Devotion


When will the church start being the church? This is a question that many in evangelical circles are asking. The context of the question is the fact that many view church as one or two services a week and then a mind-your-own-business-spirituality the rest of the week.

This was not the practice of the Lord Jesus and his disciples, the early Church, the Reformation church, the Puritans, or even Victorian Christianity. There have been great periods of the church doing ministry and living out her faith to a degree that changed lives for the sake of the Gospel. This is our duty. I think of the words of Wesley: the world is my parish! We have a duty to mankind to bring the Gospel and its life changing message. This begins in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and extends to all spheres of life with which we have contact. Most importantly, this is done in Word and in deed.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Lord has been showing me this more and more and I know that there are many saints in the Reformed churches that are seeing the need for Jesus Christ to break into our lives and to make a people that are more than ‘Sunday Christians’. It is sad to see the Emergent Church and the Evangelicals doing more- and with less Truth. There is much work to do. The Lord Jesus said,

Matthew 9:37-38 The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

He also said concerning those who claimed to be Christians, but did not do these works that the Gospel requires of them:

Matthew 25:42-46 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We have much to reform in the Reformed churches; much of which does have to do with doctrine, but with practice. Our heritage is filled with men and women who lived for the sake of advancing the Gospel; many of us are but consumers. My pastor has challenged his congregation with this.

What should be done from? Should we continue with individualistic consumerism, or be the Church?

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As many of you know, our congregation is reading through the entire Puritan paperback series from Banner of Truth. It has been a great time of fellowship and Christ-centered discussion. We meet that last Lord’s Day of every month, following evening worship, for this meeting. Everyone brings a dish to pass and we eat, talk, read, and pray. It is, in Puritan terminology, sweet fellowship.

Our next book is The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie. It was written in 1668 and was regarded as one of the most important books of its time.

If you would like to join us for this monthly time of fellowship, please contact me and I will send you a free PDF of the book. The book is also available at Reformation Heritage Books for $7.00.

Here is a taste of what lies ahead in your reading:
Many who have closed with Christ Jesus, as aforesaid, are still complaining of their leanness and fruitlessness, which makes my heart lay the less weight on that duty of believing. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, you may not neglect it under any pretence. As for the complaints of some who have looked after Him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say– 1. Many, by their jealousies of God’s love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them–‘And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.’ (Matt. 13: 58.) 2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ ‘have found Him a wilderness.’ (Jer. 2: 31.) Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in whose two great things, namely, how to be found in Him in that day–‘Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Phil. 3: 8, 9);– and how to show forth His praise in the land of the living, ‘Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep Thy word.’ (Psa. 119: 17.) ‘Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living.’ (Psa. 56: 13.) They find these two things existing in the soul, and that is much. Moreover, they shall, on due inquiry, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that the utmost abundance of the creature cannot satisfy their souls–all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when He breathes but a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This shows that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart–‘Who is God but the Lord? Worship Him all ye gods.’ (Psa. 97: 7.) Yea, further, those whose hearts have closed with God in Christ as aforesaid, will not deny that there has been seasonable preventing and quickening now and then when the soul was like to fail–‘For Thou preventest me with the blessings of Thy goodness.’ (Psa. 21: 3.) ‘When I said, my foot slippeth, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul.’ (Psa. 94: 18, 19.) Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.

I have heard many complaints from believers that they are unsatisfied with the level of spirituality and commitment to Biblical Christianity that they see around them. Often it is these people who refuse to pick up books and find sweet fellowship within dusty old pages. Many times a good biography of a godly man or woman (Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Mary Winslow) will water us in ways that is unimaginable.

When dialogue with Christians around you seems to be carnal and unedifying, you can always read a good ‘practical’ Christianity book. The Puritans were masters at ethics and Christian living. Many Christians have found sweet fellowship with Thomas Boston, John Owen, or Thomas Manton because of their level of spiritual maturity.

When your preacher is dry and boring, or when his exegesis is poor, there are many sermon books that will delight your soul! Be encouraged, rebuked, and challenged by the preachers who were giants preaching to giants.

In those times when all around you seems to be dark, books are a blessing to a hungry believer. The Apostle Paul was alone and in prison at the end of his life. Many of the Christians that had been around him for most of his ministry had abandoned him. What does he ask for? II Timothy 4:13 says, “when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Paul sought fellowship in the Scriptures (parchments) and his books.
In my library I have profitably dwelt among the shining lights, with which the learned, wise, and holy men of all ages have illuminated the world. -Richard Baxter

Memorizing Scripture is essential to the Christian life. Often Christians become overwhelmed at where to begin in the process of memorization. I would suggest beginning with the Westminster Shorter Catechism proof texts. These are a great place to begin because you can have a broad range of verses from systematic theology hidden in your heart.

Another place to begin is with the Navigator’s Topical Memory System (TMS). These are 60 verses to aid in ministering to people. They teach the essentials of Christ as well as give a broad range of verses to use in evangelism. I prefer the TMS verses over the ‘packaged gospel’ of Evangelism Explosion (in which I am certified thanks to my strenuous and intellectual undergraduate education). Here is a printable TMS. It is a good place to begin.

Once you have begun memorizing God’s Word you should pray that the Lord bring you opportunity to evangelize. This will be liberating to you who have not shared your faith to another. We are all commanded to preach the Gospel. Our English translations have

‘preach’ used for two different Greek words. One is the preaching that a minister is ordained by God to do. The other is the preaching, or ‘gossiping’ the Gospel, that all who are true Christians are commanded to do. If the church was equipped to share the Gospel; the Lord would have a mighty army. Imagine, a bunch of Calvinists sharing the Gospel!

A certain degree of religious knowledge , beyond doubt, is of vast importance. Ignorance is certainly not the mother of true devotion and helps nobody towards heaven. An ‘unknown god’ can never be the object of reasonable worship. Happy indeed would it be for Christians if they all knew the Scriptures as well as the Jews seem to have done when our Lord was on earth!

-JC Ryle

People often ask why God allows suffering. Many post-moderns have concluded that suffering is outside of God’s will and that he really does not have control over it. I believe that Augustine answers the question well when he rephrases it. He does not ask why God allows suffering; but what suffering will reveal. When people suffer, their true character comes out. The fruit that a tree produces depends on the life in their roots.

Though the sufferings are the same, the sufferers remain different. Virtue and vice are not the same, even if they undergo the same torment. The fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smokeā€¦ Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. But the movement is identical.
-Augustine, City of God