Blood Cries Out

BloodBlood cries out to God for justice. And it does not go unnoticed by the Judge of all the earth. The Scriptures in both the Old Testament (Genesis 4:10) and New Testament (Hebrews 12:23) attest to this fact. In his book, Christ Set Forth, Thomas Goodwin writes,

“Many other things are said to cry in Scripture (and I might show how the cry of all other things do meet in this), but blood has the loudest cry of all things else, in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, the Judge of all the world (Heb 12:23). Neither has any cry the ear of God’s justice more than that of blood. ‘The voice of your brother’s blood,’ says God to Cain, ‘cries unto me from the ground’ (Gen 4:10).” (p.141)

Now Goodwin (1600-1679) certainly wasn’t writing about abortion as we know it (as such a thing was no doubt all but unheard of in his day), but his words most certainly apply to that vile practice. The biblical principle still stands – innocent blood cries out to God. And if Abel’s blood cried out from the ground against his brother who murdered him, what must the blood of well over 50 million babies sound like in the ears of the Judge of all the earth? Do we dare suppose that He will not bring the shedding of such blood to justice?

May God have mercy upon our nation, and turn us to repentance before it is too late.

And may He grant mercy and repentance to many of those who are even now guilty of shedding the most innocent of blood through abortion, so that they find forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus Christ, whose sprinkled blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). The blood of Christ alone can cover the guilt of our sins, even the sin of murder through abortion.

The Importance of the Lord’s Supper (The Charges Against Latimer & Ridley)

FoxeThose who are familiar with 16th century church history may remember the story of the martyrdom of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They were burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs and teachings during the reign of Queen Mary I (AKA “Bloody Mary”). Hugh Latimer’s words to Ridley, as the fire beneath him was being kindled, are among of the most memorable ever uttered:

“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.309)

But while we may be familiar with Latimer’s speech, how many of us have ever given thought to the specific charges that were brought against him and Ridley? The substance of those charges may surprise you. The Pope charged them with at least three things:

  1. Affirming and openly defending and maintaining “that Christ, after the consecration of the priest is not really (i.e. physically) present in the sacrament of the altar”,
  2. Publicly affirming and defending “that in the sacrament of the altar remaineth still the substance of bread and wine” (i.e. that the bread and wine are not changed into the body and blood of Christ – transubstantiation)
  3. Openly affirming and obstinately maintaining that “in the mass is no propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead” (i.e. that the mass is not a re-offering of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ). (See Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.297)

How important is the biblical view and right administration of the Lord’s Supper to you? Would you be willing to die for it? Ridley and Latimer were. They refused to recant, even under threat of being burned alive!

Think about that next time someone treats the biblical doctrine and right administration of the Lord’s Supper as if it were borderline adiaphora (i.e. things indifferent).

Playing with Matches?

ezgif.com-resizeCommon sense tells us not to play with matches. Most of us develop a healthy respect for fire at a young age. You only need to be burned once to learn not to get too close to an open flame. As the old saying goes, if you play with fire, you are going to get burned (cf. Proverbs 6:27).

Needlessly exposing yourself to the occasion of sin (i.e. that circumstance, place, or person which is likely to tempt you to commit sin) is a lot like playing with matches or pouring gasoline on a fire.  Nothing good will come of it. Thomas Brooks offers some words of wisdom regarding such things:

“He that adventures upon the occasions of sin is as he that would quench the fire with oil, which is fuel to maintain it, and increase it.” (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, p.68)

So if you are struggling with a particular sin, ask yourself this question: Are you unnecessarily exposing yourself to the occasion of that sin? If so, you are (to use Brooks’s words), actually giving your sins “fuel” to maintain them and increase them! It is not without good reason that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, not only to ask for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12), but also to ask that we not be led into temptation (Matthew 6:13). That request is basically concerned with the occasion of sin.

If you are not paying attention to the occasions of sin in your life, you may very well be pouring gasoline on the fire. And if that is the case, is it really any wonder that the fire is not quenched, but rather increased?

Thomas Brooks on the Nature of True Repentance

Brooks Precious RemediesIn his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks notes that there are three (3) essential aspects of true repentance:

First, “The formal act of repentance is a changing and converting” (p.57). In other words it involves a turning of one’s life from darkness to light; it is a conversion. It is no mere oblique change of direction in a person’s life.

Second, “The subject changed and converted is the whole man” (ibid). It involves not just a change of the outward actions, but also of the heart, the innermost part of a person. Not just the practice, but the very person is also changed.

Third, this conversion of heart and life is a change (or turning) “from sin to God” (ibid). Brooks writes, The heart must be changed from the state and power of sin, the life from the acts of sin, but both unto God; the heart to be under his power in a state of grace, the life to be under his rule in all new obedience” (ibid).

The point he makes here is to show what a difficult thing it is to truly repent. In fact, it is humanly impossible to convert one’s self. He writes, “It is not in the power of any mortal to repent at pleasure” (p.56). God Himself must grant and work repentance in the heart and life of a sinner (2 Timothy 2:25).

Satan often deceives sinners into thinking that they are more than able to repent whenever they want (as if it were within their own power and ability to do so), and so leads men and women to keep putting off repentance until a later date. But Brooks warns that “it is as hard a thing to repent as it is to make a world, or raise the dead” (p.60). In other words, it takes the power of God Himself. No wonder Hebrews 13:3 warns us about being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” It is a difficult (even impossible) thing as it is for a man to repent and turn to God, but even more difficult if one continues to put it off and so becomes even more hardened in sin and unbelief!

May God in His mercy grant repentance to many, to the praise of His glorious grace.

The Resurrection as a “Comfortable Sign” of the Believer’s Justification

GoodwinIn his book, Christ Set Forth, Puritan writer Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679) includes a chapter about how the Christian’s faith is supported by the resurrection of Christ. In other words, Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the 3rd day provides us with assurance that the price for our redemption really has been fully paid by Christ on the cross, and has been accepted by God as satisfaction for our sin.  Goodwin writes,

“Although Christ’s obedience in this life and his death past do alone afford the whole matter of our justification, and make up the sum of that price paid for us . . . , so as faith may see a fullness of worth and merit therein, to discharge the debt; yet faith has a comfortable sign and evidence to confirm itself in the belief of this, from Christ’s resurrection after his death. It may fully satisfy our faith, that God himself is satisfied, and that he reckons the debt as paid.” (p.62)

Have you ever thought about the resurrection that way? If you are a believer in Christ, you can look to Christ’s resurrection as a “comfortable sign” (i.e. a sign that gives you comfort and assurance) of the reality of your justification in Christ!

This is just part of what Goodwin understands the Apostle Paul to be saying in Romans 8:34, where we read:

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Christ’s resurrection puts God’s exclamation point on the gospel!

Do You Believe in the Devil?

ScrewtapeWise words from the pen of C.S. Lewis regarding how we should view the existence of Satan and demons:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” (The Screwtape Letters, p.3)

There are and probably have always been people who have what Lewis would call an “unhealthy interest” in the topic of demons. Many years ago I myself went through a phase where I was somewhat fixated on spiritual warfare and read seemingly every book I could get my hands on that was about the topic. To put it mildly, any of those books were less than thoroughly biblical (and so were even less helpful).

These days I think that even Bible-believing Christians (redundant to put it that way, I know) are far more likely to fall into the other error that Lewis warned against – that of disbelief. Now I don’t mean a literal disbelief (although that too is probably true of some), but rather a kind of disbelief that is akin to what is often referred to as “practical atheism.” The practical atheist is the person who professes (even sincerely so) to believe in God’s existence, but lives in such a way as to contradict that profession of belief. The practical atheist basically lives as if God did not exist. In a similar way, I think many well-meaning Christians go about their daily lives as if the devil and demons did not exist. Needless to say, the Scriptures do not encourage such a mindset among believers.

For example, the Apostle Paul actually mentions Satan and demonic forces a number of times in his epistle to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 2:1-3 he tells the Christians at Ephesus that in their former lives before they came to Christ by faith, they were not only dead in sin (v.1), but they also used to follow “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (v.2). That is even now an accurate description of everyone outside of Christ. Everyone outside of Christ is thus influenced by the devil. Scary thought, I know. But that also serves to show the greatness of God’s mercy, love, and grace in saving sinners and giving them new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Then, toward the end of the epistle (in what we might consider the “practical application” section of the letter – chapters 4-6), he mentions the devil again – at length. In Ephesians 6:10-20 he writes,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (emphasis mine)

Why do we need the “whole armor of God” (v.11, 13)? In order that we might “be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (v.11). And yet how many of us ever give much thought to the fact that our fight is not against flesh and blood (other people), but against “spiritual forces of evil” (v.12)?

Let us not fall into either of the opposite errors that Lewis mentioned above. Let us neither fall into the error of having an unhealthy interest or fixation on devils, nor into the error of disbelief (practical or otherwise). May we learn to view these things biblically (as we should all things), and so learn to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (v.1).

The Covenant of Grace as a Remedy for Sinful Fear

FlavelWhy study covenant theology? Is there any real benefit in studying the covenant of grace?

In his book, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, John Flavel writes,

“The first rule for relieving slavish fear is to consider seriously and study thoroughly the covenant of grace in which all believers stand. A clear understanding of the covenant’s nature, extent, and stability, along with our interest in it, will go a long way to cure our sinful and slavish fear.” (p.63)

That quote is found in the chapter entitled “Remedies for Sinful Fear.” In that chapter Flavel discusses no less than 12 different remedies for sinful fear, including things like confirming your interest in Christ (seeking assurance), keeping your conscience pure, recording your experience’s of God’s past faithfulness (journaling!), and considering the providential rule of Christ over all things.

But what is the very first remedy that Flavel suggests? Serious consideration and thorough study of the covenant of grace! He goes on to remind us about what a covenant is:

“A covenant is more than a naked promise. In the covenant, God has graciously considered our fears, doubts, and weaknesses; therefore, He proceeds with us in the highest way of solemnity, confirming His promises by way of oath (Heb. 6:13, 17) and seals (Romans 6:11). He places Himself under the most solemn ties and engagements to His people so that we might take strong comfort from so firm a ratification of the covenant (Hebrews 6:18).” (p.63-64)

A covenant is more than just a promise. The promise of God is sure. But by His grace He gives us even more than that – He gives us a guarantee of His promise to us in Christ by way of an oath!