Tag Archives: Sin

Christ: The Most Precious Remedy

old-medicine-bottlesWhat is the most precious remedy against the wiles of the devil and sin?

Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colors upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man—the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph’s homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulcher of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

Thomas Brooks (1608-80), The Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices20.


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The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? If the throne which is placed there must have an occupier, and the tyrant that now reigns has occupied it wrongfully, he may not leave a bosom which would rather detain him than be left in desolation. But may he not give way to the lawful sovereign, appearing with every charm that can secure His willing admittance, and taking unto himself His great power to subdue the moral nature of man, and to reign over it? In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new. To obliterate all our present affections by simply expunging them, and so as to leave the seat of them unoccupied, would be to destroy the old character, and to substitute no new character in its place. But when they take their departure upon the ingress of other visitors; when they resign their sway to the power and the predominance of new affections; when, abandoning the heart to solitude, they merely give place to a successor who turns it into as busy a residence of desire and interest and expectation as before – there is nothing in all this to thwart or to overbear any of the laws of our sentient nature – and we see how, in fullest accordance with the mechanism of the heart, a great moral revolution may be made to take place upon it.

heartThis, we trust, will explain the operation of that charm which accompanies the effectual preaching of the gospel. The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity – and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character – when bidden as he is in the New Testament, to love not the world; no, nor any of the things that are in the world for this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, as to be equivalent to a command of self-annihilation.

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God – and to live without hope, is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, then world will then have all the ascendancy. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy. It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance_it is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom. It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us – it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible. And that faith which is revealed to us from heaven, as indispensable to a sinner’s justification in the sight of God, is also the instrument of the greatest of all moral and spiritual achievements on a nature dead to the influence, and beyond the reach of every other application….

The object of the Gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience, and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects, mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.
Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again. On the tenure of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator, is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness, instead of God’s glory; and with all the conformities which he labours to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be. It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance – or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another – or, that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them – the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good – the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude, by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace – salvation by free grace – salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God – salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness. To do any work in the best manner, we should make use of the fittest tools for it.

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.

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“Infinite Upon Infinite”: Sin and God’s Grace

edwardsI have often since I lived in [Northampton] had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently so as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together: so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, since my conversion, than ever I had before. It has often appeared to me, that if God should mark iniquity against me, I should appear the very worst of all mankind; of all that have been since the beginning of the world to this time: and that I should have by far the lowest place in hell. When others that have come to talk with me about their soul concerns, have expressed the sense they have had of their own wickedness, by saying that it seemed to them, that they were as bad as the devil himself; I thought their expressions seemed exceeding faint and feeble, to represent my wickedness. I thought I should wonder, that they should content themselves with such expressions as these, if I had any reason to imagine, that their sin bore any proportion to mine. It seemed to me, I should wonder at myself, if I should express my wickedness in such feeble terms as they did.

My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and infinitely swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or infinite mountains over my head. I know not how to express better, what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. I go about very often, for this many years, with these expressions in my mind, and in my mouth, “Infinite upon infinite. Infinite upon infinite!” When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fullness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth, in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty; I should appear sunk down in my sins infinitely below hell itself, far beyond sight of everything, but the piercing eye of God’s grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth, and to the bottom of such an abyss.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), Letters and Personal Writings, 802.

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Good Friday: Divine Love vs Guilty Humanity


Easter, with the joy at the coming of spring, with all the happiness with which the sun warms our hearts, has become for each of us since childhood a festival dear to our hearts, a festival filled with warm memories from which we do not want to part.  Who among us would want to lose even a single spring from our lives?  But to say that our entire life depends upon Easter, that our existence would be threatened if there were no Easter – who among us would want or even could bear such a thing?  But Paul did indeed say it.   And because he reflected a bit more thoroughly on this question than we tend to do, we may assume that such a statement does indeed harbor a certain meaning about which one might perhaps reflect further.  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”

Hence, all apparently depends upon our understanding of exactly what Paul meant by the word “raised.”  What does resurrection mean and what can it mean for us?  These are the old Easter questions that we cannot avoid unless we are thoughtless.  The overwhelming phenomenon of perpetually self-renewing spring enables humanity throughout the world to sense something of the primal struggle between darkness and light in which, after intense fighting, light emerges victorious – spring emerges form the dark winter.  Each year renews this colossal spectacle of nature, awakening in humankind an intimation of hope in resurrection.  All that is dark must ultimately become light.  This is a law of nature; indeed, darkness is not really an entity in an for itself; it exists only as the absence of light.  A single ray of sunlight destroys it.  And the sun comes, comes most assuredly, and with it the resurrection of nature.  The seeds of life are already contained in the death of nature.  Indeed, death is not really death at all, but a stage of life that abides in embryonic form within the seemingly rigid bodies.  Life and light must emerge victorious, and death and darkness are merely their manifestations.  These ideas are the common property and primal possessions of humankind, even back to its most primitive spiritual and intellectual life, and it is form such ideas that our own modernized Easter faith draws without noticing that Christianity has far different things to say about Easter.

Easter is concerned not with a struggle between darkness an light, which ultimately light will win in any case since darkness is, after all, actually nothing, because death is already life; nor with a struggle between winter and spring, between ice and sun, but with the struggle of guilty humanity against divine love, or better: of divine love against guilty humanity, struggle in which God appears to be vanquished on Good Friday and in which God, precisely by losing – wins – on Easter.  Is God victorious – or is Prometheus (representing un-Christian cultural piety) victorious?  That is the question that is answered on Easter by God’s mighty deed.  Good Friday is not the darkness that must necessarily yield to light.  It is not the winter sleep that contains and nourishes the seed of life within.  It is the day on which human beings – human beings who wanted to be like gods – kill the God who became human, the love that became a person; the day on which the Holy One of God, that is, God himself, dies, truly dies – voluntarily and yet because of human guilt – without any seed of life remaining in him in such a way that God’s death might resemble sleep.  Good Friday is not, like winter, a transitional stage – no, it is genuinely the end, the end of guilty humanity and the final judgment that humanity has pronounced upon itself.  And here only one thing can help, namely, God’s own mighty deed in the midst of humanity from within God’s eternity.  Easter is not an immanent or inner-worldly event, but a transcendent, world-transcending event, God’s intervention from eternity through which God professes loyalty to God’s Holy One and raises that Holy One from the dead.  Easter speaks not about immortality but about resurrection, resurrection from the dead through God’s mighty deed, from death that is genuinely death with all its horrors and terrors, death of the body and of the soul, of the entire person.  That is the Easter message.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1909-45), “3/31 Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:17” in Barcelona, Berlin, New York, 1928-1931, Works Vol. 10, 486-7.

HT: Tony Reinke

Image Credit: Missio Dei Church

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Spirit-Empowered Holiness and the Contemporary World

The great contemporary challenge of embracing the biblical perspective about the holiness of the Triune God, in general, and the Spirit’s sanctifying work, in particular, is that the ideas of human depravity coram Deo and therefore of the desperate need for the Spirit’s sanctifying grace do not chime well with modern sensibilities. Men and women today do not view themselves as sinners who fall short of the holiness demanded by a thrice-holy God. Dominique Clift, writing in the late 1980s from the vantage point of twenty-five years of commenting on Canadian society and politics, well describes this modern situation when he writes:

The most significant break with earlier religious attitudes, the one with the most far-reaching psychological consequences because of its effect on the way people see themselves, is the elimination of feelings of guilt and of unworthiness as the foundations of religious life. This development coincides with the appearance of more permissive social standards, particularly in sexual matters. …Somehow religion has moved beyond ethics: what has become uppermost today is the religious experience itself.

J.I. Packer, in his own inimitable way, describes the same phenomenon as a day of “unwarrantably great thoughts of humanity and scandalously small thoughts of God.” Our day, he predicts, will be remembered as “the age of the God-shrinkers.” The result, he says, is that:

belief in God’s sovereignty and omniscience, the majesty of his moral law and the terror of his judgments, the retributive consequences of the life we live here and the endlessness of eternity in which we will experience them, along with the intrinsic triunity of God and the divinity and personal return of Jesus Christ, is nowadays so eroded as to be hardly discernible. For many in our day, God is no more than a smudge.

 Part of the solution is to immerse ourselves afresh in the biblical perspectives about God and his holiness, and radically re-orient our mindset to what constitutes reality. Another part is to recognize that the Holy Spirit is still sovereign and has ways of overriding the barriers erected by erroneous thinking.

Consider the case of Mary Stewart, who, came to know Christ in that turbulent era of the late 1960s and early 1970s and found that she had some radical choices to make in her life. In her own words, she was:

a very liberated young woman at the time. I had had a rich sexual fantasy life almost since I could remember. …I had almost lost count of the number of men I had slept with in a serially monogamous fashion. I had taken advantage of the spirit of the Women’s Movement (in which I was quite active) to begin exploring my own bisexuality. And I had no intention of giving any of that up. When I accepted Christ, I figured that it was the spirit of the law, not the letter, that mattered, that “love” was the overriding principle, and that I could witness in bed as easily as anywhere else.

But to my progressive astonishment, I found all that changing. Not quickly. Not all at once. Not by anyone’s prying into my personal life or trying to send me on a guilt-trip (although I am sure I had lots of people praying for me). It was totally a process of God’s working on me, one item of behaviour at a time, over many months, like patiently peeling one layer after another off an onion.

As God’s Spirit began to enable her to “walk in his statutes,” as promised in Ezekiel 36:27, she came to find herself “progressively liberated, gentled and strengthened” and that, in her own words, “I wanted God’s Spirit more than I wanted transient physical titillation.”

Modern sensibilities be what they may, God’s Spirit and his sweet grace are ultimately, thankfully, and blessedly irresistible. And this gives us great hope and encouragement. Well did John Ryland, Jr., the close friend of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) and William Carey (1761–1834), express this truth, albeit with reference to a much broader context, in a 1792 circular letter that he drew up for the Calvinistic Baptist churches of the Northamptonshire Association:

Surely the state both of the world, and of church, calls loudly upon us all to persist in wrestling instantly with God, for greater effusions of his Holy Spirit… Let us not cease crying mightily unto the Lord, “until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high” [Isaiah 32:15]; then the wilderness shall become as a fruitful field, and the desert like the garden of God. Yes, beloved, the Scriptures cannot be broken. Jesus must reign universally. All nations shall own him. All people shall serve him. His kingdom shall be extended, not by human might, or power, but by the effusion of His Holy Spirit [cf. Zechariah 4:6].

The Spirit’s work will ultimately be victorious—both personally in those whom he indwells and globally.

Michael Haykin, The Empire of the Holy Spirit, 47-50.

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How to Mortify Sin (Repost)

Determine that you will, everyday and in every duty abolish and destroy this ruling principle of sin.  it will not die unless it is gradually and constantly weakened.  Spare it, and it heals its wounds and recovers its strength.  Negligence allows sin to regain such power that we may never recover our former state as long as we live.

We are continually to watch out for the rising up of this ruling principle of sin and immediately subdue it.  This is to be done in all that we are and do.  We are to be watchful in our behaviour to others, watchful when we are alone, watchful when in trouble or joy.  We are to be particularly watchful in the use of our pleasure times and in temptations.

Determine that you will no longer serve sin  (Rom. 6:6).  See it as the worst service of which a rational creature is capable.  If you serve sin it will bring you to a dreadful end.  Determine that though sin remains in you, yet you will not serve it.  Remember, if the ‘old ma’ is not crucified with Christ, you are still a servant of sin, whatever you might think of yourself.

Realise that it is no easy task to mortify sin.  Sin is a powerful and dreadful enemy.  There is no living thing that will not do everything in its power to save its life.  So sin also will fight to save its life.  If sin is not diligently hunted down and dealt with by holy violence, it will escape all our attempts at killing it.  It is a great mistake to think that we can at any time rest from this duty.  The ruling principle of sin to be slain is in us, and so has hold of all our faculties.  Sin cannot be killed without a sense of pain and trouble.  So Christ compared it to ‘cutting of the right hand’ and ‘plucking out the right eye’.  The battle is not against any particular lust but against all sinful lusts which war against the soul.

Mortification arising from convictions of the law leads only to dealing with particular sins, and always proves fruitless.  True mortifying of sin deals with the entire body of sin.  It goes tot the heart of the matter and lays the axe to the root of the tree.  This is the mortification which the Holy Spirit drives the believer to do.

Mortification of particular sins arises from a guilty conscience.  But mortification arising from gospel principles deals with the whole body of sin in its opposition to the renewing of the image of God in us.

John Owen (1616-83), The Holy Spirit, 167-69.

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“It is Finished”

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30

The Son of Man came here “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ Jesus came into the world “to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, “to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4). He was manifested “to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5). And all this involved the cross. The “lost” which he came to seek could only be found there—in the place of death and under the condemnation of God. Sinners could be “saved” only by one taking their place and bearing their iniquities. They who were under the law could be “redeemed” only by another fulfilling its requirements and suffering its curse. Our sins could be “taken away” only by their being blotted out by the precious blood of Christ. The demands of justice must be met: the requirements of God’s holiness must be satisfied: the awful debt we incurred must be paid. And on the cross this was done; done by none less than the Son of God; done perfectly; done once for all.

“It is finished.” That to which so many types looked forward, that which so much in the tabernacle and its ritual foreshadowed, that of which so many of God’s prophets had spoken, was now accomplished. A covering from sin and its shame—typified by the coats of skin with which the Lord God clothed our first parents—was now provided. The more excellent sacrifice—typified by Abel’s lamb—had now been offered. A shelter from the storm of divine judgment- typified by the ark of Noah was now furnished. The only-begotten and well-beloved Son—typified by Abraham’s offering up of Isaac—had already been placed upon the altar. A protection from the avenging angel—typified by the shed blood of the Passover lamb was now supplied. A cure from the serpent’s bite -typified by the serpent of brass upon the pole—was now made ready for sinners. The providing of a life-giving fountain -typified by Moses striking the rock—was now effected.

“It is finished.” The Greek word here, teleo, is various translated in the New Testament. A glance at some of the different renderings in other passages will enable us to discern the fullness and finality of the term used by the Saviour. In Matthew 11:1, teleo is rendered as follows: “When Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence.” In Matthew 17:24 it is rendered, “They that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute?” In Luke 2:39 it is rendered, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee.” In Luke 18:31 it is rendered, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” Putting these together we learn the scope of the Saviour’s sixth cross-utterance, “It is finished.” He cried: it is “made an end of;” it is “paid;” it is “performed;” it is “accomplished.” What was made an end of? Our sins and their guilt. What was paid? The price of our redemption. What was performed? The utmost requirements of the law. What was accomplished? The work which the Father had given him to do. What was finished? The making of atonement.

God has furnished at least four proofs that Christ did finish the work which was given him to do. First, in the rending of the veil, which showed that the way to God was now open. Second, in the raising of Christ from the dead, which evidenced that God had accepted his sacrifice. Third, the exaltation of Christ to his own right hand, which demonstrated the value of Christ’s work and the Father’s delight in his person. Fourth, the sending to earth of the Holy Spirit to apply the virtues and benefits of Christ’s atoning death.

“It is finished.” What was finished? The work of atonement. What is the value of that to us? This: to the sinner, it is a message of glad tidings. All that a holy God requires has been done. Nothing is left for the sinner to add. No works from us are demanded as the price of our salvation. All that is necessary for the sinner is to rest now by faith upon what Christ did. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). To the believer, the knowledge that the atoning work of Christ is finished brings a sweet relief over against all the defects and imperfections of his services. There is much of sin and vanity in the very best of our efforts, but the grand relief is that we are “complete” in Christ (Col. 2:10)! Christ and his finished work is the ground of all our hopes.

Upon a Life I did not live,

Upon a Death I did not die,

Another’s death Another’s life

I cast my soul eternally

Bold shall I stand in that great day,

For who, aught to my charge can lay?

Fully absolved by Christ lam,

From sin’s tremendous curse and blame.

Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952), The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 136-38.

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