Tag Archives: grace

What God Hates Man Loves (and Vices Versus)

Yesterday, I wrote down a couple of short lists I had been thinking about on my drive in to work:

God in His natural state (The Spirit):
Hates
sin, injustice, unrighteousness, selfishness, dishonesty, deception
Loves
grace, justice, righteousness, selflessness, honesty, truth, order

Man in his natural state (The Flesh):
Hates grace, justice, righteousness, selflessness, honesty, truth, order
Loves sin, injustice, unrighteousness, selfishness, dishonesty, deception

In thinking about our “natural” tendencies, it is striking to note the clear opposition between God and man (the Spirit and the flesh).

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:17)

I recently got Andrew Gray’s A Door Into Everlasting Life and started reading it just last night.  Written by this Scottish preacher who died at the age of 22, I felt almost as if we were having a conversation as he expounded and expanded upon my thoughts of the day.

It is a very sad, but yet an apparent truth, that there is no creature in the world so merciless and mischievous to itself as man is. For whereas everything naturally desires, or tends to its own preservation, man unweariedly endeavors his own destruction. He becomes his own murderer and executioner, by loving vice, and hating virtue, by forsaking Christ, to follow the world, by poisoning his soul to please his senses, by leaving the safe and pleasant way of holiness, to walk in the dangerous and destructive way of wickedness. Wicked men turn their backs upon God, and are ruled by sin and Satan at their pleasure. Such profane beasts are many. They glory in their shame. Like Sodom, they carried their sin in their foreheads, oathing it, telling of their cheats, how many they have defrauded, and of their whoredoms, how many they have defiled. Alas, they have not so much as one grain of grace in their hearts, nor the least sign of holiness in their lives. Though, by the ministry of the word, they be called upon to be holy, yet the more they are called unto holiness, the further do they run into all sin and wickedness.

Yes, God’s own children make but little progress in holiness. The estate of many is a declining estate. They have lost the savouriness of their spirits, and their delight in communion with God. They are weak in resisting temptations to sin, from the devil, the world, and the flesh. They are often overcome by sensuality, pride, worldliness, envy, etc. Their heart is less watched, their tongue less bridled, and their conversation more vain than formerly. What then more needful, than to have before our eyes such arguments, as are most likely to deter us from sin, to prevail with us to loath and leave all our lusts and transgressions, and to walk humbly and holily before God all our days. May the Lord open our eyes, to see the baseness of sin, and sanctify our hearts, that we may never welcome nor embrace it anymore, but may grow holier every day than the other. So living holily, may we die happily, and after death, reign with God gloriously forever.

In order to realize this, let these following considerations sink into our hearts. We must be holy, because the Lord our God is holy. “You shall be holy—for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). “It is written, Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). God’s holiness is the great ground and cause of our holiness, and the motive of all obedience. “Let them praise Your great and awesome Name, for it is holy” (Psalm 99:3). “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). We are not bound to be essentially and infinitely holy—as God is holy; yet are we bound to be perfectly holy for our state, as God is holy. You call God Father, and if He is your Father indeed, you will be like Him in holiness. You will both have the same nature for likeness. You read a Holy Bible, serve an holy God, pretend to be led by a Holy Spirit. Oh, what shame and trembling then should cover you, if you be unholy! You pretend to love God, and why are you not an imitator of God? Is it not a known saying, likeness makes love? Likeness is the cause of love, and an effect of it. If you would have God to love you, you must labor to be like Him. If you remain unholy, think with yourself, how can an infinitely holy God delight in such an unholy wretch, in such an unlovely and loathsome soul, in such a vile abominable sinner? How unfit am I for His love and embracements! If unholy, you will not endure the purity and presence of God, nor will God’s purity and presence endure you. (Andrew Gray, A Door Into Everlasting Life)

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John Newton – Prayer for Faith and Grace

I have been listening to a CD by Indelible Grace lately and there is one hymn in particular on there that has struck a particular chord with me. It is a hymn written by John Newton, and it has really ministered to me this past week that I heard it as the Lord has really brought me low this last month or so. I went out searching for the words to it and found this post from almost three years ago to the day on another blogger’s site. As I read through what fellow blogger John Meade wrote on his blog (http://chaosandoldnight.wordpress.com), I thought what he wrote in reflecting on the words of this choice hymn so good that I would just reprint what he wrote in its entirety. I pray that these words may somehow comfort you as they have me, when you walk through the valley.

From John Meade’s post, “Newton on Inward Trials”:

For a while and more recently, I have been thinking about John Newton’s hymn, “I asked the Lord that I might Grow.” Most people know Newton for his hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but few people have ever heard of this hymn. I must confess that I was ignorant of it until Indelible Grace resurrected it in their latest album. This hymn represents the other side of Newton. Allow this hymn to challenge your view of self and God. It seems Newton would conclude that God is not as tame as we would like Him to be, but He is good.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

As one can see, Newton begins the poem with a prayer. He prays a seemingly good prayer, “That I might grow in faith and love and every grace; might more of his salvation know, more earnestly seek his face.” Praying for these virtues and blessings is not wrong in itself, but Newton is about to discover a new insight into how God answers these types of prayers. Newton affirms that God taught him how to pray, and he affirms the truth that God has answered prayer for him in the past. However, God will not always answer our prayers in the way we want, “But it has been in such a way, that almost drove me to despair.” Most times, we struggle with this view of God. Could God really be like this, we might ask? Let’s keep reading.

Notice, he hoped that God would answer his prayer “in some favoured hour.” He hoped that God’s constraining love would subdue his sins and give him rest. Newton is asking for God’s perfect work of complete sanctification to be worked in him. If God grants this prayer to Newton, Newton will still be reliant on God to work in him, but Newton will no longer be mindful of his immediate and total dependence on the Lord for every breath, every good work. Newton will be more prone to boasting if the Lord answers this prayer in exactly the way Newton desires. How does the Lord respond to this prayer?

The middle stanza reads:

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

How many of us have experienced this? Notice that Newton attributes this work to God! God made Newton feel the hidden evils of his heart. Now, one can see why Newton did not perceive God as answering his prayer. God did not answer the prayer immediately, but rather through subjecting Newton’s soul to the angry powers of hell, he begins to answer it.

The next stanza continues in the same vein. Newton, again, attributes these woes and inward torments to the hand of God. Furthermore, Newton perceives the Lord as frustrating his designs in prayer, and finally, God lays him low. How many of us have experienced this action of the Lord? By laying him low, the Lord completely contradicted the way Newton thought he would answer the request.

Newton then comes to the end of his rope, “Why Lord, wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?” The Lord replies, “In this way, I answer prayer for grace and faith.” The Lord continues in the last stanza, “These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free; and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou may’st find thy all in me.” The Lord revealed to Newton the motivations of his heart for requesting what he did. Newton had motivations of selfish pride when he prayed for grace and faith. The Lord showed him exactly how he answers prayers for grace and FAITH. The Lord graciously brought him to the point where he needed to cry out to him in brokenness, asking, “why Lord?”

The Lord truly answered Newton’s prayer for grace and faith, but grace and faith do not equal immediate subdued sin and rest for the Christian. Rather, the Lord answered Newton’s prayer by breaking him and graciously leading him to trust Him. This poem cuts to the heart of many issues in the Christian’s life. All too often we think, if we could just have relief from this one besetting sin, we would be more holy or we would be free to trust God more. Rather than thinking like this, we need to be asking God for broken hearts, hearts that are contrite and humble before him (Ps 51). A corollary to these requests means we need to be completely open to how God will answer these prayers. He is the sovereign Lord, and if he deems necessary, he will employ inward trials to make us more dependent on Him, to make us more like Jesus.

Praise the Lord, that Newton was placed in a position to help us understand these inward trials that the Lord brings in our lives.

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Government of the Tongue (John Newton)

Thoughts on the Government of the Tongue

by John Newton

There is, perhaps, no one test or proof of the reality of a work of grace upon the heart, more simple, clear, and infallible—than the general tenor of our language and conversation; for our Lord’s aphorism is of certain and universal application, that, “out of the abundance of the heart—the mouth speaks.” To the same purpose, the apostle James proposes to all who make profession of the gospel, a searching criterion of their sincerity, when he says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight bridle on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” This passage should not be thought a hard saying, for it stands in the Bible; but, because it stands in the Bible, and forms a part of the rule by which the characters and states of all men will be finally determined, there is reason to fear that it will be found a hard saying at last, by too many who name the name of Christ. A few thoughts upon this important subject, “the government of the tongue” can never be unseasonable.

It is not the restraint of the heart, which the apostle requires. He knew that, though it is our duty to watch against the first rising motions of evil within, and to be humbled for them—that it is not in our power wholly to prevent them. But he supposes that the grace of God in a true believer will check the evils of the heart, and prevent them from breaking out by the tongue.

Nor is the restraint of the tongue to be taken so strictly, as if a true believer was never liable to speak unadvisedly. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; and Peter not only denied his Lord—but denied him with oaths and execrations. I allow that it is possible for the best of men, in an unguarded hour, and through the pressure of some sudden and violent temptation or provocation, may occasionally act or speak unsuitably to their habitual gracious character. But I think the apostle must mean thus much at least, that, when saving grace is in the heart—it will so regulate and control the tongue, that it shall not customarily sin; and that, without some evidence of such a regulation, we are not bound to acknowledge any man to be a Christian, however splendid his profession may be in other respects. Nay, I think we may further say of this test, what the magicians of Egypt acknowledged upon another occasion, “This is the finger of God!” This is, perhaps, the only outward mark of a believer, which the hypocrite cannot imitate. In many things he may seem to be religious; in some, perhaps, he may appear to go beyond the real Christian; but, because his heart is unchanged—he cannot bridle his tongue.

The man who seems, and who desires to be thought religious, may have many qualifications to support his claim, which may be valuable and commendable in themselves, and yet are of no avail to the possessor, if he bridles not his tongue. He may have much religious knowledge; I mean, of such knowledge as may be acquired in the use of ordinary means. He may have a warm zeal, and may contend earnestly (in his way) for the faith once delivered to the saints. He may be able to talk well on spiritual subjects, to pray with freedom and fervency. Yes, he may even be a preacher, and conduct himself to the satisfaction of sincere Christians. Or he may be a fair trader, a good neighbor, a kind master, an affectionate husband or parent, be free from gross vices, and attend constantly upon the ordinances. Will not such a man seem to himself, and probably be esteemed by others—to be religious? Yet if, with all these good properties, he does not bridle his tongue—he may be said to lack the one thing needful. He deceives his own heart! His religion is vain!

But what are we to understand by bridling the tongue? The expression, I think, will be sufficiently explained by considering how the grace of God will necessarily influence and govern the tongues of those who partake of it, in what they say when they are led to speak of God, of themselves, and of or to their fellow-creatures.

Having seen a glimpse of the holiness and majesty, the glory and the grace, of the great God with whom they have to do—their hearts are impressed with reverence, and therefore there is a sobriety and decorum in their language. They cannot speak lightly of God, or of his ways. One would suppose that no person, who even but seems to be religious, can directly and expressly profane his glorious name. But there is a careless and flippant manner of speaking of the great God, which is very disgusting and very suspicious. Likewise, the hearts of believers teach their mouths to speak honorably of God under all their afflictions and crosses, acknowledging the wisdom and the mercy of his dispensations; and, if an impatient word escapes them, it grieves and humbles them, as quite unfitting their situation as His creatures, and especially as sinful creatures, who have always reason to acknowledge, that it is of the Lord’s mercy, that they are not wholly consumed.

When they speak of themselves, their tongues are bridled, and restrained from boasting. They speak as befits poor, unworthy creatures—because they feel themselves to be such. In what they say, either of their comforts or of their sorrows, sincerity dictates a simplicity which cannot be easily counterfeited. While they, whose tongues are not thus bridled, often betray themselves by a lack of sincerity, even when they are lamenting their sinfulness, and the vileness of their hearts.

In what they say of or to others, the tongues of believers are bridled by a heart felt regard to truth, love and purity.

Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will be bridled by the law of TRUTH. It is grievous to see how nearly and readily some professors of religion will venture upon the borders of a lie; either to defend their own conduct, to avoid some inconvenience, to procure a supposed advantage, or sometimes merely to embellish a story. Admitting the possibility of a sincere person being surprised into the declaration of a lie—yet, where instances of this kind are frequent, I hardly know a fouler blot in profession, or which can give a more just warrant to fear that such professors know nothing aright either of God or themselves. The Lord is a God of truth; and he teaches his servants to hate and abhor lying, and to speak the truth from their hearts. I may add likewise, with regard to promises—that, though the law of the land requires, on many occasions, oaths and bonds to secure their performance, that person, whose word may not be safely depended upon without either bond or oath, scarcely deserves the name of a Christian!

Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will be likewise bridled by the law of LOVE. If we love our neighbor, can we lightly speak evil of him, magnify his failings, or use provoking or insulting language? Love thinks no evil—but bears, hopes and endures. Love acts by the golden rule, to “Do unto others—what you would like them to do unto you.” Those who are under the influence of Christian love, will be gentle and compassionate, disposed to make the most favorable allowances, and of course their tongues will be restrained from the language of malevolence, harsh censure, and slander—which are as familiar to us as our mother tongue, until we are made partakers of the grace of God.

The tongue is also bridled by a regard to PURITY, agreeable to the precepts, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 4:29, 5:4. Grace has taught believers to hate these things; how then can their tongues speak of them? There are false professors, indeed, who can suit their language to their company. When with the people of God—they call talk very seriously. But at other times, they are well pleased to join in vain, frothy, and evil conversation. But this double-mindedness is of itself sufficient to discredit all their pretenses to a pious character.

Upon the whole, though perfection is not to be expected, though true believers may, on some occasions, speak rashly, and have great cause for humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer, with respect to the government of their tongues; yet I think the Scripture, and particularly the apostle James, in the passage I have mentioned, authorizes this conclusion. That, if the tongue is frequently without a bridle; if it may be observed, that a person often speaks lightly of God and of divine things, proudly of himself, harshly of his fellow-creatures; if it can be truly affirmed, that he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer, or a jester—then, whatever other good qualities he may seem to possess—his speech betrays him! He deceives himself, his religion is vain. Let us think of these things, and entreat the Lord to cast the salt of his grace into the fountain of our hearts, that the streams of our conversation may be wholesome.

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Video: Barrabas

Barabbas

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Another Amazing Testimony, Too

As I said about the testimony my friend Jon Speed shared a couple of weeks ago, they are ALL amazing.  That God would so condescend and save sinners for His own glory is indeed a joyous and profound mystery.  The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ–to save sinners, to take away a heart stone and give us in its place a heart of real flesh and blood, to make us a new creation–this is the source of the joy inexpressible for the forgiven sinner, the righteous in Christ!

This is another friend and brother, Matt Luneau, sharing the testimony of what God has done in his life:

matt_testimony

Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

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Another Amazing Testimony…

… but then, aren’t they ALL amazing!

I have gotten to know Jon just a little over the last couple months and got to hear his testimony last Wednesday night at our church.  I thought it was such a powerful testimony of God’s grace that I would post it here for anyone who wants to listen to it.  But then, like I said, every testimony of I’ve ever heard of true conversion is amazing!

As a brief introduction to Jon and his testimony (for those of you who may not know him), here is a brief intro I borrowed directly from his ministry’s web site:

In April of 2004, Jon attended the first Evangelism Boot Camp (EBC) hosted by The Great News Network (GNN) and Way of the Master.  As a result, he got on fire for biblical evangelism and started an evangelism team at Genesee Country Church.  He began open-air preaching in Rochester, Buffalo, and places in between.  His favorite “fishing hole” is Niagara Falls, Ontario.

To find out more about Lost Cause Ministries, click on this link to visit their site.  To listen to God’s testimony in Jon’s life, click here:

Jon Speed Testimony (Matthew 7)

(I found out after posting this, that it seems to work fine with Firefox on my system – it loads a Quicktime plugin and plays it without a hitch.  However, it does not work so well in Internet Explorer.  If you are using IE, you can right-click on the file and store it locally on your machine and listen to it that way.  It’s worth listening to, however you go about it.  When I have the time to spend working on this, I’ll try to get it working correctly with IE, also.  Sorry for the inconvenience!)

Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

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The Blessing of Temptation (Rutherford)

“I find it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell is to live without temptations. If my waters should stand, they would rot. Faith is the better of the free air, and of the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”
-Samuel Rutherford

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