Saturday Spurgeon: “Let It Be Your Only Business to…”

The suffering Messiah will be brought forth again this morning, not by Pilate, but by one who longs to do him honour, and when he stands before you, and is proclaimed again in the words, “Behold your King!” will you also cry, “Away with him, away with him”? Let us hope that there will not be found here hearts so evil as to imitate the rebellious nation and cry, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Oh that -each one of us may acknowledge the Lord Jesus to be his King, for beneath his sceptre there is rest and joy. He is worthy to be crowned by every heart, let us all unite in beholding him with reverence and receiving him with delight. Give me your ears and hearts while Jesus is evidently set forth as standing among you, and for the next few minutes let it be your only business to “Behold your King.”

“Ecce Rex,” MTP 23 (1877)


The Kingdom of God is Bigger and Narrower Than We Think

The struggle that has been found throughout biblical history and church history is the fact of reducing the size of the kingdom of God that’s smaller than God intends. For the Israelites they could not conceive that a gentile could be brought in. For the Pharisees, they could not picture anyone other than their little group being approved up by God. During the time of the church, the Judaizers would say that only by adhering to Moses law and observing the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision (along with trusting in Christ) could one come in. And even in our day, if someone does not belong to our particular church or denomination, even if they agree with every tenant that we believe in and are active in Christ’s work, we question whether we should lock arms with them or align with them.

The Kingdom does not initially seem that big. Jesus told a parable in Luke 13:18-21:

“He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’ And again he said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.’”

Warren Wiersbe contends that this is “a picture of the visible outward growth of the kingdom (the mustard seed) and the invisible influence of the kingdom (the leaven). By using these parables Jesus was saying, ‘You Jewish religious leaders may hold to your dead traditions and oppose the truth, but God’s living kingdom will still increase. Satan will be defeated.’”[1]

This is a cautionary tale for all of us in ecclesiastical positions and structures, where we can certainly hold to traditions that mark out a box of our own making rather than seeing the true boundaries of the Kingdom.

About a year ago, four of us from our church went to listen to a gentleman named Jeff Christopherson. Jeff had recently written a book called Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements. He added a very helpful definition of what the Kingdom of God is all about: “The Kingdom of God is what the world looks like when King Jesus gets his way.”[2] He then asked the question that is always asked before a Vision Fellowship: “What would the church look like if Jesus got His way?” He brought about three pieces of the Christian work: kingdom, mission, church. He noted that our problem is that we often start with church, that is, how we want to do church. Many times, we look at where our denomination is leading rather than working Jesus is leading in his kingdom. We look to the wrong authorities. Mission then comes from how we do church, followed by Kingdom—where God is working His rule according to our perceived boundaries and boxes.

He told us that in the days ahead that we need to be looking for how God is working in his kingdom—and it may be beyond the four walls of our church (much like what Henry Blackaby in his book Experiencing God showed the previous generation). Both tell us to “watch to see where God is working and join him.” And Jesus said all authority on Heaven and Earth has been given to him and that through the kingdom his rule was inaugurated at the cross and empty tomb and was shown in church. It will soon be seen by everyone throughout the new heavens and a new Earth.

But you say, “Isn’t the way to the Kingdom a narrow way?” You would be correct, but it is His narrow way, not ours. Many in Jesus’ day believed they were on the right path due to their heritage or their religious practices. Yet, this is not the narrow way to which Jesus speaks. Jesus had another encounter with someone on the road to Jerusalem:

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:22-30).

Did you notice verse 29? “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Being a part of the Kingdom of God was not about heritage or geography or mere religious practices. In Amos 5:21-24, God told them that the fragrances that came from their burnt offerings were a stench to him—because it was all about heritage and practices and not about a heart and mind that submitted to His rule.

[1]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1 (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1989), 226.

[2]Jeff Christopherson, Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2015), 9.

Saturday Spurgeon: Look at God’s End in the Whole Work!

“The work of Christ was to bring in a perfect righteousness. For whom, think you?  For those who had a righteousness? That were a superfluity. Why should he weave a garment for those who were already clothed in scarlet and fine linen?  He had, moreover, to shed his blood. For whom his blood? Wherefore the agony in the garden? Wherefore the cry upon the cross? For the perfect? Surely not, beloved. What need had they of an atonement? Verily, brethren, the fact that Jesus Christ bled for sin upon the cross bears, on its very surface, evidence that he came into the world to save sinners. And then look at God’s end in the whole work. It was to glorify himself, but how could God be glorified by washing spotless souls, and by bringing to everlasting glory by grace those who could have entered heaven by merit? Inasmuch as the plan and design both  aim at laying the greatness of human nature in the dust, and exalting God,  and making his love and his mercy to be magnified, it is implied as a matter  of necessity, that it came to deal with undeserving, ill-deserving sinners,  or else that end and aim never could be accomplished.”

C.H. Spurgeon, “The Friend of Sinners,” June 29, 1862.

(Originally posted at All-Around Spurgeon.)

A Devotion to Discernment in an Age of Discord

Paul warned the various churches he planted on his missionary journeys to be stewards of the truth and to beware of the issues about which many argue. Titus 3:9 says, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” In 1 Timothy 1:3-5, Paul warned young Timothy about the conversations that were bound to arise in churches:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Right now, many are discussing various theories as to why we are in this or that particular situation. A number of years ago, Carl Trueman noted the problematic aspects of conspiracy theories that we would do well to remember:

Conspiracy theories have an aesthetic appeal: they make us feel more important in the grand scheme of things than we are. If someone is going to all this trouble to con us into believing in something, then we have to be worth conning; and the impotence we all feel in the face of massive impersonal bureaucracies and economies driven not by democratic institutions so much as multinational corporations is not really the result of our intrinsic smallness and insignificance so much of our potential power which needs to be smothered. Such views play to our vanity; and, to be brutally frank, the kind of virtual solitary vice which so much solipsistic internet activity represents.

Conspiracy theories don’t hold up, though. Nobody is that competent and powerful to pull them off. Even giant bureaucracies are made up of lots of small, incompetent units fighting petty turf wars, a fragmentation which undermine the possibility of the kind of co-ordinated efforts required to pull off, say, the fabrication of the Holocaust. History, humanly speaking, is a tale of incompetence and thoughtlessness, not of elaborate and sophisticated cabals. Evil, catastrophic evil, is not exceptional and brilliant; it is humdrum and banal; it does not involve thinking too much; it involves thinking too little.

From his book,  Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History.

The fact is, we all have a worldview we hold to like our own child, and when something comes along that matches up to what we believe already, we swallow the message hook, line, and sinker. The official term is confirmation bias:

When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views or prejudices one would like to be true.

What Is Confirmation Bias?

No wonder the Apostle Paul repeatedly begged the churches to engage in discernment. In Philippians 1:9, Paul  prays that “your love may abound more and more with knowledge and discernment so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (1:9-10).  Having a love and pure devotion to Christ clarifies our minds and hearts to see what is of Christ.  We are sojourners in this world, dear Christian.  This world is not our home.  So we must have an intentionality in fixing our eyes on Christ and all that it means to be a gospel citizen.

Love comes along with knowledge and all discernment.  Knowledge of what?  The gospel.  Now, be careful when we talk about gospel.  Is that just the three or four facts that are found in tracts that we’re supposed to believe to punch our ticket to heaven?  No, the entire Bible is the gospel—God’s mission of rescue from the Garden to the New Jerusalem.  God has called us to know His Word, for His Word points with a razor-sharp focus to Jesus, who is the Good News.  And as you accrue more knowledge with that self-sacrificial love, you obtain a discernment.  Joseph Stowell tells us what discernment is:

Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to differentiate. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.

Joseph Stowell, Fan the Flame (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 44.  

When these three come into play, what do we see?  We are “able to approve of what is excellent, and to be presented pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”  Love, knowledge, and discernment come into play so we know what is excellent–and are exactly what is needed in the church today. Apathy/hate, ignorance, and irrationality (the antonyms of love, knowledge, and discernment) are ruling the day, even among the churches.

Be discerning about what you watch, read, post, say–take that breath, take that beat, pray, do research. This, friends, falls under the umbrella of loving your neighbor as yourself. Don’t let the chaos of the COVID19 season blind you to a devotion to discernment for the cause of Christ and as a citizen of the Kingdom.


Our Christian Faith: Based on Private Feelings or Objective Facts?

One day, a lawyer asked Jesus a question–the question was a good one, but the motive, a bad one for they were trying to trap Jesus (Matthew 22:34). “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law” (v. 36)? A lawyer is asking Jesus about the law. This lawyer knew the law well and would use his intellectual skill to expose Jesus as a fraud (at least in their eyes). Most anyone else who was on the receiving end of this question, we would ask for a little time to research the 613 commands/laws on the books (365 negative and 248 positive commands) then would come back for an answer. Little did these religious leaders realize that Jesus was not simply keeping the Law but was the lawgiver! Therefore, Jesus did not hesitate nor grow nervous in this lawyer putting him on the spot in front of everyone. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus proved a challenge to the religious leaders of the day because He walked in truth, spoke truth, and engaged the mind as well as the heart when interacting with the Pharisees and Sadducees.

We live in an age where the church of Jesus Christ is discouraged to think. What matters is the emotional responses, how one feels about a song, a sermon, the aesthetics. I have talked to people that like the (and these are their words) “feel” of church. To think through what the church teaches and believes as articulated in the Word or in statements of faith that seek to reflect the Word is a foreign concept to many—and to insist on doing so is taken as an affront and offense.  In response, many have trouble because they have not been taught to think through what they believe, but only to go on their own feelings about all things church!

God uses words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs and chapters for us to develop ideas which in turn develops worldviews—that is, how we view the world! Chuck Colson defined worldview as “the sum total of our beliefs about the world, the ‘big picture’ that directs our daily decisions and actions.” The questions answered are (1) where did we come from and who we are, (2) what has gone wrong with the world, and (3) what can we do to fix it? This involves engaging the information that God has revealed in creation and His Word. Colson again helps us see the need for this:

The basis for the Christian worldview, of course, is God’s revelation in Scripture. Yet sadly, many believers fail to understand that Scripture is intended to be the basis for all of life. In the past centuries, the secular world asserted a dichotomy between science and religion, between fact and value, between objective knowledge and subjective feeling. As a result, Christians often think in terms of the same false dichotomy, allowing our belief system to be reduced to little more than private feelings and experience, completely divorced from objective facts.[1]

Romans 1:18-32 shows the response of those who look at creation through a problematic lens and the consequences that come from this. What is the worldview in which we bask? We pray that you will see how a personal God leads us personally to know not just about his nature and work but that it will lead us to honor and thankfulness. Otherwise, our worldview will be fueled by the wrong god!

[1]Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? 14.