Saturday 29 April 2017

Run from Pride as from a Bear

Pride is a spiritual disease which is a killer. Every true Christian must wage war against the sin of pride, yet pride comes in so many forms.
James 4:6-8 "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you".

2 Corinthians 2:11 "so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs".

We must ensure that we are not unaware of Satan's scheme of pride. There are few better than William Gurnall to unpick the lock of secret pride. In his book "The Christian in Complete Armour" he exposes the sin of pride most helpfully. On pages 187-213 he undoes the sin of spiritual pride. Pride of grace, pride of gifts, pride of privileges .

How would you respond if you were walking in the USA and a bear appeared? The natural instinct would be to run. How much more we must run from pride. Also we should NOT sit with professing Christians who persist in pride either, lest they infect our soul with this dreaded disease. Some diseases are contagious and such is pride. Our pride tells us "no, I can handle it. Their pride will not affect me". Are you so sure O Christian?

Joesph fled from Potiphar's wife so why do you stand gazing at sin and consider yourself lest you also be tempted? I commend this book by Gurnall again, even if you simply open a few pages. I read this morning Mark 13 and it was a reminder there by the Lord Jesus. He emphasises the need to "be on your guard" and to "be alert". May God help us by his Holy Spirit for us to walk in genuine humility.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32-37.

Thursday 27 April 2017

O. Palmer Robertson Preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church

We are thankful that O. Palmer Robertson will be preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church on the Lord's Day of the 7th May 2017. Palmer spends 6 months of the year in Cambridge and the other 6 months in Uganda. Palmer has written some fine books such as Christ of the Covenants, and his latest book on the Psalms called "The Flow of the Psalms".

In England and especially in Sheffield, we need as much help as possible to expose people to solid biblical and reformed ministry. Yorkshire is very thin in terms of churches who openly hold to Reformed confessions and a Reformed understanding of worship. Therefore, we are thankful for Palmer visit, a minister who is firmly anchored in reformed truth, while being joyfully committed to the great commission. If you would like to come then you are welcome, but also you can listen to his sermons which will be on our website as well. The website is

Saturday 22 April 2017

Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

A friend of mine recommended this book to me and it has just arrived. The contents list looks promising with 27 chapters on Christ. Each chapter is called "Christ's ..."; for example we have Christ"s Prayers and Christ's Sinlessness, his Exaltation and so on. The foreword is by J. I. Packer with a play on words with PAcker's book called Knowing God.

It is published by the Banner of Truth and looks promising. 250 pages to warm the heart and inform the mind. I have not read it yet, but that is my thoughts as I am on the verge of beginning to turn the pages.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Religious Hypocrisy does not only affect Liberals and Roman Catholicism!

In recent times, it is well documented of the hypocrisy that has been uncovered among the Roman Catholic fraternity. The outstanding movie "Spotlight" (2015) records the expose of the child sex-abuse scandal in the Greater Boston area. With a priesthood who are forbidden to marry, such sinfulness working in darkness is no surprise to believing Protestant evangelicals. Paul warned Timothy: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim 4:1-4).

Similarly, among liberals, those who do not believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus or the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, we may well expect double-standards and hypocrisy. However, a prideful self-deception emerges when Christians think that because a church community holds to Reformed Confessions and the authority of the Bible, that hidden sin must be a rarity or that hypocrisy is not our primary concern. This is not biblical thinking.
Three teachings by the Lord Jesus Christ come to my mind for us to freshly consider this subject.

1. Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".

This is not a call to lay aside good discernment with the phrase "do not judge", but rather it is a call to examine oneself against hypocrisy. What is remarkable is that hypocrites are able to talk of this subject, while living in hypocrisy. Spiritual blindness hinders our spiritual vision and pride is the root of this problem.

2. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness' ".

An evangelical Christian religion that refuses to exhort all professing Christians to self-examination is failing the people of God. Here, the Lord Jesus teaches that is absolutely possible to outwardly teach, preach and do mighty works, and yet to not be one of the Lord's people. It is not by might, gifts, eloquence or outward success that we know who are Christians, but by their fruits, we shall know them.

3. Matthew 15:7-9 "You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

In musing on this blog post, let me put forward a number of signposts that may identify a Christian hypocrite. Someone who believes themselves to be a Christian, and yet they may not be the Lord's.

* Pride is the most obvious. When trials come, do such people respond in pride or in humility and teachability? If there is one mark of true Christianity, it is the willingness to be corrected and to be taught (Matthew 28:18-20).
* Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Religious hypocrites never talk of their personal spiritual struggles, instead they want to keep up false religious appearances. This is the result of pride and deception.
* Over the years, I have noticed some people after worship services, they never talk of the Lord, or of how the Lord has blessed them through the sermon, or of what the Lord has been teaching them in their personal devotions. Why is this?
Enjoying communion with the Lord in public worship and through our personal communion and prayer is an important means of grace and sign of being sanctified. There needs to be more than a burst of enthusiasm for these things but sustained long term, growth in knowing the Lord. Those who hear from Christ "I never knew you" could say the same of themselves of their knowing Christ, if they were honest they would acknowledge "I do not know Christ". They could then ask the church "will you please help me to know Christ Jesus personally?". Does this describe you as you read this blog? Be honest with yourself, because the gospel calls you to submit to Christ and to plead for mercy that you may be born again (John 3:1-8).
* A mark of some hypocrites is that they thrive on gossip, division, controversy and problems.
* The primary aim of this blog is pastoral. I want to win people to Christ for those who may not really know Him and yet think that they do. Also, I hope that this article is pastorally helpful, because it is perplexing when people profess to know Christ and yet their heart is in reality, far from Him.

We all need a fresh return to Paul's exhortation in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13. Why? The last thing we want is for people to falsely assume they have a good confession of the Christian faith, only to find out on the day of judgement that they have been kidding themselves and then to hear the words of the Lord Jesus "Depart from me, I never knew you".

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for (2 Cor 13:5-6)".

Tuesday 18 April 2017

"The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall

It is beyond doubt that this is a Puritan and Christian classic: "The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall. It is 656 pages long, and I have put off reading it, that is until recently. I have now decided to dip into it and to read a portion of it, rather than attempt the whole book. We must use this strategy more often when tackling writings by Puritans. We must not hold back reading the Works of Puritans, in thinking that we must read everything. Let our appetite be whet and then we can come back for more.

A ministerial friend recommended to me the section in this book, one which expounds Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". This section by Gurnall is terrific and how we need to be warned of the many stratagems and methods of the enemy of our souls, the devil. It is sheer unbelief to live as a Christian or as a church, as if the devil does not exist or that his work is irrelevant. This attitude is to leave ourselves open for deception. William Gurnall explains here (pages 177-213) on this single proposition given by Paul that:

"As spirits, they are invisible and their approaches also. They come and you see not your enemy" (page 178). Now this is sobering, therefore we must remain alert against the wiles of the devil, because we cannot see our enemy coming!

Ephesians 6:18 "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints".
Here is another sobering gem from the pen of Gurnall, from page 181:

"Seest thou the monstrous pitch and height of wickedness that is in the devil? All this there is in the heart of every man. There is no less wickedness potentially in the tamest sinner on earth, than in the devils themselves, and that one day thou, whoever thou art, wilt show to purpose, if God prevent thee not by his renewing grace."

Why not get hold of this book and read a section? J. C. Ryle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon were both big supporters of this work. In fact, every Christian who has read it has raved to me about it. The church needs to be armed and equipped against Satan's constant attempts to deceive, discourage and wear us down.

Pick up and read! In the section I have mentioned above, Gurnall unmasks the sins of pride; pride of gifts, pride of grace and pride of privileges and how we all need to pursue humility and renounce all forms of hidden pride.

1 Peter 5:5-9 "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith ...".

Friday 14 April 2017

The Sin of Murmuring: Thomas Brooks expounds against this sin

In the essay by Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 Works, Brooks expounds about this sin in "The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod". As part of the valuable treatise on Psalm 39:9 he expounds the sin of murmering and complaining. Paul wrote to the Philippians: Do all things without grumbling [complaining] or disputing [quarrelling] (2:14). I have added the square brackets.

Which is easiest? To give thanks or to complain and grumble. The latter comes natural to us as sinners. What is more, we have many records in the Old Testament where the people of God grumbled against the Lord and Moses and the Lord judged his people. Note that grumbling is often directed to the Lord's elders. Religious professors get dissatisfied and they feel they have to target their grumbling somewhere and it often at God and his leaders. Such persons rarely think to examine their own sinful heart and work to take the beam out of their own eye (Matthew chapter 7). Which best describes you? Are you willing to humble yourself before the Lord concerning this sin of murmuring?

The Lord does not care much for false religious profession, hypocrisy or sedition. May we walk by God's grace in peace, love and truth.

Psalm 39:9 reads: "I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it".

Thomas Brooks writes against this sin with 12 headings (Works, Volume 1, pages 334-341):

1. First consider that murmuring speaks out many a root of bitterness to be strong in your soul.

2. Second, consider that the Holy Spirit has a set a brand of infamy among murmurers. He has stigmatised them for ungodly persons.

3. Third, consider that murmuring is the mother-sin; it is the mother of harlots, the mother of all abominations; a sin that breeds other sins.

4. Fourth, consider that murmuring is a God-provoking sin; it is a sin that provokes God not only to afflict, but also to destroy a people.

5. Fifth, consider, that murmuring is the devil's image, sin, and punishment.

6. Sixth, consider, that murmuring is a mercy-embittering sin, a mercy-souring sin.

7. Seventh, consider that murmuring is a mercy-destroying sin, a mercy-murdering sin.

8. Eighth, consider that murmuring unfits the soul for duty.

9. Ninth, consider that murmuring unmans a man; it strips him of all reason and understanding.

10. Tenth, murmuring is a time-destroying sin.

11. Eleventh, consider this Christians, that of all men in the world, you have least cause, yea, no cause, to be murmuring and muttering under any dispensation that you meet with in this world.

12. Twelfth, and last, consider that murmuring makes the life of man invisibly miserable.

If you are convicted of this sin, then why not come to Christ Jesus the mediator and ask for forgiveness but also for mercy. Forsake this wretched sin and drink from the living waters offered in the gospel.

John 7:37-39 "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".

Monday 10 April 2017

Honour your Father and Mother: The Fifth Commandment's Challenge to our Culture

We cannot deny that the culture of the day impacts the church. It impacts the attitudes of individual Christians and families. How has contemporary culture shaped your opinions in respect to the fifth commandment?

Exodus 20:12 "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

I like to take time to regularly read the Westminster Standards as part of my spiritual devotions, but also to sharpened as a minister and pastor. I recently read the questions and answers on the fifth Commandment from the Westminster Larger Catechism. The Larger Catechism is perhaps the best Christian document ever produced by the church in the history of the church, in my opinion. But what does it teach on this subject and why is it so relevant?

Questions 123-133 offer perhaps the most detailed explanation of any single doctrine in the whole of the Westminster Standards. These 11 questions are:

123 Which is the fifth commandment?
124 Who are meant by Father and mother in the fifth commandment?
125 Why are superiors styled father and mother?
126 What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
127 What is the honour that inferiors owe to the superiors?
128 What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
129 What is required of superiors toward their inferiors?
130 What are the sins of superiors?
131 What are the duties of equals?
132 What are the sins of equals?
133 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to expound in detail all the points taught here. It is important to realise that superiors means those in authority and inferiors means those under authority. Authority structures are ordained by God, for the church through elders, in the civil realm with the government and police and our leaders at work, and in the home. In the home the husband is the head of the family.

Romans 13:1-2 "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment".

1 Peter 2:18 "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust".

Here are some sins of inferiors; these could be against your church elders or against your boss at work. The list of sins in question 128 includes: "contempt and rebellion against superiors". In question 127 some duties of inferiors includes "prayer and thanksgiving for them [superiors] ... bearing with their infirmities [weaknesses]". Do you do this? I think we all have need of reformation when we read this teaching.

I suggest a careful study of these questions. In order to please our heavenly Father, but also to humble us all. Being reformed is not simply a check box of doctrines, but a life-long pursuit of holiness and submission to the written truth of God's Word.

Monday 3 April 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (Part 2)

It is an established principle and doctrine, that the first day of the week is the God-appointed day for public worship, but in recent decades this day has come under attack, so that many professing Christians worship in one service and probably give less than half of their day to worshipping the Living God. We worship God in the church by the command of God. The divine order for healthy Christianity is worship first and then service second (Matt 4:10). Though all life is to be lived for the glory of God, all of life is not worship. Worship is a conscious act, one to be practiced especially in the corporate setting in the church, on the day appointed by the Son of God. R. Scott Clark rightly contends against the contemporary church and he asks the question: “Whatever happened to the second service?”. Quite simply the Lord commands us to set apart as holy, the whole of the Lord’s Day and two services enables us to structure our day for worship and spiritual nourishment. Do not forget that from a biblical perspective, that preaching is the high point of worship, not singing. In the act of the preaching of sound doctrine, the Lord addresses us and we respond back with prayer and singing.

We are as Christians to be renewed in repentance and faith through our Christian lives. The Word of God comes and shakes our opinions, the Holy Spirit persuades us of the truth and we are then brought to a crossroads where we then respond by either hardening ourselves against the truth or by submitting to it. I fully expect that some people reading this essay will have their consciences awakened to realise their spiritual duties, but also to acknowledge what they are missing out on by not taking the Lord’s Day as the gift from God to them. When we read Isaiah 58:13-14 “… and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour 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 … for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”; these verses should make more sense. A changed mind persuaded by the truth of the written Scriptures, should lead to a change in our doctrine, which should lead to a changed life.

Before we hear the writing of the Puritan George Swinnock, one who is exuberant on the practice and preparation for the Lord’s Day by Christians, let me recommend further reading for study. The Westminster Standards are deliberately placed at the front of this book. We want Christians to read them. I would like to point you to specific points that you can turn to for further study. I suggest that your starting point should be Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession called “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day”. 21:7 and 8 specifically explain the Christian Sabbath, with abundant scriptural proof texts to follow up with. The Westminster Larger Catechism devotes no less than seven questions to teaching the Christian Sabbath from the Fourth Commandment (questions 115-121).

Similarly the Westminster Shorter Catechism devotes 6 questions to the same truth (questions 57-62). This should provide a solid avenue for further study and do pray for the Holy Spirit to instruct you in the process (Psalm 119:18). Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), another English Puritan wrote well, when he stated that “this commandment was engraved in stone by God’s own finger, and it will be our comfort to have it engraved on our hearts”. May we learn of Christ, the one who delighted in each of his sabbaths through his life.

The Seventeenth Century English Puritans excelled in their teaching on the Christian Sabbath. They wrote with clarity, pastoral warmth and a burning love for the honour of the Triune God and the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. One such author on this subject was the Puritan pastor George Swinnock (1627-1673). In the first volume of his later published Works, he wrote on “The Christian Man’s Calling” to expound the much neglected theme of godliness. He expounds 1 Timothy 4:7: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness”. Swinnock then proceeds to lay out pastorally and in detail, what godliness looks like in practice. He devotes a whole chapter on: “How to exercise ourselves to godliness on a Lord’s Day”.

This essay is taken from an excerpt from that particular chapter. He works out his ideas with eight propositions, but we have only included the first proposition (and put this in to modern English). This first proposition connects to the two questions and answers from the Westminster Larger Catechism cited above. Most especially Question 117, in that “we are to prepare our hearts, with such foresight, diligence and moderation” for the Christian Sabbath. It is to the pastoral detriment of the church, in my opinion, when such teaching is hidden from Christians. It is our hope that Swinnock’s passion and pastoral gifts, will stimulate a further recovery of a delighting in the Christian Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13-14) in our own generation. It was Swinnock who probably coined this phrase: The Lord’s Day is “the market-day for your soul” and it is here in this excerpt below, that he expounds this delightful metaphor. It is my intention that this introductory essay and Swinnock’s teaching as well, will “whet our appetite" to more fully enjoy our Sabbaths as “stepping stones” on our journey towards heaven.

Thomas Brooks: "The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod"

Again, we return to theme of encouraging people to read the Puritans rather than just reading about the Puritans. Let me introduce you to a pastoral gem. It is from the Works of Thomas Brooks (6 Volumes), Volume 1 and this pastoral jewel is based on a single verse in Psalm 39:9.

"I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it", Psalm 39:9.

I have never read anything of a similar character, depth or value for the Christian who has suffered or who is suffering under the Lord's chastisement and a time of bitter providence. I have recommended it to many others who are reading this. Brooks writes with clarity, depth, rich explanations and searching analysis. It will lead you to freshly repent and to turn to the heavenly Father in humility.

I commend this work to you!