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.
“And now, sons, listen to me; those who keep my ways are happy. Listen to instruction and be wise; don’t ignore it. Anyone who listens to me is happy, watching at my doors every day, waiting by the posts of my doorway. For the one who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but the one who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death.”
This weekend I was invited by a friend of mine to speak at a Bible study for a local addiction recovery program in our area. Every Saturday they are taught out of the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with that day’s date, so my teaching was out of Proverbs 8. I recorded the sermon, and I present it here, hoping it may bless my listeners.
In particular I was struck by those closing words of Lady Wisdom in the chapter: “All who hate me love death.” To hate God’s wisdom, to despise the way He has designed our world to function, is to actually love death. And truly, we express that hatred in an incredibly creative myriad of methods. I see that twisted love expressed in so many ways in my city and in this world, and I earnestly yearn for its end. I want God to open ears, to soften hearts, and to let people see how beautiful Jesus is…and the ugliness of their sin.
I can’t do this by my own wisdom or strength. But I will do what I can where God has put me, and at my own little crossroads right here, to call those around me to heed Lady Wisdom’s words and turn from a love of evil to a love of the One who made them.
Our first consideration should not be, “Now I am here, how can I be comfortable?” but “I am here, how can I please others for their good? How can I relieve the distressed, help the weary, or cheer the sad?” It is a grand thing to do good in little ways. It is a glory to be the sweetener of life at home, the self-forgetting friend of all around. The world before long confesses that Christ is in such a man. The true Christian is Jesus Personified.
This sermon was honestly one of my favorite ones to read so far, and especially so because it’s rooted in such an important passage in my favorite book of the Bible, the gospel of John. Likewise, it has also been a tremendously convicting one in many positive ways, and I would echo my good brother’s words in that I “confess that I have not yet attained all that I have said to you.” Indeed, I feel that I am a lot farther from that than Charles Spurgeon would have been at this time in his life. But it is in pursuit of that, that we all continue to run towards the cross as we do.
And it is of that unified goal and unified struggle that I want to continue speaking on in this podcast. I want to look at two passages that sit heavily on my own heart. As Charles Spurgeon said in this sermon, I as much as anyone else am very sensitive to the ways in which I have fallen short, and must trust to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit for my desire to grow more in step with these words of Scripture. The first passage, like our sermon text, is from John, the words of Jesus:
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 CSB
The second is from Romans 12, where Paul talks about the outworkings of this, what it really looks like for the disciples of Jesus to love one another:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Romans 12:9-21 CSB
Unity in grace
This is why unity has to begin with the gospel and therefore work out into our lives; our works must bear the fruit of our faith. So how is it that we can live in such a way that we may reflect that need, in such a way that we can carry out the words of Paul, while engaging with each other over issues that bring deep divides, in calling for repentance from sin?
We must realize that it is entirely God’s grace that we have what we are able to enjoy in this life. And, we must look to showing that grace out in how we use what we have in light of the human divisions that we still have. I think that it’s important to lay a foundation of love and service. And I have to press myself most of all on this: where am I seeking to directly serve and share with those whom I disagree with, to display our brotherhood that runs deeper than an opinion? Where am I hiding from either my own sin or from speaking to a brother to encourage him to repent of his own? Where am I failing to love a brother or sister? Where am I being lazy in seeking to root out the hypocrisy of my life? Where am I not hating what is evil and not loving what is good?
Unified in abundance and in suffering
The struggle is real to remember the unifying factor of the cross between believers. What’s the difference between engaging error or heresy, and being a divider of the brethren? It seems to be a fine line, and all the harder to discern when the primary mode of engagement is 280 characters a pop rather than seeking to truly know someone. It won’t be my place to try to establish that in full here (though there will be future episodes of King’s Highway Radio to discuss some of the issues that bring that division). But let’s look at a few of the things from those passages just to get an idea of what I think it should look like:
Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. These words of Jesus lay the standard from the beginning: Himself, and His love. What greater example of the self-sacrificial love is there than Jesus giving Himself up to the horrors of death by crucifixion? And after that, His loving forgiveness and restoration of Peter for his betrayal, displaying the depths of His mercy not as simply an impersonal setting aside of wrong, but of a personal act that transforms the hearts of His people in ways that we can scarcely consider.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. This is truly a challenge in our modern world, where the idea of something being evil or good is convoluted beyond belief. Indeed, the words of Isaiah in “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” echo throughout the world today. But let’s take a moment to think about, how do we apply these words to a situation where sin has entered into the life of a member of our church?
What is evil? This sin is evil, and its destructive power is clearly seen in the impact it’s having on the life of this person and those around them. I don’t think I need to be more specific than that to have anyone listening to me be able to instantly bring to mind an example they’ve personally experienced. We are to detest it, to abhor that sin, to hate it and desire its destruction. Yet we are also to cling to the good, to hold fast to it and not let it go. What is good? It’s what we remind that struggling saint of in calling them to repentance. It’s the foundation that we as believers have to call out sin in the world as a whole: we are made by God, in His image, and it is that image that shines through and demands to be seen in the light of His glory. Sin dims that glory, it takes what is beautiful and turns it into an evil mockery of God’s goodness. We are to hate that evil, but to love the good and call for repentance on that foundation: let your lives be made not on twisted sinful distortions of God, but truly in His image, seen perfectly in the person and work of Jesus.
Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Finally, let’s truly rely upon God in all circumstances. The pain of persecution was fully upon the early church often, yet they endured it in the hope that was rooted in Christ and poured out in them through the Holy Spirit. Their rejoicing was in the finished work of Jesus, but also in knowing that they had a hope that was stronger than any meager temporary reprieve from discomfort the world might offer them. And this is the conviction that rests on my heart, that I’m going to share with you all now: am I truly being patient when affliction comes, or am I griping and groaning under it until it passes? Am I persistently seeking the Lord in prayer, or am I being lazy in exercising this amazing right I have as a child of the Living God to enter His throne room and seek His face?
Brothers and sisters, I think we all need to wrestle with these questions, yet in hope, not in despair. Do we fall short? Then trust Jesus. Cry out with the words of the father of the possessed boy, “I believe, help my unbelief!” God is happy to hear our cries and always gives good gifts to His children.
So here’s my challenge to my brothers and sisters in Christ: let’s apply these words to our walk, to our conversation, to our thoughts. I hope we will all put ourselves into positions to be accountable to our brothers and sisters of our local church in seeking holiness and obedience in showing this love. We cannot separate God’s love from holiness, or vice versa. Let’s encourage one another in showing gracious love through enduring the suffering of this present life, knowing that we have a hope that shines far beyond anything we could ever have in this world.
The Church is not a number of unregenerate people coming together entirely of their own notion to defend such-and-such dogmas. Such persons may form a club, but they cannot make a Church! There must be a coming together of renewed men, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit–and these must meet for purposes which God Himself ordains–and be joined together after His own fashion.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon 1436: What The Church Should Be
We are returning to the Unity in Christ series with today’s episode. The preceding two episodes on this point I have focused on particular aspects of unity: what it is founded on and what its fruit is to be, and I want to continue in that today. I’ve talked about the foundation of unity, which is the gospel, and the law of love which guides that unity, for God above all and for neighbor as for ourselves. Today I want to talk about another component of unity, one that builds upon and refines the idea of what love looks like in the church: we are unified in our humility.
Right away I know a lot of folks will scoff at this, and certainly I don’t blame them. In the West, in the United States, sadly it’s rare to find a more arrogant and self-important person than one who is outwardly-identifying as a Christian. Years ago when I worked in food service, whenever I encountered someone with a fish on their bumper and terrible Christian t-shirts (think “ABreadcrumb and Fish” or some such other quasi-parody of an established trademark), I knew two things were almost sure to be true: I was probably not going to get a tip, and there was a very high likelihood that this person was going to complain in attempts to get discounts. Sadly, my suspicions were often found to be true.
But this is why it’s important to talk about this, and hopefully to begin to push us all, myself included, towards greater humility and, by extension, greater love and holiness. Remember back to the Beatitudes series: blessed are…who? The meek, the humble, for they shall inherit the earth. So often we believe that we have to win ground by our own doings and wisdom, and then hold it by any means necessary, when what we ought to be doing is trusting our ways and thoughts to the means God has ordained for us.
What does that mean? It means that if you see someone being wrong on the Internet, pulling out the proverbial sword and running them through is probably not the best way to handle it, but rather to remember that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) That even includes situations where we may sincerely believe the other person is deeply wrong and misguided. Certainly we see the way that Jesus responded to the Pharisees. He was never arrogant towards them. He was firm, founded on the truth of the Scriptures, and direct, but he never spoke to them without the end goal being the proclamation of the truth or without their own need in mind.
Yes, even for the Pharisees, what Jesus said was to point to their need first: they believed themselves holy by the nature of their birth and then by their adherence to rules above and beyond the law. That is the starting point of the gospel for everyone: our need in the face of the truth of God’s holiness. Jesus pointed to the truth of their wicked and lusting hearts, their selfishness and arrogance that led them to take what was meant to lead the people of Israel to repentance and hope, and instead turn it into a crushing burden and misery.
The image of Christ: the humble servant
It was humility that led the Son of God to come to live among us as a man. Look to Paul’s words in Philippians 2:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love,if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:1-11, CSB
We are not to act out of selfishness…yet how often have our thoughts, words, and deeds been marked by them? I know mine have far more often than I would ever care to admit. We are to put conceit to death, yet how often do we prize our own judgments over God’s, and over others’? Again, the weight of conviction presses on my own heart here as much as it may against any other. Our hope lies in the truth that, as His beloved children, we have the right to drag these sins into the light again and again, nailing them to the cross, and trusting to the truth that, in Christ, we have truly died to them in God’s eyes even if in this moment we still feel their scars on us.
Submission to truth
Will we dare to believe that the truth of Christ, then, is not sufficient to serve as the rock upon which the church can be built? I saw recently online an individual proclaiming essentially that, that because those who insufficiently opposed or even supported certain evils of the past also proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ vicarious atonement of our sins, that this is not enough, that we need some kind of further conviction and action in the church. How can we as those who stand in God’s grace dare to find His means insufficient?
Do we know more than our God who sees fit to bring to nothing a man’s mighty work, only to replace it with His own, founded on the work of the cross? Do we know more about the heart of a man for God than God Himself? And dare we forget that each of us in Christ has had the same insurmountable debt paid by the Son? There can be no other standard for us than God’s holiness.
I’ve also encountered the argument, mainly from those in the secular mindset, that to believe in the concept of a set and firm truth at all, let alone to proclaim that truth to the world, is itself arrogant. I’ve been told essentially, “You have your truth, but that doesn’t affect my truth,” as though “truth” is something that can oppose itself. But at its root, this too is a deeply arrogant position. It says that God is unable to make Himself known to His creation, and that revealed truth is the product of men rather than God. But in making that argument, they deny their own claims, because to say such a thing itself demands a sort of foundation of universal truth, albeit a twisted and confused one.
As Christians we don’t simply live with information in our heads. It must transform our hearts, inform our words and deeds, and lead us to become more like the image of Christ each day. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” so let us seek that humble path. This is a hard thing to consider, because it includes things like making peace where enmity reigns, serving a person who shows no love in return, and even giving up our own pursuits for the good of another–all things that are echoes of the life and work of Christ. It is to Him that we look for the image of humility, Him that deserves all glory and worship, and yet chose to become a man and suffer a life of ignominy, and a death of treachery and horror, for the sake of destroying the hold of sin and death over man.
The Lord said to His disciples that the one who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven must be the servant of all. The path to this humility is one that the we must model as the church, and our leaders most of all. Charles Spurgeon said of the path by which we grow in this quality, “God comes into our heart—He finds it full—He begins to break our comforts and make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have because he will be more fitted to receive it.” As we still walk in what we consider wise, God’s wisdom overrides and leads us through what we must, so that we can come to find ourselves before Him with holy hearts that long to love and serve our Lord and our brethren.
We can’t pretend. We can’t hide from that breaking, and if we could we would only miss what would lead us closer to Him–what Romans 8:28 promises will work together for our good, no matter how painful it may be. Obey the apostle Paul when he commends the church of Philippi, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” Let’s embrace this truth with all seriousness, and look for the ways we can best reflect Christ in our words and deeds.
This episode is a brief break from the Unity in Christ series. I recently filled in for Jarod preaching for the middle school chapel at Denton Calvary Academy. I was able to record it on my phone, and I spoke to them about what it really means when we say “Jesus paid for my sins on the cross.” There is so much to learn from digging into the Old Testament, and my hope is that they will begin to explore what is, for a lot of Christians in the West at least, an often unknown section of their Bibles.