Category Archives: Earnestness

“We need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word” by David Wells

“The age in which believers live is already ‘the age to come.’ It is totally different from the culture in which they also live.

All believers live in both of these worlds. They cannot escape the one to live in the other. That is the miscalculation that both mystics and monks have made.

Nor yet can believers simply curse the darkness in this world, for they can still see all the marks of its divine creation. They must live in this world and light a fire for it because it is cold and dark.

They live in the midst of their culture but, to change the image, they live by the beat of a different Drummer. They must hear the sounds of a different time, an eternal time, listening for the music from a different place.

For that world is theirs. It is Christ’s world. It is the ‘age to come.’ They have been received into this world.

It penetrates their existence even now. They live in their own culture in order to be the outposts of this other world.

In the one world, they are but sojourners and pilgrims. In the other, they are permanent residents.

But how are we to do this? How are we going to hear this music? How are we going to hear the divine Drummer whose beat gets lost in all of the noise of our modern world?

We are constantly distracted, always under pressure, constantly bombarded by e-mails. We have unwanted telephone calls.

We are alerted to the arrival of text messages. Families have music lessons and football games, and there are hikes to be organized.

Parents have demanding jobs; some have endless traveling to do. And we are all besieged by the world into which we are wired.

It has become a great temptation even as it is a great fascination to us. Indeed, in 2013, almost half of the American adults surveyed acknowledged this.

Like everything in the modernized world, our information technology has two sides to it. It blesses with one hand and then takes away with the other. And, most importantly here, what it takes away is our capacity to have a functioning worldview.

Without that, our doctrine of God becomes emasculated. An emasculated view of God will never be able to sustain the life of sanctification to which we have been called.

Information and entertainment technologies have annihilated distance, enlarging the circle of our knowledge and, indeed, of our presence. Or, would it be truer to say that the entire world with all of its events, movies, and music has entered our homes?

Once we had to be where the events were happening, where the music was being made, to know about it. Now, all that is needed is a camera and it is splashed across the whole world.

This instant access to information worldwide, to all of its sights, sounds, and happenings is an extraordinary benefit. It has made us citizens of the entire world with an ability to communicate with any other citizen in this world instantaneously.

It has the capacity to lift us beyond our naturally parochial boundaries. At the same time, though, as our knowledge of the world grows— indeed, at an exponential rate— our capacity to have a worldview becomes much diminished and our ability to pay attention to God and His truth is often undermined.

God, we need to remind ourselves, is not just an experience or an idea. The saving knowledge of God comes within a framework which God Himself has disclosed. It is a framework of ideas that corresponds to what is there in the world, in reality, in God Himself.

If this worldview breaks down under the bombardment of news, e-mails, videos, blogs, and music, then what is lost is also what is at its center. It is God Himself, or I should say, it is our understanding, our ability to make sense of who God is that breaks down. And that is where our sanctification breaks down, too.

Technology greatly expands and enlarges our abilities and it mightily expands what we can know. But this is a two-way street.

If it enables us to be everywhere, it is also the case that the whole world– at least its sounds and sights— can enter our minds, too and, once in, it can then enter our souls.

This potentially imperils any functioning worldview. Why is this so?

It is partly because of the sheer volume of what is coming in. It overwhelms us. Since 1960, the amount of data and information individuals are absorbing, because of all of our new technology, has tripled.

If this technology expands our capacity to know things, it also multiples the things that are thrown at us to know. When all of this was just taking shape, Neil Postman warned about ‘information glut,’ and a little later David Shenk spoke of ‘data smog.’

They were right. That is what we now have. Our minds are choked with too much to know. And things are only intensifying.

What allowed all of this to happen only keeps expanding. The iPad and iPhone now massively increase our capacity to access media while we are on the run. The iPod and MP3 massively increase the amount of music we can consume.

With the ability to multitask, American teenagers are now packing in an additional two hours of media consumption per day, bringing their total to more than ten hours.

In addition to the sheer volume is the rapidity with which the whole of the media-filtered, technology-delivered world is changing.

It never stands still long enough for us to take our bearings on it. What is important and what is not, what is weighty and what is ephemeral, what is tragic and what is trivial, meet us with about the same intensity.

It becomes hard, sometimes, to tell which is which. Our world blurs amid the rapid flow of facts, factoids, images, voices, laughter, entertainment, and vapid commentary.

We slowly lose the capacity see the connections between things. Life seems to have no shape.

It looks like a sequence of fast-moving but random experiences with no center and little meaning. Not only does a Christian worldview disappear; the very capacity for such a thing becomes tenuous.

How, then, will we hear this other music from another place? How will we hear that Drummer’s beat above the sounds of this world?

I will say only this. There are no easy answers and there are no painless ones. But, at the same time, it is not impossible.

It is not impossible for us, if it is important to us, to choose what we are going to do and then to focus on doing it. The real question is how deep—or how shallow— is our desire to know God?

We need to begin by asking what is at stake. What might we be in danger of losing amid the noise and frenzy of our modernized societies here in the West?

We are in danger of being squeezed into the mold of the modernized world with its low horizons of knowing, its relativism, and its superficiality.

This threatens our identities as knowers of God, those for whom he is the center, for whom his holy-love defines what moral reality is, and before whom we stand.

It threatens how we see life and how we live in the world. It threatens all of that.

Recognizing this danger, we need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word, to study it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest its truth.

This truth must shape our whole understanding of life as we recognize from whom this truth comes and why God has thus given it to us. This must take precedence.

It must take precedence even at the cost of phones, e-mails, the Internet, texts, TV, Facebook, music, and all of the other ways that our technology wires us into a major competitor for our time and attention.

Innocent though these things may be, they stand in the way of our knowing God if they steal from us the time that we need for that pursuit. And we do need time.

This kind of daily discipline used to be an undisputed part of Christian practice. But it appears to have fallen on hard times. And the result will be, once again, that we will be in danger of ‘forgetting’ God.

In the Old Testament, as we have seen, this had to do with the disobedience of not paying attention to God and His truth. And today, we are in danger of reaching the same end, though by a different route.

Now, we are simply too preoccupied, too frenzied, living simultaneously on too many fronts, so that we just do not have time. We are not able to find this central space in our lives.

When David spoke of the ‘Meditation of my heart’ (Ps. 19:14; 49:3 cf. Ps. 119:15, 23, 99), he was speaking of being in God’s presence, reflecting on His truth, learning how to walk with God, being before the face of God.

This Word he stored up in his heart ‘that I might not sin against you’ (Ps. 119:11). That is what we need to do and where we need to be every day.

This will happen only if we are deliberate about it and are willing to give up whatever stands in our way to this end.

Let us make no mistake about this. If we do not do this aright, if we are not daily seeking God’s face, if we are not pondering the truth he has given us in his Word, if we are not daily being nourished in our souls by it, and if we are not daily repenting of our sin where we need to, our faith will wither and our walk with God will disappear.

If, however, we carve out this center for our lives, we will be in the place where Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians can be realized in us despite our very modern lives:

‘May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God,’ he wrote, ‘and to the steadfastness of Christ’ (2 Thess 3:5). That is what God, the Holy Spirit, will do.”

–David F. Wells, God in the Whirlwind (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 182-186.

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“Work hard at the passing on of the gospel” by D.A. Carson

“Work hard at the passing on of the gospel. As you know as well as I, there were no chapter breaks or verse breaks when these manuscripts were first written, so the end of chapter 1 runs smoothly into the beginning of chapter 2.

‘You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’

In other words, in the light of the flow from the end of chapter 1, the way you preserve the pattern of sound teaching, the way you guard the gospel, the way you elevate the good news of Jesus Christ is not simply by going in an isolated fashion to a defensive posture but precisely by training a new generation.

In other words, one of the ways you preserve the gospel is precisely by finding another generation to tap them on the shoulder and becoming a mentor to them so they themselves learn the gospel well.

Otherwise, no matter how faithful you are, the most you have done is preserved it while you’re still alive. Which means your vision is small.

So one of the responsibilities, in other words, of any generation of Christian leader is precisely to preserve the pattern of sound teaching, to preserve the gospel, to glory in it, to teach it, to evangelize, to establish believers in it and be willing to suffer for it precisely by mentoring a whole new generation coming along behind who themselves prove to be reliable men who will be able and qualified to teach others.”

–D. A. Carson, “Motivation for Ministry,” in D. A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016), 2 Ti 1:1–2:2.

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“A most ordinary pastor” by D.A. Carson

“Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outaouais and beyond testify how much he loved them.

He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book.

He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough.

He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity.

He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says, ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators.’

His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them.

He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle.

His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive.

He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation.

In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

But on the other side all the trumpets sounded.

Dad won entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man-he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor-but because he was a forgiven man.

And he heard the voice of Him whom he longed to hear saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.'”

–D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 147-148.

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“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way” by D.A. Carson

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way. Those who claim all the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth in the present time frame have not come to grips with New Testament eschatology.

True, the age to come has dawned, and the Holy Spirit himself is the down payment of future bliss; but it does not follow that all material blessings, prosperity, and freedom from opposition are rightfully ours now.

Even John, who of New Testament writers is most inclined to focus attention on the already-inaugurated features of the age to come, makes it clear that the Christian can in this age expect hatred, persecution, and even violence.

Perhaps this chapter, taken by itself, might prove depressing to some. It is helpful to remember that the biblical passage being expounded, John 15:17–16:4, does not stand in isolation. It is the counterpoint to intimacy with Jesus Christ and rich fruitbearing in the spiritual life.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life; and this is worth everything. In ultimate terms, the acclaim of the world is worth nothing. That is why the dark brush strokes of this passage, 15:17–16:4, far from fostering gloom and defeat, engender instead holy courage and spiritual resolve.

Meditation on these verses forges men and women of God with vision and a stamina whose roots reach into eternity. It calls forth a William Tyndale, who while constantly fleeing his persecutors worked at the translation of the Bible into English. Through betrayal, disappointment, and fear, he struggled on until he was captured and burned at the stake. His dying cry revealed his eternal perspective: ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

In a similar vein, William Borden prepared for missionary service in the Muslim world. Born to wealth, he poured his money and his example into missions. After the best of training at Yale University and Princeton Seminary, he arrived in Egypt to work with Samuel Zwemer. Almost immediately he contracted a terminal case of cerebral meningitis. His dying testimony did not falter: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

C.T. Studd, born to privilege, gifted athletically, and trained at Eton and Cambridge, turned his back on wealth and served Christ for decades against unimaginable odds, first in China and then in Africa. He penned the words:

Some want to live within the sound
of church or chapel bell;
I want to build a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.

This is the passion we need: a passion that looks at the mountainous difficulties and exults that we are on the winning side. By all means, let us face the worst: Christ has told us these things so we will not go astray.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 130-132.

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“True zeal for Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“True zeal will show itself in the abundance of a man’s labours and gifts. Zeal labours for Christ. My brethren, if you want a picture of zeal, take the Apostle Paul.

How he compasses sea and land! Storms cannot stay him, mountains cannot impede his progress. He is beaten with rods, he is stoned, he is cast into prison, but the invincible hero of the cross presses on in the holy war, until he is taken up to receive a crown of glory.

We do little or nothing, the most of us; we fritter away our time. O that we could live while we live; but our existence—that is all we can call it—our existence, what a poor thing it is!

We run like shallow streams: we have not force enough to turn the mill of industry, and have not depth enough to bear the vessel of progress, and have not flood enough to cheer the meads of poverty.

We are dry too often in the summer’s drought, and we are frozen in the winter’s cold. O that we might become broad and deep like the mighty stream that bears a navy and gladdens a nation.

O that we may become inexhaustible and permanent rivers of usefulness, through the abundant springs from whence our supply cometh, even the Spirit of the living God.

The Christian zealot may be known by the anguish which his soul feels when his labours for Christ are not successful—the tears that channel his cheeks when sinners are not saved.

Do not tell me of zeal that only moves the tongue, or the foot, or the hand; we must have a zeal which moves the whole heart.

We cannot advance so far as the Saviour’s bloody sweat, but to something like it the Christian ought to attain when he sees the tremendous clouds of sin and the tempest of God’s gathering wrath.

How can I see souls damned, without emotion? How can I hear Christ’s name blasphemed, without a shudder? How can I think of the multitudes who prefer ruin to salvation, without a pang?

Believe me, brethren and sisters, if you never have sleepless hours, if you never have weeping eyes, if your hearts never swell as if they would burst, you need not anticipate that you will be called zealous.

You do not know the beginning of true zeal, for the foundation of Christian zeal lies in the heart. The heart must be heavy with grief and yet must beat high with holy ardour.

The heart must be vehement in desire, panting continually for God’s glory, or else we shall never attain to anything like the zeal which God would have us know.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Zealots” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 11 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 392–393. Spurgeon preached this sermon from Luke 6:15 on July 16, 1865.

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“The punishment of our iniquity is accomplished” by Charles Spurgeon

“The punishment of our iniquity is accomplished. Remember that sin must be punished. Any theology which offers the pardon of sin without a punishment, ignores the major part of the character of God.

God is love, but God is also just—as severely just as if He had no love, and yet as intensely loving as if He had no justice. To gain a just view of the character of God you must perceive all His attributes as infinitely developed.

Justice must have its infinity acknowledged as much as mercy. Sin must be punished. This is the voice which thunders from the midst of the smoke and the fire of Sinai:

‘The soul that sinneth it shall die;’ ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’

‘Sin must be punished’ is written on the base of the eternal throne in letters of fire. And, as the damned in hell behold it, their hopes are burned to ashes.

Sin must be punished, or God must cease to be. The testimony of the Gospel is not that the punishment has been mitigated or foregone, or that justice has had a sop given it to close its mouth.

The consolation is far more sure and effectual. Say ye unto the daughter of Zion that ‘the punishment of her iniquity is accomplished.’ Christ hath for His people borne all the punishment which they deserved.

And now every soul for whom Christ died may read with exultation—’The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.’ God is satisfied, and asks no more.

Sin deserved God’s wrath; that wrath has spent itself on Christ. The black and gathering clouds had all been summoned to the tempest, and manhood stood beneath the dark canopy waiting till the clouds of vengeance should empty out their floods.

‘Stand thou aside!’ said Jesus—’Stand thou aside, My spouse, My Church, and I will suffer in thy stead.’

Down dashed the drops of fire; the burning sleet swept terribly over His head, and beat upon His poor defenceless person, until the clouds had emptied out their awful burden, and not a drop was left.

Beloved, it was not that the cloud swept by the wind into another region where it tarries until it be again called forth, but it was annihilated, it spent itself entirely upon Christ. There is no more punishment for the believer, since Christ hath died for him.

In His dying, our Lord has satisfied the divine vengeance even to the full. Then this, too, must satisfy our conscience.

The enlightened conscience of a man is almost as inexorable as the justice of God, for an awakened conscience, if you give it a false hope, will not rest upon it, but crieth out for something more.

Like the horse-leech it saith—’Give, give, give.’ Until you can offer to God a full satisfaction, you cannot give the conscience a quietus.

But now, O daughter of Zion, let thy conscience be at rest. Justice is satisfied; the law is not despised: it is honoured; it is established.

God can now be just, severely so, and yet, seeing that thy punishment is accomplished, thou mayest come with boldness unto Him, for no guilt doth lie on thee.

Thou art accepted in the Beloved; thy guilt was laid on Him of old, and thou art now safe.

‘In thy Surety thou art free,
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With His spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.’

Come thou boldly unto God, and rejoice thou in Him. Lest, however, while God is reconciled and conscience is quieted, our fears should even for an instant arise, let us repair to Gethsemane and Calvary, and see there this great sight, how the punishment of our iniquity is accomplished.

There is the God of heaven and of earth wrapped in human form. In the midst of those olives yonder I see Him in an agony of prayer. He sweats, not as one who labours for the bread of earth, but as one who toils for heaven.

He sweats ‘as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ It is not the sweat of His brow only, but ‘All His head, His hair, His garments, bloody be.’

God is smiting Him, and laying upon Him the punishment of our iniquities. He rises, with His heart exceeding sorrowful even unto death. They hurry Him to Pilate’s judgment-seat.

The God of heaven and earth stands in human form to be blasphemed, and falsely accused before the tribunal of His recreant creature. He is taken by the soldiery to Gabbatha.

They strip Him, they scourge Him; clots of gore are on the whip as it is lifted from His back. They buffet Him, and bruise Him with their blows; as if His robe of blood were not enough, they throw about His shoulders an old cloak, and make Him a mimic king.

Little knew they that He was the King of kings. He gives His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; He hides not His face from shame and spitting.

Oh! what shall be said of Thee, thou Son of man? In what words shall we describe Thy grief? All ye that pass by behold and see if there was ever any sorrow like unto His sorrow that was done unto Him!

Oh God, thou hast broken Him with a rod of iron; all Thy waves and Thy billows have gone over Him. He looks, and there is none to help; He turns His eye around, and there is none to comfort Him. But see, through the streets of Jerusalem He is hastened to His death.

They nail Him to the transverse wood; they dash it into the ground; they dislocate His bones; He is poured out like water; all His bones are out of joint; He is brought into the dust of death; agonies are piled on agonies.

So now that man may reach to heaven, misery is piled on misery, what if I say hell on hell! But Jesus bears the dreadful load.

At last He reaches the climax of anguish, grief could go no higher. ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!’ was the sum total of all human misery.

The gathering up of all the wrath of God, and all the sorrow of man into one sentence. And thus He dies! Say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her punishment is accomplished.

‘It is finished!’ Let the angels sing it; hymn it in the plains of glory; tell it here on earth, and once again say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!

This, then, is the joyous note we have to sound this morning.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Message From God for Thee” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 8 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862), 638–640. This is from a sermon on Lamentations 4:22, preached on November 16, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

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“Arise at once and come to Christ” by J.C. Ryle

“I ask you, whether you are a member of the one true Church of Christ? Are you in the highest, the best sense, a ‘churchman’ in the sight of God? You know now what I mean.

I look far beyond the Church of England. I am not speaking of church or chapel. I speak of ‘the Church built upon the rock.’ I ask you, with all solemnity—Are you a member of that Church?

Are you joined to the great Foundation? Are you on the rock? Have you received the Holy Ghost? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit, that you are one with Christ, and Christ with you?

I beseech you, in the name of God, to lay to heart these questions, and to ponder them well. If you are not converted, you do not yet belong to the ‘Church on the Rock.’

Let every reader of this paper take heed to himself, if he cannot give a satisfactory answer to my inquiry. Take heed, take heed, that you do not make shipwreck of your soul to all eternity.

Take heed, lest at last the gates of hell prevail against you, the devil claim you as his own, and you be cast away for ever. Take heed, lest you go down to the pit from the land of Bibles, and in the full light of Christ’s Gospel.

Take heed, lest you are found at the left hand of Christ at last,—a lost Episcopalian or a lost Presbyterian, a lost Baptist or a lost Methodist,—lost because, with all your zeal for your own party and your own communion table, you never joined the one true Church.

My second work of application shall be an invitation. I address it to every one who is not yet a true believer. I say to you, come and join the one true Church without delay.

Come and join yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ in an everlasting covenant not to be forgotten. Consider well what I say. I charge you solemnly not to mistake the meaning of my invitation.

I do not bid you to leave the visible Church to which you belong. I abhor all idolatry of forms and parties. But I do bid you come to Christ and be saved.

The day of decision must come some time. Why not this very hour? Why not today, while it is called today? Why not this very night, ere the sun rises to-morrow morning?

Come to Him, who died for sinners on the cross, and invites all sinners to come to Him by faith and be saved. Come to my Master, Jesus Christ. Come, I say, for all things are now ready.

Mercy is ready for you. Heaven is ready for you. Angels are ready to rejoice over you. Christ is ready to receive you. Christ will receive you gladly, and welcome you among His children.

Come into the ark. The flood of God’s wrath will soon break upon the earth. Come into the ark and be safe. Come into the life-boat of the one true Church.

This old world will soon break into pieces! Hear you not the tremblings of it? The world is but a wreck hard upon a sand-bank. The night is far-spent—the waves are beginning to rise,—the wind is getting up,—the storm will soon shatter the old wreck.

But the life-boat is launched, and we, the ministers of the Gospel, beseech you to come into the life-boat and be saved. We beseech you to arise at once and come to Christ.

Dost thou ask, ‘How can I come? My sins are too many. I am too wicked yet. I dare not come.’—Away with the thought! It is a temptation of Satan. Come to Christ as a sinner. Come just as you are.

Hear the words of that beautiful hymn:—

‘Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God I come.’

This is the way to come to Christ. You should come, waiting for nothing, and tarrying for nothing.

You should come, as a hungry sinner, to be filled,—as a poor sinner to be enriched,—as a bad, undeserving sinner, to be clothed with righteousness.

So coming, Christ would receive you. ‘Him that cometh’ to Christ, He ‘will in no wise cast out.’ Oh! come, come to Jesus Christ. Come into ‘the true Church’ by faith and be saved.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 320-322.

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