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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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

 

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

The Place of Humiliation

If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. —Mark 9:22

After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him. Peter thought it would be a wonderful thing for them to remain on the mountain, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mountain and into the valley, where the true meaning of the vision was explained (see Mark 9:5-6, Mark 9:14-23).

“If you can do anything….” It takes the valley of humiliation to remove the skepticism from us. Look back at your own experience and you will find that until you learned who Jesus really was, you were a skillful skeptic about His power. When you were on the mountaintop you could believe anything, but what about when you were faced with the facts of the valley? You may be able to give a testimony regarding your sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now? The last time you were on the mountain with God, you saw that all the power in heaven and on earth belonged to Jesus— will you be skeptical now, simply because you are in the valley of humiliation?

– Oswald Chambers, 1874-1917, My Utmost for His Highest (October 2)