Monday, September 30, 2013

Hope and fear

Psalm 119:120

My flesh trembles for fear of thee and I am afraid of thy judgements.
 ....let me not be ashamed of my hope. True religion consists in a proper mixture of fear of God, and of hope in his mercy; and wherever either of these is entirely wanting, there can be no true religion. God has joined these things, and we ought by no means to put them asunder. He cannot take pleasure in those who fear him with a slavish fear, without hoping in his mercy, because they seem to consider him as a cruel and tyrannical being, who has no mercy or goodness in his nature; and, besides, they implicitly charge him with falsehood, by refusing to believe and hope in his invitations and offers of mercy. On the other hand, he cannot be pleased with those who pretend to hope in his mercy without fearing him; for they insult him by supposing that there is nothing in him which ought to be feared; and, in addition to this, they make him a liar, by disbelieving his awful threatenings denounced against sinners, and call in question his authority, by refusing to obey him. Those only who both fear him and hope in his mercy, give him the honour that is due to his name. — Edward Payson.

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gazing into the Cross

We do not preach our impressions, or even our experience.  These make but the vehicle, as it were.  What we preach is something much more solid, more objective, with more stay in it; something that can suffice when our experience has ebbed until it seems to be as low as Christ's was in the great desertion and victory on the Cross. We want something that will stand by us when we cannot feel any more; we want a Cross we can cling to, not simply a subjective Cross. That is to put the thing in another way, what we want today is an insight into the Cross.

You see I am making a distinction between impression and insight.  It is a useful part of the church's work, for instance, that it should act by means of revival services, where perhaps the dominant element may be temporary impression.  But unless that is taken up and turned to account by something more, all know how evanescent a thing it is apt to be. We need, not simply to be impressed by Christ, but to see into Christ and into his Cross.  We need to deepen the impression until it become new life by seeing into Christ.  There are certain circumstances in which we may be entitled to declare that we do not want so many people who glibly say they love Jesus; we want more people who can really see into Christ. We do, of course, want more people who love Jesus; but we want a multitude of more people who are not satisfied with that, but whose love fills them with holy curiosity and compels them habitually to cultivate in the Spirit the power of seeing into Christ and into this Cross....Insight is what we want for power - less of mere interest and more of real insight.  There are some people who talk as though, when we speak of the Cross and the meaning of the Cross, we were spinning something out of the Cross. Paul was not spinning anything out of the Cross.  He was gazing into the Cross, seeing what was really there with eyes that had been unsealed and purged by the Holy Ghost.

From pages 67/8 of P T Forsyth's The Work of Christ.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The double-love commandment

First, especially in our culture where sentimental or romantic notions of love have sometimes masked the richness of the biblical treatments of the subject, we must constantly remind ourselves that the double-love command [Luke 10:27] is deeply constrained by the double object. So far as the greatest command is concerned, we are not simply to love, to love in the abstract, but to love God. Nor does this mean that we are to love any god or the god of our choosing, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To love this God means, among many other things, that we will be hungry to get to know him better; conversely, in learning his words and ways, his attributes and his glory, what he loves and what he hates, we will find that our understanding of what it means to love God, what it means to love enemies, what it means to love brothers and sisters in Christ, will all be progressively modified and enriched. Precisely because, as created, dependent, and redeemed creatures, we are called to love our Creator, our Sovereign, our Redeemer with heart and soul and strength and mind, we will be firmly led to think robustly about what he is like, how he views evil, what rights and responsibilities he gives to the state in a fallen world, his role both in making peace and in judgment, and, above all, his commitment to his own glory as God. That is what forces us to avoid mere sentimentality. The fact that we are called to love this God and not, say, Allah, Shiva, or Marxism constrains the way we think about everything, including love.

Second, we dare not forget that although in his teaching the two love commands hang together, the Lord Jesus himself makes a distinction between the first and the second commandment. The first is to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength; the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. The latter is neither the equivalent of the first nor a replacement for the first; nor should it be confused with the first. This is not a matter of mere counting, of mere prioritization. It is a matter of the structure of reality. God alone is God; God alone is our Maker and Redeemer; to God alone we acknowledge our absolute dependence. And then this God insists that we must love other creatures who have been made in his image as we love ourselves.' To reverse or confuse the first and second commandments is to return to idolatry by another route: it is to love the created order more than the Creator himself, who is blessed forever.

D. A. Carson in Love in Hard Places, page 187

Christ All in All

Psalm 119:114. — Thou art my hiding place. Christ hath all qualifications that may fit him for this work of being a hiding place to believers.
1. He hath strength. A hiding place must be locus munitissimus [a heavily fortified place.] Paper houses will never be good hiding places. Houses made of reeds or rotten timber will not be fit places for men to hide themselves in. Jesus Christ is a place of strength. He is the Rock of Ages: His name is "the Mighty God," Isaiah 9:6.
2. He hath height. A hiding place must be locus excelsissimus. Your low houses are soon scaled. Jesus Christ is a high place; he is as high as heaven. He is the Jacob's ladder that reaches from earth to heaven: Genesis 28:12. He is too high for men, too high for devils; no creature can scale these high walls.
3. He hath secret places. A hiding place must be locus abditissimus. The more secret, the more safe. Now, Jesus Christ hath many secret chambers that no creatures can ever find: Song of Solomon 2:14, "O my dove, that art in the secret places of the stairs." As Christ hath hidden comforts which no man knows but he that receives them; so he hath hidden places of secrecy which none can find out but he that dwells in them. "Come, my people, outer into thy chambers, and shut the doors upon thee" (Isa 26:0).
4. Christ is faithful. He that will hide others had need be very faithful. A false-hearted protector is worse than an open pursuer. "Will the men of Keilah deliver me up?" saith David; "They will deliver thee up, "saith the Lord. But now Christ is faithful: Revelation 3:14, he is "the faithful witness;" he cannot be bribed to surrender up any creature that comes to hide himself with him. Christ will die before he will betray his trust.
5. Christ is diligent. Diligence is as necessary in those that will hide others, as faithfulness. A sleepy guard may betray a castle or garrison as well as a faithless guard. But Jesus Christ is very diligent and watchful, he hath his intelligencers abroad; yea, his own eyes run to and fro in the earth, to see what contrivances are made and set on foot against those who are hid with him: Psalms 121:3-4, "He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." — Ralph Robinson (1614-1655), in "Christ All in All."

From the additional notes in Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ballast your heart...

Psalm 119: verse 113 - but thy law do I love.
Ballast your heart with a love to God. Love will, by a pleasing violence bind down our thoughts: if it doth not establish our minds, they will be like a cork, which, with a light breath, and a short curl of water, shall be tossed up and down from its station. Scholars that love learning will be continually hammering upon some notion or other which may further their progress, and as greedily clasp it as the iron will its beloved loadstone. He that is "winged with a divine love" to Christ will have frequent glances and flights toward him, and will start out from his worldly business several times in a day to give him a visit. Love, in the very working, is a settling grace; it increases our delight in God, partly by the sight of his amiableness, which is cleared to us in the very act of loving; and partly by the recompenses he gives to the affectionate carriage of his creature; both which will prevent the heart's giving entertainment to such loose companions as evil thoughts. — Stephen Charnock.

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pleasing to God

Let us then stand in solidarity with the poor and the excluded, remembering that faith's practices are not intended to expand our pleasure or produce novelty. Behavior pleasing to God makes a simple claim: caring for the lonely and the poor and being a people attentive to "the fatherless and widows in their affliction." Let us throw ourselves into humdrum tasks and the ordinary work of mercy and justice.... Let us act boldly against the powers of death that surround us and reclaim from the cult of insipid godliness the courage to offend the pious and the proud. Let gratitude and the humility of participation shape our devotion to life. Let us resolve to make and keep others free, and let us resist the urge to colonize God for our group's needs even as we seek to keep redemptive spaces open. Let us live with passionate worldliness in the brilliant and fleeting time of our mortal life, and let our witness to peace grow out of the convictions of our faith, the audacity of our hope, and the generosity of our love. Let us never forget that the community of Christ exists as a structure with four sides open tot he world.

Charles MarshThe Beloved Community

Charles Marsh is Professor of Religion at the University of Virginia and Director of the Project on Lived Theology. He is the author of Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the award-winning God's Long Summer, and The Last Days. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia


Psalm 119: 113. I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

— I hate vain thoughts or, the evil devices; or, the double-hearted imaginations; or, the intermeddling, counter coursing thoughts: that is to say, that kind of practice of some men, that sail with every wind, and seek still to have two strings to their bow. The Hebrew word doth properly signify boughs or branches, which shoot up perplexedly or confusedly in a tree. — Theodore Haak, 1618-1657.

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David.