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God’s Way*

In this day of pragmatism, it is good to be reminded that God has not ordained ends alone, but means as well. William Gurnall writes,


The Christian’s armour which he wears must be of divine institution and appointment. The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands. It is not left to every one’s fancy to bring what weapons he please; this will breed confusion. The Christian soldier in bound up to God’s order; though the army be on earth, yet the council of war sits in heaven; this duty ye shall do; these means ye shall use. And [those who] do more, or use other, than God commands, though with some seeming success against sin, shall surely be called to account for this boldness. The discipline of war among men is strict in this case. Some have suffered death by a council of war even when they have beaten the enemy, because out of their place, or beside their order. God is very precise in this point; he will say to such as invent ways to worship him of their own, coin means to mortify corruption, obtain comfort in their own mint: ‘Who hath required this at your hands?’ This is truly to be ‘righteous over-much,’ as Solomon speaks, when we will pretend to correct God’s law, and add supplements of our own to his rule. Who will pay that man his wages that is not set on work by God? God tells Israel the false prophets shall do them no good, because they come not of his errand, Je. xxiii. 32; so neither will those ways and means help, which are not of God’s appointing. God’s thoughts are not as man’s, nor his ways as ours, which he useth to attain his ends by. If man had set forth the Israelitish army, now to march out of Egypt, surely this wisdom would have directed rather to have plundered the Egyptians of their horses and arms, as more necessary for such an expedition, than to borrow their jewels and ear-rings. But God will have them come out naked and on foot, and Moses keeps close to his order; yea, when any horses were taken in battle, because God commanded they should be [hamstrung], they obeyed, though to their seeming disadvantage. It was God’s war they waged, and therefore but reasonable they will be under his command. They encamped and marched by his order, as the ark moved or rested. They fight by his command. The number is appointed by him—the means and weapons they should use—all are prescribed by God, as in the assault of Jericho. And what gospel of all this—for surely God hath an eye in that to our marching to heaven, and our fighting with these cursed spirits and lusts that stand in way—but that we should fight lawfully, using those means which we have from his mouth in his Word?

—William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002).

* Originally posted March 14, 2007

Lord’s Day 11, 2019

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. —James 1:17–18 God My Creator and Benefactor. I.   My Maker, and my King, To thee my all I owe; Thy sov’reign bounty is the spring From whence my blessings flow. II. Thou ever good, and kind, A thousand reasons move, A thousand obligations bind, My heart to grateful love. III. The creature of thy hand, On thee alone I live: My God, thy benefits demand More praise than life can give. IV. Oh! what can I impart, When all is thine before? Thy love demands a thankful heart, The gift, alas, how poor! V. Shall I withhold thy due? And shall my passions rove? Lord, form this wretched heart anew, And fill it with thy love. VI. O let thy grace inspire My soul with strength divine; Let all my pow’rs to thee aspire, And all my days be thine. —Anne Steele, The Works of Mrs. Anne Steele (Munroe, Francis, and Parker, 1808). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: I Sought the Lord

I Sought the Lord PEACE I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of Thee. Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold; I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea; ’twas not so much that I on Thee took hold, as Thou, dear Lord, on me. I find, I walk, I love, but O, the whole of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee! For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul, always Thou lovedst me. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

For St. Patrick’s Day, 2019

There was no question about it, Paddy Fitzpatrick was lucky. Everyone knew it. Since that serendipitous day so long ago, when wandering aimlessly in the country, despondent, mourning the loss of his one true love, he had been exceedingly lucky. It began, as these things so often do, with an accident, an unfortunate event without which a fortunate event would have been missed. It was nothing serious. A broken shoelace, nothing more; but as he knelt to tie the broken ends together, cursing bad luck added to worse, his eyes came to rest on something wonderful and rare. It was a four-leaf clover. Whether the acquisition of the clover merely changed his outlook on life, and so enhanced his performance, precipitating improved outcome from his efforts, or the clover itself actually changed his luck, is open to debate. In any case, from that day forward everything good seemed to come his way. He had met the beautiful Erin, and after a whirlwind romance, they were married. Their love seemed to grow exponentially day after day. It seemed as if the honeymoon would never end. Now, a year later, he was the proud father of beautiful twins, a boy and a girl. Life could not be sweeter. On the job, the quality of his work was so improved that he was being noticed by the proprietors of the firm and considered for much bigger things. New employees called him “Mr. Fitzpatrick.” An executive office and company car were in his future. Paddy was certain his good fortune was due to his four-leaf clover. It was in his suit pocket at all times. One morning, however, Paddy could not find the clover. Frantically, he searched the house, but it was not there. In a panic, he tried to recall when he had last seen it. He finally recalled it was in his gray suit that he had dropped off at the dry cleaners. He rushed to the cleaners only to find that the work had been completed and his suit was ready to be picked up. He searched the suit and found the four-leaf clover, still in one piece but now faded and flattened from the dry cleaning. From that day on, Paddy’s fortunes changed. Life was good, but it was no longer perfect. The little inconveniences were always there. His wife seemed more irritable. The twins seemed a little naughtier. His career stalled. Paddy’s life had changed. He still carried the clover, but he was certainly not living the charmed life he was used to and had come to expect. Finally, he had had enough. He confided in his wife, who had previously been unaware of his clover. He told her of the day when, at the end of his rope, he had found his good-luck charm, and how he had carried it every day, and how the most amazingly good luck had been his. Then he told her of that fateful day when he had forgotten the clover in the pocket of his suit when he dropped it off to be cleaned and pressed, and how everything had gone downhill from there. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry,” she said, comforting him. Then, with the wisdom of a loving wife, added, “You know, it’s never wise to press your luck.”

Even though the people of Israel collectively and overwhelmingly rejected their Messiah, his work carries on. Paul sorrowfully says that his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3) were “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (10:3). They failed to grasp the truth that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (v. 4). In other words, they did not understand that they had no ground on which to stand before God and no possibility of earning his favor with their own good works. They therefore did not see their need for the servant’s sacrifice on their behalf. Had they believed, the perfect righteousness of their sinless Messiah would have been imputed to them (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). Instead, they chose to clothe themselves with their own self-righteousness. By refusing God’s righteousness and trusting their own, they made themselves supremely offensive to God. In fact, Isaiah casts off all the normal rules of genteel discourse in the way he describes the guilt of those who trusted their own good works. He says it was as if they were dressed in used menstrual rags. That is the literal meaning of the Hebrew expression in Isaiah 64:6: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Like all self-righteous sinners, they imagined that God was less holy than he is and that they were more virtuous than they were. So they came to God on their terms, not his. An inadequate view of the sinfulness of sin kept them from understanding why the Savior died. Those who don’t understand the glory of divine righteousness will never see the necessity of atonement. —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 81.

The Jews of Jesus’ day expected a Messiah who would deliver them from oppression and set up his Messianic kingdom. In that, they were not wrong. One day, all their expectations will be fulfilled. What they did not realize is that they were under a much heavier oppressor than the Roman Empire. Jesus is the true Messiah, and he will one day return to reign as King over all the earth. But he could not establish his kingdom (with all its promised blessings for Jews and Gentiles alike) until he had provided salvation. People cannot be delivered from their suffering until they are delivered from their sin. The countless millions of sacrificed animals offered under the sacrificial system did not atone for sin. “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?” (Heb. 10:2). The constant offering of those sacrifices was designed to remind people of their sin and the need for an adequate atonement. “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (v. 3). The sacrifices pointed to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Only the death of a perfect substitute would truly satisfy the demands of God’s justice and pay the penalty for sin. Isaiah 53 is God’s promise that he himself would provide a suitable Lamb (cf. Gen. 22:8). —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 76.

Random Selections: Zwingli on “the rights of every Christian church” (J. H. Merle d’Aubigne)

This is the third of these randomly selected quotations I’ve posted here, and I’m wondering how long I can do this before I land on a paragraph that makes no sense by itself. So far, so good. This one is from the even page, final paragraph. On Monday, the 26th of October [1523], more than nine hundred persons—among whom were members of the Grand Council—and no less than three hundred and fifty priests, were assembled after sermon in the large room of the Town Hall. Zwingle and Leo Juda were seated at a table on which lay the Old and New Testament in the originals. Zwingle spoke first, and first disposing of the authority of the hierarchy and its councils, he laid down the rights of every Christian Church, and claimed the liberty of the first ages, when the Church had as yet no council either œcumenical or provincial. “The Universal Church,” said he, “is diffused throughout world, wherever faith in Jesus Christ has spread: in India as well as in Zurich . . . And as to particular churches, we have them at Berne, at Schaffhausen, and even here. But the popes, with their cardinals and their councils, are neither the Universal Church nor a particular Church. The assembly whch hears me,” exclaimed he with energy, “is the Church of Zurich:—it desires to hear the word of God, and can rightfully decree whatever it shall see to be conformable to the Scriptures.” —J. H. Merle d’Aubigne, History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in Germany, Switzerland, &c. (London: D. Walther, 1843), 3:314.

There Is neither Norwegian nor Swede
Lord’s Day 10, 2019
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Not All the Blood of Beasts
Truth in Lenting
Give Up Giving Up
In the Good Old Days

The Presumption of Innocence Lost
Lord’s Day 8, 2019
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Not What These Hands
He’s Dead, Jim
Deadly Self-Righteousness
The Crux of Isaiah
The Forbidden Chapter

The Servant’s Wisdom
Lord’s Day 9, 2019
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: I Hear the Words of Love
But . . . there are no hippopotami in North America.
Random Selections: Absolute Dominion (Stephen Charnock)
Maybe Not the Best Book of the Bible for New Believers
Random Selections: Suppressed Opinions (John Owen)


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