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10/25/2021     Yesterday     Tomorrow


Luke 4 - 5



Luke 4

The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1     And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’ ”

9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘ “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Demon

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Jesus Heals Many

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

Jesus Preaches in Synagogues

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Luke 5

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Luke 5 1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Jesus Calls Levi

27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

A Question About Fasting

33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ ”

ESV Study Bible



What I'm Reading

Smart is Not a Fruit

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/01/2012

     Leave it to Reformed people to miss the point. When Paul describes the body of Christ as a body, part of which includes hands, ears, and so forth, we are quick to mark our territory — we are the brain of the church. We are the ones who are so rightly careful about our theology. The great minds of the church have been Reformed, and one could certainly argue that the greatest mind, theological or otherwise, ever to grace our North American shores was one Jonathan Edwards.

     There is no question the man had a towering intellect. We would be wise to sit at his feet and learn from him. Edwards on the will is unanswerable genius. Edwards on the Trinity will make your head spin. Edwards was a titanic mind whose brilliance was overshadowed only by his earnest and passionate heart. Should we embrace the theological wisdom of Edwards? Of course, by all means. It would be better still, however, if we would just taste of his soul’s devotion.

     We do not, of course, increase the fervor of our emotions by dimming the capacity of our brains. Neither, however, will we ever bear the fruit of the Spirit if the seed of the Word is planted only in the rocky soil of our brains rather than the fertile soil of the heart. We surely must know Him to love Him. We surely must study Him to know Him. But no one has studied Him more thoroughly than the Devil, and it hasn’t done him a bit of good.

     Just a few weeks ago, as I write, Reformation Bible College opened its doors for the first time. The first class I taught has a rather pretentious name: ST101 Theological Prolegomena. This highbrow title translates roughly into “Introduction to Systematic Theology.” It is the study we do before we begin our study.

     Historically, such a class would begin, logically enough, with the doctrine of revelation, exploring how God reveals Himself in His Word and nature. It would consider issues of the canon and various theories of inspiration. We will, eventually, get to those important issues. In another semester, we will turn our attention to what we call “theology proper,” the actual study of God’s nature and attributes. Despite the subject matter of that future class, we began this first class with a classic work, The Holiness of God.

     My fear, as I looked out at that first class, was that we would fall into the trap that has captured so many Reformed people. I feared that even with the glorious truths of Scripture, we might end up tickling ears. I would be guilty of ear tickling if, in my teaching, I encouraged the students to conclude, “What a smart person I am,” rather than, “What a glorious gospel has rescued such a wretched sinner as me.” I wanted, through studying this book together, for us all to look to the mirror of His character and glory so that we would never lose sight of just how vile we are. I wanted us to understand something of the scope of His transcendence lest we should ever be tempted to conclude that our studies had reached into the heavens like the Tower of Babel. I feared for my students precisely because I remembered what I was like as a student. What a clever Devil we battle with, who can turn our study of sound theology into an occasion for pride.

     We will not begin to get better until we embrace this obvious truth:  smart is not one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Of course we are to love God with all our minds. But we are to love God with all our minds, not merely understand Him. When our knowledge cannot traverse the distance from our heads down to our hearts, we are suffering from spiritual emptiness. We will not begin to get better until we come to embrace this obvious truth:  we come into the kingdom not as scholars or students, but as children.

     We will not, in short, get better unless and until we learn to stop pursuing academic respectability and start seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are to put behind us all our earthly worries. We are to stop seeking those things that the Gentiles seek.

     The fruit of love, in the end, is the fruit of the Spirit. Love begets love. Love bears joy. Love bestows peace. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: all these break forth like the great bunches of grapes the twelve Israelite spies found in the Promised Land. None of these, however, come forth from the barren soil of our intellectual curiosity, far less the scorched earth of intellectual pride.

     Edwards was a great man of God. He was so, however, because he aspired to be a man of God rather than a great man. That his descendants were senators and governors, professors and college presidents, meant not a thing to him. That they would humbly follow the carpenter’s Son from Galilee — that was what he hoped, prayed, and worked for. That is the fruit of charity.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

A Child’s (Mis)understanding

By Keith Mathison 2/01/2012

     Like many, I have watched my fair share of films over the years, and the vast majority have been quite forgettable. There are a small number that I enjoyed enough to purchase in order to watch them again. But there are very, very few that were so powerful in one way or another that they have stayed with me years after seeing them. (I am still not sure I will ever forgive Walt Disney for the trauma inflicted by Old Yeller.)

     When I think about the films I’ve seen as an adult that have really stayed with me, three come to mind. One is The Straight Story, a film based on the true story of seventy-three-year-old Alvin Straight, who drove his riding lawnmower 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother, who had recently suffered a stroke. The look on his brother’s face when he realizes what Alvin has done is deeply moving.

     Two foreign-language films also fall into this category. The first, Sophie Scholl, is a German film based on the true story of a teenage girl who was arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets during WWII. Again, the final scene is powerful, but the questions this movie makes you ask about yourself and what you would have done in that situation are what stay with you long after the credits roll.

     The second foreign-language film that I have never been able to forget is Ponette, a French film about a fouryear-old girl attempting to deal with the death of her mother. Ponette is not an easy film to watch. There are few things more heart-wrenching than the grief of a young child, and the performance of the young actress portraying Ponette is truly nothing short of amazing. The most fascinating aspect of the film for me, however, had to do with the questions it raised about the way young children interpret (and misinterpret) the words of adults.

     In the film, Ponette’s father is an atheist, and he tells her very bluntly that her mother is gone. While dealing with his own grief, he leaves his child with her aunt and uncle, who are devout Roman Catholics. In an attempt to console Ponette, her aunt tells her the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In her four-year-old mind, Ponette takes this to mean that if she waits a few days, her mother will come back to her. Her aunt and uncle do not realize how Ponette has misunderstood them and, therefore, never really clarify things for her. Neither do they realize how devastated she is when her expectation fails to be realized. The advice Ponette’s four-year-old friends give her throughout the remainder of the film puts her through an emotional wringer, but misunderstanding them is far less serious than misunderstanding the relevance of Christ’s resurrection to her situation.

     As Christians, we are called to teach our children. But how often do we simply take for granted that they have comprehended the meaning of our words? And do we consider the damage that can be done if they misinterpret us without our realizing it? Very young children are in the process of learning the basic rules of grammar through imitation and use. Their vocabulary is also growing—sometimes by inventing their own words. (My daughter came up with the word “foosies” for “flowers” when she was very young.) But young children often make mistakes in their use of the language as they learn it, and they do not always automatically grasp the proper denotations or connotations of every word and phrase they hear.

     Confusing the meaning of the words restaurant and restroom as a child, while potentially embarrasing, is one thing. However, confusing the meaning of the words of Scripture or the basics of Christian theology is quite another. Anyone who teaches young children has to stop and think about the words he uses when communicating to them. We should not assume that the thoughts in our minds are effectively communicated without distortion to the minds of the children. It is vitally important to ask children what they have understood us to say.

     What do they hear you, your pastors, or their Sunday school teachers saying about God when they hear talk about “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”? What do they hear us saying when we say we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s “only begotten Son”? What do they hear if we use the words “Holy Ghost”? Do they understand what is being said when we use words like heaven, faith, soul, or salvation? We can only find out by asking them.

     If they do require further explanation, the next question is this: Are we equipped to do the explaining? Can we clarify the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, to a young child? It is a self-evident truth that we cannot teach what we do not know, and we cannot explain what we do not ourselves understand. The study of Scripture and theology is simply not a luxury for those entrusted with children. It is a necessity.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Soft Hearts, Solid Spines

By Joe Holland 2/01/2012

     The Internet allows unprecedented opportunity for communication between Christians from different theological traditions. The results have not been pretty. Comment threads are the Devil’s playground and blogs his amusement park. And even if we exclude online media, theological bickering between Christians is and has been pervasive. Regrettably, Christians who hold to the Reformed confessions are often viewed by other Christians outside our tradition as some of the least winsome members of what we call the communion of the saints.

     The command to love has been lost by us, if not lost on us. But how can the theologically astute love their equally theologically astute brothers and sisters across contentious theological and denominational lines? The solution is in the life, death, and love-commanding witness of Jesus.

     Consider Jesus’ silence for a moment. As a weekly synagogue attender and itinerant preacher, Jesus was bombarded with heterodoxy, moralistic deism, theological mush, progressive nationalism, and spiritual immaturity. And I’m only speaking of what came from devout Jews. Jesus was able and entitled to rebuke the slightest theological imprecision among the faithful at any moment. But when we consider how much theological correction He could have done, His silence speaks more than His teaching. Jesus did not draw attention to every theological imprecision that He heard. He loved sinners and was patient with their theological inaccuracy and spiritual immaturity.

     Next, consider Jesus’s admonition concerning those whom the disciples labeled as outsiders. In Luke 9:49–50, we find a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name even though he was not one of the twelve. John bristled at the notion of commending this rogue exorcist who lacked the kind of theological instruction that the twelve were receiving. But Jesus’ command was just the opposite. He said, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Jesus commended the ministry of a man who lacked knowledge of the finer points of Jesus’ ministry.

     Jesus also loved and encouraged the less theologically astute. Consider Jesus’ new command: “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34). The shadow of the cross falls on John 13. But how would the world know that these men and women were followers of Jesus? Would they be known by their rigorous theological debate? No. According to Jesus, they would be known by their rigorous love for one another.

     Love for all Christians is the common ground between orthodox Christology and orthodox missiology. When was the last time a class on evangelism emphasized love among Christians? If the world will know our Christology by our love for one another, our missiology must include a strong exhortation to treat all Christians with aggressive affection.

     Lastly, consider how Jesus crowned His command to love with His cross of love. If the disciples were expected to love the thousands of converts they were to see in the coming years based on their agreement on the finer points of theology, then Jesus’ command to love is naïve at best and laughable at worst. But if Jesus provided at the cross a unifying principle and redemptive power that could humble the proud, lift the humble, and soften the contentious, His command finds glorious fulfillment at Golgotha. The centrality of the cross of Jesus, shared by all Christians, is the foundation of Christian love and the antidote to angry Calvinism.

     This truth was driven home to me this past summer. I was hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, praying for my congregation. I was praying about a contentious conversation I recently had had with a couple in my growing church plant. I was clearly right and they were clearly wrong, or so my self-centered narrative went. But as I prayed, I remembered that Jesus died for this couple. He spilled His blood for them, and all I could spill was self-righteous vitriol — in prayer, no less.

     I still think I was right in the theology of my argument. But I was grossly wrong in how I loved them. I undermined my theological precision by wielding it with loveless blunt force trauma.

     This is not to say that Jesus intends us to abandon meticulous theological study or debate. There is a malignant false dichotomy today that pits charity against orthodoxy. To show charity is to risk being labeled a liberal progressive. To express theological concern is to risk being labeled contentious. To help guide us, we must remember that although brothers and enemies both fight, how they fight makes all the difference. The honor of Jesus demands both a soft heart and a titanium spine.

     Diligent theological study must lead us to humility-soaked love for all the blood-bought followers of Jesus. If it does not, we have missed one of the most basic principles that Jesus taught His disciples. Visible and unifying love toward one another is not an option for the worldwide church. It is a command.

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     Rev. Joe Holland is pastor of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church in Culpeper, Va.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 119

Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet
119 ALEPH

119:1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

ESV Study Bible

Fox's Book Of Martyrs

By John Foxe 1563

An Account of the Life and Sufferings of Mr. William Lithgow, a Native of Scotland

     The next day he received a visit from the governor, who promised him his liberty, with many other advantages, if he would confess being a spy; but on his protesting that he was entirely innocent, the governor left him in a rage, saying, 'He should see him no more until further torments constrained him to confess'; commanding the keeper, to whose care he was committed, that he should permit no person whatever to have access to, or commune with him; that his sustenance should not exceed three ounces of musty bread, and a pint of water every second day; that he shall be allowed neither bed, pillow, nor coverlid. "Close up (said he) this window in his room with lime and stone, stop up the holes of the door with double mats: let him have nothing that bears any likeness to comfort." These, and several orders of the like severity, were given to render it impossible for his condition to be known to those of the English nation.

     In this wretched and melancholy state did poor Lithgow continue without seeing any person for several days, in which time the governor received an answer to a letter he had written, relative to the prisoner, from Madrid; and, pursuant to the instructions given him, began to put in practice the cruelties devised, which were hastened, because Christmas holy-days approached, it being then the forty-seventh day since his imprisonment.

     About two o'clock in the morning, he heard the noise of a coach in the street, and sometime after heard the opening of the prison doors, not having had any sleep for two nights; hunger, pain, and melancholy reflections having prevented him from taking any repose.

     Soon after the prison doors were opened, the nine sergeants, who had first seized him, entered the place where he lay, and without uttering a word, conducted him in his irons through the house into the street, where a coach waited, and into which they laid him at the bottom on his back, not being able to sit. Two of the sergeants rode with him, and the rest walked by the coach side, but all observed the most profound silence. They drove him to a vinepress house, about a league from the town, to which place a rack had been privately conveyed before; and here they shut him up for that night.

     At daybreak the next morning, arrived the governor and the alcade, into whose presence Mr. Lithgow was immediately brought to undergo another examination. The prisoner desired he might have an interpreter, which was allowed to strangers by the laws of that country, but this was refused, nor would they permit him to appeal to Madrid, the superior court of judicature. After a long examination, which lasted from morning until night, there appeared in all his answers so exact a conformity with what he had before said, that they declared he had learned them by heart, there not being the least prevarication. They, however, pressed him again to make a full discovery; that is, to accuse himself of crimes never committed, the governor adding, "You are still in my power; I can set you free if you comply, if not, I must deliver you to the alcade." Mr. Lithgow still persisting in his innocence, the governor ordered the notary to draw up a warrant for delivering him to the alcade to be tortured.

     In consequence of this he was conducted by the sergeants to the end of a stone gallery, where the rack was placed. The encarouador, or executioner, immediately struck off his irons, which put him to very great pains, the bolts being so closely riveted that the sledge hammer tore away half an inch of his heel, in forcing off the bolt; the anguish of which, together with his weak condition, (not having the least sustenance for three days) occasioned him to groan bitterly; upon which the merciless alcade said, "Villain, traitor, this is but the earnest of what you shall endure."

     When his irons were off, he fell on his knees, uttering a short prayer, that God would be pleased to enable him to be steadfast, and undergo courageously the grievous trial he had to encounter. The alcade and notary having placed themselves in chairs, he was stripped naked, and fixed upon the rack, the office of these gentlemen being to be witness of, and set down the confessions and tortures endured by the delinquent.

     It is impossible to describe all the various tortures inflicted upon him.

     Suffice it to say that he lay on the rack for above five hours, during which time he received above sixty different tortures of the most hellish nature; and had they continued them a few minutes longer, he must have inevitably perished.

     These cruel persecutors being satisfied for the present, the prisoner was taken from the rack, and his irons being again put on, he was conducted to his former dungeon, having received no other nourishment than a little warm wine, which was given him rather to prevent his dying, and reserve him for future punishments, than from any principle of charity or compassion.

     As a confirmation of this, orders were given for a coach to pass every morning before day by the prison, that the noise made by it might give fresh terrors and alarms to the unhappy prisoner, and deprive him of all possibility of obtaining the least repose.

     He continued in this horrid situation, almost starved for want of the common necessaries to preserve his wretched existence, until Christmas day, when he received some relief from Mariane, waiting-woman to the governor's lady. This woman having obtained leave to visit him, carried with her some refreshments, consisting of honey, sugar, raisins, and other articles; and so affected was she at beholding his situation that she wept bitterly, and at her departure expressed the greatest concern at not being able to give him further assistance.

     In this loathsome prison was poor Mr. Lithgow kept until he was almost devoured by vermin. They crawled about his beard, lips, eyebrows, etc., so that he could scarce open his eyes; and his mortification was increased by not having the use of his hands or legs to defend himself, from his being so miserably maimed by the tortures. So cruel was the governor, that he even ordered the vermin to be swept on him twice in every eight days. He, however, obtained some little mitigation of this part of his punishment, from the humanity of a Turkish slave that attended him, who, when he could do it with safety, destroyed the vermin, and contributed every refreshment to him that laid in his power.

     From this slave Mr. Lithgow at length received information which gave him little hopes of ever being released, but, on the contrary, that he should finish his life under new tortures. The substance of this information was that an English seminary priest, and a Scotch cooper, had been for some time employed by the governor to translate from the English into the Spanish language, all his books and observations; and that it was commonly said in the governor's house, that he was an arch-heretic.

     This information greatly alarmed him, and he began, not without reason, to fear that they would soon finish him, more especially as they could neither by torture or any other means, bring him to vary from what he had all along said at his different examinations.

     Two days after he had received the above information, the governor, an inquisitor, and a canonical priest, accompanied by two Jesuits, entered his dungeon, and being seated, after several idle questions, the inquisitor asked Mr. Lithgow if he was a Roman Catholic, and acknowledged the pope's supremacy? He answered that he neither was the one nor did the other, adding that he was surprised at being asked such questions, since it was expressly stipulated by the articles of peace between England and Spain that none of the English subjects should be liable to the Inquisition, or any way molested by them on account of diversity in religion, etc. In the bitterness of his soul he made use of some warm expressions not suited to his circumstances: "As you have almost murdered me (said he) for pretended treason, so now you intend to make a martyr of me for my religion." He also expostulated with the governor on the ill return he made to the king of England, (whose subject he was) for the princely humanity exercised towards the Spaniards in 1588, when their armada was shipwrecked on the Scotch coast, and thousands of the Spaniards found relief, who must otherwise have miserably perished.

     The governor admitted the truth of what Mr. Lithgow said, but replied with a haughty air that the king, who then only ruled Scotland, was actuated more by fear than love, and therefore did not deserve any thanks. One of the Jesuits said there was no faith to be kept with heretics. The inquisitor then rising, addressed himself to Mr. Lithgow in the following words: "You have been taken up as a spy, accused of treachery, and tortured, as we acknowledge, innocently:

     (which appears by the account lately received from Madrid of the intentions of the English) yet it was the divine power that brought those judgments upon you, for presumptuously treating the blessed miracle of Loretto with ridicule, and expressing yourself in your writings irreverently of his holiness, the great agent and Christ's vicar upon earth; therefore you are justly fallen into our hands by their special appointment: thy books and papers are miraculously translated by the assistance of Providence influencing thy own countrymen."

     This trumpery being ended, they gave the prisoner eight days to consider and resolve whether he would become a convert to their religion; during which time the inquisitor told him he, with other religious orders, would attend, to give him such assistance thereto as he might want. One of the Jesuits said, (first making the sign of the cross upon his breast), "My son, behold, you deserve to be burnt alive; but by the grace of our lady of Loretto, whom you have blasphemed we will both save your soul and body."

     In the morning the inquisitor, with three other ecclesiastics, returned, when the former asked the prisoner what difficulties he had on his conscience that retarded his conversion; to which he answered, 'he had not any doubts in his mind, being confident in the promises of Christ, and assuredly believing his revealed will signified in the Gospels, as professed in the reformed Catholic Church, being confirmed by grace, and having infallible assurance thereby of the Christian faith.' To these words the inquisitor replied, "Thou art no Christian, but an absurd heretic, and without conversion a member of perdition." The prisoner then told him that it was not consistent with the nature and essence of religion and charity to convince by opprobrious speeches, racks, and torments, but by arguments deduced from the Scriptures; and that all other methods would with him be totally ineffectual.


Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Providence and Contentment

By R.C. Sproul 11/01/2015

     Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, noted that human beings are creatures of profound paradox. We’re capable of both deep misery and tremendous grandeur, often at the same time. All we have to do is scan the headlines to see that this is the case. How often do celebrities who have done great good through philanthropy get caught up in scandals?

     Human grandeur is found in part in our ability to contemplate ourselves, to reflect upon our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. Yet, such contemplation has a negative side, and that is its potential to bring us pain. We may find ourselves miserable when we think of a life that is better than that which we enjoy now and recognize that we are incapable of achieving it. Perhaps we think of a life free of illness and pain, yet we know that physical agony and death are certain. Rich and poor alike know that a life of greater wealth is possible but grow frustrated when that wealth is unobtainable. Sick or healthy, poor or rich, successful or unsuccessful—we are all capable of growing vexed when a better life remains outside of our grasp.

     Scripture prescribes only one remedy to this frustration: contentment.

     Biblical contentment is a spiritual virtue that we find modeled by the Apostle Paul. He states, for example, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). No matter the state of his health, wealth, or success, Paul found it possible to be content with his life.

     In Paul’s era, two prominent schools of Greek philosophy agreed that our goal should be to find contentment, but they had very different ways of getting there. The first of these, Stoicism, said imperturbability was the way to contentment. Stoics believed that human beings had no real control over their external circumstances, which were subject to the whims of fate. The only place they could have any control was in their personal attitudes. We cannot control what happens to us, they said, but we can control how we feel about it. Thus, Stoics trained themselves to achieve imperturbability, an inner sense of peace that would leave them unbothered no matter what happened to them.

     The Epicureans were more proactive in their search for contentment, looking to find a proper balance between pleasure and pain. Their aim was to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. Yet even achieving a goal in this arena can result in frustration. We might never obtain the aimed-for pleasure, or, having obtained it, we might realize that it does not bring what we thought it would.

     Paul was neither a Stoic nor an Epicurean. Epicureanism leads eventually to an ultimate pessimism—we can’t get or maintain the pleasure we seek, so what’s the point? The Apostle’s doctrine of the resurrection and the renewal of creation does not allow for such pessimism. Creation “will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:18–25; see 1 Cor. 15). Paul also rejected the passive resignation of Stoicism, for he was no fatalist. Paul actively pressed toward his goals and called us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, believing that God works in and through us to bring about His purposes (Phil. 2:12).

     For the Apostle, true contentment was not complacency, and it was not a condition, on this side of glory, that could admit no feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction. After all, Paul frequently expresses such feelings in his epistles as he considers the sins of the church and his own shortcomings. He did not rest on his laurels but worked zealously to solve problems both personally and pastorally.

     Paul’s contentment pertained to his personal circumstances and the state of his human condition. Whether he suffered lack or enjoyed material prosperity, he had “learned” to be content wherever God placed him (Phil. 4:12). Note that this was something he learned. It was not a natural gifting but something he had to be taught.

     What was the secret to contentment that he had learned? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

     In short, the Apostle’s contentment was grounded in his union with Christ and in his theology. He saw theology not as a theoretical or abstract discipline but rather as the key to understanding life itself. His contentment with his condition in life rested on his knowledge of God’s character and actions. Paul was content because he knew his condition was ordained by his Creator. He understood that God brought both pleasure and pain into his life for a good purpose (Rom. 8:28). Paul knew that since the Lord wisely ordered his life, he could find strength in the Lord for any and all circumstances. Paul understood that he was fulfilling the purpose of God whether he was experiencing abundance or abasement. Submission to God’s sovereign rule over his life was the key to his contentment.

     As we continue to wrestle with the desires of the flesh, we can be tempted to believe God owes us a better condition than we presently enjoy. To believe such a thing is sin, and it leads to great misery, which is overcome only by trusting in the Lord’s sustaining and providential grace. We will find true contentment only as we receive and walk in that grace.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

You Just Need to Obey

By Steven Lawson 12/01/2015

     Can you imagine a Christian couple actually praying about living together before marriage? Can you fathom a young woman who professes Christ even bothering to pray about whether she should marry an unbeliever? Can you grasp a Christian businessman having to pray about whether he should tell the truth in a transaction? When the Word of God is so clear, praying to discern God’s will becomes a convenient excuse—or even a prolonged filibuster—to avoid doing what Scripture commands.

     Many who profess Christ today emphasize a wrong view of grace that makes it a free pass to do whatever they please. Tragically, they have convinced themselves that the Christian life can be lived without any binding obligation to the moral law of God. In this hyper-grace distortion, the need for obedience has been neutered. The commandments of God are no longer in the driver’s seat of Christian living, but have been relegated to the backseat, if not the trunk—like a spare tire—to be used only in case of an emergency. With such a spirit of antinomianism, what needs to be reinforced again is the necessity of obedience.

     For all true followers of Christ, obedience is never peripheral. At the heart of what it means to be a disciple of our Lord is living in loving devotion to God. But if such love is real, the acid test is obedience. Jesus maintained, “If you love me,you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Genuine love for Christ will always manifest itself in obedience.

     This does not mean that a Christian can ascend to sinless perfection. This will never be realized this side of glory. Neither does it imply that a believer will never disobey God again. Isolated acts of disobedience will still occur. But the new birth does give a new heart that desires to obey the Word. In regeneration, God says:

     And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26–27)

     In this heart transplant, God causes the believer to pursue Spirit-energized obedience. The Apostle John agrees when he writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). In the new birth, the elect are granted saving faith, and they immediately begin to walk in “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). There is no timelapse between the time of conversion and when one begins to obey Christ. The exercise of saving faith is the first step of a life of obedience. When Jesus preached, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15), this was issued as an urgent imperative. The gospel is more than an offer to be considered—it is a word from God to be obeyed. John writes, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36). In this verse, believing in Christ and obeying Him are used synonymously. Simply put, true faith is obedient faith. Our obedience of faith is not the grounds upon which God declares us righteous, but it reveals our faith to be genuine.

     At the moment of conversion, we transfer our allegiance from our old master, sin, to a new Master, Jesus Christ. Paul explains, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). Here, the Apostle quotes a general axiom in life, namely, that slaves live in obedience to their ruling master. In conversion, there is an exchange of masters, a relinquishing of our old bondage to sin for a new loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Paul further stresses this truth: “You who were once slaves of sin have became obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17–18). Everyone is a slave, either of sin or of righteousness. Before conversion, we were slaves of sin and lived in obedience to sin. But in conversion, we became slaves of Christ and live in obedience to Him.

     Throughout one’s Christian life, John claims that genuine believers will continue to “keep his commandments.” “Keep” is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing obedience throughout the entirety of a believer’s life. Here is the perseverance of the saints. All who are born again will pursue obedience to the end. “Commandments” is plural, indicating obedience to the full spectrum of the divine requirements. Following Christ does not allow for selective obedience. Rather, we must obey all the commandments of God, not merely the convenient ones.

     When John says believers “keep” the commandments, this pictures a guard or watchman watching over a priceless treasure. In like manner, the one who knows God will keep a sharp watch over all that His Word requires. “And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), but they are a blessing (Ps. 1:1). Every step of heart-prompted obedience leads to experiencing abundant life in Christ. Conversely, every step of disobedience takes us away from the joy of divine goodness.

     Far from being optional, grace-fueled obedience is absolutely necessary for Christlikeness. Is there any need to pray about whether or not to obey God’s Word? You just need to obey.

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     Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.

     Steven Lawson  |  Go to Books Page

Seeking the Welfare of the City

By Danny Wuerffel 12/01/2015

     Cities are complex organisms. In an effort to truly seek the welfare of an entire city, it’s a daunting task to determine where to begin or where to focus. I’m no expert at cities. Others are far more qualified than I am to bring a level of coherence into the multifaceted discussion of what makes a city thrive.

     But I have served in many cities for almost twenty years, and I know this: for a city to truly thrive, people with resources and influence must commit to seeking not only their own welfare, but also that of the poor and those who live in the distressed and impoverished neighborhoods with in their city.

     Simply put, people (and groups of people) are naturally inclined to take care of themselves, to seek their own welfare and self-preservation. Unfortunately, they almost always leave someone behind in the process.

     Seeking the welfare of the city, from a Christian perspective, is largely about a commitment to love and serve the parts that are struggling. With a physical body, it would be silly to express a commitment to overall health and ignore a fever or broken ankle. Likewise, it makes sense to give proper attention to the parts of the city that are struggling or hurt.

     I’m told the early Christians shocked the world not simply with their theology or piety, but also with the way they cared for and loved the poor and sick in their communities. The gospel in action sparked the birth and growth of Christianity.

     After graduating from the University of Florida in 1996, I was drafted by Mike Ditka to play football for the New Orleans Saints. Though still a young man, I arrived in New Orleans not only looking to play football but also open to see how the Lord might use me in the city during my time there.

     Like many Americans, I was unaware of the harsh realities of life facing those on the fringe, what many would call the bottom of society. I recall driving into New Orleans from the east one afternoon, crossing over the industrial canal, when I heard something on the radio about poverty. In my mind, I began to imagine a hungry child in Africa or a Third World country. All the while, I was driving over the Ninth Ward of New Orleans completely unaware of the Desire Housing Projects that lay beneath me. I envisioned poverty as something bad, but far away. I had no idea of the depths of the struggle for many who lived only a few miles away from where I played professional football.

     I don’t think many of us are inherently against the well-being of the poor who live in our cities. I think we don’t have much of a clue. We’re busy, distracted, and just don’t often notice.

     Shortly after I learned about Desire Street Ministries, I took my first visit, eager to learn about this group of people committed to living in the neighborhood and bringing true transformation to the community through spiritual and community development.

     As I drove into the Desire neighborhood, the old apartment projects loomed large. They were built in the 1950s, and I couldn’t understand how they hadn’t been torn down. Then I saw a little girl walk out of a door. She was holding a little doll, and I realized that these apartments weren’t abandoned—she lived there.

     I went to the Desire Street Ministries facility and began to meet the precious children from the neighborhood. Poverty was slowly changing in my mind from being an idea to being a person. Tevin, Greg, Levy—they had names, faces, hopes, and dreams. They also had considerably more obstacles in their way than I ever did.

     When we bring an open heart toward hurting people, we change. Any effort to seek the welfare of the city must involve the effort to love, serve, and help those in need. But how do we know if our efforts to help are really helpful?

     Unfortunately, they often aren’t. We often bring our arrogant attitudes along with us and can end up demeaning the inherent dignity of those we think we’re helping. Sometimes our efforts to help relieve people from their struggles leave them dependent on outside help rather than helping them develop the abilities to help themselves. Sometimes we forget that although we may have more nancial resources, there are vast reservoirs of resources that the poor have that we don’t. I’m often reminded that many of the people I’m going to serve already know, love, and trust Jesus at a far deeper level than I do. They might just need a place to live.

     My time at Desire Street has caused me to start paying attention to what the Bible has to say about poverty. As I’ve grown as a Christian and continue to study the Scriptures, I’ve realized it’s one of the major themes throughout the Bible. It’s everywhere — if only we would have the eyes to see.

     James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and unde led before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” We often put lots of energy into our Christian lives, seeking to grow in our sanctification and personal relationship with Christ. James teaches that for our efforts to be “true religion,” at least part of it will include an intentional effort to care for the “least of these.” Any attempt to truly seek the welfare of the city will involve thoughtful and loving ways to engage the more distressed neighborhoods and those who live there.

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     Danny Wuerffel is executive director of Desire Street Ministries. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 while at the University of Florida and went on to play professional football before retiring from it in 2002.

Perfectly Human

By R.C. Sproul 12/01/2015

     Over the past two centuries, much has been written in evangelical circles on the deity of Christ. This has been good and necessary, for many people deny that Jesus is the Son of God incarnate. Sometimes I fear, however, that this emphasis on Christ’s deity has led to an imbalance in our doctrine of Christ. It’s proper to highlight our Lord’s deity, but Scripture also emphasizes His humanity. If Jesus were only God and not truly man, He could not save us. His humanity is inseparable from His being the second Adam, fulfilling all righteousness, and taking upon Himself all the obligations of God’s law that must be fulfilled for us to receive life eternal (Lev. 18:5; Rom. 2:13).

     The New Testament proclaims Jesus Christ as vera homo, truly human, as well as vera Deus, truly God. References to Jesus’ true humanity abound. John numbers those who deny a real incarnation with the antichrist (2 John 1:7). Paul speaks of Christ as “born of a woman” (1 Cor. 11:12; Gal. 4:4). The Gospels reveal Christ as having the basic characteristics of humanity. He walks, He talks, He becomes tired, He eats, He drinks, He cries, He manifests every human emotion and every dimension of the physical aspect of mankind (see, for example, Matt. 8:24; Luke 7:34; John 11:35). There’s a full identification of Jesus with humanity—except with respect to one vital distinction: the moral distinction. Christ perfectly obeys the Father; we don’t.

     Christ’s sinlessness is vital to the biblical understanding of redemption. If Jesus is to be our mediator, if He is to be our redeemer, it’s essential that He be sinless. How could His atoning life have any significance if He committed even one sin? He’s called the lamb without blemish because His perfection is integral to His redemptive role as the mediator who offers up a perfect sacrifice to the Father to fulfill the old covenant and satisfy the wrath of God. The sinlessness of Jesus is critical to the full biblical understanding of His sacrificial death. Not only does Christ take what should be ours—namely, punishment for sin—but through imputation He gives to those who are in Him by faith alone the inheritance He receives for His perfect obedience (Rom. 3:21–26).

     Some have denied the sinlessness of Christ in the name of protecting His humanity. If there’s anything that binds us together in common humanity, if there’s anything true of all men of all races and creeds, it’s that we fall short of our standards. We transgress our own laws, not to mention the laws of God. I don’t know anything more common to humanity than sin. If one man in this world today lived ten minutes in perfect obedience to God, that would be nothing less than astonishing. But Christ’s entire life was marked by sinlessness (1 Peter 2:22). So, how could a sinless Christ be truly human if sinlessness violates what is so common to human behavior?

     What we’re really asking is this: Is sinfulness intrinsic to true humanity? We can answer only in the negative. To say that sinfulness is intrinsic to authentic humanity requires two conclusions: first, that Adam before the fall was not a human being; second, and more seriously, that Christians in a state of perfected glory in heaven will no longer be human.

     Everything Scripture says about human beings and sin suggests that men and women, as originally created, were without sin but were nevertheless truly human. Moreover, the Bible teaches that when we are glorified, we will be without sin but yet truly human. Sin isn’t a necessary attribute of true humanity; it’s a foreign intrusion into humanity as created by God. To affirm that sin is intrinsic to our humanity denies the true humanity both of our origins and of our destiny.

     Christ’s sinlessness is vindicated most powerfully in His resurrection. The penalty of sin, biblically speaking, is death (Gen. 2:15–17; Rom. 6:23). But it was impossible for death to hold Him (Acts 2:24). Why? Since Jesus was guilty of no personal sin, death had no rightful claim over Him. He bore our sin and guilt, and that is why He died; but once our debt of sin was canceled, there was nothing left to keep Him buried (Col. 2:13–15). Jesus, being perfectly righteous, had to be raised, for it would have been unjust for God to allow a sinless man to rot in the grave. Christ was raised for our justification, resurrected to prove that He fully satisfied God’s demands on behalf of His people (Rom. 4:25).

     When we confess the sinlessness of Jesus, we are not confessing merely that Jesus is a good man, nor a very good man, nor the best man who has ever lived. We are confessing that Jesus is the perfect man. There’s a significant difference between the good, the better, the best, and the perfect. It amazes me that many people will say that Jesus is a good man but not that He is the perfect man. But how can Jesus be a good man if He has falsely claimed to be a perfect man? Only a bad man would claim to be perfect if he was not perfect. To be equal with the Father, to be sent from God, to be the Savior of the world—a good man would not claim such things of himself if they were not true. Jesus can’t be merely a good man. He is either the perfect man or He’s not a good man.

     Christ is not only truly human—He is perfectly human. Only He has fulfilled the vocation of human beings to love the Lord above all else. That makes Him the most human person who has ever lived, because only He has done what human beings were made to do.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Continual Burnt Offering (Ephesians 5:31)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

October 25
Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.    ESV

     The union of one man and one woman and the faithfulness of each to the other for life is the Christian ideal of the marriage relationship. Whether human laws accord with this or whether they legalize its violation, the divine principle remains unchanged. Yet it is appalling how lightly even professed Christians and members of evangelical churches often look upon marriage. We should not be surprised to find that selfish people scorn the sacredness of the home and make and break marriage ties to suit their whims and desires. But it is distressing when those who know that God Himself has chosen the married state to picture the union of Christ and His redeemed ones, seek the aid of the world’s courts to dissolve a relationship which, once entered into, can only be broken by disobedience to the Word of God. The violation of the seventh commandment is the only ground given by our Lord for one to “divorce his wife,…and [marry] another” (Matthew 19:9). Divorce and remarriage, apart from this, is to incur the condemnation of the Lord, and such a union is regarded as adultery. Of course, where this took place before conversion, all is wiped out by the blood of Christ, and if saved in this condition each party is to “remain in the same calling in which he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:20). Every marriage union is intended to portray the relationship between Christ and His own.

Matthew 19:9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
  ESV

And soon the months will roll away,
And quickly come the nuptial day,
When Thou, the Lamb, shalt take Thy throne
And fully there Thy Church shalt own.
--- Isaac Watts

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

The Man Jesus Renamed

By J. Ligon Duncan 12-13-2009

     If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 8 and this great story of the man who was possessed by demons, liberated by the Lord Jesus Christ. Derek Thomas was reminding me this morning that Ridderbos, in his famous book, The Coming of the Kingdom, records seventeen different interpretations that he had found of this particular parable. Now I must say that that really boggles my mind because Luke's main point is so crystal clear and it's set in the context of three other stories that are crystal clear. We said the last time that we were together that in Luke 8 you begin four miracle stories, all of which either happen in Galilee or in Gentile lands. This, by the way, is the miracle story that happens in Gentile land. You’ll notice at the beginning of the passage that they go across the lake to the east side and that puts them outside the bounds of Galilee and outside the bounds of Israel and over into Gentile territory on the other side. And it's very clear that they’re in Gentile territory because they find themselves in a country where there is a huge, huge herd of pigs. Now not only did the Jewish people not eat bacon, and not only were they forbidden by Moses to eat bacon, but they were not allowed to raise bacon even to sell it to the Gentiles. And so the fact that you’re in a country with a herd of pigs lets you know that you’re in Gentile territory and that's part of the point of the story.

     So these four miracles show Jesus reaching out to Gentiles, either in Galilee or even in even more Gentile territory across the river. It's a picture of His great commission outreach, not just to Jews but to Gentiles also. These four miracle stories, also we said, in contrast to the miracles in Luke 4 and 5, are focused on settings where a small group of the disciples witness the miracles. In Luke 4 and 5, great multitudes are following Jesus Christ when He does His miracles. The miracles that are recorded here, just like the one that we saw last week, are seen by that small circle of disciples that is following Jesus around. This means that these miracles are especially meant to teach believers something.

     Last week we said the focus was on the power and the person of Jesus Christ. And guess what this week's focus is on? The power and the person of Jesus Christ. And repeatedly, these miracles will focus us in on “Who is Jesus?” and “What do His deeds tell us about what He has come to do and the power that He has?” And so this passage helps us in this way. So I don't know how seventeen interpretations of this particular story got circulated.

     I will say that I struggled with the title to this sermon. I've ended up, and I’ll explain it later, giving the title “The Man Jesus Renamed.” Now that may peak your interest because in the passage no name is ever given for the man, either before or after his conversion, so you may be wondering why I've named it that. Well, I’ll try and explain that before the end of the sermon, but there were several titles that didn't get included in the sermon bulletin today. One was, “His Name Was Legion, Not Ligon.” I have been confused with Legion all my life and it worries me that it's not just the sound of the name, but I want to make it clear that Legion is not in any way related to Ligon.

     Another title that didn't make it was “Demons, Pigs, and a Request to Leave.” Now I think actually that beautifully outlines what happens in this passage, but for a specific reason I've wanted to zero your attention in on this man, this nameless man, who is afflicted by demons and who is liberated by Jesus Christ because there is a Gospel message for all of us. This is clearly an extraordinary event. Luke means it to be an extraordinary event. Luke doesn't think that it's an every day occurrence for a person to be possessed by a host of demons. So he's drawing our attention to an extraordinary event, but the reason he's drawing our attention to that extraordinary event is because there are actually truths which transfer across the last 2,000 years, right to where we are today, that we are to learn out of this passage.

     Well let's pray before we read God's Word together.

     Heavenly Father this is Your Word. We ask that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things in it and open our ears, we pray, to hear Your Word rightly. By Your Holy Spirit, show us our need of grace. Show us the sins of our hearts that we are captive to. Show us the only hope of deliverance from those sins and teach us these things from this passage. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

     Hear the Word of God:

     “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes”

     [Let me just pause right there. In some of your Bibles, it may say Gergesenes or Gadarenes in the parallel passages in the gospels. All you need to know right now, if you’re interested in that I'm happy to talk about it until the cows come home, but all you need to know is each of those places — the regions of the Gergesenes, the Gadarenes, and the Gerasenes — it's all on the other side of the Lake of Galilee. It's all Gentile territory, so just bear that in mind. ]

     “They sailed to the country of the Gerasenes which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met Him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before Him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.’ For He (that is, Jesus) had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged Him to let them enter these. So He gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

     When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

     Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

     Many of you have seen, maybe fewer of you have read, a book by the famous British philosopher and skeptic, Bertrand Russell. It's entitled, Why I Am Not A Christian. Now it's not a very profound book. I could have come up with better arguments against Christianity than Bertrand Russell, but in the course of this book in one of the chapters, he says it is this story that led him to the conclusion that Jesus was neither the best nor the most virtuous of men. It deeply disturbed Bertrand Russell that Jesus allowed a herd of two thousand pigs to be destroyed. And he said that a good and virtuous man could not have allowed something like that to happen and therefore, Jesus was not the best and most virtuous of men and therefore Christianity was disproven. Well this is a taste of the profound arguments that you will find in that book. But it struck me as interesting that Bertrand Russell had the exact same reaction to this miracle that the people of the Gerasenes had. They had the exact same reaction to Jesus that Bertrand Russell would manifest two thousand years later. Well I’ll explain that too, later on.

     This passage is fundamentally about Jesus. He is the dividing line here. It's His person and His power that we're having our attention draw to and there are four things in particular that I want you to see in this passage. I want you to see a person in the thrall of sin. It's this man who doesn't even remember his name who's possessed by a host of demons. He's not only a person extraordinarily under bondage to demonic activity, but he's actually a picture of everyone who is in the thrall of sin. Secondly, I want you to look at the Lord Jesus Christ Himself because His power over Satan is on display full force in this passage. Third, I want you to see the change that results in this man after he is not only liberated from these demons, but after he clearly, because of a change of heart, becomes a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then finally, and very, very sadly, I want you to see in contrast to him, the reaction of the majority of the people in his city and country to what Jesus has done. And there's a lesson in each of these things for all of us.

     I. A person in the thrall of sin.

     Well the first thing I want you to see is this picture of a person in the thrall of sin. It's this man who is in bondage to these demons. It's interesting isn't it — Jesus crosses the river, the lake, and no sooner has He set His foot on the other side but this man shows up to meet Him. Jesus does not go looking for this demon-possess man, the man comes to Him. Now that's interesting isn't it? It seems to happen a lot in the gospels. It's almost like the demons are inexorably drawn to Jesus. They sort of seek Him out. Where He goes, they show up and they say things to Him.

     Palmer Robertson was telling me not long after he had arrived in Africa to begin his ministry there he was taken to a nighttime fireside meeting with a witch doctor — a man who was possessed of familiar spirits, who had extraordinary powers of strength, prediction, he was hired by people to put curses on other people and to put spells on other people. And as Palmer approached him at the fireside, the man identified Palmer before he got there. “What are you doing here, man of God?” And then he attempted to intimidate him. It was interesting that Palmer had gone out without any announcement but this man knew who he was and he was obviously disturbed that he was there and he began to make threats. In fact, the next thing the name did was to take a steel bar, place it in his teeth, and proceed to bend it with his hands and with his teeth. He was possessed of extraordinary strength but he was aware that there was a man of God in his presence.

     Well, this happens in the gospel with Jesus. The demons are aware that He is there and they are frightened. And so this man comes to Jesus, he seeks Him out, and Jesus says to him, “What is your name?” And the man doesn't know his name. You understand that Legion is not his name. Legion probably comes from the fact that Roman legions had four to six thousand men in them and this name, Legion, indicates that he is possessed by a host of demons. We know that two thousand pigs go over the cliff. I wouldn't care to speculate how many demons possessed this man, but the man can only identify himself as a person who is possessed by an almost innumerable host of evil spirits and he doesn't even remember his own name.

     For you Tolkien fans it reminds me of a character in the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. Do you remember at the end of the book, in the sixth book, when the King of Gondor and his captains and the host of Gondor have arrived at the black gates of Sauron — Sauron is the evil figure in the book and if you know Tolkien's cosmology, he was actually an apprentice to the Satan figure of Tolkien's writings. And he sends out his representative, a man who is known only as the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr, the black gate. And he is sent out to negotiate with Aragorn and Gandalf, and the others. And Tolkien puts it this way — “The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr he was, and his name is remembered in no tale for he himself had forgotten it and said only, ‘I am the mouth of Sauron.’”

     That is exactly what is happening here. This man, when Jesus says, “What is your name?” effectively says, “I do not know my name. I am but a man possessed by an innumerable host of demons. That is all I know.” Now I want to say very quickly, my friends, that there is no power in this universe that can cause a rationale being to sin. We are all responsible for our sins and so no demonic force can take control of a human life and make you sin unless you allow it. But once the door is open, well, we see in this story what can happen when you give in, what can happen when the demonic takes over. He was completely in the thrall of sin. He was incapable of changing his circumstances. He was totally dominated by these demonic forces. But now this is an extraordinary case. We do not find demons under every pew and under every rock. And Luke intends this to be a display of an extraordinary case. Clearly, Luke is telling you this because he wants you to show the amazing power of Jesus Christ, even over demons.

     But there is a message in this for all of us and it is simply this — we may not be possessed by demons, but if we are possessed by what we want or by what we have and if what we want or what we have is not God in the Gospel of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, then we are no less in the thrall of sin that this man.

     You know, a month ago, a month ago, if you had said to anyone, “You know, Tiger Woods is in slavery.” They would have looked at you and said, “You've got to be out of your mind. He is a billionaire, he is about to break Jack Nicklaus’ record, he's married to a model, he has two beautiful children, he has everything that anybody in the world could possibly want to have. He is the freest man in the world.” But today, if you said to anybody, “Tiger Woods is a slave to his desires,” they would recognize it. We do not say that to cast the first stone. We pray that he would find liberation in Jesus Christ and see his life and family restored, but my friends, any one of us, any one of us, can be in the same thralldom today.

     What do you love? What do you want? What do you have that you’re captive to, that you’re enslaved to? Yes, this man is extraordinary. It's not every day that you meet someone inhabited by a host of demons, but every time you meet a Christ-less soul, you meet someone who is utterly captive to sin. And they are no more capable of liberating themselves than this man was capable of liberating himself from this host of demons. Well that's the first thing we see in this passage.

     II. The power of the Lord Jesus Christ over Satan.

     But here's the second thing. We see the power of Christ over Satan, don't we? It's amazing — Jesus comes to shore and it's obvious that He has immediately commanded the spirits to leave the man because they remonstrate with Him. “What have You to do with me, Jesus, the Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” And then the demons beg not to be cast into the abyss. The demons, who in this man have terrified the whole countryside to the point that they had tried to retrain this man with chains they were so frightened of Him, those demons are now afraid of Jesus because they know who Jesus is and they know where Jesus can cast them. They know that Jesus can cast them into the abyss, into the lake of fire, into the bowels of hell, and they’re frightened. And so they begin crying out, “Don't cast us into the abyss.”

     Luke is telling you here that Jesus is sovereign over everything. There is no captivity that you can be captive to that is not captive to Jesus Christ for He has ascended on high and led captivity captive and He makes a sport and a spoil of the forces of darkness which are arrayed against God and against heaven. He is utterly sovereign. In fact in this passage with the demons naming His name, this was often done in the ancient world, if you knew someone's name you could call out that name as a part of casting a spell on them. And so the demons call out His name — “Jesus, the Son of the Most High God” — and it has no effect on Him. They cannot cast a spell on Him. There's nothing that they can do to restrain His mighty arm.

     And then they beg to go into the herd of pigs. Now Jesus grants this permission. And you can ask yourself a lot of questions — Why did Jesus do that? Maybe it was because they were unclean animals. The bottom line is, I don't know why Jesus did that and neither do you and neither does anyone else. I remember my boyhood pastor, Gordon Reed, preaching through a sermon series on the gospel on Mark coming to a passage about demon possession saying, “I don't know much about demon possession, but I've read a lot of books about people on demon possession and they don't know much about demon possession either.” Well, before you give counsel to Jesus about what He has done in this passage you may want to take stock about how much you know about demon possession. I trust the Lord Jesus to know what to do with demons and what ought to be done.

     But let me just suggest that one thing that might be happening here is a picture of Jesus’ future judgment on the demonic forces that are arrayed against God. What is going to happen, we are told by John the book of Revelation, is that God Himself is going to cast Satan and his demons into the lake of fire. Now what happens in this passage? The demons inhabit the bodies of this herd of pigs and the pigs cast them into the Lake of Galilee. It may well be a picture of the reverse of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Do you remember when a serpent, an animal, came and exercised authority over God's man and woman, Adam and Eve, who had been made in His image so that instead of them ruling over the animals, the animals ruled over them? Here, it may well be that a herd of unclean animals has been used to take thousands of demons to their doom in the lake in anticipation of the final judgment. Other than that my friends, I don't know.

     But this I do know, when people say that because those pigs died it shows that Jesus was not a good and virtuous man they’re forgetting three things. First of all they’re forgetting that Jesus Himself has already said that His Heavenly Father cares even about the sparrows that fall from their nests. Secondly, they’re forgetting that Jesus also says that people are more important than sparrows. And thirdly, they are forgetting the fate of this man with an immortal soul who was in danger not only of a continuous life of torment, but an eternal separation from God. and what Jesus showed here was a love and a grace towards a man in captivity to sin who didn't deserve to be freed and didn't deserve to be forgiven, but Jesus did it anyway. It's a glorious picture of Jesus’ love for lost souls, even a Gentile. He loves our souls. Jesus is the lover of our souls. He's the friend of sinners. And it's the glorious picture of the value that He puts on an immortal soul. So you not only see the power of Christ over Satan in this passage in the miracle that He performs in casting these demons out of this man, but you also see Jesus’ compassion towards sinners.

     III. The heart set free from sin by Jesus.

     And then you see in this passage the change of a heart set free. When this passage begins, we have a man who is possessed by demons who had gone about naked, who had lived in the tombs, who was out of his mind, and who did not even know his name. And at the end of the passage, look how he is described. Twice he is described this way — look at verse 35, “the man from whom the demons had gone out” and then again “the man from whom the demons had gone” and then in verse 38, “the man from whom the demons had gone.” When Jesus had asked him, “What's your name?” The first time he had answered, “I'm the man possessed by a countless host of demons.” Now, he's the man from whom those demons have gone out. “I'm the man who Jesus saved by casting out the demons from me.”

     He had a new name and he had a new nature to go along with it. He was no longer naked and he was no longer babbling and he was no longer living amongst the tombs, but when they came, he was clothed and in his right mind and sitting at the Savior's feet.

     Now you understand what sitting at the Savior's feet means? That's what disciples do, they sit at their master's feet. He's a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ now. And not only that, he's about to be a witnessing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is going to tell him, “You can't come with Me, but I do want you to go back and tell them what great things God has done for you. Go be a witness to Me. Go be a witness to Me as My disciple.”

     And the thing that I love the most is the utter contrast in his attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he first says when Jesus meets him in verse 28 — “What do you have to do with me, Jesus? I beg You, do not torment me.” Then, if you look in verse 38, he begs Jesus that he might be with him. There's a total change of nature in this man. He's converted. He's set free. He's liberated. He's no longer under the domination of demons or his own sin. He's been set free by Jesus.

     IV. The hard hearts of those who reject Jesus.

     But the sad thing I want you to see at the end is the reaction of the majority of his countrymen, because unlike him, they do not beg to be with Jesus. In fact, they beg Jesus to leave. And you know what the most frightening thing of all is? He does. They, like the demons, are afraid of Him and they beg Him to leave and He does. Why? Because they cared more about what they had lost than what that man had gained or what they could gain in Jesus themselves. John Oxenham1 wrote a poem about this passage. It goes like this: These are the people of Gerasene speaking to Jesus — “Rabbi be gone. Thy powers bring loss to us and ours. Our ways are not as Thine. Thou lovest men, we love swine. Oh get you hence, Omnipotence, and take this foul of Thine. His soul, what care we for his soul? What good to us that Thou hast made him whole, since we have lost our swine?” Is that not a picture of people that love what they have or what they want more than they love the One who loves their souls?

     What's going on here? Why does the herd of swine go over the cliff? Why did these people respond to Jesus this way? You don't have to look very far. It's back just a few verses, the answer is back just a few verses. It's in Luke chapter 8, verse 18. It's just 8 or 9 verses before this passage. What does it say? Do you remember? Two Sundays ago — “Take care then, how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” They thought those pigs were theirs. They were not. They belonged to God. Nothing we have belongs to us. It all belongs to God. But it was what they loved and they preferred it to everlasting blessing in Jesus Christ. And because they did not hear Him, they lost even what they had.

     This story is a technicolor picture of Luke 8:18, and my friends, there don't have to be demons around for us to be facing the same challenge. Are we with a man, liberated, who trusted Jesus, who begged to be with Jesus and sought to be a disciple at His feet? Or are we with those who love what we want and what we have more than we love the Word of life from the only One who can give life? We’re in the same story, my friends. We’re in the same story.


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     Dr. J. Ligon Duncan is the chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. He has authored, coauthored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books.

     Ligon Duncan Books |  Go to Books Page



  • Pergamum
    Rev 2:12–17
  • Jesus 2
    John 15:12–17
  • Thyatira
    Rev 2:18–29


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Respect, don’t reject
     (Oct 25)    Bob Gass

     ‘I try to find common ground with everyone.’

(1 Co 9:22) To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. ESV

     For any relationship to work, we must accept each other’s differences. Within our family we must respect each other’s unique perspectives. We don’t need to agree on every issue, but we must always honour where the other person is coming from. Paul did that: ‘I try to find common ground with everyone.’ Some of us who claim to follow Christ have a hard time with views and values that differ from our own. We think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word. Some of us have turned from the most immoral lives to faith in Christ, yet after our conversion we won’t associate with anyone who doesn’t agree with us and adopt our newfound values. Sometimes our families fall apart because we try to force our opinions on the people we love, and set boundaries to keep nonconformists out. What a terrible misuse of Christianity! Jesus didn’t condemn the people who crucified Him; He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34 NKJV). He didn’t view them as morally bad, but spiritually blind. He told His disciples, ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws him’ (John 6:44 NKJV). It’s your job to love people, and it’s God’s job to change them! So, stop trying to do what only God can do! If you invest patiently in your relationships, respect other people’s perspectives, and sow good seed, you’ll reap a pleasant harvest in the long term. Your love, not the force of your argument, can give hope to the most severely damaged among us that there’s healing for the broken places of the human soul.

Jer 46-47
Titus 3

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On October 25, 1887, President Grover Cleveland issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer: “The goodness and the mercy of God, which have followed the American people during all the days of the past year, claim their grateful recognition…. I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, do hereby designate… a day of thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by all the people of the land…. Let all secular work and employment be suspended, and let our people assemble in… worship and with prayer and songs of praise give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all that He has done.”

American Minute
The Soul of Prayer
     by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)


II.     Does God not will the existence of things for us to resist, to grapple with? Do we ourselves not appoint problems and make difficulties for those we teach, for the very purpose of their overcoming them? We set questions to children of which we know the answer quite well. The real answer to our will and purpose is not the solution but the grappling, the wrestling. And we may properly give a reward not for the correct answer, but for the hard and honest effort. That work is the prayer; and it has its reward apart from the solution.

     That is a principle of education with us. So it may be with God. But I mean a good deal more by this than what is called the reflex action of prayer. It that were all it would introduce an unreality into prayer. We should be praying for exercise, not for action. It would be prayer with a theological form, which yet expects no more than a psychological effect. It would be a prayer which is not sure that God is really more interested in us than we are in Him. But I mean that God’s education has a lower stage for us and a higher. He has a lower will and a higher, a prior and a posterior. And the purpose of the lower will is that it be resisted and struggled through to the higher. By God’s will (let us say) you are born in a home where your father’s earnings are a few shillings a week, like many an English labourer. Is it God’s will that you acquiesce in that and never strive out of it? It is God’s will that you are there. Is it God’s will that you should not resist being there? Nay, it may be His will that you should wisely resist it, and surmount His lower, His initial, will, which is there for the purpose. That is to say, it is His will that you resist, antagonize, His will. And so it is with the state of childhood altogether.

     Again: Is disease God’s will? We all believe it often is—even if man is to blame for it. It may be, by God’s will, the penalty on human ignorance, negligence, or sin. But let us suppose there were only a few cases where disease is God’s will. It was so in the lower creatures, before man lived, blundered, or sinned. Take only one such case. Is it God’s will that we should lie down and let the disease have its way? Why, a whole profession exists to say no. Medicine exists as an antagonism to disease, even when you can say that disease is God’s will and His punishment of sin. A doctor will tell you that resignation is one of his foes. He begins to grow hopeless if the patient is so resigned from the outset as to make no effort, if there be no will to live. Resistance to this ordinance of God’s is the doctor’s business and the doctor’s ally. And why? Because God ordained disease for the purpose of being resisted; He ordained the resistance, that from the conflict man might come out the stronger, and more full of resource and dominion over nature.

     Again, take death. It is God’s will. It is in the very structure of man, in the divine economy. It is not the result of sin; it was there before sin. Is it to be accepted without demur? Are doctors impious who resist it? Are we sinning when we shrink from it? Does not the life of most people consist in the effort to escape it, in the struggle for a living? So also when we pray and wrestle for another’s life, for our dear one’s life. “Sir, come down ere my child die.” The man was impatient. How familiar we are with his kind! “Do, please, leave your religious talk, which I don’t understand; get doing something; cure my child.” But was that an impious prayer? It was ignorant, practical, British, but not quite faithless. And it was answered, as many a similar prayer has been. But, then, if death be God’s will, to resist it is to resist God’s will. Well, it is His will that we should. Christ, who always did God’s will, resisted His own death, slipped away from it often, till the hour came; and even then He prayed with all his might against it when it seemed inevitable. “If it be possible, release Me.” He was ready to accept it, but only in the last resort, only if there was no other way, only after every other means had been exhausted. To the end He cherished the fading hope that there might be some other way. He went to death voluntarily, freely, but—shall we say reluctantly?—resisting the most blessed act of God’s will that ever was performed in heaven or on earth; resisting, yet sure to acquiesce when that was God’s clear will.


--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).

The Soul of Prayer
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


When all is said and done,
the life of faith is nothing
if not an unending struggle of the spirit
with every available weapon against the flesh.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship

You and I, each and every one of us without exception, can be defined as an aching need for the infinite. Some people realize this; some do not. But even the latter illustrate this inner ache when, not having God deeply, they incessantly spill themselves out into excitements and experiences, licit or illicit. They are trying to fill their inner emptiness, but they never succeed, which is why the search is incessant. Though worldly pleasure seeking never fulfills and satisfies in a continuing way, it may tend momentarily to distract and to dull the profound pain of the inner void. If these people allow themselves a moment of reflective silence (which they seldom do), they notice a still, small voice whispering, ‘Is this all there is?’ They begin to sense a thirst to love with abandon, without limit, without end, without lingering aftertastes of bitterness. In other words, their inner spirit is clamoring, even if confusedly, for unending beauty. How they and we respond to this inner outreach rooted in our deep spiritual soul is the most basic set of decisions we can make: they have eternal consequences.
--- Thomas Dubay

After brokenness, our lives can be more fruitful, more purposeful, and more joyful. A genuine blessing can come in the wake of being broken.
--- Charles Stanley

If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.
--- Corrie Ten Boom

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 10.

     That Whereas The City Of Jerusalem Had Been Five Times Taken Formerly, This Was The Second Time Of Its Desolation. A Brief Account Of Its History.

     1. And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five 34 times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built. But he who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites, and is in our own tongue called [Melchisedek], the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple [there], 35 and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem. However, David, the king of the Jews, ejected the Canaanites, and settled his own people therein. It was demolished entirely by the Babylonians, four hundred and seventy-seven years and six months after him. And from king David, who was the first of the Jews who reigned therein, to this destruction under Titus, were one thousand one hundred and seventy-nine years; but from its first building, till this last destruction, were two thousand one hundred and seventy-seven years; yet hath not its great antiquity, nor its vast riches, nor the diffusion of its nation over all the habitable earth, nor the greatness of the veneration paid to it on a religious account, been sufficient to preserve it from being destroyed. And thus ended the siege of Jerusalem.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 27:17
     by D.H. Stern

17     Just as iron sharpens iron,
a person sharpens the character of his friend.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                The external crush of things

     I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. --- 1 Cor. 9:22.

     A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s noble man or woman amid a crowd of ignoble things. Never make this plea—‘If only I were somewhere else!’ All God’s men are ordinary men made extraordinary by the matter He has given them. Unless we have the right matter in our minds intellectually and in our hearts affectionately, we will be hustled out of usefulness to God. We are not workers for God by choice. Many people deliberately choose to be workers, but they have no matter in them of God’s almighty grace, no matter of His mighty word. Paul’s whole heart and mind and soul were taken up with the great matter of what Jesus Christ came to do, he never lost sight of that one thing. We have to face ourselves with the one central fact—Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

     “I have chosen you.” Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God, but that He has got you. Here, in this College, God is at work, bending, breaking, moulding, doing just as He chooses. Why He is doing it, we do not know; He is doing it for one purpose only—that He may be able to say, ‘This is My man, My woman.’ We have to be in God’s hand so that He can plant men on the Rock as He has planted us.

     Never choose to be a worker, but when God has put His call on you, woe be to you if you turn to the right hand or to the left. He will do with you what He never did with you before the call came; He will do with you what He is not doing with other people. Let Him have His way.

My Utmost for His Highest
Travels
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


                Travels

I travelled, learned new ways
  to deceive, smiling not
  frowning; kept my lips supple
  with lies; learned to digest
  malice, knowing it tribute
  to my success. Is the world
  large? Are there areas uncharted
  by the imagination? Never betray
  your knowledge of them. Came here,
  followed the river upward
  to its beginning in the Welsh
  moorland, prepared to analyse
  its contents; stared at the smooth pupil
  of water that stared at me
  back as absent-mindedly as a god
  in contemplation of his own
  navel; felt the coldness
  of unplumbed depths I should have
  stayed here to fathom; watched the running
  away of the resources
  of water to form those far
  seas that men must endeavour
  to navigate on their voyage home.

Frequencies
3 / REASON & TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY WITHIN HALAKHAH & PHILOSOPHY
     Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest

     The previous chapters attempt to show, in opposition to Husik’s approach, how Maimonides exposed the reader of his legal works to philosophy. He is not articulating a tradition which has no use for philosophy, but instead is portraying a halakhic way to God which must be united with philosophy.

     There is yet another aspect of his works which supports this idea. A proper understanding of Maimonides’ attitude toward authority is crucial for substantiating this orientation to his philosophy. A religious tradition which insists on uncritical subservience to its norms of behavior and beliefs tends to generate a specific human type which, in many ways, is incompatible with an intellectual love of God. Obedience to authority is not the basis for love—especially the love awakened by the perfection of the Beloved.

     The individual guided by reason would find himself isolated within the community which demanded an uncritical acceptance of its beliefs. If such a person is to remain rooted in the community, it is crucial that the communal forms of spirituality, i.e., Halakhah, do not exclusively stress an obedience-orientation running counter to the independent spirit cultivated by reason. Political considerations may keep such an individual within the framework of community. Yet if the claim is made that such an individual can remain within his community for reasons which are essentially related to his personal spiritual outlook, we must show how the way of reason can flourish within halakhic Judaism. The individual within Halakhah must have room to cultivate his independent reason; he cannot be asked to submit uncritically to the claims of authority.

     To fulfill a norm or to assent to a statement solely on the basis of authority is to cultivate a relationship nurtured by obedience. Imperatives can obligate an individual either on the basis of their content or on the authority of their author. Similarly, an individual can assent to statements of belief either because the statements appeal to rational criteria or because the individual possesses an unconditional regard for the authority-figure. In the latter case, one need not examine the content of belief before assenting. All that is necessary is to establish that the statement emanates from an accepted authority; the examination of what is said, for the most part, is irrelevant. Critical reasoning and evaluation, in fact, are dangerous and undesirable; they may introduce doubt and wavering when what is sought is unconditional compliance with authority.

     We realize that this either/or dichotomy tends to oversimplify a problem that is more subtle than it is clear-cut. Authority can take place within a context of shared values. It is these common values which both confer legitimacy on the person claiming authority and limit the scope of what he can do or say. As Peter Winch points out, the Pope, although often seen as an absolute authority—infallible in his decisions—could hardly maintain the allegiance of his church were he to claim that God does not exist or that cohabitation outside of marriage is a divine command.

     Despite this fact (which should caution one from emphasizing exclusively the notion of uncritical obedience in relationships based upon authority), one can still distinguish between the type of person developed by authoritarian systems and the type developed by systems whose appeal is to reason. The former system is most compatible with the obedient personality, whereas the latter encourages the development of an independent person whose commitment is nurtured primarily by his own understanding. A relationship which allows for rational examination encourages an individual to appreciate the wisdom of the author of the norms and beliefs. When God’s activities and dictates can be independently evaluated so that His wisdom becomes manifest to man, the groundwork is set for a relationship which is not based exclusively on obedience.

     The Halakhah is a system of norms tracing its ultimate authoritative appeal to God; the revelation at Sinai is the ground of the normative structure of halakhic legislation. Specific laws dictate the behavior of Jews in virtually all aspects of their lives. It is reasonable to expect, that since Halakhah is based on unconditional acceptance of divine authority, it would develop the obedient personality whose primary concern is to fulfill the laws of his tradition. Yet, according to Maimonides, the telos of Halakhah is to create ideal conditions for the realization of intellectual love of God. Maimonides must therefore develop an approach to halakhic authority which will make it compatible with a spiritual life dedicated to philosophic knowledge of God. He must show that obedience to authority is not the sole virtue of Halakhah. If Halakhah encourages the development of a critical mind capable of independent reflection and evaluation, it cannot be exclusively characterized by appeals to authority which demand unconditional obedience.

     Our analysis of the Maimonidean theory of halakhic authority will focus on how he restricted the use of appeals to authority within the Halakhah, and revealed instead areas of halakhic law which were independent of those appeals. Further analysis of Maimonides’ epistemology in the Guide will also reveal that he sought to teach his reader to differentiate between norms and beliefs which must be accepted on the basis of the authority of tradition and those which appeal to reasoning, whether through demonstrative inference or through legal argumentation. In doing so he showed that there are common principles operating within Halakhah and Aggadah which determine the legitimate scope of authority. His understanding of the relationship between authority and reason provides a frame within which the halakhic Jew can legitimately engage in those philosophic disciplines which nurture love for God.

     Maimonides’ treatment of authority, in his introduction to The Commentary to the Mishnah, begins with a discussion of the scope of prophetic authority. The prophet characteristically calls upon the authority of God to justify his claims. The limits of prophetic authority established within Judaism must be clarified if reason is to possess any legitimacy within the religious life of the tradition.

     Maimonides states that the prophet has full authority to decide political questions involving war and peace, economic policy and, if he deems it necessary, to temporarily suspend the laws of the Torah. However, no prophet can suspend—even temporarily—the prohibitions against idolatry. Regarding a “prophet” commanding participation in idolatrous worship, Maimonides writes:

     … for the testimony of reason which denies his prophecy is stronger than the testimony of the eye which sees his miracles, for it has already been made clear to men of reason that it is not proper to honor nor to worship other than the One who caused all beings to exist and is unique in [His] ultimate perfection.

     Prophetic authority cannot demand obedience to that which is contrary to the testimony of reason. Such demands would immediately prove the prophet to be false, regardless of miracles which might confirm his authority. Miracles do not convince rational men of the validity of such claims.

     To Maimonides, such miracles are tests God sets before men. The tests may well be whether authority can be revered without such reverence leading to unconditional and indiscriminate submission, i.e., whether the Jew will abandon the testimony of reason when confronted with the claims of miracle workers. True loyalty to God is manifest by one who trusts his reason and refuses to follow authority indiscriminately.

     A second limitation on prophetic authority prevents the prophet from permanently abrogating any part of Mosaic law. Maimonides appeals to the authority of Moses and Torah to explain the limitations set on the prophet’s right to abrogate matters of Halakhah. He does not use the phrase “the testimony of reason” here as he does with regard to idolatry. Rather he appeals to the testimony of the community of Israel who participated with Moses in the theophany at Sinai. This event implanted a permanent conviction by which the community could withstand the seductions of miracle-working prophets who claim to supersede and negate the law of Sinai. In the Guide Maimonides speaks of this conviction as the “certainty of sight.” The entire community “saw” God addressing Moses. Their participation in this revelation led them to accept Mosaic legislative authority, not on the basis of miracles, but on the firmer basis of their direct participation in God’s revelation to Moses. The commitment to the Torah of Moses, which resulted from the “certainty of sight,” imposes limits upon the authoritative pronouncements of post-Mosaic prophets.

     In the Mishneh Torah Maimonides supports this limitation on prophetic authority by an analysis of the legal status of the prophet. He bases his position on the fact that miracles are not conclusive evidence of one’s being a prophet:

     Hence one may conclude with regard to every Prophet after Moses, that we do not believe in such a Prophet because of the signs he shows, as much as to say that only if he shows a sign, we shall pay heed to him in all that he says, but we believe in him because of the charge laid down by Moses in the Torah that if the Prophet gives a sign “you shall listen to him”; just as the Lawgiver directed that a cause is to be decided on the evidence of two witnesses even if we have no certainty as to whether they are testifying to the truth or to a falsehood. Similarly, it is our duty to listen to the Prophet though we do not know if the sign he shows is genuine or has been performed with the aid of sorcery and by secret arts.

Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Take Heart
     October 25



     None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. --- 1 Corinthians 2:8

     Who brought this infamy about?  The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life  To begin with, there were the Pharisees. They disliked Christ, and they said so. They resented the intrusion of this layperson—and an ill-educated man at that—into their domain. His teaching, or much of it, seemed to them sheer blasphemy. His habits they thought disgusting. You can always tell people by the company they keep, they sneered, and glanced scornfully at the rabble with whom Christ was not ashamed to mingle. Yet they were zealously religious people, keen churchgoing folk, as we would say, more keen and zealous by far than we are. They prayed, they fasted, they disciplined themselves along lines that might well make us much ashamed. They were good people in their way, devout and desperately in earnest, so far as they saw.

     But they made two mistakes. They were apt, as Jesus told them bluntly, to keep their lives and their religion in separate compartments. To pray and fast and keep their multitudinous rules was hard but, after all, a good deal easier than to be kind and unselfish when that clashed with their desires. They hoped and felt that it might do instead. They prayed long and ardently, but it had small effect on their characters. Their temper remained uncurbed, their animosities hardly checked, nor did that seem to vex them or to make them feel that something was wrong somewhere. That that was the goal of religion had not struck them. And so, while praying and thronging to the temple day by day, they planned Calvary and worked it out into a fact of history.

     This is a warning for us all. For Jesus tells us that his experience has taught him this—people can be eagerly, even fussily religious, and yet nothing may come of it in their characters. He pursues us in this matter with blunt, pertinacious questions, difficult to face. These prayers of yours, he asks, what are they doing in you? Do they end with themselves? Are they really making you more like God, or do you run them up as a cheap substitute for worthy living? [Regarding] your knowledge of the Father and of the human community—is the [former] forcing you to live your life in God’s way? Is the [latter] making your conscience more acute to things about you, so that you can’t pass by, now, on the other side, happy in your own comforts, until these wrongs are righted?
--- Arthur John Gossip

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day   October 25
     Council of Ephesus


     Orthodox Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is one person, having both a human and a divine nature. Nestorius, powerful fifth-century preacher, disagreed. Two separate persons indwelled the incarnate Christ, he taught, one divine and the other human. “I separate the natures, but I unite the worship. Consider what this must mean,” he said. “He who was formed in the womb of Mary was not himself God, but God assumed him.”

     A violent controversy ensued. Nestorius, a popular orator, had been named patriarch of Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius II. Preachers, monks, and bishops exploded in their pulpits against him. The pope condemned him in a set of 12 anathemas (the word anathema means “cursed”) and demanded he recant within 12 days.

     Emperor Theodosius, stunned by the theological war fragmenting his empire, called a general church council in Ephesus in 431. From the beginning it proved to be animated and stomach-wrenching. Nestorius arrived with 16 bishops, an armed escort, and the backing of the emperor. But he was badly outnumbered, and the verdict went against him: “Whosoever does not anathematize Nestorius, let him be anathema; the true faith anathematizes him; the holy council anathematizes him. Whoever holds fellowship with Nestorius, let him be anathema. We all anathematize the letter and doctrines of Nestorius. We all anathematize Nestorius and his followers and his ungodly doctrine.”

     But Emperor Theodosius declared the decree invalid because not all the bishops had yet arrived in Ephesus. More politics, intrigue, and anxiety followed; but in the end the result was the same. Nestorius was deposed as patriarch of Constantinople, and on October 25, 431 his successor was nominated. Nestorius was banished to Egypt where he died after writing his autobiography and titling it Tragedy.

     The Council of Ephesus was one of the bitterest councils in church history, but it preserved the orthodox doctrine of Christ. A small group of eastern bishops, however, refusing to accept its decisions, constituted themselves into a separate church, centered in Persia. Remnants of the Nestorian Church survive to this day in western and central Asia.

     This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
--- Romans 1:3-4.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - October 25

     “For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” --- 2 John 2.

     Once let the truth of God obtain an entrance into the human heart and subdue the whole man unto itself, no power human or infernal can dislodge it. We entertain it not as a guest but as the master of the house—this is a Christian necessity, he is no Christian who doth not thus believe. Those who feel the vital power of the Gospel, and know the might of the Holy Ghost as he opens, applies, and seals the Lord’s Word, would sooner be torn to pieces than be rent away from the Gospel of their salvation. What a thousand mercies are wrapped up in the assurance that the truth will be with us for ever; will be our living support, our dying comfort, our rising song, our eternal glory; this is Christian privilege, without it our faith were little worth. Some truths we outgrow and leave behind, for they are but rudiments and lessons for beginners, but we cannot thus deal with Divine truth, for though it is sweet food for babes, it is in the highest sense strong meat for men. The truth that we are sinners is painfully with us to humble and make us watchful; the more blessed truth that whosoever believeth on the Lord Jesus shall be saved, abides with us as our hope and joy. Experience, so far from loosening our hold of the doctrines of grace, has knit us to them more and more firmly; our grounds and motives for believing are now more strong, more numerous than ever, and we have reason to expect that it will be so till in death we clasp the Saviour in our arms.

     Wherever this abiding love of truth can be discovered, we are bound to exercise our love. No narrow circle can contain our gracious sympathies, wide as the election of grace must be our communion of heart. Much of error may be mingled with truth received, let us war with the error but still love the brother for the measure of truth which we see in him; above all let us love and spread the truth ourselves.


          Evening - October 25

     “She gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.” --- Ruth 2:3.

     Her hap was. Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident, but how divinely was it overruled! Ruth had gone forth with her mother’s blessing, under the care of her mother’s God, to humble but honourable toil, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that amid the sheaves she would find a husband, that he should make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she a poor foreigner should become one of the progenitors of the great Messiah. God is very good to those who trust in him, and often surprises them with unlooked for blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us to-morrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us, that no good thing shall be withheld. Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of to-day or to-morrow may involve consequences of the highest importance. O Lord, deal as graciously with thy servants as thou didst with Ruth.

     How blessed would it be, if, in wandering in the field of meditation to-night, our hap should be to light upon the place where our next Kinsman will reveal himself to us! O Spirit of God, guide us to him. We would sooner glean in his field than bear away the whole harvest from any other. O for the footsteps of his flock, which may conduct us to the green pastures where he dwells! This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we could better do without sun and moon than without him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of his presence! Our souls know the virtue which dwells in Jesus, and can never be content without him. We will wait in prayer this night until our hap shall be to light on a part of the field belonging to Jesus wherein he will manifest himself to us.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     October 25

          FAITH IS THE VICTORY

     John H. Yates, 1837–1900

     … this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)

     Saving faith must always be reflected in a working faith. Our response of faith to the redemptive work of Christ transforms us; but then we need a daily motivating faith if we want to live overcoming lives. To live by faith is to believe with conviction that God’s purposes for us will ultimately prevail. In fact, prevailing faith anticipates victory and celebrates in advance. For example, read the Old Testament account of how singers preceded the warriors into battle and the defeat of the enemy was accomplished (2 Chronicles 20:20–22).

     Our faith does not develop merely through intellectual assent to biblical dogma or through wishful thinking. Rather, it is a lifetime commitment to the person of Christ with a response of obedience to His Word (Romans 10:17).

     This hymn of faith and victory was first published in 1891 in the Christian Endeavor Hymnal. The author, John Henry Yates, was a licensed Methodist preacher who was later ordained by the Baptists. Ira Sankey, the composer, is often called the “father of the Gospel song.”

     Encamped along the hills of light, ye Christian soldiers rise, and press the battle ere the night shall veil the glowing skies. Against the foe in vales below let all our strength be hurled; faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world.
     His banner over us is love, our sword the Word of God; we tread the road the saints above with shouts of triumph trod. By faith they like a whirl-wind’s breath swept on o’er ev’ry field; the faith by which they conquered death is still our shining shield.
     On ev’ry hand the foe we find drawn up in dread array; let tents of ease be left behind, and onward to the fray! Salvation’s helmet on each head, with truth all girt about: The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread and echo with our shout.
     To him that overcomes the foe white raiment shall be giv’n; before the angels he shall know his name confessed in heav’n. Then onward from the hills of light, our hearts with love aflame; we’ll vanquish all the hosts of night in Jesus’ conq’ring name.
     Chorus: Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory! O glorious victory that overcomes the world.


     For Today: Galatians 2:20; James 2:18; 1 John 5:1–12; Jude 3

     Ask God to make you a vivid demonstration to your associates and friends of a triumphant faith in Christ—an exclamation of faith, not a question mark. Sing this musical truth as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     (2.) An incentive to obedience.

     [l.] The commands of the gospel require the obedience of the creature. There is not one precept in the gospel which interferes with any rule in the law, but strengthens it, and represents it in its true exactness: the heat to scorch us is allayed, but the light to direct us is not extinguished. Not the least allowance to any sin is granted; not the least affection to any sin is indulged. The law is tempered by the gospel, but not nulled and cast out of doors by it: it enacts that none but those that are sanctified, shall be glorified; that there must be grace here, if we expect glory hereafter; that we must not presume to expect an admittance to the vision of God’s face unless our souls be clothed with a robe of holiness (Heb. 12:14). It requires an obedience to the whole law in our intention and purpose, and an endeavor to observe it in our actions; it promotes the honor of God, and ordains a universal charity among men; it reveals the whole counsel of God, and furnisheth men with the holiest laws.

     [2.] It presents to us the exactest pattern for our obedience. The redeeming person is not only a propitiation for the sin, but a pattern to the sinner (1 Pet. 2:21). The conscience of man, after the fall of Adam, approved of the reason of the law, but by the corruption of nature man had no strength to perform the law. The possibility of keeping the law, by human nature, is evidenced by the appearance and life of the Redeemer, and an assurance given that it shall be advanced to such a state as to be able to observe it: we aspire to it in this life, and have hopes to attain it in a future; and, while we are here, the actor of our redemption is the copy for our imitation. The pattern to imitate is greater than the law to be ruled by.

     What a lustre did his virtues cast about the world! How attractive are his graces! With what high examples for all duties has he furnished us out of the copy of his life!

     [3.] It presents us with the strongest motives to obedience (Tit. 2:11, 12): “The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodlinsss.” What chains bind us faster and closer than love? Here is love to our nature in his incarnation; love to us, though enemies, in his death and passion; encouragements to obedience by the proffers of pardon for former rebellions. By the disobedience of man, God introduceth his redeeming grace, and engageth his creature to more ingenuous and excellent returns than his innocent state could oblige him to. In his created state he had goodness to move him, he hath the same goodness now to oblige him as a creature, and a greater love and mercy to oblige him as a repaired creature; and the terror of justice is taken off, which might envenom his heart as a criminal. In his revolted state he had misery to discourage him; in his redeemed state he hath love to attract him. Without such a way, black despair had seized upon the creature exposed to a remediless misery, and God would have had no returns of love from the best of his earthly works; but if any sparks of ingenuity be left, they will be excited by the efficacy of this argument. The willingness of God to receive returning sinners, is manifested in the highest degree; and the willingness of a sinner to return to him in duty hath the strongest engagements. He hath done as much to encourage our obedience, as to illustrate his glory. We cannot conceive what could be done greater for the salvation of our souls, and consequently what could have been done, more to enforce our observance. We have a Redeemer, as man, to copy it to us, and as God, to perfect us in it. It would make the heart of any to tremble to wound him that hath provided such a salve for our sores, and to make grace a warrant for rebellion—motives capable to form rocks into a flexibleness. Thus is the wisdom of God seen in giving us a ground to the surest confidence, and furnishing us with incentives to the greatest obedience, by the horrors of wrath, death and sufferings of our Saviour.

     8. The wisdom of God is apparent in the condition he hath settled for the enjoying the fruits of redemption: and this is faith, a wise and reasonable condition and the concomitants of it—

     (1.) In that it is suited to man’s lapsed state and God’s glory. Innocence is not required here; that had been a condition impossible in its own nature after the fall. The rejecting of mercy is now only condemning, where mercy is proposed. Had the condition of perfection in works been required, it had rather been a condemnation than redemption. Works are not demanded, whereby the creature might ascribe anything to himself, but a condition, which continues in man a sense of his apostasy, abates all aspiring pride, and makes the reward of grace, not of debt; a condition, whereby mercy is owned, and the creature emptied; flesh silenced in the dust, and God set upon his throne of grace and authority; the creature brought to the lowest debasement, and Divine glory raised to the highest pitch. the creature is brought to acknowledge mercy, and seal to justice; to own the holiness of God, in the hatred of sin; the justice of God, in the punishment of sin; and the mercy of God, in the pardoning of sin: a condition that despoils nature of all its pretended excellency; beats down the glory of man at the foot of God (1 Cor. 1:29, 31). It subjects the reason and will of man to the wisdom and authority of God; it brings the creature to an unreserved submission and entire resignation. God is made the sovereign cause of all; the creature continued in his emptiness, and reduced to a greater dependence upon God than by a creation; depending upon him for a constant influx, for an entire happiness: a condition that renders God glorious in the creature, and the fallen creature happy in God; God glorious in his condescension to man, and man happy in his emptiness before God. Faith is made the condition of man’s recovery, that “the lofty looks of man might be humbled, and the haughtiness of man be pulled down” (Isa. 2:11); that every towering imagination might be levelled (2 Cor. 10:5). Man must have all from without doors; he must not live upon himself, but upon another’s allowance. He must stand to the provision of God, and be a perpetual suitor at his gates.

     (2.) A condition opposite to that which was the cause of the fall. We fell from God by an unbelief of the threatening; he recovers us by a belief of the promise; by unbelief we laid the foundation of God’s dishonor; by faith, therefore, God exalts the glory of his free grace. We lost ourselves by a desire of self- dependence, and our return is ordered by way of self-emptiness. It is reasonable we should be restored in a way contrary to that whereby we fell; we sinned by a refusal of cleaving to God; it is a part of divine wisdom to restore us in a denial of our own righteousness and strength. Man having sinned by pride, the wisdom of God humbles him (saith one) at the very root of the tree of knowledge, and makes him deny his own understanding, and submit to faith, or else, forever to lose his desired felicity.

     (3.) It is a condition suited to the common sentiment and custom of the world. There is more of belief than reason in the world. All instructors and masters in sciences and arts, require, first a belief in their disciples, and a resignation of their understandings and wills to them. And it is the wisdom of God to require that of man, which his own reason makes him submit to another which is his fellowcreature. He, therefore, that quarrels with the condition of faith, must quarrel with all the world, since belief is the beginning of all knowledge; yea, and most of the knowledge in the world, may rather come under the title of belief, than of knowledge; for what we think we know this day, we may find from others such arguments as may stagger our knowledge, and make us doubt of that we thought ourselves certain of before: nay, sometimes we change our opinions ourselves without any instructor, and see a reason to entertain an opinion quite contrary to what we had before. And if we found a general judgment of others to vote against what we think we know, it would make us give the less credit to ourselves and our own sentiments. All knowledge in the world is only a belief, depending upon the testimony or arguings of others; for, indeed, it may be said of all men, as in Job (8:9), “We are but of yesterday, and know nothing.” Since, therefore, belief is so universal a thing in the world, the wisdom of God requires that of us which every man must count reasonable, or render himself utterly ignorant of anything. It is a condition that is common to all religions. All religions are founded upon a belief: unless men did believe future things, they would not hope nor fear. A belief and resignation was required in all the idolatries in the world; so that God requires nothing but what a universal custom of the world gives its suffrage to the reasonableness of: indeed, justifying faith is not suited to the sentiments of men; but that faith which must precede justifying, a belief of the doctrine, though not comprehended by reason, is common to the custom of the world. It is no less madness not to submit our reason to faith, than not to regulate our fancies by reason.

     (4.) This condition of faith and repentance is suited to the conscience of men. The law of nature teaches us, that we are bound to believe every revelation from God, when it is made known to us and not only to assent to it as true, but embrace it as good. This nature dictates, that we are as much obliged to believe God, because of his truth, as to love him, because of his goodness. Every man’s reason tells him, he cannot obey a precept, nor depend upon a promise, unless he believes both the one and the other. No man’s conscience but will inform him, upon hearing the revelation of God concerning his excellent contrivance of redemption, and the way to enjoy it, that it is very reasonable he should strip off all affections to sin, lie down in sorrow, and bewail what he hath done amiss against so tender a God. Can you expect that any man that promises you a great honor or a rich donative, should demand less of you than to trust his word, bear an affection to him, and return him kindness? Can any less be expected by a prince than obedience from a pardoned subject, and a redeemed captive? If you have injured any man in his body, estate, reputation, would you not count it a reasonable condition for the partaking of his clemency and forgiveness, to express a hearty sorrow for it, and a resolution not to fall into the like crime again? Such are the conditions of the gospel, suited to the consciences of men.

     (5.) The wisdom of God appears, in that this condition was only likelv to attain the end. There are but two common heads appointed by God,—Adam and Christ: by one we are made a living soul, by the other a quickening spirit: by the one we are made sinners, by the other we are made righteous. Adam fell as a head, and all his members, his whole issue and posterity, fell with him, because they proceeded from him by natural generation. But since the second Adam cannot be our head by natural generation, there must be some other way of engrafting us in him, and uniting us to him as our Head, which must be moral and spiritual; this cannot rationally be conceived to be by any other way than what is suitable to a reasonable creature, and, therefore, must be by an act of the will, consent and acceptance, and owning the terms settled for an admission to that union. And this is that we properly call faith, and, therefore, called a receiving of him (John 1:12).

The Existence and Attributes of God

Promise of the Holy Spirit 1 & 2
     John 14:15–24


Promise of the Holy Spirit 1






Promise of the Holy Spirit 2




John MacArthur | Grace to you

Luke 4 - 5
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | We are tested in how we hear the gracious words of Jesus.


His Gracious Words
Luke 4:22
s1-438 | 05-17-2009

Only audio available | click here



Synopsis | In Luke 4, Jesus is tempted by Satan. Jesus teaches that He is the Messiah and casts out demons.


Luke 4
m1-453 | 05-20-2009

Only audio available | click here


Synopsis | Peter finds fulfillment only by following Jesus.


From Failure to Fullness
Luke 5:1-11
s1-439 | 05-24-2009

Only audio available | click here



Synopsis | Jesus cleanses a leper.


Luke 5
m1-454 | 05-27-2009

Only audio available | click here

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