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.
When we think about God’s mercy being shown, usually we look to passages in the gospels where Jesus is speaking gently to sinners, or the didactic teachings of the apostles clearly speaking on God’s great mercy and grace. But in reading today’s selection for Scripture Sunday, I want to point out that God’s mercy is shown even in these early Old Testament passages. So many people deserved to be destroyed, but were blessed with prosperity and family. And most clearly, God’s mercy is seen in His saving of life on Earth in the face of impending judgment through His command to Noah to build the ark–an early image of Christ and His role as the one in whom all are to be saved from final judgment.
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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.
Our new Scripture Sunday feature is continuing, this time with a series that will take a little more time. God willing, we will be making our way through the entire Pentateuch three chapters at a time.
What is the Pentateuch? It’s the term for the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those books contain so much: history, poetry, and law just as starters. My desire as we dig into these books is that we will worship God together as we see how He has planted and tended the seeds of redemption that was to come in Jesus.
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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.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 CSB
We’ve been livestreaming readings of Scripture on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page for a few weeks now, and as originally planned I want to start releasing them on the podcast feed as well. If you don’t currently follow the page on Facebook, please consider coming on over and following us for more content!
This week we read the entire book of Colossians. You can learn more about the translation used here as well as read for free or buy your own copy.
Do you want to join a perfect Church? You must die. You will not do it otherwise. And if you were to join a perfect Church, I am sure it would not be perfect after you had been admitted into it. You had better give up that idea and just believe what God says about His own Church, “You are my flock, the flock of my pasture, you are men.” Come, then, with us, and we will do you good.
I’ve talked about the unity the church has in the most central issue of the gospel of Jesus. I’ve talked about the unity we have in crucial areas of love, humility, and suffering. This time my desire is to talk to you all about the unity we have in the central and primary practice of the church, as a group and individually: unity in worship.
Now, I want to set the boundaries of this idea first: this is not about music, though music and singing are inexorably part of the church’s worship of God. Likewise, this isn’t going to be a rant about musical styles or certain groups and churches, though inevitably that will be a point to discuss later on as a fruit of this. I invite that discussion, in fact, either here in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter, or through email if you’d prefer to discuss your thoughts privately. There are practices that even my own church uses, like instruments, that Spurgeon himself would not have approved of.
What I want to do is define worship, its purpose, and its ends in the body of Christ. As one body and as individual churches, we join together weekly to bare our hearts before our Lord. We cry out praises to Him for who He is, and our need for Him to strengthen us to obey His Word, to die to ourselves and to live to Christ.
When the church worships together, it declares its confidence that God will fulfill His promises and remembers how He has already done exactly that. We confess our faith that lies in the cross, we instruct the weaker brother to pursue God boldly, and we correct the erring brother who may fear that the Lord’s mercies are not sufficient to cover him. We confess our sins and weaknesses to God and we embrace His great and glorious grace, and remember that His love and patience will long outlast our sin.
Worship is not just music. To be honest, I’ve never liked the phrases “worship team” or “worship minister” to refer to those who are involved in music for a worship service. That’s just it: all of a service is worship. We worship through raising our voices in song; we worship through hearing the Word preached faithfully; we worship through sacrificial giving to strengthen our own body and for the needs of others; and we worship through observing the ordinances of the church. When a brother or sister is baptized, we rejoice and cry out in worship of God for the faith demonstrated both in the finished work of Christ and in the promise of the day when we will see Jesus face to face, free from sinful weights and made totally new. And I cannot think of a more worshipful time than for a church to take communion together, to take part in a physical remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
The psalms display so many facets of what the worshiping believer’s heart cries out. We join our voices with David in Psalm 27 when we declare our complete confidence and faith in God’s work for our salvation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3, CSB
When our hearts ache for intimacy for God, when He feels far and when fear presses in, we can let the light of the Word drive back the darkness alongside the sons of Korah:
I will say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:9-11 CSB
And when sin wounds, when we stumble and fall and need His restoring hands to heal us, David again comes to aid us:
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God— God of my salvation— and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
Psalm 51:10-17 CSB
While worship serves to bring our hearts before God, and seeks His ministry (as it should!), worship is not about us. So often worship becomes a thing where men seek to bring glory to themselves. I won’t belabor this with many examples, except to say, this is an area where we all must guard our own hearts. We are going before the holy God who made you and who bought you for the price of His Son’s precious blood. It should not be a light and easy thing, nor should worship be simply an emotional high. That is not to say that it should be emotionally dead; I think a lot of times this becomes something of a false dichotomy for churches, where we feel we either have to be this over-the-top rock concert for Jesus, or a dour congregation that goes through the motions with Vulcan-like self-control.
Overwhelming joy in Christ is a wonderful thing! I can think of many beautiful times where joining in the body of Christ brought me to joyful tears or overflowing happiness. But we need to be careful that worship does not simply become the method by which we seek our next “hit” of an emotional high. If worship is designed simply to seek this over and over, I think it is wise to ask the question: is this worship about Jesus, or about me?
I am looking forward to joining the body again and again to seek the Lord’s face, and I hope that the same desire is in you. Above all, I want the unity in worship that the church shares to drive us to greater heights of unity in the areas I mentioned in previous episodes: in love, in humility, and serving and suffering. Worship should never terminate on ourselves, and it should never conclude with the final chord or the benediction. It should be a refreshing draught that lets us rejoin the outside world ready to display the love of Jesus to those around us, full of faith and peace.
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.