Do Nothing Through Strife

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. – Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through strife‭. With a spirit of contention. This command forbids us to do anything, or attempt anything, as ‭the mere result of strife‭. This is not the principle from which we are to act, or by which we are to be governed. We are to form no plan, and aim at no object, which is to be secured in this way. The command prohibits all attempts to secure anything over others by mere physical strength, or by superiority of intellect or numbers, or as the result of dark schemes and plans formed by rivalry, or by the indulgence of angry passions, or with the spirit of ambition. We are not to attempt to do anything ‭merely‭ by outstripping others, or by showing that we have more talent, courage, or zeal. What we do is to be by principle, and with a desire to maintain the truth, and to glorify God. And yet how often is this rule violated! How often do Christian denominations attempt to outstrip each other, and to see which shall be the greatest! How often do ministers preach with no better aim! How often do we attempt to outdo others in dress, and in the splendor of furniture and equipage! How often, even in plans of benevolence, and in the cause of virtue and religion, is the secret aim to ‭outdo others‭. This is all wrong. There is no holiness in such efforts. Never once did the Redeemer act from such a motive, and never once should this motive be allowed to influence us.

– Albert Barnes, 1798-1870, Barnes Notes

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The Best Remedy Against the Fear of Man

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! – Luke 12:4-5

One thing that demands our attention in these verses, is Christ’s warning against the fear of man. “Do not be afraid,” He says, “of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”

But He not only tells us whom we ought not to fear–but of whom we ought to be afraid. “Fear Him,” Jesus says, “Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” The manner in which the lesson is conveyed is very striking and impressive. Twice over the exhortation is enforced. “Fear Him!” says our Lord. “Yes, I tell you, fear Him!”

The fear of man is one of the greatest obstacles which stand between the soul and Heaven. “What will others say of me? What will they think of me? What will others do to me?” How often these little questions have turned the balance against the soul, and kept men bound hand and foot by sin and the devil! Thousands would never hesitate a moment to storm a breach–who dare not face the laughter of relatives, neighbors and friends.

Now if the fear of man has such influence in these times–then how much greater must its influence have been in the days when our Lord was upon earth! If it is hard to follow Christ through ridicule and scornful words–then how much harder must it have been to follow Him through prisons, beatings, scourgings, and violent deaths! All these things our Lord Jesus knew well. No wonder that He cries, “Do not be afraid!”

What is the best remedy against the fear of man? How are we to overcome this powerful feeling, and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord recommends. We must supplant the fear of man by a higher and more powerful principle–the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body–to Him who has all dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the life that now is–to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him that is invisible–we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker fear before the stronger.

“I fear God,” said Colonel Gardiner, “and therefore there is no one else that I need fear.” It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, “Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet–and eternal death is more bitter!”

– J. C. Ryle, 1816-1900, The Gospel of Luke

Published in: on November 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Light Thoughts of Sin

“Sin… exceeding sinful.” — Romans 7:13

Beware of light thoughts of sin. At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin. Young converts have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest they should offend against God. But alas! very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world: the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding. It is sadly true, that even a Christian may grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him does not alarm him in the least. By degrees men get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds. At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, “Is it not a little one?” Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a little ill; and  then follows an unholy presumption: “We have not fallen into open sin. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main. We may have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it has been consistent.” So we palliate sin; we throw a cloak over it; we call it by dainty names. Christian, beware how you think lightly of sin. Take heed lest thou fall by little and little. Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin, a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes? Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual drippings wear away stones? Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced His heart! It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil. Look upon all sin as that which crucified the Savior, and you will see it to be “exceeding sinful.”

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, Morning and Evening, March 11, (Morning)

The Word of God

Next to praying, there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible-reading.
By reading that Book, we may learn . . .
what to believe,
what to be,
what to do,
how to live with comfort,
and how to die in peace.

The Bible alone is “able to make a man wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15. It alone can . . .
show you the way which leads to Heaven,
teach you everything you need to know,
point out everything you need to believe,
and explain everything you need to do.

It alone can show you . . .
what you are–a sinner,
what God is–perfectly holy,
the great giver of pardon, peace, and grace–Jesus Christ.

The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the grand instrument by which souls are converted to God. In this way the Bible has worked moral miracles by thousands! It has made . . .
drunkards become sober,
immoral people become pure,
thieves become honest, and
violent people become meek!

The Bible has wholly altered the course of men’s lives!
It has caused their old things to pass away–and made all their ways new.
It has taught worldly people–to seek first the kingdom of God.
It has taught lovers of pleasure–to become lovers of God.
It has changed the stream of men’s affections–to run upwards instead of running downwards.
It has made men think of Heaven–instead of always thinking of earth.

The Bible can enable a man . . .
to bear afflictions without murmuring, and say, “It is well.”
to look down into the grave, and say, “I fear no evil.”
to think on judgment and eternity, and not feel afraid.

Is a man drowsy in soul? The Bible can awaken him.

Is he mourning? The Bible can comfort him.

Is he erring? The Bible can restore him.

Is he weak? The Bible can strengthen him.

Is he in company? The Bible can keep him from evil.

Is he alone? The Bible can talk with him. (Proverbs 6:22)

All this the Bible can do for all believers;
for the least–as well as the greatest;
for the richest–as well as the poorest.
It has done it for thousands already–and is doing it for thousands every day!

It is in Scripture alone that infallibility resides. It is not in the Church. It is not in the Councils. It is not in ministers. It is only in the written Word.

All other books in the world, however good and useful in their way–are more or less defective. The more you look at them–the more you see their defects and blemishes. The Bible alone is absolutely perfect. From beginning to end, it is “the Word of God.”

A man must make the Bible alone his rule. He must receive nothing, and believe nothing, which is not according to the Word. He must try all religious teaching by one simple test: Does it square with the Bible? What do the Scriptures say?
The only question is: Is the thing said Scriptural?
If it is–then it ought to be received and believed.
If it is not–then it ought to be refused and cast aside.

The churches which are most flourishing at this day, are churches which honor the Bible.
The nations which enjoy most moral light, are nations in which the Bible is most treasured.
The godliest families are Bible-reading families.
The holiest men and women are Bible-reading people.
These are simple facts which cannot be denied.

Every one who cares for his soul ought . . .
to treasure the Bible highly,
to study it regularly, and
to make himself thoroughly acquainted with its contents.

– J. C. Ryle, 1816-1900

 

The Arm of the flesh

 “Without me, you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Until we are utterly empty of self, we are not ready to be filled by God; until we are conscious of our own weakness, we are not fit platforms for the display of the divine omnipotence. Until the arm of flesh is paralysed, and death is written upon the whole natural man, we are not ready to be endowed with the divine life and energy.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892

Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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We are being prepared for Heaven

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. – Titus 1:2

LOOK upon all the Lord’s covenant dealings with you as but preparatory to your approaching emancipation from all sin, suffering, and sorrow. Welcome your trials—they are sent by your Father. Welcome the stroke of His rod—it is a Parent smiting. Welcome whatever detaches you from earth, and wings your spirit heavenward. Welcome the furnace that consumes the dross and the tin, and brings out the precious gold and silver, to reflect in your soul, even now, the dawnings of future glory. Oh! be submissive, meek, and quiet, under God’s chastening and afflicting hand, and receive all His dispensations as only tending to fit you more perfectly for “the inheritance of the saints in light.” Let his “hope of eternal life” cheer and comfort the bereaved of the Lord, from whose hearts have fled the loved and sanctified ones of earth, to the eternal heaven. Oh! how full of consolation is this prospect! Where have the departed fled, who sleep in Jesus? They have but exchanged the region of darkness and shadow for the regions of light and glory. They have gone from the scene of impurity, defilement, and sin, to the place of perfect holiness, complete sanctification, and eternal love.

– Octavius Winslow, 1808-1878, Morning Thoughts

You are the Bible

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

The worldling’s Bible is the Christian. He never reads the Book–but he reads the disciple of Christ, and he judges the Christian religion by the lives of its professors!

The world does not read the Bible–the world reads Christians!

Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2

Published in: on August 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Encouragers – not Discouragers

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

How much better it would be—if instead of being discouragers, we would all learn to be encouragers of others! The value of words of cheer is incalculable!

There is an old story of a fireman who was climbing up a ladder amid smoke and flame, trying to reach a high window—to rescue a child from a burning building! The man had almost gained the window—but the heat was so intense, and the smoke so blinding, that he staggered on the ladder and seemed about to turn back. The great crowd below was watching him with breathless interest and, seeing him waver and hesitate, began to “cheer” him! This nerved the fireman anew for his heroic task, and in a moment the brave fellow had entered the house and soon returned, saving the child. It is ‘cheer’ that people need, not discouragement, when they are fighting a hard battle!

Men who give us only their doubts and fears, are misanthropists. True philanthropy brings us hope and heartening. The truest helpers of others—are those who always have words of exhortation and inspiration to speak, who always are encouragers.

– J. R. Miller, 1902

Published in: on July 3, 2017 at 2:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Remedy for Anxiety

“Therefore, I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life — what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they?

“Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his life-span? Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?

“Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” – Matthew 6:25-34

These verses are a striking example of the combined wisdom and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ’s teaching. He knows the heart of a man. He knows that we are all ready to turn off warnings against worldliness, by the argument that we cannot help being anxious about the things of this life. “Have we not our families to provide for? Must not our bodily needs be supplied? How can we possibly get through life, if we think first of our souls?” The Lord Jesus foresaw such thoughts, and furnished an answer.

He forbids us to keep up an anxious spirit about the things of this world. Four times over He says, “Don’t be anxious.” About life — about food — about clothing — about the morrow, “don’t be anxious.” Be not over-careful. Be not over-anxious. Prudent provision for the future is right. Wearing, corroding, self-tormenting anxiety is wrong.

He reminds us of the providential care that God continually takes of everything that He has created. Has He given us “life?” Then He will surely not let us lack anything necessary for its maintenance. Has He given us a “body?” Then He will surely not let us die for lack of clothing. He that calls us into being, will doubtless find food to feed us.

He points out the uselessness of over-anxiety. Our life is entirely in God’s hand. All the care in the world will not make us continue a minute beyond the time which God has appointed. We shall not die until our work is done.

He sends us to the birds of the air for instruction. They make no provision for the future. “They don’t sow, neither do they reap.” They lay up no stores against time yet to come. They do not “gather into barns.” They literally live from day to day on what they can pick up, by using the instinct God has put in them. They ought to teach us that no man doing his duty in the station to which God has called him, shall ever be allowed to come to poverty.

He bids us to observe the flowers of the field. Year after year they are decked with the gayest colors, without the slightest labor or exertion on their part. “They don’t toil, neither do they spin.” God, by His almighty power, clothes them with beauty every season. The same God is the Father of all believers. Why should they doubt that He is able to provide them with clothing, as well as the lilies “of the field?” He who takes thought for perishable flowers, will surely not neglect the bodies in which dwell immortal souls.

He suggests to us, that anxiety about the things of this world is most unworthy of a Christian. One great feature of heathenism is living for the present. Let the heathen, if he will, be anxious. He knows nothing of a Father in heaven. But let the Christian, who has clearer light and knowledge, give proof of it by his faith and contentment. When bereaved of those whom we love, we are not to “sorrow as those who have no hope.” When tried by cares about this life, we are not to be over-anxious, as if we had no God, and no Christ.

He offers us a gracious promise, as a remedy against an anxious spirit. He assures us that if we “seek first” and foremost to have a place in the kingdom of grace and glory, everything that we really need in this world shall be given to us. It shall be “added,” over and above our heavenly inheritance. “All things shall work together for good for those who love God.” “He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly.” {Romans 8:28 Psalms 84:11 }

Last of all, He seals up all His instruction on this subject, by laying down one of the wisest maxims. “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” We are not to carry cares before they come. We are to attend to today’s business, and leave tomorrow’s anxieties until tomorrow dawns. We may die before tomorrow. We know not what may happen on the morrow. This only we may be assured of, that if tomorrow brings a cross, He who sends it, can and will send grace to bear it.

In all this passage there is a treasury of golden lessons. Let us seek to use them in our daily life. Let us not only read them, but turn them to practical account. Let us watch and pray against worry, and an over-anxious spirit. It deeply concerns our happiness. Half our miseries are caused by imagining things that we think are coming upon us. Half the things that we expect to come upon us, never come at all. Where is our faith? Where is our confidence in our Savior’s words? We may well take shame to ourselves, when we read these verses, and then look into our hearts. But this we may be sure of, that David’s words are true, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread.” {Psalms 37:25 }

– J. C. Ryle, 1816-1900

 

Published in: on June 11, 2017 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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No secular and Sacred

A spiritually vigorous saint never believes that his circumstances simply happen at random, nor does he ever think of his life as being divided into the secular and the sacred. He sees every situation in which he finds himself as the means of obtaining a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he has an attitude of unrestrained abandon and total surrender about him.

– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (from July 11th reading)

Published in: on May 21, 2017 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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