes the idols you may have been clinging to until this time. Let them go and let them burn, and rejoice that God has not let you keep them.
Secondly, in the end we will see His purpose and know His glory in ways we cannot fathom now. Just as Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him and in full disregard for any earthly shame that hung on such a death, so those of us who follow after Him endure our own particular sufferings in faith that He is so much more beautiful and valuable than anything here on earth, and so much more worthy of our worship.
I hope that this series will be an encouragement to my listeners, and be sure to follow along with the Scripture Sunday podcasts as we continue to walk through the text of the book itself. Those of you who are engaged in hardship, I would invite you to reach out for prayer, whether in the comments below or through email.
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We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.
Brothers and sisters, fear weighs upon all our minds. The news continues its cycle of drumming out the advancement of this unseen but deadly villain. There is good reason to feel the weight of this on us, because so much mystery surrounds it, both natural and man-made due to the lack of testing.
It is my goal with choosing this sermon to point our minds, hearts, and eyes to the focal point of our faith, to the cross of Jesus. The weight of glory waiting for Him drove Jesus to endure all the suffering and death that He did, and we place our eternal and temporal hope in that truth. Jesus promised his disciples that in following Him, they were not avoiding the sufferings of this life–they were in fact going to walk in their own sufferings, because of the hatred of this sinful world for its holy and just God. The scent of the gospel to those being saved is life, but to those who are not, it is a scent of death, a warning of the wrath to come.
Rest in the midst of anxiety – in His blood
We’ve talked about the fear and anxiety gripping the world as we continue to pass through the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus. The number of cases, and the number of deaths, continue to climb. As an American I don’t always know how this kind of thing weighs on the minds of my brothers and sisters in other nations (though I would love to hear the testimonies of those who are engaging with this, and Jarod and I would like to talk about that on an upcoming Kings Highway Radio episode). But it seems that a lot of my American brethren are struggling with this especially because it’s clear that this threatens not just life, but way of life. I certainly don’t disagree with that. After all, having so many businesses forced to shutter and social interactions ranging from movie theaters to that most crucial to our lives as believers, church services, being disrupted could hardly be more troubling to our hearts. And beyond that, the looming threat of global recession, job loss, and whatever may come beyond it that we cannot see.
The Lord knows all this, and more than that, He rules over it in ways and to ends we cannot know at this time. We don’t long for pain and suffering, but neither should we allow ourselves to buck against it in anger and ingratitude. Jesus knows, and though His rod of discipline may fall, His love is not less for His children. Don’t forget the reminder of the writer of Hebrews that God disciplines those whom He loves, and this time as all other hardships and evils that have befallen us and those who came before us will obey the words of Paul in Romans 8:28: all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
That should encourage peace in our hearts. I don’t write this as one who sits above the fray with no fears weighing on his own heart, but as one preaching this to himself as well. The blood of Christ preached in this sermon is sufficient for all the evils of my life, and by that blood I go before the Father and ask daily for strength, for peace of heart and mind, and for encouragement when I see the black unknown of this world looming before me. I pray the same encouragement for all of you, and I especially pray for those of you who do not know God in Jesus Christ who He sent, that you would feel the weight of His call on your hearts, and turn, and rest in Him.
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I think I shall be quite safe in concluding this morning, that there are some here who are full of doubting and fearing. Sure I am that all true Christians have their times of anxious questioning. The heart that hath never doubted has not yet learned to believe. As the farmers say, “The land that will not grow a thistle, will not grow wheat;” and the heart that cannot produce a doubt has not yet understood the meaning of believing. He that never doubted of his state—he may, perhaps he may, too late. Yes, there may be timid ones here, those who are always of little faith, and there may be also great hearts, those who are valiant for truth, who are now enduring seasons of despondency and hours of darkness of heart.
This episode features the straight audio recorded while livestreaming on the Facebook page Sunday afternoon. So that means all the little pauses and puppy interruptions are still intact. Nevertheless I wanted to read this sermon in hopes of making my position on the fears surrounding the ongoing pandemic clear.
The way a Christian faces difficulties and hardship is important. The Bible does not promise that believers will not face these, but rather promises that God is faithful to provide for His children in the midst of such hardships the faith required to endure. We glorify Him by placing a greater value on the pleasure of knowing Him and by our faith in His provision. Paul teaches in Romans 8:28 that for those who are in Christ, everything serves for God’s pleasure and for our good. This is a tremendous promise which we can hold fast onto in every situation.
Christ is on the throne. His sovereignty over all things does not stop at the border of a disease, of financial strain and recession, or anything else. But I want to remind us all that Christ’s rule does not remove the possibility of suffering. I’ve encountered a lot of American believers especially who think that this is not a big deal and will pass away in a matter of a couple weeks. While I certainly hope that is the case, we need to prepare our hearts for the fact that this may not be the case. If we spend our time in this frustrating moment grinding our teeth and just trying to gut it out, we are not testifying to our faith in God’s great grace and mercy in the midst of all things, nor to our hope in an eternity that makes times such as these look like nothing in comparison to the glory and joy that awaits.
Let us not fear and hide, neither let us act rashly or arrogantly. In all things, I would say that we must stand together in faith, knowing that even if the worst fears come to pass and many suffer or even die, that we have served and loved those around us, and that we have been faithful with the time He has given us.
I have spent a long time debating if I should venture into this, but after talking it over with trusted brothers and sisters I have decided to create a Patreon account to help support this podcast. I have always struggled with the best way to keep this place rolling along, but I’ve been having to put in extra hours to get ahead on certain financial issues, which puts a strain on how much time and energy I can devote. My desire is to reduce the need for overtime and increase my work here. If you enjoy this and find it edifying, I hope you will consider visiting my Patreon and donating, even a small amount. Also, if you have ideas for what the donor levels could receive in exchange, please feel free to drop me a line as the concept for me is still a bit of a work in progress.
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Let the gospel be preached and the Spirit poured out, and you will see that it has such power to change the conscience, to ameliorate the conduct, to raise the debased, to chastise and to curb the wickedness of the race, that you must glory in it. I say, there is naught like the power of the Spirit. Only let that come, and, indeed, everything can be accomplished.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon no. 30: “The Power of the Holy Ghost”
Just taking a break from the Soul Winner series to visit one of Spurgeon’s earliest sermons, and on a subject that engenders a lot of discussion and confusion. The Holy Spirit is seen in different ways and many Christians struggle with who He is as a person. There is a lot of controversy that’s come from teachings that portray Him as a sort of avenue to God’s power that we can access if we just have enough faith. I’ve written about this kind of thing before, and we’ve talked about it on Kings Highway Radio.
Such teachings do not glorify God, but diminish Him. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, and convicts the world about Him. Dare we to assign him the post of genie, or of a faint and distant voice? The Spirit burns in the hearts of the people of Christ, driving them forward, urging them to serve and love and walk in faith. This is no small thing, but it is the sign of new life in Christ.
In the case of certain men, whom I could name, I feel a great mistake was made. As soon as they were converted, they were taken right out of their former associations and set before the public as popular preachers. It’s a great pity that many made little kings of these preachers and, in so doing, prepared the way for their fall. You see, they couldn’t bear the sudden change. It would have been better for them if everybody had bucked and abused them for ten or twenty years. It would probably have saved them from much misery later.
Many apologies for my long absence and much thanks for your prayers and support. I didn’t intend to take all October off of podcasting, but it began with extreme busyness and ended on a very high and low point. The low being getting sick, and the high being getting engaged to my wonderful girlfriend. Please continue to pray for both!
This chapter presses in hard on what the character of a preacher must be, but all the moreso it presses in on what every believer must strive after as he walks as a disciple of Christ. Take a moment, think about the sins in your life that you struggle to even see as sins, the ones that plague you daily and persist in tripping you up either because you actually kind of like them or because you find yourself bound to run to them for comfort in hard times.
This chapter is not saying, “if you don’t get those areas cleaned up, you can’t be a Christian.” On the contrary, the fact that we struggle and fight against them rather than walk in them without fear and make regular practice of them mark our lives in Christ. Every day we have to drag these evils to the cross and it seems like they come crawling right back. But by the grace of God, we have the joy and duty to drag them right back to that cross again, to crucify the flesh.
If we hide our sins, if we make practice of them without fear and without concern about their effects on our hearts and on our walk with Christ, that’s what should really bring about fear. There cannot be any such thing as peace between holiness and sin. You cannot be a Christian who holds sin close to his heart in any way. The Holy Spirit will not let us walk in such ways in peace.
I pray this reading is a blessing to you, and that I will walk in this diligently as well. Please feel free to reach out to me with prayer requests, and please do continue to pray for me as well.
As soul winners, we are not to hold up a modified standard of holiness before our people and say, “You’ll be all right if you reach that standard.” Scripture says, He that commits sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8). Remaining under the power of any known sin is a mark of our being the servants of sin, for his slaves ye are to whom ye obey (Romans 6:16). The boasts of a man who harbors the love of any transgression are ineffectual.
Chapter 2 of The Soul Winner presses into first matters of preaching the gospel: bringing the weight of sin to bear on those who hear. This is something that, as many will point out, often seems lacking in a lot of modern Western churches. The words “Jesus saves!” are not lacking, but exactly what Jesus saves from is not made clear. For the sake of all those who read this, I will make it clear: that salvation is from the wrath of God that is coming against all sin.
The preaching of the gospel can hardly be considered started if we don’t begin where the Bible does: with man’s sinfulness, and his need for a holy and perfect Savior, found only and completely in Jesus. My church has a little slogan we use, that our desire is “showing the beauty of Jesus to the heart of Denton.” Surely we seek after that, and one of the components of that showing is the flipside of that coin: showing the ugliness of sin. This doesn’t mean we make a mockery of those who commit sin, or that we act as though we personally are above sin.
On the contrary, it involves us being honest with others about the sin that has marked our lives, and in the same way, showing the way Christ has rendered a transformation in our desires and our hearts. Our society today has decided that such preaching is decidedly bad, because to call someone to repent of sin might also involve calling them to repent of something that they have taken as a very identity of themselves. But that is exactly what we want to do: there is no identity other than in Christ that will bring any hope, and in fact every other identity we could adopt (and I mean every, so don’t think you’ve found the loophole) will ultimately bring only frustration and, in the end, death.
We do desire to show the ugliness of sin, and at the same time, to show exactly how beautiful Jesus is, because “while we were still sinners,” while we were absolutely in love with all manner of sins and idolatries and evil, “Christ died for us.” More than that, He lives for us, as a perfect and great high priest, and by whom we have the right and the joy to go to God in prayer, as adopted children. Rejoice in that, and trust completely in Him.
What is the real winning of a soul for God? Since this is done by a means to an end approach, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of the main actions consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:25). Instruction in the gospel is the beginning of all real work upon men’s minds. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20). Teaching begins the work and crowns it too.
As I mentioned in the last episode, the next few episodes will be from Charles Spurgeon’s Book The Soul Winner. I wanted to take a little break from the regular format, so I thought I would switch over to this.
You can follow the link above to find your own copy of the book on Amazon, with slightly updated language. It’s an interesting book that definitely shows his forthright approach to preaching. Like with everything else here, I hope it is helpful and a blessing.
Let me know in the comments below or by email if you have a favorite Spurgeon sermon you’d like to hear in a future episode.
That returning evil for evil looks like rough and ready justice, I have confessed, but then is any man prepared to follow out for himself and in his own case this rule of justice? Is he prepared to stand before God and receive evil for his evil? “He shall have justice without mercy that shows no mercy.”
Is he willing to stand before God on the same terms as he would have the offending one stand before himself? No, our best and, indeed, our only hope must lie in the mercy of God who freely forgives offenses!
We’ve come quite a ways in the last few months, as I have worked my way towards this goal. I want to again thank my good brother Ed Romine for helping me to select the sermons that made up the bulk of this series. I started this series after I felt a conviction that the subject of unity in the church was a crucial one to discuss. My conviction has not changed since I began, though my reasons and my thoughts have broadened considerably since then.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to conclude this series. For a while I thought that it would wind up in a long conclusion of my own where I would take each point and tie them all together in painstaking detail, driving home a final grand point about the need for unity and the foundation of that unity in Christ and in His gospel. But it seems to me that the book of Romans as a whole, and especially chapter 12, serve as a marvelous display of what I’m trying to say.
So I won’t belabor this with long paragraphs, but I want simply to point to what Paul accomplishes in his text. He begins in chapter one by pointing to man’s need for God’s grace. He demonstrates man’s innate sinfulness and the fact that everyone, whether gentile or Jew, needs to trust to the sacrifice of Christ alone as the basis of their salvation and of their relationship with God as a beloved child.
Christians will sometimes lose the realization of Jesus. The connection between themselves and Christ will be, at times, severed as to their own conscious enjoyment of it, but they will always groan and cry when they lose that Presence. What? Is Christ your Brother and does He live in your house and yet you have not spoken to Him for a month? I hear there is little love between you and your Brother if you have had no conversation with Him for so long.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon 2598, “Spiritual Revival, the Need of the Church”
Just one more episode after this and our series on unity in Christ for the church will be finished. Certainly, this sermon of Spurgeon’s has perhaps more…directness to it. In our day and age, a preacher going up and basically putting a finger directly in the face of his audience and delivering a message a la the prophet Nathan saying to David, “You are the man!” is not going to win that preacher very many friends.
But that points, in many ways, directly to the issue of our day that this century-old sermon still speaks to. The title itself draws out the comparison between a faithful pursuit of Christ and what is seen in many churches–after all, what is a “revival” in many places but a period, however long, where the faith is turned into a grand entertainment and distraction? How often is the concept of “revival” equated, not with life given by the Holy Spirit to live life in Christ, but with brief seasons of great emotion?
But what Charles Spurgeon points to in his sermon is a reminder that the kind of spiritual revival needed in all of us, the kind that God’s people need to call for, is not emotional excitement, though it may and often can contain that. It shouldn’t end with that, however. The kind of revival he is calling us to seek after is the kind that requires everything that we’ve talked about in the previous episodes. The revival is not an upswelling of feeling, but a trusting of our day to day life to a strength that is not our own. And it requires a unity in the body that is not static or intellectual by any means, but is constantly moving even as it rests fully in Christ. I am talking about unity in striving after holiness.