Why Easter?

why easterEaster has sadly become an increasingly commercialized “holiday” in America today. Ask a random child why they like Easter, and you’re far more likely to hear about the Easter bunny, Easter egg hunts, or baskets full of candy than you are to hear about Jesus, His death and resurrection, and His payment for sin and victory over the grave.

What can we, as Christian parents, do to help combat that commercialization of this central event that we celebrate as a church? One important and helpful resource that has just come out, written by Barbara Reaoch, is called Why Easter? It is a fully illustrated, 4-week devotional designed to help parents lead their families to remember Biblical truths about this significant celebration.

Each day in the devotional is short and easy to use, but packed with helpful truths and reminders. The format for each day looks like this:

(1) Read – Each day is centered around a central passage of Scripture that is intended to be read together by the family. This is the most vital part of each day’s devotional, as it is here that you are reminding your children that God’s Word is the source of Truth and the source for understanding ultimate realities.

(2) Listen – After the passage of Scripture that is read, there is a short section of comments that will help you explain God’s Word to your child.

(3) Truth – This is the main point of the day’s reading, as found in the passage of Scripture. A couple examples are “Jesus took the punishment for sin,” “Jesus was not guilty of any wrongdoing,” and “Jesus is coming again!”

(4) Discuss – After reading and telling your children the main point, there are 3 questions included to help engage your child and stimulate their mind and heart.

(5) Memorize – Each day, you will encourage your child to memorize one verse, which is printed in color in the “Memorize” section. These verses are presentations of the Gospel and are intended to ensure that your child will know and understand what the Gospel is because of these verses they have memorized.

(6) Sing – Finally, children love to sing. So there is a song included at the end for you, as a family, to sing together. All in all, there are 4 songs, one for each week, and they are printed at the back of the book.

With recommendations from the likes of Joni Eareckson Tada, Tedd Tripp, Bruce Ware, and others, you can be sure that the content of this devotional is top-notch. It is Christ-centered throughout, faithful to Scripture, and clearly presents the Gospel and the true reason for the Christian’s celebration of Easter. I am very excited to lead my son through this book when he is old enough, as well as its companion: Why Christmas? If you have children, or know someone who has children, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to grab a copy of this book.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Shepherd Press and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Is Your Child An Easy Target?

bullseyeIs the way that you are raising and training your child making them an easy target for Satan’s attacks? How are parents to instruct and train their children in righteousness. How are parents to combat the ignorance that we are all born with as sinful human beings, and through which Satan attacks us?

In William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete ArmourGurnall discusses this very topic under his doctrinal point that “Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan.” He says: “See what need you have of instructing your children, and training them up betimes in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (162). And so he gives 4 points for parents to consider in this regard.

Four Considerations For Parents

(1) Your relation obliges you to take care of their precious souls

As parents, God has set you as the first and primary relationship and authority for your child. This is a great and awesome responsibility, and the care of their precious souls is entrusted to you. Gurnall reminds us that our children are born in ignorance, contrary to what we may like to think: “Our children are not born with Bibles in their heads or hearts. And who ought to be the instructor, if not the parent, yea, who will do it with such natural affections?” (163). You, as mother or father, will be able to teach your child the things of the Lord in such a tender and caring way that no other teacher will ever be able to.

Gurnall also gives us this great and sobering quote:

“In the fear of God think of it, parents. Your children have souls, and these God sets you to watch over. It will be a poor account at the last day, if you can only say, ‘Lord, here are my children, I bred them complete gentlemen, left them rich and wealthy.’ The rust of that silver you left them will witness your folly and sin, that you would do so much for that which rusts, and nothing for the enriching their minds with the knowledge of God, which would have endured for ever. Happy if you had left them less money and more knowledge” (163).

(2) Consider it hath ever been the saints’ practice to instruct and teach their children the way of God

This is the pattern throughout Scripture, and throughout Church history: That parents would be the primary instructors of their children in the way of God. Sadly, however, this has changed drastically in our culture today. Many parents think that this is the church’s responsibility. Their responsibility is simply to get their children to this church event, that church bible study, and let the “professionals” take care of their souls, almost treating the church as a sort of spiritual day-care. And then when that child comes out of the hundreds of programs and events that their parents ship them off to, without instructing them at home, and something goes wrong, it’s the church’s fault in their eyes because that was their responsibility.

This is NOT the pattern of Church history. This is NOT the pattern of Scripture. Parents: God has set YOU as the primary influence and instructor of the knowledge of God in your child’s life!

“And truly, I think, that man calls in question his own saintship, that takes no care to acquaint his child with God, and the way that leads to him” (164).

(3) It is an act of great unrighteousness not to instruct our children

Oh, parents, instructing your children is not just something that would be good or nice if you would start doing it. It is a matter of obedience or disobedience to God. It is a matter of righteousness or unrighteousness, both toward your children and toward God. Gurnall rightly reminds us:

“Atheism needs not be planted; you do enough to make your children such, if you do not endeavour to plant religion in their minds. The very neglect of the gardener to sow and dress his garden, gives advantage enough to the weeds to come up. This is the difference between religion and atheism. Religion doth not grow without planting, but will die even where it is planted, without watering; atheism, irreligion, and profaneness are weeds that will grow without setting, but they will not die without plucking up. All care and means are little enough to stub them up.

And therefore you that are parents, and do not teach your children, deal the more unrighteously with God, because you neglect the best season in their whole life for planting in them the knowledge of God, and plucking up the contrary weeds of atheism and irreligion. Young weeds come up with most ease” (165).

(4) Consider, you who are parents, that by not instructing your children, you entitle yourself to all the sins they shall commit to their death

If your child remains in ignorance because of your lack of instructing them as a parent, you are in some sense held accountable and responsible for their sins. They are responsible for their own sins, for sure. But you are held accountable as well if you neglect your responsibly to teach your child and combat the ignorance through with Satan most excellently works. For example, Gurnall says: “When the child breaks the Sabbath, it is his sin, but more the father’s, if he never taught him what the command of God was” (166).

Conclusion

Oh, parents, I pray that you would take your role seriously and reverently as the primary influence in regards to the knowledge of God and the Gospel in your children. This is a serious task that has been given to you, but a glorious one indeed! Let us not neglect it. We would do well to remember Gurnall’s closing words concerning this topic:

“You know not how soon the messenger may come to pluck you hence. Do your best while you are among them to win them home to God” (166).

Spiritual Pride

pride

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since I have posted about my Gurnall reading, and here’s the reason: I’m behind! I hate to admit it, but with other pressing commitments and responsibilities, I have gotten a week or two behind in my reading. However, I determined that being behind is not going to keep me from writing a post about my reading. While my plan is to really push hard this week to catch up, I want to share with you a section that has been incredibly profitable to me over the last couple of weeks — Gurnall’s discussion of pride.

Pride

This section on pride falls under his discussion of “spiritual sins.” The first spiritual sin that he identified was error in principle (188-191) and the second is spiritual pride (191-213). Gurnall says of this sin:

“It is hard starving this sin, because there is nothing almost but it can live on — nothing so base that a proud heart will not be lift up with, and nothing so sacred but it will profane; [it will] even dare to drink in the bowls of the sanctuary, nay, rather than starve, it will feed on the carcases of other sins” (192).

So there are 3 types of spiritual pride that Gurnall says the Christian is especially prone to:

  1. Pride of Gifts (195-199)
  2. Pride of Grace (199-208)
  3. Pride of Privileges (208-213)

Pride of Gifts

It is the first sort of spiritual pride, the pride of gifts, that I want to focus on. By gifts, here, Gurnall is referring to the supernatural gifts and abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. It may be a gift of preaching, teaching, serving, mercy, etc. But, oddly enough, Christians are prone to puff themselves up because of these gifts, though the gifts are just that … GIFTS … Given to us by God. Rather than puff ourselves up, we should divert all glory to God for giving us those abilities. But we often don’t, do we?

After some helpful discussion about how this sort of pride manifests itself in the life of the Christian, Gurnall offers two points of application … To those who have mean (or weak) gifts, and to those who have great gifts. He has some great words of application to those who have seemingly weak gifts, but it is the application to those who have great gifts that I want to share with you.

To those whom the Lord has gifted greatly, there is much more opportunity for pride to puff them up. It is an inherent danger that comes with the territory. But, Gurnall says:

“Thy safety lies in thy humility; if this lock be cut, the legions of hell are on thee. Remember who thou wrestlest with — spiritual wickedness — and their play is to lift up, that they may give the sorer fall” (195).

But how, you may ask, can the Christian continue in humility? How can the Christian humble himself, so as not to give Satan a foothold, when the Lord has gifted him in such a mighty way? Gurnall gives us a few things to consider …

Six “Soul-Humbling” Considerations To Humble Us

1. These spiritual gifts are not thy own

This should be the obvious one, but for some reason, we often forget it. This truth is inherent in the word “gift,” is it not? We must remember that all that we have, all of our abilities, talents, strengths, etc. do not come from us, but come from God, as gifts.

2. Gifts are not merely for thyself

This is probably one of the most often-forgotten truths about the gifts that the Spirit gives us. He does not give them to us for ourself, but for the sake of others. Gurnall illustrates this truth this way:

“As the light of the sun is ministerial — it shines not for itself — so all thy gifts are for others — gifts for the edifying of the body. Suppose a man should leave a chest of money in your hands to be distributed to others, what folly is it in this man to put this into his own inventory, and applaud himself that he hath so much money? Poor soul, thou art but God’s executor, and by that time thou hast paid all the legacies, thou wilt see little left for thee to brag and boast of” (195).

3. Thou shalt be accountable for these talents

As we were reminded in point #2, God has given us these gifts for the sake of others … and we will be accountable for how we use them before God. Did we use the gifts He gave us to build up ourselves, or to build up those around us?

4. Thy gifts commend thee not to God

This is simply to say that your great preaching, or your great prayers, or your great acts of mercy do not make God love you more. Indeed, it is pleasing to God when we use our gifts that He has given us in the way that He would have us use them, but the temptation for us is to think that God will accept us more because of our great abilities. That is a lie.

5. While thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace

As you are focusing on how great you are and how great your abilities and talents are, you are simultaneously downplaying and neglecting grace. As Gurnall says:

“Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized; we are commanded to be clothed with humility. Our garments cover the shame of our bodies, humility the beauty of the soul. And as a tender body cannot live without clothes, so neither can grace without this clothing of humility” (196).

6. It is the forerunner of some great sin, or some great affliction

Finally, Gurnall gives us this frightening reminder, that God will not often allow this sort of spiritual pride to go unchecked. He says:

“God will not suffer such a weed as pride to grow in his garden without taking some course or other to root it up; may be he will let thee fall into some great sin, and that shall bring thee home with shame…If God’s honour be in danger through thy pride, then expect a rod, and most likely the affliction shall be in that which will be most grievous to thee, in the thing thou art proud of” (196).

Conclusion

I hope that these reminders from Gurnall will be helpful to you as you meditate on these truths and search your heart for any pride that you may have in relation to the gifts and abilities that God has given you. Feel free to comment below about any thoughts you had on this section on pride, or any other section in the book. I’d love to hear from you.

God’s Battle Plan For The Mind

god's battle plan for the mindIf you were to mention the practice of “meditation” to your average churchgoer, you would probably either get a confusing look come your way because they have no clue what you’re talking about, or perhaps you may get a response of excitement that stems from their experience with Roman Catholic or Eastern mysticism “meditation” that has provided them with some sort of seemingly elevated experience in their worship. What you will not find very often, though, are many that truly know about or understand the Biblical practice of meditation.

A pastor in New Jersey, David Saxton, was burdened by this truth and wrote a very helpful new book titled: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation. In this book, Saxton seeks to answer the question of what it means to meditate by turning to both the Old Testament and New Testament passages that speak of such meditation, as well as to the group of Christians in the church who have been the foremost examples of this sort of Scriptural meditation: the Puritans.

Regarding the goal and structure of the book, Saxton says:

“This book will motivate the believer to begin this work; teach practically how to meditate on divine truth; and guide in right patterns of thinking throughout the day. Two sources will aid us: biblical teaching and the rich spiritual experience of Puritans who were committed to practicing spiritual meditation. Thus, I desire to encourage God’s people to see the necessity of this extremely practical subject and to enjoy true meditation on God’s Word.”

So what is the big difference between this Puritan, Biblical meditation, and the sort of meditation that we see in Eastern religions, mysticism, and Roman Catholicism. In a nutshell, that latter “meditation” is primarily about emptying the mind, whereas biblical meditation is not about emptying the mind, but about filling the mind with truths from God’s Word, and then turning those truths into practical application in the believer’s life. Saxton says: “What does it mean to meditate? It means to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look in life.”

The Structure

So what about the structure of the book? Saxon starts in the first chapter with discussing the importance of biblical meditation, and the joys and benefits that come from the practice. He moves from there into chapter 2 where he discusses in detail various unbiblical forms of meditation that many of us are more familiar with. After discussing those unbiblical forms, he moves into chapters 3-5 and discusses what the biblical form of meditation is. In chapter 3, he defines it, and in chapter 4 and 5 he discusses two distinct types of biblical meditation: occasional (that is, throughout the day, in the midst of everyday life) and deliberate (that is, specific, deliberate, set-aside times of meditation).

The remaining chapters, chapters 6-12, move the reader into more of the practical implementation of this practice. In these chapters, Saxton discusses practical suggestions about when to mediate, what to meditate on, common distractions and enemies of meditation, and advice on how to get started. There are some wonderful, practical points of wisdom here in these chapters, but the reader must first be grounded in the defense of the practice from chapters 1-5 before moving into the implementation of the practice.

Some Puritan Quotes

Overall, I would whole-heartedly recommend this book. It is filled with many excerpts and quotes from all sorts of Puritan writers, which I greatly enjoyed. The Puritans had such a way with words that they were able to illustrate and apply their point in ways that really drive it home for the reader. Here’s a few examples:

Thomas Watson on the necessity of biblical meditation:

“Without meditation the truth of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory slippery, and without meditation all is lost; meditation imprints and fastens a truth in the mind … As a hammer drives a nail to the head, so meditation drives a truth to the heart. Without mediation the word preached may increase notion, not affection.”

John Ball on who should meditate in this way:

“No one should exempt himself from this duty, unless he purpose to live unprofitably to others, uncomfortably in himself, and disobedient against God.”

Thomas Watson on the relationship of Scripture reading and meditation:

“Meditation without reading is erroneous; reading without meditation is barren. The bee sucks the flower and then works it into the hive, and so turns it into honey. By reading we suck the flower of the Word, by meditation we work it into the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit … The reason we come away so cold from the reading of the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”

Finally, Cotton Mather urges us:

“Let not a day ordinarily pass you wherein you will not read some portion of [the Bible], with due meditation and supplication of it.”

Conclusion

If you, or someone you know, have felt something lacking in your reading of God’s Word and time studying it, I would suggest that you grab a copy of this book. One very likely thing that may be missing, and may be the cause of this “empty” feeling in your Bible reading, is the biblical practice of meditation. This book will help convince you of your need of this practice, as well as give you very helpful and practical tips to help you in this discipline.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“Sanctification” Book Review

sanctificationReviewed by Jim Anderson.

In 1999, Rutherford House Ministries began what is now known as the Edinburg Dogmatics Conference. This yearly conference is dedicated to scholastic study of contemporary issues that face the Church in Scotland as well as the church international.

It was during one of these conferences that the subject of sanctification was explored in various contexts. Topics such as the role of grace and faith in sanctification, or human agency and sanctification’s relationship to ethics were discussed. With each of these discussions, gifted and doctrinally sound scholars were asked to present papers for print to further the dialogue with the church at large. It was from these papers that the new book edited by Kelly Kapic was born. The book is titled, Sanctification: Explorations In Theology And Practice.

Kapic has taken these essays and placed them in book form so that the dialogue and debate that began at Edinburg can now be examined by all of us. The book is broken down into three parts:

  1. Sanctified By Grace Through Faith In Union With Christ
  2. Human Agency And Sanctification’s Relationship To Ethics
  3. Theological And Pastoral Meditations On Sanctification.

The essays address the issue of sanctification, but not just within the context of its contested relationship to justification, where we most often see the debate. These essays look at sanctification as it is intertwined with other important doctrines as well. While certainly the issue of justification can never be left behind when discussing sanctification, there are other pressing issues that need addressing in the church with regards to this subject. This book does just that. Issues like sanctification and ethics, union with Christ, ecclesiology, adoption, and eschatology are all covered in some respect.

This book takes the best of modern-day scholasticism, along with the historical reformed scholastics, and presents a book that gives valuable insights on theology, pastoral practice, and ethics. While the book is written in theological language, it is definitely a much needed work for the church on a topic that is in dire need of guidance. I highly recommend this book.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank IVP for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Help!

lifelineHelp! It’s a word that each of us has used from time to time regarding some sort of hard-to-deal-with situation in our life. How do I deal with this? How do I cope with this loss? What do I do in this situation? I need HELP!!

Well, Shepherd Press, and their new “LifeLine Mini-Books” series, are hoping to offer some HELP with some common life situations, bringing the Word of God to bear upon those situations, and offering biblical counseling on how to deal with them in a godly way.

Under the general editorship of Dr. Paul Tautges, the LifeLine series has gathered together writers and counselors specializing in a particular field to offer Biblical help to real-world needs that everyday Christians face. Each book is very short (more like a booklet) and very accessible. Of the 8 titles in print to-date, the longest is a mere 61 pages. These books will be a great resource for any pastor, counselor, ministry leader, parent, or friend to keep on hand in order to offer help to those around them facing the hurts that are addressed in these titles.

There are over 20 titles to date that are available in digital format, but to-date, there are 8 in print, with more on the way soon**. Those that are currently in print include:

  1. HELP! Someone I Love Has Been Abused by Jim Newheiser
  2. HELP! My Teen Struggles With Same-Sex Attractions by Ben Marshall
  3. HELP! Someone I Love Has Cancer by Deborah Howard
  4. HELP! My Toddler Rules The House by Paul & Karen Tautges
  5. HELP! He’s Struggling With Pornography by Brian Croft
  6. HELP! I Have Breast Cancer by Brenda Frields
  7. HELP! My Spouse Has Been Unfaithful by Mike Summers
  8. HELP! I Want To Change by Jim Newheiser

**In fact, even since receiving these copies to review, several more titles have been printed.

With significant endorsements from the likes of Tim Challies, Bob Kellemen, Heath Lambert, Wayne Mack, and many more, you can be confident that as you hand out these books to those you are counseling, they are going to receive Gospel truth and specific ways that the Gospel comes to bear on their individual situation. Each book is packed with the Gospel, theological truths and how they apply to the problem at hand, and biblical application geared at helping the person change, cope, trust, etc. Each title follows the following structure:

Introduction: This establishes the need for the book.

Chapter 1: This defines/explains the problem from the perspective of experience (true stories and illustrations often work well to connect with the reader).

Chapter 2: Defines/explains the problem from a biblical/theological perspective, getting to the heart of the issue (expounding key passages of Scripture rather than a verse here or there).

Chapter 3: Presents the biblical solution to the problem and how it relates to the gospel, how God wants to change the hearts involved and the provision for change found in the gospel (again expounding key passages of Scripture rather than a verse here or there).

Chapter 4: Calls the reader to Word-based application, i.e. Where do we go from here? What heart and life changes need to be made to walk in faith and obedience to Christ?

Conclusion: Leaves the reader with gospel-driven, Word-grounded hope.

Personal Application Projects: These provide several pages of specific application (i.e. counseling homework) that probes the heart of the reader, using biblical truth and thought-provoking question.

Where Can I Get Further Help? This section includes the best current resources on the topic.

If you want some more information on the series, or on each title, check out their website at http://www.lifelineminibooks.com. Through this site, you can access sample downloads, media trailers, and much more in order to help you decide not IF you want to purchase some, but HOW MANY you’re going to need!

I would highly recommend these books and look forward to getting all of them as they come out in print. I would suggest that you buy you a few copies to keep around in order to hand out to those in need.

Also, check out the video below as Tedd Tripp introduces the series

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Shepherd Press for providing me with review copies of these books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Ministry of Ignorance

ignoranceIn this last week’s reading from Gurnall (Week 7), he had quite a lot of good stuff to say from Eph 6:12b about how we fight “against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” In fact, he had 28 pages just discussing that phrase!

One particular part that stood out to me came during his second doctrinal point, which was that Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan. He made many great points during this section concerning the role that our ignorance plays in opening the door wider and wider for Satan to enslave the soul of a sinner. After discussing the doctrinal portion of it, he moved  to the “Uses” or Application. And it is his second application that I want to focus on, where he speaks to the ministers of the Gospel. Speaking to ministers, he says: “But woe to those that are accessory to their people’s ignorance” (167).

He then goes on to give 4 ways that a minister may be an accessory to the ignorance of his people.

1. By His Own Ignorance

Knowledge is so fundamental for the Christian minister that he cannot afford to be without it. Sadly, there has been a trend in American Evangelicalism for quite some time now that downplays the need and necessity for the pastor to be adequately trained. As long as you have a heart for the people and a love for Jesus, some say, you are ready for the pastorate. I think that this is far from the truth, and Gurnall would agree:

“The want of knowledge in a minister is such a defect, as cannot be supplied by anything else. Be he never so meek, patient, bountiful, unblamable, if he hath not skill to divide the word aright, he is not cut out for a minister. Everything is good, as it is good for the end it is appointed to. A knife, though it had a haft of diamonds, yet if it will not cut, it is not a knife. A bell, if not sound, is no bell. The great work of a minister is to teach others, his lips are to preserve knowledge, he should be as conversant in the things of God as others in their particular trades” (167).

That last phrase is convicting to me. But it is oh so true! The minister should have a certain level of knowledge in order to first be considered a minister, but he should never stop learning and growing in his knowledge throughout his whole life!

2. By His Negligence

It does the people of God no good if their minister is, in fact, in possession of such knowledge, but does not dispense it to them. The minister is not only to posses the necessary knowledge, but work intentionally and diligently at teaching this knowledge to his people so that they would not fall into the ignorance that binds men to Satan.

“There is a woe to the idle shepherd (Zec 11:17); such as have mouths, but speak not; lips, but not to feed the people with knowledge. It shall be the people’s sin, if they feed not when bread is before them, but woe to us if we give them not meat in due season. O sirs, what shall we say to our Lord that trusts us, if those abilities which he hath given us as market-money to buy bread for our people, be found wrapped up in a napkin of sloth? If that time wherein we should have been teaching and instructing them, shall appear to be wasted in our pleasures, or employed about our carnal profits?” (168).

3. By His Unedifying Preaching

Oh how sad it is to think about how much of this unedifying preaching we have in our churches today! He gives several examples, such as men that preach unsound doctrine, men whose preaching is “frothy and flashy,” men whose “discourses are high flown,” and men who preach “only truths that are for the higher form of professors” (168). It is sad that I have seen multiple examples of each of these. It only takes a quick glance around popular “Evangelical” preaching today to see preaching filled with false doctrine or done in a “flashy” manner. On the flip side, one of the pitfalls I have seen many seminary students fall into is the latter type of preaching that Gurnall speaks of, preaching whose truths are only for the “higher form of professors.” This is that high, academic style of preaching that is only edifying to maybe one or two of the 100 person congregation. Gurnall comments on this type of preaching:

“To preach truths and notions above the hearer’s capacity, is like a nurse that should go to feed the child with a spoon to big to go into its mouth” (168).

It is of the utmost importance that ministers deeply know their congregations and the different types of people that they are preaching to, and preach in such a way that is understandable and edifying to the whole group. Gurnall has some wise advice when he says:

“He, sure, is an unwise builder that makes a scaffold as high as Paul’s steeple, when his work is at the bottom, and he is to lay the foundation, whereas the scaffold should rise as the building goes up … Let the wise have their portion, but let them be patient to see the weaker in the family served also” (168).

4. When Through The Scandal Of His Life He Prejudiceth His Doctrine 

Paul tells Timothy to keep a close watch, not only on his doctrine, but also on his life (1 Tim 4:16). The minister must be very careful to keep a close watch on his life, so that by an immoral life he is not giving discredit to the correct doctrine that he may be preaching. Gurnall says that this would be like a cook with nasty, foul fingers cooking a delicious looking meal. It does not matter how good the food looks to us; we will not eat it if we see such nasty hands preparing it. Gurnall gives another illustration to end this point:

“He that will do any good in the minister’s calling, must be as careful as the fisher, that he doth nothing to scare souls away from him, but all to allure and invite, that they may be [drawn] within the compass of his net” (168).

Conclusion

With so much good stuff in our reading from this last week, you very well may see some additional posts this week with some more quotes and such.

How about you? Is there anything in particular that stands out that you’d like to share? If so, comment below.

Who Is Your Prince?

crownOur reading for week 6 last week from Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour was all focused on the second half of Ephesians 4:12, where our enemy, Satan and his whole pack of devils, is described by their government (“principalities”), their strength (“powers”), their kingdom (“rulers of the darkness of this world”), their nature in substance (“spiritual wickedness”), and the ground of the war (“in heavenly places”). In last week’s reading, Gurnall covered the first 2 aspects listed, and began on the third. Almost all of this week’s reading will be spent finishing the third aspect (their kingdom), and then the next week’s will move into the fourth and fifth aspect.

As he starts his discussion of the term “principalities,” he states the doctrine we find from this, which is that “Satan is a great prince” (131). He discusses how Satan came to be such a great prince, and then how we may know whether Satan is our prince or not.

But the section I want to focus on is a short little section at the beginning of the week’s reading, where Gurnall asks how we may know if Christ is our prince. In order to answer that question, he says that we need to answer 4 “interrogatories,” or questions:

Question 1: How came he [Christ] into the throne?

Gurnall rightly explains that we all, as humans, are born under the dominion of sin and Satan, with Satan as our prince on the throne. So, if we say that a shift in princes, a shift in governmental authority in our own heart, has taken place, how did that happen? Gurnall says: “Satan, surely, would not of his own accord resign his crown and sceptre to Christ; and for thyself, thou wert neither willing to renounce, nor able to resist his power. This then must only be the fruit of Christ’s victorious arms, whom God hath exalted” (134). The point, here, is that if a change in powers has taken place, there will be significant evidence. That is not something that “just happens” with no notice whatsoever.

“The regenerating Spirit is compared to the wind. His first attempts on the soul may be so secret that the creature knows not whence they come, or whither they tend; but, before he hath done, the sound will be heard throughout the soul, so as it cannot but see a great change in itself, and say, ‘I that was blind, now see; I that was as hard as ice, now relent for sin; now my heart gives; I can melt and mourn for it'” (134).

Question 2: Whose law dost thou freely subject thyself unto?

The laws of Christ and Satan are as utterly opposed as their natures … one a law of sin and death, the other a law of grace and life. Which law does your soul subject itself to? Do you freely give yourself over to the law of sin, to every temptation that comes your way? Does temptation easily overtake you, because you, in fact, give yourself over more easily and freely to that law? As Gurnall says of the one who freely gives himself over to the law of sin: “If Christ should come to take thee from thy lusts, thou wouldst whine after them, as Micah after his gods” (135). If you claim to believe in Christ, but in fact continue to love your sin and easily give yourself over to that sin, you may question as to who is the prince on your throne. If, however, you genuinely hate sin, resist temptation, and mourn over the times when you give into sin, pleading with God to deliver you from future temptation, you can have confidence that Christ, is indeed, thy prince.

Question 3: To whom goest thou for protection?

Princes expect that their subjects would trust in them for their safety. When troubles comes, when hardships arise, to whom do you turn for protection? Do you turn to Christ, trusting in him as your prince? Or do you turn to yourself, which Satan wants you to do, deceiving you to think that you can deliver yourself rather than trusting in Christ as your deliverer. What about when you are disciplined by God for disobedience? How do you respond? The one with Christ as his prince understands, and willingly accepts that correction. Not so with the one who has Satan as his prince:

“And when God comes to afflict him for any disloyal carriage, instead of accepting punishment for his sin, his heart is filled with rage against God, and instead of waiting quietly and humbly, like a good subject, till God upon his repentance receives him into his favour, his wretched heart, presenting God as an enemy to him, will not suffer any such gracious and amiable thoughts of God to dwell in his bosom, but bids him look for no good at his hand” (136).

Question 4: Whom dost thou sympathize with?

What is the attitude of your soul when God “hedgeth up thy way, and keeps thee from that sin which Satan hath been soliciting for?” If Christ is your prince, you will rejoice that God has delivered you out of a temptation. But if Satan be your prince, “thou wilt harbour a secret grudge against the word which stood in thy way, and be discontented, thy design took not” (136). What about the “achievements of Christ” in the world? What is your heart’s response to the advancement of the Gospel and the things of Christ in the world — not the response you say you have, but your true heart’s response?

“When thou hearest that the gospel thrives, the blind see, the lame walk, the poor gosepllized, doth thy spirit rejoice in that hour? If a saint, thou wilt, as God is thy Father, rejoice that thou hast more brethren born; as he is thy prince, that the multitude of his subjects increase” (136).

Conclusion

So … who is your prince? I hope that these 4 questions that Gurnall gives us to help think through that question help you as it has helped me, whether in thinking of your own soul, or in your counseling of another soul who may seek your counsel on such matters.

What about you? What stood out to you from this week’s reading? Comment below. Time to start on week 7!

An Invaluable Benefit

Highlighted Section of BookI love the following counsel of William Gurnall on why the Christian should call for the help of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ if the attacks of Satan continue. Satan wants us to keep it to ourself, and think that we can fight on our on. However, one of the invaluable benefits of being in a Church, in a community of believers, is the opportunity to share one another’s burdens. Listen to Gurnall as he talks about this:

“If yet Satan dogs thee, call in help, and keep not the devil’s counsel. The very strength of some temptations lies in the concealing of them, and the very revealing of them to some faithful friend, like the opening and pricking of an imposthume, gives the soul present ease. Satan knows this too well; and therefore, as some thieves, when they come to rob an house, either gag them in it, or hold a pistol to their breast, frighting them with death, if they cry or speak; thus Satan, that he may more freely rifle the soul of its peace and comfort, overawes it so, that it dares not disclose his temptation. O, saith Satan, if thy brethren or friends know such a thing by thee, they will cast thee off; others will hoot at thee. Thus many a poor soul hath been kept long in its pangs by biting them in. Thou losest, Christian, a double help by keeping the devil’s secret — the counsel and prayers of thy fellow-brethren. And what an invaluable loss is this!” (William Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour, 100).

The Resurrection In Your Life

resurrection in your lifeJesus rose in history, is reigning right now, and through his resurrection and ascension, believers receive the promised Holy Spirit.

That is what Mike McKinley’s new book, The Resurrection In Your Life, is all about. As the sequel to his previous book, Passion, this book is birthed out of a series of sermons McKinley preached at Sterling Park Baptist Church in Virginia from the last 2 chapters of Luke (Luke 23-24) and the first 2 chapters of Acts (Acts 1-2). In these sermons, and in this book, McKinley walks through the resurrection, ascension, and subsequent outpouring of the Spirit events that Luke records in his books.

Why is the resurrection important to the world? To the believer? What does the resurrection mean for the Christian? What would happen if the resurrection didn’t happen? Why is it important that Jesus ascended bodily to the right of the Father and will return again? Why is it good for us that Jesus ascended? Who is the Holy Spirit? What does He do?

All of these are questions that McKinley addresses in this short, introductory, easy-to-read book. If you are looking for a dense theological work on the resurrection, this isn’t it. If you are looking for a pure apologetic defense of the resurrection accounts, this isn’t it either? This book is a good little introductory look at the importance of the resurrection for the whole world, and especially in the life of the believer. If you are a new believer, this would be a good book for you. Or if you are discipling a new believer, you may want to check it out. Or if you are a mature believer that is just looking for a devotional, easy-to-read reminder of the truth of and importance of the resurrection, this would be a good book for you as well.

I’d encourage you to pick up a copy and give it a quick read. It won’t take you long, but it will certainly remind you of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection for your life and lift your heart to worship our great, living, reigning Savior, Jesus Christ!

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.