Category Archives: Communion with God

“There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand” by Charles Hodge

“‘I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

This is the great promise of the covenant with Abraham and with all the true Israel. It is one of the most comprehensive and frequently repeated promises of the Scriptures. (Gen. 17:8; Deut. 29:13; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)

There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand.

The promise that the nations should be blessed in the seed of Abraham, as unfolded in the New Testament, is found to comprehend all the blessings of redemption.

So the promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,’ contains more than it has ever entered into the heart of man to conceive.

How low are our conceptions of God! Of necessity our conceptions of what it is to have a God, and that God, Jehovah, must be entirely inadequate.

It is not only to have an infinite protector and benefactor, but an infinite portion; an infinite object of love and confidence; an infinite source of knowledge and holiness.

It is for God to be to us what He designed to be when He created us after His image, and filled us with His fulness.

His people, are those whom hHe recognizes as His peculiar property, the objects of His love, and the recipients of His favours.”

–Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1891), 170–171. Hodge is commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:16.

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“A pastor’s life should be vocal” by John Owen

“A pastor’s life should be vocal; sermons must be practised as well as preached.

Though Noah’s workmen built the ark, yet themselves were drowned. God will not accept of the tongue where the devil hath the soul.

Jesus did “do and teach,” (Acts 1:1). If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.

Now, as to the completing of the exemplary life of a minister, it is required that the principle of it be that of the life of Christ in him, (Gal. 2:20), that when he hath taught others he be not himself “a cast-away,” (1 Cor. 9:27); with which he hath a spiritual understanding, and light given him into the counsel of God, which he is to communicate, (1 John 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:12, 16; 2 Cor. 4:6, 7);—and that the course of it be singular, (Matt. 5:46, Luke 6:32); where unto so many eminent qualifications of the person and duties of conversation are required, (1 Tim. 2:2–7, Titus 1:6–9);—and his aim to be exemplar to the glory of God, (1 Tim. 4:12).

So is their general course and the end of their faith to be eyed, (Heb. 13:7).

And their infirmities, whilst really such, and appearing through the manifold temptations whereunto they are in these days exposed, or imposed on them through the zeal of their adversaries that contend against them, [are] to be covered with love, (Gal. 4:13, 14).

And this men will do when they conscientiously consider that even the lives of their teachers are an ordinance of God, for their relief under temptations, and provocation unto holiness, zeal, meekness, and self-denial.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 13: Ministry in Fellowship (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 13: 57-58.

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“Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe” by Joel Beeke

“If Christ were not God, there would be no Christianity.

His deity is crucial for our faith. The doctrine of Christ’s full divinity also has massive practical significance for the Christian life.

Here we offer some spiritual directions to help you apply this truth to your life:

1. Recognize the horrible evil of your sins.

William Perkins said,

“No man could save our souls, no, not all the angels of heaven, unless the King of heaven and earth, the only Son of God, had come down from heaven and suffered for us, bearing our punishment. Now the consideration of this must humble us and make us to cast down ourselves under the hand of God for our sins … that some tears of sorrow and repentance might gush out for this our woeful misery.”

2. Trust Christ’s sufficiency for complete salvation.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706) said that the doctrine of Christ’s deity

“commends to us the sufficiency and perfection of our Mediator, from which it is said that all fullness dwells in him (Col. 1:19), and He fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), so that from His fullness we can draw grace upon grace (John 1:16); indeed, in Him we are made complete (Col. 2:10).”

In giving Christ for sinners, God has given all of Himself. Surely, then, you can rest upon Christ as all that you need for salvation and eternal life.

You are foolish, but in Christ is all wisdom (2:3).

You by nature are dead in sin, but in Christ is resurrection from the dead (2:13).

You are guilty of many transgressions, but in Christ is complete forgiveness, the cancelling of all our debts (2:13–14).

Brown said,

“He who died on the accursed tree, ‘the just for the unjust,’ is none other than the ‘I Am,’ ” and therefore, “who shall set any limits to the efficacy of His atoning blood and vicarious righteousness?”

You have been a slave of Satan and his demonic forces, but in Christ is total victory against all the powers of darkness (2:15).

In a word, you are empty of all spiritual good, but “ye are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10) if you trust Him and receive Him (2:6–7).

3. Find comfort in Christ’s sonship and your adoption in him.

If you rejoice that Jesus is the Son of God, then you may also rejoice that you are an adopted son or daughter of God by union with him (Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:5).

Perkins said,

“Whereas Christ Jesus is the Son of God, it serves as a means to make miserable and wretched sinners, that are by nature the children of wrath and damnation, to be sons of God by adoption.… Let all such as fear God enter into a serious consideration of the unspeakable goodness of God, comforting themselves in this, that God the Father has vouchsafed by His own Son to make them of the vassals of Satan to be His own dear children.”

4. Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe.

The glory of Christ’s deity calls you to go beyond a consideration of your own salvation and to contemplate the Savior. He does not exist for you, but you and all things exist “for him” (Col. 1:16).

Thomas Goodwin said,

“God’s chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ. He is worth all creatures. And God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation.”

Therefore, “be swallowed up with profound awe and self-abasement” before the glory of Christ, as Brown said, because when you gaze upon him, you stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy Lord.

5. Think often and warmly of Christ.

Since Christ is God, you should be thinking about him all the time, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the taproot of Christian spirituality: to set your mind and desires upon Christ (Col. 3:1–2).

John Owen said,

“The principal actings of the life of faith consist in the frequency of our thoughts concerning him; for hereby Christ liveth in us.… A great rebuke it ought to be unto us, when Christ has at any time in a day been long out of our minds.”

And when we do think of Christ, Owen said, “all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving.”

6. Live unto the Lord Christ.

Direct your life and death at him as your great goal and holy ambition (Phil. 1:20–21; 3:8–12). He died and rose again so that His people no longer live for themselves, but for Him (Rom. 14:8–9; 2 Cor. 5:14–15).

Brown said,

“To live to any Being is the highest worship that can possibly be rendered to Him. We are commanded to live to Christ, taking His will as our highest law, and Himself as our highest end of existence.”

The great tragedy of fallen humanity is that we live to ourselves. Brown exclaimed,

“Oh the frightful guilt of this, as seen in the light of the absolute soleness of Jehovah’s glory, that infinite chasm which subsists between him and all creatures whatsoever!.… We transfer from God to ourselves the esteem, the confidence, the fear, the love, the service, which are due only to him.”

Repent, therefore, of living unto yourself, and live unto Christ.

7. Offer yourself to God in gratitude for his Son.

God’s gift of his Son to us displays the infinite depths of his love (John 3:16). Paul says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Your only fitting response is to give yourself to God (Rom. 12:1).

Perkins said,

“Whereas God the Father of Christ gave His only Son to be our Savior, as we must be thankful to God for all things, so especially for this great and unspeakable benefit.… We should give unto God both body and soul in token of our thankfulness for this wonderful blessing that He has given His only Son to be our Savior.”

Give yourself to God for Christ’s sake, today and every day of your life, until you see Him face-to-face and are liberated to live wholly and solely for His glory.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 777–780.

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“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God” by Fred Sanders

“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God, who is the fountain of salvation.

This phrase, fountain of salvation, goes back at least to a Latin hymn from the sixth century that praises God as fons salutis Trinitas. As one English translation renders the lines, ‘Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring, may every soul Thy praises sing.’

The sense that the nature of salvation is only understood properly when it is traced back into its principle in the depth of God’s being is evoked by Scripture’s own way of speaking.

The Old Testament bears witness to it in an intensely personal idiom, as for instance in Isaiah 12:2’s confident boast, ‘Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’

The connection here between God and salvation is direct: He is it.

When Isaiah goes on to spell out an implication of salvation being in God, that is, that there is exuberant resourcefulness to be drawn from, then he uses our fontal image: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (Isaiah 12:3)

According to Christian teaching, salvation’s source is God, and the manifestation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gospel is what opens up that fountain in its fullness and depth.”

–Fred Sanders, Fountain of Salvation: Trinity and Soteriology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021), 14-15, 17.

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“With Your Word You pierced my heart” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“With Your Word You pierced my heart, and I loved You.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 183. (10.6.8)

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“O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Lord, I am Your servant, born of Your own handmaid. You have broken the chains that bound me; I will sacrifice in Your honour.

Let me praise You in my heart, let me praise You with my tongue. Let this be the cry of my whole being: Lord, there is none like You.

Let them say this and, in answer, I beg You to whisper in my heart, ‘I am here to save you.’

Who am I? What kind of man am I? What evil have I not done? Or if there is evil that I have not done, what evil is there that I have not spoken? If there is any that I have not spoken, what evil is there that I have not willed to do?

But You, O Lord, are good. You are merciful.

You saw how deep I was sunk in death, and it was Your power that drained dry the well of corruption in the depths of my heart.

And all that You asked of me was to deny my own will and accept yours. But, during all those years, where was my free will?

What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to Your easy yoke and take Your light burden on my shoulders, Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer?

How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose and was now glad to reject! You drove them from me, You who are the true, the sovereign joy.

You drove them from me and took their place, You who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, You who outshine all light yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, You who surpass all honour though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves.

At last my mind was free from the gnawing anxieties of ambition and gain, from wallowing in filth and scratching the itching sore of lust.

I began to talk to You freely, O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (New York: Penguin, 1961), 181. (9.1.1.)

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“He humbled Himself to become man” by J.C. Ryle

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete.

Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words.

How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian.

To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born.

Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible.

Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose, Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.

Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Saviour of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.)

These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled.—Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word.

If they repent not, they will surely perish.—True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements.

He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He abideth faithful: He can not deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)

Learn next from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons.

The names of Roboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechonias, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men.

Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God.

They that are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.

Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.”

Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of persons never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion.

Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel.

If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 2-3. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 1:1-17.

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“In faithful wonder” by Herman Bavinck

“The theological task calls for humility. Full comprehension is impossible; wonder and mystery always remain.

This must not be identified with the New Testament notion of mystery, which refers to that which was unknown but has now been revealed in the history of salvation culminating in Christ.

Neither is it a secret gnosis available only to an elite, nor is it unknown because of the great divide between the natural and the supernatural.

The divide is not so much metaphysical as it is spiritual—sin is the barrier.

The wonder of God’s love may not be fully comprehended by believers in this age, but what is known in part and seen in part is known and seen.

In faithful wonder the believer is not conscious of living in the face of mystery that surpasses reason and thus it is not an intellectual burden.

Rather, in the joy of God’s grace there is intellectual liberation.

Faith turns to wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving.

Faith is the knowledge which is life, ‘eternal life’ (John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 602.

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“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

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“Be careful to make time for being alone with God” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, secondly, the importance to Christians of occasional privacy and retirement.

We are told, that when the apostles returned from their first ministerial work, our Lord ‘took them and went aside privately into a desert place.’ (Luke 9:10) We cannot doubt that this was done with a deep meaning.

It was meant to teach the great lesson that those who do public work for the souls of others, must be careful to make time for being alone with God.

The lesson is one which many Christians would do well to remember.

Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God, are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall.

To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works, is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge.

It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ.

The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the Church, and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.

Many could say with sorrow, in the words of Canticles, “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.’ (Song of Solomon 1:6)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 226-227. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:7-11.

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