Temporary’s Path to Apostasy

I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress to my young sons, and I am continually amazed at the depth and clarity with which Bunyan examines the spiritual condition.  Most recently, we read of Hopeful’s acquaintance Temporary and how he fell away from his faith.

Temporary, as his name implies, was a pilgrim who started his journey with enthusiasm, but then quickly left the path of faith. He stand as an illustration of those who, like the seed that falls among the rocky soil, which quickly grew, but then withered under the heat of the sun.  He begins with outward excitement, but as there is no inward working of the Holy Spirit, he soon proves to be apostate.

Christian, in explaining how Temporary fell away, gives us a warning for our own life of faith.  Here are the steps to avoid:

They draw most of their thoughts away from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come. 

Thinking regularly on God’s holiness, Christ’s death for your sins, and the coming Day of Judgment keeps you in close communion with God. Yet so often, family concerns, careers ambitions, and the barrage of  social-media and 24/7 entertainment are distractions from thinking of God.

Then they gradually neglect private duties such as personal prayer, curbing their lusts, watchfulness, sorrow for sin, and the like. 

The God-given means fo grace (ie. prayer, Bible study, reading of wholesome books, discipline (physical and spiritual), self-examination, stewardship, etc) are all meant to strengthen you in your faith. Neglect these gifts at your own peril.

Then they shun the company of lively and whole-hearted Christians.

Though you may continue to come to worship, the conversations over coffee never get past the kids activities or current events. The idea of sharing your testimony, or listening to someone else’s never comes to mind.

After that, they grow cold to public duty, such as conscientious listening, reading of the Word, godly corporate gathering, and the like.

When you stop talking to others about your faith, then your desire for worship falls away.  Attendance becomes hit and miss, you cannot concentrate on the sermon, and your commitment to the ministry of the Church weakens.

They then begin to find fault or pick holes, as we say, in the lives of some of the godly, so that they may claim religion is stained based on some weaknesses they have noticed in these believers, and they then justify putting religion behind their backs. 

With no real commitment to the worship and ministry of the Church, you then turn on the people of the Church.  With growing criticism, you judge the saints with specks in their eyes while ignoring the logs in your own (Matt. 7:3-5).

Then they begin to adhere to and associate with, carnal, immoral, and unrestrained men. 

As you no longer participate in the life of the Church, and you don’t like the people of the Church, your circle of activity expands to include worldly entertainment and even Sunday activities (hunting, organized sports, etc) that conflict with church life.

They give way to carnal and depraved conversations in secret, and they are glad if they can find similar practices in any who are considered reputable, for these hypocrites encourage them to be all the more bold. 

As you spend more time with people of the world than with people of faith, worldly influences creep in, looking for the faults in other Christians as justification for your own.

After this they begin to play with little sins openly. 

Desensitized to the effects of sin, you dance even closer to the fire, with no fear of being burned.

And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are.

No longer bothered with pretense, you invite more worldliness into your life, and reveal your true nature.

Christians, trust in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit to keep you and strengthen you in your faith.  Do not wander or neglect the means by which God has promised to nourish and sustain you.  And if you find yourself in Temporary’s path toward apostasy, repent, and turn from your sins, that you might be restored by God’s mercy!

SDG

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My daily bread…

I was reading this morning through Joel Beeke’s and Brian Najapfour’s book Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer when something just hit me right between the eyes.

Writing about John Knox’s teaching on prayer, specifically, why God sometimes denies our prayers, they offer one reason is, according to Knox, our own hypocrisy.  Quoting Knox.

“When men ask of God things whereof they have no need… In such cases a great number to offend, principally the mighty and rich of the earth, who for a common custom, will pray this part of the Lord’s prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’: that is, a moderate and reasonable sustenance; and yet their own hearts will testify that they need not so to pray, seeing they abound in all worldly solace and felicity. I mean not that rich men should not pray this pray of the Lord’s prayer, but I would they understood what they ought to pray in it, and that they ask nothing whereof they fell not themselves marvelously indigent and needy. For unless we call in verity, he shall not grant; and except we speak with our whole heart, we shall not find him.”

In other words, why would God answer the prayers of those who are well supplied in the things of this world when they offer before Him a thoughtless prayer for daily bread?  It is not that we shouldn’t pray for our daily bread, but that we should learn what it is we truly need, and seek after that with our whole heart.

So the question is, what is your daily bread?  What is it you need, that only God can provide?

For some, it may well be provision for the very essentials of sustenance: food, water, shelter, work, peace, etc…

For others, they should give thanks that God has provided these things in abundance, but should still seek from God the eternal blessings from His throne; faith, assurance, growth in grace and sanctification, etc…

What immediately came to mind for me is this: I need more of Christ.

I need Him to be more glorious to me than all the shiny and tempting things of this world.  I need a vision of His glory, His goodness, His truth.  I need more of Christ, in my preaching, in my praying, in my speaking, in my everything.  I need more of Christ at the very center of my being.

This is my daily bread.  May I seek Him in sincerity and faithfulness, and may God be pleased to answer this prayer.

SDG

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Thanksgiving Proclamation

No need to post anything new – here’s George Washington’s Declaration of Thanksgiving I shared last year.

Reveds's Blog

As we take time this week to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I thought I would share George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation. While Thanksgiving would not become an officially recognized national holiday until established by Lincoln in 1863 (and made law by Congress in 1941), each state celebrated a day of Thanksgiving in various manners since the original proclamation in 1789. In many places, it was set aside as a time of fasting and prayer, a day of service devoted “that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” What follows is the original proclamation of President George Washington declaring Thursday the 26th of November a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty…

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The Praying Parent

In my study for this week’s message on Joshua 24:14-15 and the importance of Family Worship, I came across these two paragraphs from James Alexander’s “Thoughts on Family Worship.”  Keep in mind, this book was originally printed in 1847, and while the language is a bit out of date, it is incredibly accurate and relevant for our families today.  Whether you are considering family worship for the first time as part of my sermon series, or have come upon it randomly on this blog, I pray that this will help to encourage and motivate you in the practice of worshipping together as a family.

I’ve highlighted some of the more powerful sentences.

In the rage for amassing wealth, which threatens the church among us, and especially in our great commercial cities, there is an estranging process going on which I fear is too little observed. Such is the insane precipitation with which the man of business rushes to his morning’s task and such the length of his absence from home, often extending till the hours of darkness, so that he gradually loses some of that parental tenderness which Providence keeps alive by the presence of those whom we love.  The long continuance of such habits cannot fail to affect the character. Of all persons in the world, he should be most willing to take time for family devotions who is, by his very employment, shut out from his home most of every day  The paternal heart demands this hour of culture. A deliberate service in which the voices of infancy and age unite in praising God, amidst the flow of mutual affection, is a blessed means of countervailing the hard and selfish world which surrounds them. But above all the Christian parent needs something to keep him constantly in remembrance that his children have souls, that they look to him for more than their earthly support, and that there are means whereby, under God, he may be the instrument of their salvation. If, amidst the avocations of this life, he seldom finds time to deal faithfully with their souls; if he rarely conveys to them any sign of fear for their safety; if he is dumb in respect to Christ and eternity; here is a daily service of which the direct tendency will be to arouse him to these duties.  Can it be possible for a man to pray earnestly for the salvation of his children in their hearing, representing them to God in earnest supplication as dead in trespasses and sins, while at the same time he leaves them to wonder why no syllable ever falls from his lips on those momentous subjects? The praying parent has a daily reminder of these and the like obligations; and while he asks heavily good for his household, he will sometimes cry to God for grace to fulfill them. The answer of such prayers will not be withheld. The prayer-hearing God will render him a better parent, will endow him with those peculiar gifts for which, alas, professing parents are slow to seek, and will cause him to discharge the obligations of this fearful station in a better manner, to say the least, than those who hasten through life without any token of family religion.

Prayerless parents have cause to tremble.  God’s anger may light upon them in their parental relation, as Eli’s neglect was visited (1 Sam 3:13). They have no right to expect parental happiness. They place themselves and their household in the defenseless condition of the heathen. “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, and upon the families that call not on Thy name” (Jer. 10:25). Family prayer invites and bespeaks the blessing of God on all concerned, but chiefly on him who leads in it. Better a roofless house than a prayerless one; better beg one’s bread with prayer than deny God by a neglect of this chief means of domestic property. One who has any genuine religious faith, and any trust in God’s promises, must be assured that in the rearing of his household, in providing for their support and education, in governing and restraining them, and in laboring for their souls, no good can ensue but by the blessing of God. And for this blessing, in the way of direction and grace, the Christian parent should join with his family in asking everyday. In so doing he will not only be a better man, but a better father. He will love his children more, and more wisely. He will be doubly a parent to them by the power and affection of a holy example. He will better be able to bear those reverses and bereavements which may befall him.*

* Alexander, James W. Thoughts on Family Worship 2002 (Soli Deo Gloria Publications; Morgan, PA) Pg. 30-32.
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Deliver us from evil…

Its another week, and again we are reeling from the shock of yet another violent attack.  From the shooting in our own hometown of Lennox, SD a month ago, to the horror of Las Vegas and terror in New York City; now we add Sutherland Springs, TX to our growing list of tragedies that have touched every corner of our nation.

As I rose from my time in prayer for our nation today, a book on the shelf caught my eye: “Deliver Us From Evil” by Ravi Zacharias.  I paged through the book, and came upon the following that I wanted to share today:

Tragedies and atrocities are common fare, and in any corner coffee shop discussion can be heard of the latest horror or carnage to strike at our communities. Evil has taken on forms and concoctions that shock the world. Any catalog at the end of any given year tells a painful story of what is happening in our streets and homes and institutions…

As the barbarians scaled the walls of his beloved city, Augustine wept and penned The City of God.  No, Rome was not the eternal city. As Athens sowed the seeds of its own destruction, Socrates chose to drink the hemlock rather than give up his pursuit of the virtuous.  In England Wordsworth wept for the return of Milton to address the loss of England’s heroic character. Jesus wept at the sight of HIs beloved city and said, “If you… had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem have all lost their ancient glory. Today our alabaster cities have become tarnished, and with eyes dimmed by tears we cry, “Deliver us from evil.” But that deliverance can come only if we respond to the Creator’s loving invitation:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28–29)

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:1–3)

If we can say, with King David, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God,” our deliverance is at hand.

How marvelous is the grace of God who has proven again and again that His Word brings light to a dark place, and who can take the wrath of men to bring praise to His name.

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Martin Luther: On Marriage

The following are some quick quotes from Martin Luther on the estate of marriage (quotes are copied from “A Monk Marries” from Christian History Magazineissue 39, 1993).

  • There’s a lot to get used to in the first years of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow that were not there before.
  • If I should ever marry again, I would hew myself an obedient wife out of stone.
  • I have been very happy in my marriage, thank God. I have a faithful wife, according to Solomon: “They heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (Prov 31:11). She spoils nothing for me.
  • When one looks back upon it, marriage isn’t so bad as when one looks forward to it.
  • Married fold are not to act as they now usually do. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives and servants. The women, too, everywhere want to domineer and have their husbands as servants.
  • Of course, the Christian should love his wife.  He is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.
  • When that wise harlot, natural reason, looks at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Ah, should I rock the baby, wash diapers, make the bed, smell foul odors, watch through the night, wait upon the bawling youngster and heal its infected sores, then take care fo the wife, support her by working, tend to this, tend to that, do this, do that, suffer this, suffer that, and put up with whatever additional displeasure and trouble married life brings? Should I be so imprisoned?”
  • The Devil cannot bear to see married people agree well with each other.
  • It is impossible to keep peace between man and woman in family life if they do not condone and overlook each other’s faults but watch everything to the smallest point. For who does not at times offend?
  • Some marriages were motivated by mere lust, but mere lust is felt even by fleas and lice. Love begins when we wish to serve others.
  • The purpose of marriage is not pleasure and ease but the procreation and education of children and the support of a family… People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because the despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.
  • To have peace and love in a marriage is a gift that is next to the knowledge of the gospel.
  • In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Ghost.
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On Christian Freedom

Continuing in the series of posts from Martin Luther as we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I  share some highlights from Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian.  This treatise was dedicated to Pope Leo X, and was Luther’s final attempt to be reconcile to Rome.

One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ… Let us consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and where that Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul.  If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing, since it is the Word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing. On the other hand, there is no more terrible disaster with which the wrath of God can afflict men than a famine of the hearing of his Word.

The Word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith. So [the soul] is justified by faith alone and not any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need faith. Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him. No other work makes a Christian.

To those who ask, “If faith does all things and is alone sufficient unto righteousness, why then are good works commanded?” Although a man is abundantly and sufficiently justified by faith inwardly, in his spirit, and so has all that he needs… yet he remains in this mortal life on earth.  In this life he must control his own body and have dealings with men.  Here the works begin, here a man cannot enjoy leisure; here he must indeed take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings, labors, and other reasonable discipline and to subject it to the Spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inner man and faith and not revolt against faith and hinder the inner man, as it is the nature of the body to do if it is not held in check. Since by faith the soul is cleansed and made to love God, it desires that all things, and especially its own body, shall be purified so that all things may join with it in loving and praising God. Nevertheless the works themselves to not justify him before God, but he does the works out of spontaneous love in obedience to God and considers nothing except the approval of God, whom he would most scrupulously obey in all things.

The following statements are therefore true: “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works.

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