Spurgeon Audio: Satan Considering the Saints

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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.”

Charles H. Spurgeon, sermon 623, “Satan Considering the Saints”

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:

The Bible Project: Job, from the Wisdom series

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.

Refining fires

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.

Support and notes

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Episode 66: Mr. Fearing Comforted

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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.

Charles Spurgeon, sermon 246, “Mr. Fearing Comforted”

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.

Your support

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.

As I said in the podcast, please DO NOT donate if it will interfere with your giving to your local church. That needs to be your first financial giving priority and I do not want to interfere. But if you are able and willing, I hope you will join me as I and Jarod try to build this podcast out into something we can all enjoy and grow from.

Episode 37: The Novelties of Divine Mercy

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Read the full sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

I want to again thank all of you who have been patient through this last hiatus, and especially for those of you close to me who have been actively praying for and ministering to me during this time.  This was not a “I’m just really busy” hiatus.  I mentioned in the last episode that there was some turmoil ongoing, and unfortunately it ended in the worst possible way: my wife and I are no longer married.  I have no intention of divulging more information than that, but to answer the questions I know many of you concerned will have: yes, this is the end of a process that involved church elders and it is something that was not entered into lightly in any way.  I will not say more than that, out of respect for privacy.  Those of you who do know us, I appreciate your constant prayers and the loving support that you all have shared through this.

I’ve waited to continue this podcast and blog until after everything was officially finalized.  I plan to move forward continuing to trust God in my darkest times, continuing to pray for Jessica, and continuing to rely on the support of His people.  I am particularly grateful for the godly men and women who have gathered around me to minister to me through all this.

The fact is that this has been a deeply tragic event for me, and I have struggled with understanding it and with my own emotions, both in trying to figure out exactly how I should feel and think, as well as finding constructive ways to work through my deeper feelings.  I have been hurt down to my deepest parts, and I have lost my partner.  The pain I have had to endure, the sadness and anger, has been of a kind I can scarcely hope to describe meaningfully.

But as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians, I do not grieve as a person who has no hope.  Through all of this, God has held me steady and been true to His promise to provide a way of escape from the temptation to sin.  I picked this sermon because the chapter it is from, Lamentations 3, was a strength to me in this dark time.  It is a reminder that even though God ordains the darkness, it ultimately serves to the purpose of greater joy when the light comes.

I won’t say that the light has reached me yet, at least in this matter.  I will say that God is good, and God is gracious, and I will trust Him with each new step in life.  To my listeners who have similar struggles, I would say to you: Do the same.  Trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

I have had a few people talk with me about this that clearly expected me to have become embittered towards Jessica in particular, and towards the institution or concept of marriage in general.  But I have no intention of letting a root of bitterness grow down into my heart towards either, for several reasons: Firstly, because that would be an incredibly selfish position to take, that would make my marriage all about what I want and what I get out of it, rather than glorify God or honor my wife even in the aftermath of all this; secondly, because I am aware of the ways in which my own sinfulness has contributed to this regardless of other circumstances and such an attitude would be completely unrepentant and un-Christian on my part; and thirdly, because I have not become a different person as a result of this.  I still desire to represent Jesus with the way I live and work and speak.  I still want to grow in love, and in the grace and knowledge of God–even more now, I would say.  I still want to put my sin to death.

On a purely personal level…this has been the most tragic time I’ve walked through in my life.  I am deeply grateful to those who have gathered around me during this time, to hold me up in my weakness, to remind me of my true strength in Jesus, and to pour out love onto one who was feeling deeply unloved.  But this has been the darkest moment of my life, and I have had to continually turn to prayer and to the strength of my brothers and sisters to help me deal with the enormous weight I have felt upon my shoulders.  I have been wrestling day by day with the myriad ways I have sinned and contributed, and having to drag it to the foot of the cross each time.  There has been no time for self-pity.

All of this may seem very vague in a sense to many, and honestly it should.  Those who need to know more details of my and Jessica’s personal lives know them.  To the rest of the world, I would simply ask for prayer.  I intend to press forward into Jesus regardless of anything else.

To those listening who are facing darkness, for whom hard times come hard and fast, and who are feeling the weight of despair on their shoulders: I want to urge you, do not hesitate.  Do not hide in the dark, because there you will only find more of what afflicts you.  Turn to Christ, and run to Him.  Make yourself and your struggles known to His people, to those who can love you and gather close to minister to you in those times.  The reason the Scriptures are so full of good texts to apply to suffering is because suffering is something that all humans have in common as long as we live in this world.  Trust the goodness of God even in your darkest times, and do not hide your struggles.  Drag them to the light!  Leave them at the foot of the cross, and do it every day!  Trust to the renewed grace of God every morning, and never believe that God is tired of you, or that His church has better things to do.  This is what it is for: to weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  We are called simply to trust Him in all things, and that is all I can do in this time of deep pain.

Sermon text

Episode 25: Sovereignty and Salvation

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Sermon text here

This week’s song: Truly You Are the Son of God by the Loverlies

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the truth of God’s sovereignty in all things, and in salvation in particular.  Honestly, it serves as a foundation stone of my worship of God.  I am compelled to kneel at the throne of a God who is truly, fully, the King of all creation.  And yet He is not just a distant monarch, some far off potentate who sends in messengers to remind us all that He’s in charge.  He is my King that knows me, that made me, and has His perfect purposes for me.

I talked last week about resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  This truth of God’s sovereignty is the root of that work: because God is king of all things and because He is the one who gives purpose and motion to everything, He can use the most tragic and wicked event of man’s rebellion–regicide–to become instead the perfect payment for sin that covers all those who claim the name of Christ.

So what does that mean to me?  He still seems far off a lot of times.  That can be true, though personally I can only say that when I have been undisciplined in pursuing prayer and the Word, and instead toying with the foolishness of sin.  Yet even in that He hasn’t been far, and has never been slow in answering calls for help.  Day by day we all depend on God’s sovereignty, but how much do we take for granted?

We turn on the news and hear one distressing thing or another, and the temptation is to fret, to fear and worry, to complain.  For the believer this is deadly to our work as “ministers of reconciliation.”  I do not believe that we can both preach a bold and true Gospel that calls all people to turn away from their sin and look to Christ, to the healing and restoration that comes from trusting in Him and His perfect sacrifice, while at the same time engaging in hand-wringing about politics.  Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.  But we can vote, and discuss, and disagree, without fearing.  What cause do we have to fear when we have a God who is truly over all and Who has no other who can hope to oppose Him?  We already know the truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.–Romans 8:28-30

This is work that is completed and fulfilled in the eyes of the Father, founded on the finished once for all work of the Son, and carried out in our lives through every circumstance by the Spirit.  The holy, just, loving, infinite-personal Trinitarian God of the universe really is in charge.  So, American voters: it’s true that it looks pretty likely that either way we’re going to end up with a wicked ruler.  I would agree with many that we are seeing the judgment of God coming on this land that has embraced so much wickedness.  But even in that we remember that God retains His remnant and cares for them perfectly.  We remember that His Word never goes forth without accomplishing His purpose.  And we remember the bold words of a man whose life ended under a Roman blade:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:31-39

So we worship, we work, we rest, and we run the race set before us.  So leave the worry and fear behind, brothers and sisters, and let God’s sovereignty over everything–especially over you–be the constant reminder that leads you to worship and rejoice.