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Excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning, August 2

“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

Ephesians 1:11

Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the cornerstone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.

 

Evening, August 2

“So she gleaned in the field until even.”

Ruth 2:17

Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.

 

This work is published in the public domain.  

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Security, Uncategorized

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Suffering and Dying for the Glory of God

by Deanna Hanson

I recently lost my dad and my mother-in-law to Stage 4 illnesses. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Disease and died within 3 weeks. My mother-in-law’s diagnosis came and allowed us to enjoy 2 great years with her before her body was overcome by Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Both of my parents experienced death and suffering so differently. Our human nature does not want to endure hardship like a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3), follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21), or rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3). But it is at Calvary, at the cross, where we meet suffering on God’s terms. My mother-in-law, Sue Hanson, achieved this for most of her life, but it was most evident during her last 2 years here on earth.

John and I attended the 2005 Desiring God’s National Conference in Minneapolis entitled “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.” We were deeply affected by the messages. We heard testimonies from Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, and John Piper about the hope and joy that can come from immense heartache and affliction. Steve Saint explained how suffering is relative and different for each person. “My definition of suffering is our expectation divided by our experience.” He goes on to say that “people who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope.

William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Blake, “Pestilence”

They are justifiably suspicious of people who appear to have lived lives of ease. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the reason that Jesus suffered in every way that we do, while he was here. First Peter 2:21 says, ‘[Your] suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps’ (NLT).” Sue understood that this was God’s sovereign plan for her life and followed Christ’s example. She lived her last two years demonstrating His love for others while she was sick, continuously serving and encouraging those around her. She radiated joy and hopefulness when she shared about the cancer that was spreading through her body. While she was suffering and dying, Sue did just as Philippians 2:3 says: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Her example reminded me of what Joni said at this 2005 conference:

“To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you this kind of example that you should follow. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:2). Should we expect to do less? So then, join me; boast in your afflictions. Delight in your infirmities. Glory in your weaknesses, for then you know that Christ’s power rests in you (2 Corinthians 12:9). You might [have cancer] on all sides, but you’re not crushed. You might be perplexed, but you’re not in despair. You might be knocked down, but you’re not knocked out. Because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 that every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in turn we might experience the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.”

Let us learn from Sue and Joni and die to ourselves each morning and live in Christ for the glory of our great God!

If you would like to listen to the 2005 conference messages from this Series, the video and audio are available for free by clicking here: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC.

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Book Review: Righteous Sinners

Review by Susan Verstraete

Righteous Sinners: The Believer’s Struggle with Faith, Grace and Works

Ron Julian, Navpress, 1998righteoussinners

Ron Julian freely admits that, like Martin Luther, he was driven to understand the Bible out of knowledge of his own sinfulness and moral weakness.  As a young believer, his teachers encouraged that if he “let go and let God” he could have complete victory over sins like selfishness and lust.  But though Julian had faith in God, believed the truth of the Gospel and wanted nothing more than to be free from sin, it didn’t work. He still struggled with sin, just as you and I do.  The teachers questioned his salvation, and Julian began to question their teaching.  He spent the next 25 years searching the Bible for the answer to his dilemma. How can God call sinful human beings—those of us who fail over and over— “righteous”? Righteous Sinners is the result.

It’s easy to fall into an unbiblical ditch either on one side or another of this issue. On the one hand, we might be tempted to constantly doubt our salvation because of remaining sin in our lives. On the other hand, we might believe that because God declares us righteous by grace and apart from works, intense struggle with habitual sin is unnecessary. Julian navigates safely between these two ditches, and gives us a balanced, biblical understanding of the role of trials, works, grace and the sovereignty of God in the lives of believers.

Ron Julian is a teacher at the McKenzie Study Center in Eugene, Oregon.  Incidentally, he has a direct tie to FCC, since he’s the father-in-law to Matt Greco’s son, Gil. His book is available through Amazon.com.

 

Susan Verstraete is a member of FCC and serves as church secretary.Book Review

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The Violent Grace of God

BY STEPHEN GANSCHOW

Psalm 51:8: “Let the bones you have broken rejoice.”viol

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil called our “sin nature.” This is stated very clearly in Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Because of our sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrongdoing, as well as justifying that wrongdoing by excusing our sins. In order to change this, the Lord blesses us with what Paul David Tripp refers to as “violent grace” in his book, “Whiter Than Snow.” Violent grace is God’s way of crushing our sin out of us. It’s His way of refining us – as the potter does the clay, in molding it to the perfect shape. This perfect shape is that of Christ-likeness.

This is consistent with God’s overall character throughout the canon of Scripture. We must remember Deuteronomy 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they too, chose to rebel in sin: “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” God loves all His people enough to punish and chase us (Hebrews 12). He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly because He loves us dearly and desires to instill biblical character (Galatians 5:22-25) within us. This, in turn, conforms us to look more and more like the image of Christ – which is the calling of the Christian life!

Are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ? Do you see Him working in and around you? Do you see Him forming and reforming you – breaking down the walls of sin that we all build around us? Is He refining you in the Refiners fire? Let me encourage you – embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the willingness and desire to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill this desire within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

I’d ask that you pray something similar to this, if you believe the Lord is moving within you, in this way: God – as we all struggle to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change, please instill in us the desire to embrace the growth You are causing. Please give us the desire to be more like You! Father…help us to embrace Your violent grace, and use it as a tool for Your service and Your glory.

Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Death First, Then Life

In Book 2, Section 8 of John Bunyan’s awesome work, Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Mr. Great-Heart puts a riddle to a man named Mr. Honest. It’s a fantastic bit of verse:

He that will kill, must first be overcome;
Who live abroad would, first must die at home.

As is Mr. Honest’s response:

He first by Grace must conquer’d be,
That Sin would mortify;
And who, that lives, would convince me,
Unto himself must die.

We will not put to death the sin that remains in us (Colossians 3:5) without first ourselves being conquered, overcome by God (Romans 8!). This is true at the moment of conversion, and throughout the whole of a Christian’s life.

This is not “let go, and let God,” Keswick stoic passivity. God has raised us to life, that we may be part of His Overcomers, subjects of His victorious and ever-advancing Kingdom of Light.

But attempts to crucify the flesh, by the strength of the flesh, always fail, and thank God they do! (Colossians 2:20-23) “Bootstrap theology” brings no glory to the God of grace. The world is full of self-help gurus, but Jesus is not one of them. Why not? Because we must die and be buried with Christ before we can live and be raised with Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

There can be no honest mistaking one of the central points of Christianity: if you want to live, you must die. Paul says that in our baptism we died with Christ in order that we may be raised with him (Rom 6:4).

The currents of this water are layered, and they run deep. We are born dead (Eph 2:1) and we must die to be born again.

But Jesus is the Great Physician! Looking with compassion on a race of creatures dead in our trespasses and sins, He invites us to receive exactly what we need: to die to our sins, with Him, because He died for us, and was raised for us (Rom 4:25). Dead to the works of the Law, dead to sin, dead to self, and alive to God, alive to righteousness, alive to truth and beauty, alive to life! There is never any variation in the Great Physician’s prescription: first death, then life.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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