Here is a great thought from Martin Luther:
Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were. And this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit under the pressure of tribulation. While he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up unto eternal life, as Christ calls it in the 4th chapter of John.
Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that after having been vexed by various temptations I have attained some little drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not with more elegance, certainty with more solidity than those literal and too subtle disputants who have discoursed upon it without understanding their own words. That I may open, then, an easier way for the ignorant–for these alone I am trying to serve–I first lay down these two propositions concerning spiritual liberty and servitude.
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found together, they will be highly serviceable to my purpose. They are both statements of Paul himself, who says: Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all( 1 Cor. 9:19) and Owe no man anything, but to love one another(Rom. 8:8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant.
Here is a little added study material for our Bible study tonight.
Light, in the Scriptures, is primarily used as an agent that accomplishes two things. 1) Dispelling darkness 2) Illuminating
So the man who has light, or The Light, within him is a pure man who sees things in their true colors, in their proper perspective, and in their true character. Such a man is aware of himself and where he is going.
Here are a few passages to think on in context of Christ’s declaration in Jn 8:12: Ps. 27:1; 97:11; 119:105; Prov. 4:18-19; 6:20-24; Micah 7:7-9; Lk. 11:33-36; Jn. 1:1-9; 3:19-21; Rom. 13:11-14; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 4:6-14; Phil. 2:12-15; 1 thess. 5:5-8; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Jn. 1:4-7
Here are a few thoughts on faith from John Bunyan’s Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ:
“Let me here give the Christian reader a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these particulars:
1. Faith believeth the Word of God, but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same.
2. Faith believeth the word, because it is true, but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true.
3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be?
4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ when with His mouth He giveth reproofs, but unbelief will imagine wrath in His heart when with His mouth and word He saith He loves us.
5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give, but unbelief will snuff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying.
6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears, but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comforts.
7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod, but unbelief can find no comfort in the greatest mercies.
8. Faith maketh great burdens light, but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy.
9. Faith helpeth us when we are down, but unbelief throws us down when we are up.
10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from Him, but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to Him.
11. Faith putteth a man under grace, but unbelief holdeth him under wrath.
12. Faith purifieth the heart, but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure.
13. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ, but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin, for without faith it is impossible to please Him.
14. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls, but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings like the restless waves of the sea.
15. Faith maketh us see preciousness in Christ, but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in Him.
16. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness, but by unbelief we starve and pine away.
17. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all.
18. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen than in them that are, but unbelief sees more of things that are than in things that will be hereafter.
19. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable, but unbelief makes them heavy and hard.
20. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither.
21. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea, but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness.
22. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men and a few empty pitchers than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God.
23. By faith Peter walked on the water, but by unbelief he began to sink.
Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit, beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save or be damned to take heed of unbelief, lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into His rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it.”
The Life of Trust
The question “What is meant by the prayer of faith?” is beginning to arrest, in an unusual degree, the attention of Christians. What is the significance of the passages both in the New Testament and the Old which refer to it? What is the limit within which they may be safely received as a ground of practical reliance? Were these promises limited to prophetical or apostolical times, or have they been left as a legacy to all believers until the end shall come?
Somehow or other, these questions are seldom discussed either from the pulpit or the press. I do not remember to have heard any of them distinctly treated of in a sermon. I do not know of any work in which this subject is either theoretically explained or practically enforced. It really seems as if this portion of Revelation was, by common consent, ignored in all our public teachings. Do not men believe that God means what he appears plainly to have asserted? Or, if we believe that he means it, do we fear the charge of fanaticism if we openly avow that we take him at his word?
The public silence on this subject does not, however, prevent a very frequent private inquiry in respect to it. The thoughtful Christian, when in his daily reading of the Scriptures he meets with any of those wonderful promises made to believing prayer, often pauses to ask himself: What can these words mean? Can it be that God has made such promises as these to me, and to such men as I am? Have I really permission to commit all my little affairs to a God of infinite wisdom, believing that he will take charge of them and direct them according to the promptings of boundless love and absolute omniscience? Is prayer really a power with God, or is it merely an expedient by which our own piety may be cultivated? Is it not a transcendent power, accomplishing what no other power can, overruling all other agencies, and rendering them subservient to its own wonderful efficiency? I think there are few devout readers of the Bible to whom these questions are not frequently suggested. We ask them, but we do not often wait for an answer. These promises seem to us to be addressed either to a past or to a coming age, but not to us, at the present day.
Yet with such views as these the devout soul is not at all satisfied. If an invaluable treasure is here reserved for the believer, he asks, why should I not receive my portion of it? He cannot doubt that God has in a remarkable manner, at various times, answered his prayers; why should he not always answer them? And why should not the believer always draw near to God in full confidence that he will do as he has said? He may remember that the prayer which has been manifestly answered was the offspring of deep humility, of conscious unworthiness, of utter self-negation, and of simple and earnest reliance on the promises of God through the mediation of Christ. Why should not his prayers be always of the same character? With the apostles of old he pours out his soul in the petition, “Lord, increase our faith.”
And yet it can scarcely be denied that the will of God has been distinctly revealed on this subject. The promises made to believing prayer are explicit, numerous, and diversified. If we take them in their simple and literal meaning, or if in fact we give to them any reasonable interpretation whatever, they seem to be easily understood. Our difficulty seems to be this: the promise is so “exceeding great” that we cannot conceive God really to mean what he clearly appears to have revealed. The blessing seems too vast for our comprehension; we “stagger at the promises, through unbelief,” and thus fail to secure the treasure which was purchased for us by Christ Jesus.
I was reading the Confessions of St. Augustine and came upon a passage where he describes the battle between the flesh and the Spirit working out in his own life. I found his description very insightful and helpful. He sums up the struggles outcome by saying, Thy love satisfied and vanquished me; my lust pleased and fettered me.
Now when this man of thine, Simplicianus, told me the story of Victorinus, I was eager to imitate him. Indeed, this was Simplicianus’ purpose in telling it to me. But when he went on to tell how, in the reign of the Emperor Julian, there was a law passed by which Christians were forbidden to teach literature and rhetoric; and how Victorinus, in ready obedience to the law, chose to abandon his “school of words” rather than thy Word, by which thou makest eloquent the tongues of the dumb – he appeared to me not so much brave as happy, because he had found a reason for giving his time wholly to thee. For this was what I was longing to do; but as yet I was bound by the iron chain of my own will. The enemy held fast my will, and had made of it a chain, and had bound me tight with it. For out of the perverse will came lust, and the service of lust ended in habit, and habit, not resisted, became necessity. By these links, as it were, forged together – which is why I called it “a chain” – a hard bondage held me in slavery. But that new will which had begun to spring up in me freely to worship thee and to enjoy thee, o my God, the only certain Joy, was not able as yet to overcome my former willfulness, made strong by long indulgence. Thus my two wills – the old and the new, the carnal and the spiritual – were in conflict within me; and by their discord they tore my soul apart.
Thus I came to understand from my own experience what I had read, how “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” I truly lusted both ways, yet more in that which I approved in myself than in that which I disapproved in myself. For in the latter it was not now really I that was involved, because here I was rather an unwilling sufferer than a willing actor. And yet it was through me that habit had become an armed enemy against me, because I had willingly come to be what I unwillingly found myself to be.
Who, then, can with any justice speak against it, when just punishment follows the sinner? I had now no longer my accustomed excuse that, as yet, I hesitated to forsake the world and serve thee because my perception of the truth was uncertain. For now it was certain. But, still bound to the earth, I refused to be thy soldier; and was as much afraid of being freed from all entanglements as we ought to fear to be entangled.
Thus with the baggage of the world I was sweetly burdened, as one in slumber, and my musings on thee were like the efforts of those who desire to awake, but who are still overpowered with drowsiness and fall back into deep slumber. And as no one wishes to sleep forever (for all men rightly count waking better) – yet a man will usually defer shaking off his drowsiness when there is a heavy lethargy in his limbs; and he is glad to sleep on even when his reason disapproves, and the hour for rising has struck – so was I assured that it was much better for me to give myself up to thy love than to go on yielding myself to my own lust. Thy love satisfied and vanquished me; my lust pleased and fettered me. I had no answer to thy calling to me, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” On all sides, thou didst show me that thy words are true, and I, convicted by the truth, had nothing at all to reply but the drawling and drowsy words: “Presently; see, presently. Leave me alone a little while.” But “presently, presently,” had no present; and my “leave me alone a little while” went on for a long while. In vain did I “delight in thy law in the inner man” while “another law in my members warred against the law of my mind and brought me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” For the law of sin is the tyranny of habit, by which the mind is drawn and held, even against its will. Yet it deserves to be so held because it so willingly falls into the habit. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” but thy grace alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord?
Thought this was a simple but instructive reminder of how to minister to those who are hurting.
Doug Wolter, a pastor in Humboldt, Iowa, who is leading his church through a tragedy in their town after two high school graduates were killed in a car accident. Sometimes aacronyms can be helpful as prompts for us to remember basic truths that can be easy to forget. Here is what Doug offers:
H – Hope, not answers. When people are in the midst of suffering, they need hope more than answers. Hope is not found in solving the problem, but running to a person: Jesus. We may not know why everything happens, but we can hope in the person who understands suffering more than anyone and sympathizes with us in it.
E – Enter into their pain; empathize with them. Did you know that grieving with someone can be the single most helpful expression of love and care? Weep with them. Just be there for them and be with them.
L – Listen to them and love them in tangible ways. Seek to understand their situation. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If you must speak, tell them, “I am standing with you. I am grieving with you.” And love them in tangible ways. Make a meal. Offer a small gift. Spend time with them.
P – Pray for them and patiently walk with them through the long journey of suffering. In the deepest of suffering, some may find it hard to even pray. We can intercede for them and carry this burden. And oftentimes, after the initial help has arrived, we forget the one who is suffering over time. But this is when the church is even more needed. To patiently walk with them and be with them through the long road of suffering.
A quick quote by an unknown author: Prayer is not striving to say many words so much as seeking to say a few words with your whole heart.
Thomas A Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Happy is he to whom truth manifests itself – not in signs and words that fade, but as it actually is. Our opinions, our senses often deceive us and we discern very little. What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day? Neglect of things which are profitable and necessary, and undue concern with those which are irrelevant and harmful, are great folly.
We have eyes and do not see.
What, therefore, have we to do with questions of philosophy? He to whom the Eternal Word speaks is free from theorizing. For from this Word are all things and of Him all things speak – the Beginning Who also speaks to us. Without this Word no man understands or judges aright. He to whom it becomes everything, who traces all things to it and who sees all things in it, may ease his heart and remain at peace with God.
O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting. I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me.
The more recollected a man is, and the more simple of heart he becomes, the easier he understands sublime things, for he receives the light of knowledge from above. The pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not distracted by many labors, for he does them all for the honor of God. And since he enjoys interior peace he seeks no selfish end in anything. What, indeed, gives more trouble and affliction than uncontrolled desires of the heart?
A good and devout man arranges in his mind the things he has to do, not according to the whims of evil inclination but according to the dictates of right reason. Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer self, to become stronger each day, and to advance in virtue.
Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it, and no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous life ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish little or nothing because they try to become learned rather than to live well.
If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.
Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they are seldom remembered. How quickly the glory of the world passes away! If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study and reading would have been worthwhile.
How many there are who perish because of vain worldly knowledge and too little care for serving God. They became vain in their own conceits because they chose to be great rather than humble.
He is truly great who has great charity. He is truly great who is little in his own eyes and makes nothing of the highest honor. He is truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain Christ. He who does God’s will and renounces his own is truly very learned.
This is a great reminder if you have intellectual unsaved friends you are trying to preach the gospel to.
J.I. Packer’s words were needed in 1958, and, oh heavens, they are needed now:
The honest way to commend God’s revealed truth to an unbelieving generation is not to disguise it as a word of man, and to act as if we could never be sure of it, but had to keep censoring and amending it at the behest of the latest scholarship, and dared not believe it further than historical agnosticism gives us leave; but to preach it in a way which shows the world that we believe it wholeheartedly, and to cry to God to accompany our witness with His Spirit, so that we too may preach ‘in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.’
The apologetic strategy that would attract converts by the flattery of accommodating the gospel to the ‘wisdom’ of sinful man was condemned by Paul nineteen centuries ago, and that past hundred years have provided a fresh demonstration of its bankruptcy.
The world may call its compromises ‘progressive’ and ‘enlightened’ (those are its names for all forms of thought that pander to its conceit); those who produce them will doubtless, by a natural piece of wishful thinking, call them ‘bold’ and ‘courageous,’ and perhaps ‘realistic’ and ‘wholesome,’ but the Bible condemns them as sterile aberrations. And the Church cannot hope to recover its power till it resolves to turn its back on them. (Fundamentalism and the Word of God, 168)
Here is a great poem by Francis Thompson. I would encourage you read it and then google a little biography of him; then read it again. For those who like poetry he would be a good guy to check out!
In No Strange Land
The kingdom of God is within you O world invisible, we view thee, O world intangible, we touch thee, O world unknowable, we know thee, Inapprehensible, we clutch thee! Does the fish soar to find the ocean, The eagle plunge to find the air-- That we ask of the stars in motion If they have rumor of thee there? Not where the wheeling systems darken, And our benumbed conceiving soars!-- The drift of pinions, would we hearken, Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors. The angels keep their ancient places-- Turn but a stone and start a wing! 'Tis ye, 'tis your estrangèd faces, That miss the many-splendored thing. But (when so sad thou canst not sadder) Cry--and upon thy so sore loss Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross. Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter, Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems; And lo, Christ walking on the water, Not of Genesareth, but Thames! ~Francis Thompson