Monday, May 28, 2018

John Owen on Preaching Preparation

Some good advice from John Owen, from his last years of ministry, part of a sermon preached at another's ordination..
I think, truly, that no man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart. He who doth not feed on, and digest, and thrive by, what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison, as far as he knows; for, unless he finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach, is but to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach, is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering of them, that we may have benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week, and not have his heart engaged once. This hath lost us powerful preaching in the world, and set up, instead of it, quaint orations; for such men never seek after experience in their own hearts: and so it is come to pass, that some men’s preaching, and some men’s not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry; that though there be twenty or thirty thousand in orders, yet the nation perishes for want of knowledge, and is overwhelmed in all manner of sins, and not delivered from them unto this day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

John Owen on the Lord's Supper (Philippians 3:10)

For some brief tastes of John Owen (1616-1683), his discourses are great, short and also solid and thoughtful. I just read one of his discourses relating to the Lord's Supper, based on Philippians 3:10, particularly about us being conformed to Christ's death. Below are some excerpts...
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
The cause of the death of Christ was sin... He died for sin; he died for our sin; our iniquities were upon him, and were the cause of all the punishment that befell him...
Our hope and faith is, in and through him, that we shall never die for sin. No mortal man can be made like unto Christ in suffering for sin... our conformity unto the death of Christ with respect unto sin lies in this, — that as he died for sin, so we should die unto sin, — that that sin which he died for should die in us... Here is our conformity to Christ, as he suffered in the flesh, — that we should no longer live to our lusts, nor unto the will of man, but unto the will of God. And, brethren, let me tell you, he who approacheth unto this remembrance of the death of Christ, that hath not laboured, that doth not labour, for conformity to his death in the universal mortification of all sin, runs a hazard to his soul, and puts an affront upon Jesus Christ. O let none of us come in a way of thankfulness to remember the death of Jesus Christ, and bring along with us the murderer whereby he was slain! To harbour with us, and bring along with us to the death of Christ, unmortified lusts and corruptions, such as we do not continually and sincerely endeavour to kill and mortify, is to come and upbraid Christ with his murderer, instead of obtaining any spiritual advantage.
There is no such sermon to teach, mortification of sin, as the commemoration of the death of Christ. It is the greatest outward instruction unto this duty that God hath left unto his church; and, I am persuaded, which he doth most bless to them who are sincere. Do we see Christ evidently crucified before our eyes, his body broken, his blood shed for sin? and is it not of powerful instruction to us to go on to mortify sin? He that hath not learned this, never learned any thing aright from this ordinance, nor did he ever receive any benefit from it...
And I would beg of you all, brethren, that not one of us would pass through or go over this ordinance, this representation of the death of Christ, without a fresh obligation to God to abide more constant and vigorous in the mortification of sin: we all need it.
And lastly; a spiritually beholding of Christ by faith is the means to change us into the image and likeness of Christ. Beholding the death of Christ by faith, as represented to us in this ordinance, is the means to change us into his image and likeness, and make us conformable unto his death, in the death of sin in us.
[Source: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/discourses.i.xvii.html]

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Parable of Two Librarians (Samuel T. Logan, Jr)

I thought this "parable of two librarians", was a good illustration of how Christians and churches can approach our role in spreading the knowledge of Jesus -- one a bad example, one a good example.

It is by Samuel T. Logan Jr, in the book, Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus Into the World...
 
(Maybe someday I will type it out...)

The church was made for God's mission (Christopher J. H. Wright)

"It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world; rather, God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission--God's mission."

-- Christopher J. H. Wright
(from Foreword in Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus Into the World)

Monday, December 18, 2017

J I Packer on Stunted Christian Character in 21st Century

Back in 1999, looking towards the 21st century, Christian teacher, J I Packer, said... 
"Children are growing up without any knowledge of the Bible or its morality. Sometimes they are taught the Gospel but not the law. They are not being raised in stable, nurturing families. As a result, the middle-aged adults of the next century will have grown bodies but stunted characters. They will be quite infantile in their emotional lives and incapable of steady commitments."

M'Cheyne on Following Jesus Fully

May God empower us to follow the Lord fully, as M'Cheyne preached in 1842:
"Although he had no sin of his own to make him humble, yet he was humble in his own nature. He did not vaunt himself--did not seek the flattery of men. Some do not follow Christ in this. Some who seem really saved persons, yet have this unlikeness to Christ. They are proud--proud of being saved--proud of grace--proud of being different from others. Some do not follow Christ in his self-denial. He was rich, yet for our sakes become poor, that we through his poverty might be rich. While we were sinners, Christ died for us. He had not where to lay his head. Yet many who seem to be Christians seek their own comfort and ease before everything else. They do not drink into Christ's Spirit in this. Some do not follow Christ in his love. Christ was love. He descended out of love--lay in the manger out of love--lived a life of sinless obedience out of love--died out of love. Yet some who are Christians do not follow him in this--do not love as he loved. Some have little compassion upon sinners--can sit at ease in their own houses, and see a world perish for lack of knowledge. How few will do anything out of love!"

Friday, November 10, 2017

Calvin on Knowing God's Love for Us

How do we know if God really loves us? How can we be sure? Where do we look? 
"It was then from God’s goodness alone, as from a fountain, that Christ with all his blessings has come to us. And as it is necessary to know, that we have salvation in Christ, because our heavenly Father has freely loved us; so when a real and full certainty of divine love towards us is sought for, we must look nowhere else but to Christ."
Thanks, John Calvin, for reminding us that Jesus is always the answer :)

[Quote from Commentary on 1 John 4:10)

John Erskine on Preaching

Some good advice on preaching, from 18th century Scottish preacher and theologian, John Erskine:
I need not caution you against affecting a florid haranguing style, nor tell you that the more of scripture there is in a sermon so much the better, as we ought not only to declare truth, but to declare it in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth. There is an energy and force in the words of the Bible, which all the wisdom and eloquence of men can never equal, and which by the influences of the Spirit produces effects peculiar to itself.

J I Packer on the "Christmas Spirit"

The shops are telling us Christmas is getting closer, and I just read these helpful and challenging words by one of my favourite Christian writers, J I Packer... talking about the "Christmas Spirit"...
"... the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

"It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians--I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians--go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians--alas, they are many--whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves. 
"The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor--spending and being spent--to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others--and not just their own friends--in whatever way there seems need. 
"There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be."

May God enable us to be what we should be...

[Source: Knowing God]

Monday, September 25, 2017

J I Packer on Calvinistic Determination

Calvin and Calvinism are often linked with determinism. Well here is a quote by J I Packer on the determination (rather than determinism) of Calvinism in the persistence of Protestantism...

“Without [Calvin], pure Protestantism might not have survived beyond the middle of the seventeenth century, for it is simple truth that the only Protestants who would stand and fight, to the last ditch if necessary, against Roman and Erastian pressures, were the Calvinists.”

(Source: "John Calvin and Reformed Europe" in Honouring the People of God: The Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer Volume 4, p14)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

No confidence apart from the Gospel! (Calvin)

How can we be sure that God is favourable towards us, that we are reconciled to him and that all our wrongs before God are forgiven (and we all have many wrongs before God)?

"Beware, then, of placing even the smallest drop of your confidence on any thing apart from the Gospel."
-- John Calvin (commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:19)

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” " (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; NLT)