Tuesday 29 October 2013

Delighting in the Christian Sabbath

Listen to Isaiah 58: 13-14

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This teaching is so alien to many Christians and churches. The Westminster Confession in its 21st Chapter on worship establishes two main points.

1. That there is a Christian Sabbath, which is the Lord's Day, and that is to be observed until the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. That the whole of the Lord's Day is to be a delight, to Christians and the church.

However, is this taught and practiced by Christian's today, especially in the West? The Christian Sabbath is a gift from God and a doctrine of the church cannot be fully operational without the Christian sabbath being a guiding principle to the outworking of church life. R. Scott Clark has made the point that the abandonment of the Lord's Day evening service has promoted the so-called Lord's half day, which actually is not taught in Scripture.

Notice that in Isaiah 58:13 that the people of God are to firstly "call the sabbath a delight". Secondly, by practicing the Sabbath rightly then "you shall take delight in the Lord". This is far from an individualistic "me and my Jesus" mentality. The practice of the whole of the Lord's Day is in urgent need of being rightly taught, practiced and loved. This is central to delighting in the Lord and substitutes to this command cannot replace God's pattern for delighting in Him. Perhaps the starting point is to pray for ourselves, and to seek forgiveness from the Lord where there has been wilful disobedience and neglect of God's command at this point.

May we learn to take the "yoke of Christ" and delight in the Lord's Day each week.

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Christian's greatest spiritual danger

In a recent conference I attended, there was a panel of godly and seasoned ministers who were asked various questions. One of the questioners inquired "which are the three greatest spiritual dangers of Christian ministry?". Ian Hamilton, the minister of Cambridge Presbyterian Church answered "pride, pride and pride". What is true for Christian ministers is equally true of Christians also and we must always be on our guard against this slippery enemy of our souls.

John Calvin emphasises in a number of places in his Institutes of the Christian Religion the need for true humility. In Book 2:11 he explains that “True humility gives God alone the honour”. He then quotes Augustine of Hippo who taught that "when a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, 'Delivery'; what was the second rule 'Delivery'; what was the third rule, 'Delivery'. So if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second and third and always I would answer, 'Humility' ".

The teaching of holy Scripture is abundantly clear concerning the spiritual danger of pride and the need for true humility. Listen to three passages.

The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12). This is as sure as the law of gravity. Those who exalt themselves will be abased and similarly the humble will be exalted.

James understood this truth as he teaches that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:6-7). Therefore, we must seek the Lord to grow in humility and seek the Lord in prayer for pride to rooted out of our souls.

Finally, listen to Peter, the apostle who learned that pride is a real enemy of the soul when he boasted that he would never fall away from Christ and then he denied his master three times. Peter exhorts: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you" (1 Peter 5:6)

May we all be aware of the danger of pride because some Christians do not realise that this is even a problem. Then once we acknowledge this spiritual danger, may we pursue three things: Humility, humility and humility!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Frederick Leahy, "The Cross He Bore"

This is my favourite book that I have read so far in 2013. It is a short book of just 13 chapters of devotional thoughts regarding the Sufferings of Christ which was for our sakes and our salvation. It is theologically rich, yet it is written in such a way, that the person and work of Christ may well move you to tears.

Ted Donnelly writes in the foreword: "We are too apt to hurry past the cross, to undervalue, in spite of ourselves, the supreme mystery of the ages by a shallow assumption that we know it all". Donnelly continues "We need to 'behold', to 'survey', to 'stand and stare'.

Let me give you one more taster from the first chapter called "Man of Sorrows" which expounds Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. The seasoned pastor Frederick Leahy closes this chapter with these words: "Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes". If you do get hold of this book published by the Banner of Truth, may it soften your heart and moisten your eyes.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). May the soft words and humility of the Lord Jesus Christ, as displayed in this precious book, cause our own hearts to be softened with godly devotion to the Triune God.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Radio Interview on "Engaging with Keller"

Yesterday (1st October 2013), I was interviewed live by a radio station about the book "Engaging with Keller". While I think my answers could have been better, I was impressed with the interviewer Kevin Boling.

The website link is: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=10113125283

I hope that you find this helpful because the interviewer had really done his research and he brought out a range of very valuable points.

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end, Psalm 119:33.