Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Christian's Great Interest - Conclusion

Don't you wish that all books came with either an outline or a synopsis?

William Guthrie's The Christian's Great Interest concludes with the following:

Conclusion--The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers

Quest. 1. What is the great business a man has to do in this world?

Ans. To make sure a saving interest in Christ Jesus, and to walk suitably thereto.

Q. 2. Have not all the members of the visible church a saving interest in Christ?

A. No, verily; yea, but a very few of them have it.

Q. 3. How shall I know if I have a saving interest in Him?

A. Ordinarily the Lord prepareth His own way in the soul by a work of humiliation, and discovereth a man's sin and misery to him, and exerciseth Him so therewith, that He longs for the physician Christ Jesus.

Q. 4. How shall I know if I have got a competent discovery of my sin and misery?

A. A competent sight of it makes a man take salvation to heart above anything in this world: it maketh him disclaim all relief in himself, seen in his best things: it maketh Christ who is the Redeemer, very precious to the soul: it makes a man stand in awe to sin afterwards, and makes him content to be saved upon any terms God pleases.

Q. 5. By what other ways may I discern a saving interest in him?

A. By the going out of the heart seriously and affectionately towards Him, as He is held out in the gospel; and this is faith or believing.

Q. 6. How shall I know if my heart goes out after Him aright, and that my faith is true saving faith?

A. Where the heart goes out aright after Him in true and saving faith, the soul is pleased with Christ alone above all things, and is pleased with Him in all Him three offices, to rule and instruct as well as to save; and is content to cleave unto Him, whatsoever inconveniences may follow.

Q. 7. What other mark of a saving interest in Christ can you give me?

A. He that is in Christ savingly, is a new creature; He is graciously changed and renewed in some measure, in the whole man, and in all his ways pointing towards all the known commands of God.

Q. 8. What if I find sin now and then prevailing over me?

A. Although every sin deserves everlasting vengeance, yet, if you be afflicted for your failings, confess them with shame of face unto God, resolving to strive against them honestly henceforth, and see unto Christ for pardon, you shall obtain mercy, and your interest stands sure.

Q. 9. What shall the man do who cannot lay claim to Christ Jesus nor any of those marks spoken of it?

A. Let him not take rest until he make sure unto himself a saving interest in Christ.

Q. 10. What way can a man make sure an interest in Christ, who never had a saving interest in Him hitherto?

A. He must take his sins to heart, and his great hazard thereby, and he must take to heart God's offer of pardon and peace through Christ Jesus, and heartily close with God's offer by retaking himself unto Christ, the blessed refuge.

Q. 11. What if my sins be singularly heinous, and great beyond ordinary?

A. Whatsoever thy sins be, if thou wilt close with Christ Jesus by faith, thou shalt never enter into condemnation.

Q. 12. Is faith in Christ only required of men?

A. Faith is the only condition upon which God does offer peace and pardon unto men; but be assured, faith, if it be true and saving, will not be alone in the soul, but will be attended with true repentance, and a thankful study of conformity to God's image.

Q. 13 How shall I be sure that my heart does accept of God's offer, and does close with Christ Jesus? .

A. Go make a covenant expressly, and by word speak the thing unto God.

Q. 14 What way shall I do that?

A. Set apart some portion of time, and, having considered your own lost estate, and the remedy offered by Christ Jesus, work up your heart to be pleased and close with that offer, and say unto God expressly that you do accept of that offer, and of Him to be your God in Christ; and do give up yourself to Him to be saved in His way, without reservation or exception in any case; and that you henceforth will wait for salvation in the way He has appointed.

Q. 15 What if I break with God afterwards?

A. You must resolve in His strength not to break, and watch over your own ways, and put your heart in His hand to keep it and if you break, you must confess it unto God, and judge yourself for it, and flee to the Advocate for pardon, and resolve to do so no more: and this you must do as often as you fail.

Q. 16 How shall I come to full assurance of my interest in Christ, so that it may be beyond controversy?

A. Learn to lay your weight upon the blood of Christ, and study purity and holiness in all manner of conversation: and pray for the witness of God's Spirit to join with the blood and the water; and His testimony added unto these will establish you in the faith of an interest in Christ.

Q. 17. What is the consequence of such closing with God in Christ by heart and mouth?

A. Union and communion with God, all good here and His blessed fellowship in heaven forever afterwards.

Q. 18. What if I slight all these things, and do not lay them to heart to put them in practice?

A. The Lord comes with His angels, in flaming fire, to render vengeance to them who obey not His gospel; and thy judgment shall be greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah; and so much the greater that thou hast read this Treatise, for it shall be a witness against thee in that day.

The end

(pg. 193-196 in the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperback, this excerpt taken from the CCEL site.)

Weighty questions indeed. What amazes me about the state of modern evangelicalism is that these types of questions are rarely thought about, let alone asked. And then, if the questions were to be asked, where would the average church goer find answers?


He that is in Christ savingly, is a new creature: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Christian's Great Interest - "Pray this Prayer"

Many contemporary evangelistic approaches end with a "pray this prayer" step for the sinner. What if the prayer looked like this?

'O Lord, I am a lost and fallen creature by nature, and by innumerable actual transgressions, which I do confess particularly before Thee this day: and although, being born within the visible church, I was from the womb in covenant with Thee, and had the same sealed to me in baptism; yet, for a long time, I have lived without God in the world, senseless and ignorant of my obligation by virtue of that covenant. Thou hast at length discovered to me, and impressed upon my heart, my miserable state in myself, and hast made manifest unto my heart the satisfying remedy. Thou hast provided by Christ Jesus, offering the same freely unto me, upon condition that I would accept of the same, and would close with Thee as my God in Christ, warranting and commanding me, upon my utmost peril, to accept of this offer, and to flee unto Christ Jesus; yea, to my apprehension, now Thou hast sovereignly determined my heart, and formed it for Christ Jesus, leading it out after Him in the offers of the gospel, causing me to approach unto the living God, to close so with Him and to acquiesce in His offer, without any known guile. And that I may come up to that establishment of spirit in this matter, which should be to my comfort, and the praise of Thy glorious grace; therefore, I am here this day to put that matter out of question by express words before Thee, according to Thy will. And now I, unworthy as I am, do declare, that I believe that Christ Jesus, who was slain at Jerusalem, was the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. I do believe that record, that there is life eternal for men in Him, and in Him only. I do this day in my heart approve and acquiesce in that device of saving sinners by Him, and do intrust my soul unto Him. I do accept of reconciliation with God through Him, and do close with Thee as my God in Him. I choose Him in all that He is, and all that may follow Him, and do resign up myself, and what I am, or have, unto Thee; desiring to be divorced from everything hateful unto Thee, and that without exception, or reservation, or anything inconsistent within my knowledge, or any intended reversion. Here I give the hand to Thee, and do take all things about me witnesses, that I, whatever I be, or have hitherto been, do accept of God's offer of peace through Christ; and do make a sure covenant with Thee this day, never to be reversed, hoping that Thou wilt make all things forthcoming, both on Thy part and mine, seriously begging, as I desire to be saved, that my corruptions may be subdued, and my neck brought under Thy sweet yoke in all things, and my heart made cheerfully to acquiesce in whatsoever Thou dost unto me, or with me, in order to these ends. Now, glory be unto Thee, O Father, who devised such a salvation, and gave the Son to accomplish it: Glory be to Christ Jesus, who, at so dear a rate, did purchase the outletting of that love from the Father's bosom, and through whom alone this access is granted, and in whom I am reconciled unto God, and honorably united unto Him, and am no more an enemy or stranger: Glory to the Holy Ghost, who did alarm me when I was destroying myself, and who did not only convince me of my danger, but did also open my eyes to behold the remedy provided in Christ; yea, and did persuade and determine my wicked heart to fall in love with Christ, as the enriching treasure; and this day does teach me how to covenant with God, and how to appropriate to myself all the sure mercies of David, and blessings of Abraham, and to secure to myself the favour and friendship of God for ever. Now, with my soul, heart, head, and whole man, as I can, I do acquiesce in my choice this day, henceforth resolving not to be my own, but Thine; and that the care of whatsoever concerns me shall be on Thee, as my Head and Lord, protesting humbly, that failings on my part (against which I resolve, Thou knowest) shall not make void this covenant; for so hast Thou said, which I intend not to abuse, but so much the more to cleave close unto Thee, and I must have liberty to renew, ratify, and draw extracts of this transaction, as often as shall be needful. Now, I know Thy consent to this bargain stands recorded in Scripture, so that I need no new signification of it; and I, having accepted of Thy offer upon Thine own terms, will henceforth wait for what is good, and for Thy salvation in the end. As Thou art faithful, pardon what is amiss in my way of doing the thing, and accept me in my Lord Jesus Christ, in whom only I desire pardon. And in testimony hereof, I set to my seal that God is true, in declaring Him a competent Savior.' (pgs. 180-182 in the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperback, this excerpt taken from the CCEL site.)

Guthrie then says: Let people covenant with God in fewer or more words, as the Lord shall dispose them--for we intend no exact form of words for any person--only it were fitting that men should before the Lord acknowledge their lost state in themselves, and the relief that is by Christ; and that they do declare that they accept of the same as it is offered in the gospel, and do thankfully rest satisfied with it, intrusting themselves henceforth wholly unto God, to be saved in His way, for which they wait according to His faithfulness. If men would heartily and sincerely do this, it might, through the Lord's b1essing, help to establish them against many fears and jealousies; and they might date some good thing from this day and hour, which might prove comfortable unto them when they fall in the dark afterwards, and even when many failings do stare them in the face, perhaps at the hour of death--'These be the last words of David: although my house be not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.' (2 Sam. 23: 5.) It is much if a man can appeal unto God, and say, Thou knowest there was a day and an hour when in such a place I did accept of peace through Christ, and did deliver up my heart to Thee, to write on it Thy whole law without exception; heaven and earth are witnesses of it--'Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.' (Psa. 119: 49.)

Maybe praying in this way would result in less false converts.

A Christian View of Politics

From today's Grace Gem:

Politics, Activism, and the Gospel

(By John MacArthur, October 19th, 2008)

With the nation focused on the November elections, we thought a post on politics might be appropriate. The point of this article is not that we should abstain from any participation in the political process, but rather that we must keep our priorities straight as Christians. After all, the gospel, not politics, is the only true solution to our nation’s moral crisis.

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a facade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people--no matter how beneficial it seems--is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist--if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture--neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling--and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Christian's Great Interest - Gospel, Gospel, and more Gospel

I have been greatly remiss in posting on this month's Puritan Reading Challenge selection. Between travel, church, and work obligations it has been a hectic month. This has not kept me from reading, however, and I can sum up the book very easily: Gospel, Gospel, and more Gospel. No wonder The Christian's Great Interest was greatly appreciated by Guthrie's contemporaries, as mentioned in my introductory post.

While I have not systematically gleaned this book for quotes to feature here, there is the following section from last night's reading that well demonstrates the nature of this book. Guthrie devotes 22 pages to objections and difficulties that his readers may have concerning the Gospel, and this is the first objection dealt with:

I.--The sinner's baseness rendering it presumption to come to Christ

Objection. I am so base, worthless, and weak of myself that I think it were high presumption for me to meddle with Christ Jesus, or the salvation purchased at the price of His blood.

Answer. It is true, all the children of Adam are base and wicked before Him, 'who chargeth His angels with folly.' (Job 4: 18.) 'All nations are less than nothing and vanity before him.' (Isa. 40: 17.) There is such a disproportion between God and man, that unless He Himself had devised that covenant, and of His own free will had offered so to transact with men, it had been high treason for men or angels to have imagined that God should have humbled himself, and become a servant, and have taken on Him our nature, and have united it by a personal union to the blessed Godhead; and that He should have subjected Himself to the shameful death of the cross; and all this, that men, who were rebels, should be reconciled unto God, and be made eternally happy, by being in His holy company for ever. But I say, all this was His own device and free choice; yea, moreover, if God had not sovereignly commanded men so to close with Him in and through Christ, no man durst have made use of that device of His--'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.' (Isa. 40: 1-3.) 'And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His son Jesus Christ.' (1 John 3: 23.) So then, although with Abigail I may say, 'Let me be but a servant, to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord' (1 Sam. 25: 41); yet, since He has in His holy wisdom devised that way, and knows how to be richly glorified in it--'The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know, what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints' (Eph. 1: 18); 'All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them' (John 17: 10); and has commanded me, as I shall be answerable at the great day, to close with Him in Christ, I dare not disobey, nor inquire into the reasons of His contrivance and commands, but must comply with the command, as I would not be found to 'frustrate the grace of God' (Gal. 2: 21); and in a manner disappoint the gospel, and falsify the record which God has borne of His Son, 'that there is life enough in Him for men' (1 John 5: 10,11), and so 'make God a liar,' and add that rebellion to all my former transgressions.

(pgs. 146-147 in the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperback edition, this excerpt from the CCEL page.)

The More Things Change...

...the more they remain the same.

From this morning's Scripture reading in Psalm 106, which enumerates Israel's sins:

37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds. (Psalm 106:37-39, ESV)

Note that we need change only one word to describe our nation today:

They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of convenience,
and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

Scary indeed is that I am also reading from Jeremiah, and the punishment that comes to those nations that reject God's laws.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Am A Single Issue Voter

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a single issue voter. What is that issue?

  • Defense of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society.
  • Self-Defense, the God given right to protect one's life from those who would steal it from you.
  • National Defense, one of the few enumerated responsibilities of our Federal Government in the US Constitution ("provide for the common defense").

Where do the Presidential candidates stand on my one issue?

  • Pro-Abortion, will not defend the unborn
  • Believe in civilian disarmament, do not believe in the right to self-defense
  • "Cut and run", emasculate our military, do not stand for a strong national defense

  • Pro-life, will defend the unborn
  • Pro civilian gun ownership, pro self-defense
  • Pro-strong national defense

Twenty-eight years ago I raised my right hand, and swore before my God that "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic...". As far as I am concerned, I have never been released from this oath.

Defense. If you have to be a single issue voter, this is the issue to hold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(Almost) Like Crack Cocaine

We have been on the road the past week, visiting family in Missouri. On Sunday night we found ourselves in the vicinity of Lambert's Cafe in Ozark. Since we had eaten at the Sikeston Lamberts during a church building trip in 1988 we decided to see if this other location was as memorable as the first.

Recognize that in 1988 the line for the restaurant wrapped twice around the building, and we stood in line with people from five or six states for a little over an hour. This time there wasn't a line, but a sign-up booth. We were told that the wait would be 30-40 minutes, and then found a seat on the porch. In about 25 minutes our name was called, and we were ushered to our table. I had barely warmed my seat when a steaming hot dinner roll was tossed in my direction. I am glad that I was expecting it, due to our prior dining experience, and my heightened reaction time allowed me to make a clean catch. Also, even before our order was taken a nice young person with a bucket full of fried okra came by and deposited some on the paper towels that we ripped off of the roll on our table.

We ordered dinner and coffee, and were very quickly served. The coffee was the hottest that I have ever been served, and came in a 32 oz. insulated mug. The dinner portions were huge, and accompanied by additional servings of okra, macaroni and tomatoes, fried potatoes, and black eyed peas that were circulating through the restaurant. Additionally, the roll thrower was busy tossing them across the aisles.

Towards the end of our meal I had one more roll, and when my wife looked at me askance I told both the young man tossing them and our server that they were like crack cocaine! Of course, my wife then wanted to know how I could make that comparison, and I could only plead that this observation was not grounded in experience, but that they appeared to be as addictive.

If you want to know more, check out the Lambert's website.

I have never been tempted to try crack cocaine, but I know that I would never pass up a Lambert's throwed roll!

Please note that Lambert's Cafe does not take credit cards, but will take a check from anywhere in the country, with proper ID.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Psalm 62

You might just find yourself humming this tune, and remembering this message, throughout the day. It sure beats what normally inhabits our thoughts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Have you lost money in the market?

Ray Ortlund gives us a good reminder of what our attitude toward wealth and riches should be.

Christian's Great Interest - Introduction

Can I say of Christ:

"less cannot satisfy, and more is not desired"? (pg. 52)

If not, why not? Can it be that my interests are misguided, and that I am nothing more than a hypocrite, a false convert in Christian garb?

This month, in William Guthrie's The Christian's Great Interest, we will examine this subject in detail. This little book is important enough that John Owen carried a copy around with him, saying: 'That author I take to be one of the greatest divines that ever wrote. His book is my vade mecum. I carry it always with me. I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in this little book than in them all.' High praise, indeed, but add to it Thomas Chalmers' saying: 'I am on the eve of finishing Guthrie which I think is the best book I ever read.'

"Whom have I in heaven but thee? or whom have I desired on earth beside thee?" (Psalm 73:25)

It is my prayer that this little book will point us more clearly to the One who can satisfy all of our desires.