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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Daniel's Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks # 2

The First Sixty-nine Weeks and the Coming of the Messianic Prince

In approaching the first sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy, it should be remembered that this period of sixty-nine weeks begins with the "going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" and that it ends with the manifestation of the Messiah as the "Prince" of Israel. Our purpose will be to ascertain the nature and length of the "weeks," discover in history the events which mark their beginning and end, and then see whether the prediction fits the history from a chronological standpoint; for the one point in the prophecy upon which all interpreters agree is that the first sixty-nine weeks have been fulfilled and are past. About four questions will cover the field of investigation.

1. What is the Measure of Time Indicated by the "Weeks" of this Prophecy?

What kind of "weeks" are they? To the casual English reader, the word "week" means but one thing, that is, a period of seven days. And many interpreters have accepted this rather superficial view of the matter. Taking the "Seventy Weeks" as "weeks" of days, they have then proceeded to translate the days into years. If we ask by what right they take such liberties with the inspired Word of God, they answer that "in prophecy a day stands for a year." This is the so-called "Year Day" theory of prophetic interpretation employed by certain Protestant writers and also by Seventh Day Adventism and Russellism. To me it has always seemed an arbitrary method, although claiming the support of some great names. I cannot discover any sound Biblical authority for putting "years" where the sacred text reads "days." The folly of this system appears most clearly in attempts to handle the 1260 days of Revelation 12:6, which constitute simply one-half of the Seventieth Week of Daniel's prophecy. Here the "Year-Day" theorists are compelled either to abandon their scheme or else make one-half of the last week of Daniel equal to over twice as many years as are found in the other sixty-nine and one-half weeks. The precise figures, according to this theory, would be as follows: 69 1/2 weeks equal 486 1/2 years; but the last 1/2 week equals 1260 years! If such a violent and inconsistent device is the only way, as some have claimed, to make the prophecy "come out right," then we had better cease all attempts to interpret prophecy. It is this sort of thing that makes the skeptics smile and brings the whole study of prophecy into disrepute.

Turning now to the simple facts concerning these "weeks" in Daniel, we shall find no necessity for tempering with the exact language of the text. The Hebrew word is "shabua," which means literally a "seven," and it would be well to read the passage thus, dropping for a moment the word "week" which to the English ear always means a week of days. Thus the twenty-fourth verse of Daniel's ninth chapter simply asserts that 'seventy sevens are determined", and what these "sevens" are must be determined from the context and from other Scriptures. The evidence is quite clear and sufficient, as follows:

Most important is the fact in their divinely inspired calendar, the Jews had a "seven" of years as well as a "seven" of days. And this Biblical "week" of years was just as familiar to the Jew as the "week" of days.  It was, in certain respects, even more important. Six years the Jew was free to till and sow his land, but the seventh year was to be a solemn "Sabbath of rest unto the land" (Lev. 25: 3-4). Upon a multiple of this important week of years - "seven Sabbaths of years" - there was based the great jubilee of social and economic adjustment every fiftieth year, when debts were wiped out, estates returned to the original holders, and slaves went free (Lev. 25:8-9). Nothing could be so important to the Jew as this week of years.

Now there are several reasons for believing that the "Seventy Sevens" of Daniel's prophecy refer to this well known "seven" of years. In the first place, the prophet Daniel had been thinking not only in terms of years rather than days, but also in a definite multiple of "sevens" (10 x 7) of years (Daniel 9:1-2). Second, Daniel also knew that the very length of the Babylonian captivity had been based on Jewish violations of the divine law of the Sabbatic year. Since according to 2 Chronicles 36:21 the Jews had been removed from off the land in order that it might rest for seventy years, it should be evident that the Sabbatic year had been violated for 490 years, or exactly seventy "sevens" of years. How appropriate, therefore, that now at the end of the judgment for these violations the angel should be sent to reveal the start of a new era of God's dealing with the Jew which would extend for the same number of years covered by his violations of the Sabbatic year, namely, a cycle of 490 years, or "Seventy Sevens" of years (Daniel 9:24).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 3)

Green Pastures



"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Psalm 23:1-3 

The shepherd takes care that his sheep are well fed. Christ also feeds His people, and leads them out to find pasture.

The Bible is His pasture-land, and the pasturage there is always good. Every chapter is a field of rich grass. Some of these fields seem at first to be bare and sterile; but even in the barest--there is enough pasture to feed a hungry soul.

Then there are the pasture-fields of prayer. These lie very close to the border of Heaven. They are always up in the quiet valleys among the mountains. The Good Shepherd leads us to them through the gates of prayer. We bow down in lowly humility, and enter with Him into the green pastures, and feed our souls until their hunger is satisfied.

The church is another of our Shepherd's pasture-fields. We enter the gates of the sanctuary, and at once we find spiritual food. We find it in the preaching of the Scriptures, in the ordinances, and in the fellowship of other believers.

In our common life in this world, if we are faithfully following Christ, we are continually in fields of rich pasture. Christ never leads us into any places in which there is nothing to feed us. Even in the hot plains of trial and sorrow--there is food. We sometimes think there is only barrenness in our toilsome life, filled with temptations, cares and sacrifices; but the Good Shepherd is ever with us--and there is always pasture.

Thus the whole world is a rich field--when Jesus leads His flock. If any Christians are not well fed--it is because they will not feed. The trouble must be that they do not hunger for spiritual food.


~J. R. Miller~

Monday, April 29, 2013

Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks

Introduction

The very brief but famous prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, has always been a focus of interest to interpreters of the Word, regardless of their theological bias. But today more than ever, in the face of significant tendencies both in the world and the professing church, the passage is attracting fresh attention, especially from those who still believe in the reality of "predictive prophecy." Probably no single prophetic utterance is more crucial in the fields of Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, and Eschatology.

In the first place, the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks has an immense evidential value as a witness of the truth of Scripture. That part of the prophecy relating to the first sixty-nine weeks has already been accurately fulfilled (as I expect to show), and in this remarkable fulfillment we have an unanswerable argument for the divine inspiration of the Bible. It is, in fact, nothing less than a mathematical demonstration. For only an omniscient God could have foretold over five hundred years in advance the very day on which the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem and present Himself as the "Prince" of Israel. Yet this is precisely what has been done in the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.

Again, this great prophecy is the impregnable rock upon which all naturalistic theories of prophecy are shattered. These theories deny the possibility of any "predictive element" in prophecy. And since the Book of Daniel did forecast many well attested historic events, the critics have sought to save their theories by denying to Daniel the authorship of the book and moving its date down to a point subsequent to the events described, thus making the unknown author a mere historian who pretended to b a prophet. In this rather easy and summary fashion, they hoped to get rid of the troublesome specter of "predictive prophecy." But no critic has ever dared to suggest a date for the Book of Daniel as late as the birth of our Lord. Yet Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks predicts to the very day Christ's appearance as the "Prince" of Israel. Therefore, when the critics have done their worst, no matter where they place the date of the book, the greatest time-prophecy of the Bible is left untouched. And on this prophecy, the whole case of the critics goes to pieces. For if even so much as one predictive prophecy is established, there remains no valid a priori reason for denying the others.

Finally, with reference to its importance, I am convinced that in the predictions of the Seventy Weeks, we have the indispensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy. Our Lord's great prophetical discourse recorded in Matthew and Mark fixes the time of Israel's final and greatest trouble definitely within the days of the Seventieth Week of Daniel's prophecy (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20). And the greater part of the Book of Revelation is simply an expansion of Daniel's prophecy within the chronological framework as outlined by the same Seventieth Week, which is divided into two equal periods, each extending tor 1260 days, or 42 months, or 3 1/2 years (Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6; 14; 13:5). Therefore, apart from an understanding of the details of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel, all attempts to interpret New Testament prophecy must fail in large measure. This point will be discussed fully in Parts 2 and 3.

The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks was given to Daniel under circumstances which were most remarkable. Daniel and his people had been carried away captive into the land of Babylon. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar had utterly desolated the city of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:17-21). According to an earlier prophecy uttered by Jeremiah, these "desolations" were to last for a period of seventy years (Jer. 25:11). The ninth chapter of Daniel opens with a reference to this very prophecy (9:1-2). The prophet Daniel, now a man grown old in the service and courts of the Babylonian kings, understands from his study of the "Books" that the period of divine judgment must be nearing its close; and he prays to the God of Israel for light as to the future of his "city" and his "people" (9:3-19). It is a marvelous prayer, but unfinished; for while the petitioner "was speaking in prayer" an angelic messenger came with the answer of God (21-23). And since the divine reply contains a prediction of the First Advent of Christ, it is wholly appropriate that the messenger should have been Gabriel, the same angel who several hundred years later would announce His birth of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26).  Thus it was the angel, not Daniel, who first uttered the great prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. The passage appears as follows in the Common Version, with the exception of a few changes selected from the American Standard Revised Version and indicated by brackets:

24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

26. And after [the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, [and shall have nothing]: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof hall be with a flood, [and even unto the end shall be war]; desolations are determined.

27. And he shall [make a firm covenant] with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; [and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate].

With the prophecy now before us, we shall begin the study with a careful analysis of its main features. Because of their importance, and as an aid to the interpretation of the passage, the reader should note carefully and keep in mind the following points:

1. The entire prophecy has to do with Daniel's "people" and Daniel's "city," that is, the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

2. Two different princes are mentioned, who should not be confused: the first is named "Messiah the Prince"; and the second is described as "Prince that shall come".

3. The entire time period involved is exactly specified as Seventy Weeks; and these Seventy Weeks are further divided into three lesser periods: first, a period of seven weeks; after that a period of three-score and two weeks; and finally, a period of one week.

4. The beginning of the whole period of the Seventy Weeks is definitely fixed at "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem".

5. The end of the seven weeks and three score and two weeks will be marked by the appearance of Messiah as the "Prince" of Israel.

6. At a later time, "after the threescore and two weeks" which follow the first seven weeks (that is, after 69 weeks), Messiah the Prince will be "cut off," and Jerusalem will again be destroyed by the people of another 'prince" who is yet to come.

7. After these two important events, we come to the last, or Seventieth Week, the beginning of which will be clearly marked by the establishment of a firm covenant or treaty between the Coming prince and the Jewish nation for a period of "one week."

8. In the "midst" of this Seventieth Week, evidently breaking his treaty, the Coming prince will suddenly cause the Jewish sacrifice to cease and precipitate upon this people a time of wrath and desolation lasting to the "full end' of the Week.

9. With the full completion of the whole period of the Seventy Weeks, there will be ushered in a time of great and unparalleled blessings for the nation of Israel.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 2)

Good ... All the Time



John 10:10-11 gives us a great truth,

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep."

Is your concept of God that He is good sometimes, but not all the time?  That sometimes He is blessing you; but other times, He is the source of your troubles?  If so, I want to put that notion out of your heart and mind today. 

Jesus came to give us abundant life, while the devil, the thief, wants to steal, kill, and destroy.  God is always a good God, and the devil is always a bad devil.

I remember, as a young Christian, I ran into another new convert in the park one day.  He looked troubled, so I asked him what was up.  He told me he was sick and had just received some bad news as well.  Then he went on to tell me that he was at a Bible study the day before and they told him that God was doing all of these things to him.

It had shaken him to think that God was the source of his troubles, and that He was responsible for all the troubles in his life.

A lot of people tend to think that way, but it is just wrong.  God is good all the time.  The Bible says in James 1:17,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

There is not the slightest degree of variation in this.  God is good.  And the gifts He gives are good and perfect gifts.  I am glad they don't just stay in heaven.  God sees to it that they make their way down to you and me.

God is good…all the time. 

~Bayless Conley~

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 10

(d) Would you know, in the next place, the reason why we, who are ministers of the Gospel, never despair of anyone who hears us so long as he lives? Listen, and I will tell you.

We never despair, because we believe the power of the Holy Spirit. We might well despair when we look at our own performances: we are often sick of ourselves. We might well despair when we look at some who belong to our congregations: they seem as hard and insensible as the mill-stone. But we remember the Holy Spirit, and what He has done; we remember the Holy Spirit, and consider that He has not changed. He can come down like fire and melt the hardest hearts; He can convert the worst man or woman among our hearers, and mold their whole character into a new shape. And so we preach on. We hope, because of the Holy Spirit. Oh, that our hearers would understand that the progress of true religion depends "not on might or on power," but on the Lord's Spirit! Oh, than many of them would learn to lean less on ministers, and to pray more for the Holy Spirit! Oh, that all would learn to expect less from schools, and tracts, and ecclesiastical machinery, and, while using all means diligently, would seek more earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6).

(e) Would you know, in the next place, what you ought to do, if your conscience tells you you have not the Spirit?

If you have not the Spirit, you ought to go at once to the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, and beseech Him to have mercy on you, and send you the Spirit. I have not the slightest sympathy with those who tell men to pray for the Holy Spirit in the first place, in order that they may go to Christ in the second place. I see no warrant of Scripture for saying so. I only see that if men feel they are needy, perishing sinners, they ought to apply first and foremost, straight and direct to Jesus Christ. I see that He Himself says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and rink" (John 7:37). I know that it is written, "He hath received gifts for men, even for the rebellious, that the Lord might dwell among them." (Psalm lxviii: 18). I know it is His special office to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and that "in Him all fullness dwells." I dare not pretend to be more systematic than the Bible. I believe that Christ is the meeting place between God and the soul, and my first advice to any one who wants the Spirit must always be, "Go to Jesus, and tell your want to Him" (Colossians 1:19).

Furthermore I would say, if you have not the Spirit, you must be diligent in attending those means of grace through which the Spirit works. You must regularly hear that Word, which is His sword; you must habitually attend those assemblies where His presence is promised; you must, in short, be found in the way of the Spirit, if you want the Spirit to do you good. Blind Bartimeus would never have received sight had he sat lazily at home, and not come forth to sit by the wayside. Zacchaeus might never have seen Jesus and become a son of Abraham, if he had not run before and climbed up into the sycamore tree. The Spirit is a loving and good Spirit. But he who despises means of grace resists the Holy Spirit.

Remember two things. I firmly believe that no man ever acted honestly and perseveringly on these two pieces of advice who did not, sooner or later, have the Spirit.

(f) Would you know, in the next place, what you ought to do, if you stand in doubt about your own state, and cannot tell whether you have the Spirit? 

If you stand in doubt whether you have the Spirit, you ought to examine calmly whether your doubts are well-founded. There are many true believers, I fear, who are destitute of any firm assurance as to their own state: doubting is their life. I ask such persons to take their Bibles down, and consider quietly the grounds of their anxiety. I ask them to consider whence came their sense of sin, however feeble, - their love to Christ, however faint, - their desire after holiness, however weak, - their pleasure in the company of God's people, - their inclination to prayer and the Word? Whence came these things, I say? Did they come from your own heart? Surely not! Nature bears no such fruit. Did they come from the devil? Surely not! satan does not war against satan. Whence then, I repeat, did these things come? I warn you to beware lest you grieve the Holy Spirit by doubting the truth of His operations. I tell you it is high time for you to reflect whether you have not been expecting an inward perfection which you had no right to expect, and at the same time thanklessly undervaluing a real work which the Holy Spirit has actually wrought in your souls.

A great statesman once said that if a foreigner visited England, for the first time, with his eyes bandaged and his ears open, hearing everything, but seeing nothing, he might well suppose that England was on the road to ruin; so may are the murmurings of the English people. And yet if that same foreigner came to England with his ears stopped and his eyes open, seeing everything and hearing nothing, he would probably suppose that England was the most wealthy and flourishing country in the world, so many are the signs of prosperity that he would see.

I am often disposed to apply this remark to the case of doubting Christians. If I believed all they say of themselves I should certainly think they were in a  bad state. But when I seem them living as they do, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, poor in spirit, desiring holiness, loving the name of Christ, keeping up habits of Bible reading and prayer, - when I see these things I cease to be afraid. I trust my eyes more than my ears. I see manifest marks of the Spirit's presence, and I only grieve that they should refuse to see them themselves. I see the devil robbing them of their peace, by instilling these doubts into their minds, and I mourn that they should injure themselves by believing him. Some professors, without controversy, may well doubt grace about them. But many nurse up a habit of doubt in their minds for which they have no cause, and of which they ought to be ashamed.

(g) Would you know, last of all, what you ought to do if you really have the Spirit?

If you have the Holy Spirit, seek to be "filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18). Drink deep of the living waters. Do not be content with a little religion. Pray that the Spirit may fill every corner and chamber of your heart, and that not an inch of room may be left in it for the world and the devil.

If you have the Spirit, "grieve not the Spirit." It is easy for believers to weaken their sense of His presence, and deprive themselves of His comfort. Little sins not mortified, little bad habits of temper or of tongue not corrected, little compliances with the world, are all likely to offend the Holy Spirit. Oh, that believers would remember this! There is far more of "heaven on earth" to be enjoyed than many of them attain to: and why do they not attain to it? They do not watch sufficiently over their daily ways, and so the Spirit's work is damped and hindered. The Spirit must be a thoroughly sanctifying Spirit if He is to be a comforter to your soul.

If you have the Holy Spirit, labor to bring forth all "the fruits of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). Read over the list which the Apostle has drawn out, and see that no one of these fruits of neglected. Oh, that believers would seek for more "love" and more "joy." Then would they do more good to all men; then would they feel happier themselves; then would they make religion more beautiful in the eyes of the world!

I commend the things that I have written to the serious attention of every reader of these pages. Let them not have been written in vain. Join with me in praying that the Spirit may be poured out from on high with more abundant influence than He has ever been yet! Pray that He may be poured out on all believers, that they may be more united and more holy. Pray that He may be poured out everywhere. Pray, above all, that He may be poured out, in abundant power, on your own soul, that if you know not the truth, you may be taught to know it, and that if you know it, you may know it better.

~J. C. Ryle~

(the end)

Unburdened



Philippians 4:6-7 promises,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

God is telling us not to freak out about anything.  Anything!  Can you think of anything that does not fit in "anything"? Instead of worrying—pray—about everything!

It is interesting that these verses do not promise God will answer your requests (though it is implied).  Rather, what God does promise in these verses is this:  If, when you are confronted with difficult things, you will pray rather than worry, God will give you peace.  The stress will lift.  The pressure will be broken.

In America, people spend millions of dollars visiting their therapists.  They talk over all their problems with their therapists to try and relieve the stress and worries of life.  I have a confession to make…I have a therapist.  I talk to Him every single day.  My therapist is my Father in heaven.  I bring all my problems to Him.  And I talk over everything with Him.
One of the keys in unburdening your heart when you pray is being completely honest.  God knows what you are thinking, anyway.  You may as well tell Him the truth about what is weighing you down.

It is no accident you are reading this today.  Perhaps you are so filled with anxiety and stress that you are working on an ulcer right now.  You don't sleep like you should.  Your anxieties have robbed you of the quality of life God wants you to have.

God wants you free from your burdens.  Take them to God today, and every day, and see how those burdens are lifted. 

~Bayless Conley~

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 9

And now let me finish by a few practical remarks which arise naturally out of the matter it contains.

(a) Would you know, first of all, what is your own immediate duty? 

You ought to examine yourself calmly about the subject which I have been trying to set before you. You ought to ask yourself seriously how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit affects your soul. Look away, I beseech you for a few minutes, to higher things than the things of earth, and more important things than the things of time. Bear with me, while I ask you a plain question. I ask it solemnly and affectionately, as one who desires your salvation, - Have you the Holy Spirit?

Remember, I do not ask whether you think all I have been saying is true, and right, and good. I ask whether you yourself, who are reading these lines, have within you the Holy Spirit?

Remember, I do not ask whether you believe that the Holy Spirit is given to the Church of Christ, and that all who belong to the Church are within reach of His operations. I ask whether you yourself have the Holy Spirit in your own heart?

Remember, I do not ask whether you sometimes feel strivings of conscience, and good desires flitting about within you. I ask whether you have really experienced the quickening and reviving work of the Holy Spirit upon your heart?

Remember, I do not ask you to tell me the day or month when the Spirit began His work in you. It is enough for me if fruit trees bear fruit, without inquiring the precise time when they were planted. But I do ask, Are you bringing forth any fruits of the Spirit?

Remember, I do not ask whether you are a perfect person, and never feel anything evil within. But I do ask, gravely and seriously, whether you have about your heart and life the marks of the Spirit?

I hope you will not tell me you do not know what the marks of the Spirit are. I have described them plainly. I now repeat them briefly, and press them on your attention.

1. The Spirit quickens men's hearts. 2. The Spirit teaches men's minds. 3. The Spirit leads to the Word. 4. The Spirit convinces of sin. 5. The Spirit makes draws to Christ. 6. The Spirit convinces of sin. 5. The Spirit makes men spiritually minded. 8. The Spirit produces inward conflict. 9. The Spirit makes men love the brethren. 10. The Spirit teaches to pray. These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit's presence. Put the question to your consciences like a man, - Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?

I charge you not to let many days pass away without trying to answer my question. I summon you, as a faithful watchman knocking at the door of your heart, to bring the matter to an issue. We live in an old, worn-out, sin-laden world. Who can tell what "a day may bring forth?" Who shall live to see another year? Have you the Spirit? (Proverbs 17:1).

(b) Would you know, in the next place, what is the grand defect of the Christianity of our times? 

The grand defect I speak of is simply this, - that the Christianity of many people is not real Christianity at all. I know that such an opinion sounds hard and shockingly uncharitable. I cannot help that: I am satisfied that it sadly true. I only want people's Christianity to be that of the Bible; but I doubt exceedingly, in many cases, whether it is so.

There are multitudes of people, I believe, who go to church or chapel every Sunday merely as a form. Their fathers or mothers went, and so they go; it is the fashion of the country to go, and so they go; it is the custom to attend a religious service and hear a sermon, and so they go. But as to real, vital, saving religion, they neither know nor care anything about it. They can give no account of the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel. Justification, and regeneration, and sanctification are "words and names" which they cannot explain. They may have a sort of vague idea that they ought to go to the Lord's Table, and may be able to say a few vague words about Christ, but they have no intelligent notion of the way of salvation. As to the Holy Spirit, they can scarcely say more about Him than that they have heard His name, and repeated it in the Belief.

Now, if any reader is conscious that his religion is such as I have described, I will only warn him affectionately to remember that such religion is utterly useless. It will neither save, comfort, satisfy, nor sanctify his soul. And the plain advice I give him is to change it for something better without delay. Remember my words, It will not do at the last.

(c) Would you know, in the next place, one truth in the Gospel about which we need to be especially jealous in this day?

The truth which I have in view is the truth about the work of the Holy Spirit. All truth no doubt is constantly assailed by satan. I have no desire for a moment to exaggerate the office of the Spirit, and to exalt Him above the Son and Center of the Gospel, Jesus Christ. But I do believe that, next to the priestly office of Christ, no truth in the present day is so frequently lost sight of, and so cunningly assailed, as the work of the Holy Spirit. Some injure it by ignorant neglect; their talk is all about Christ. They can tell you something about "the Saviour;" but if you ask them about that inward work of the Spirit which all who really know the Saviour experience, they have not a word to say. Some injure the work of the Holy Spirit by taking it all for granted. Membership of the Church, participation of the Sacraments, become their substitutes for conversion and spiritual regeneration. Some injure the work of the Spirit by confounding it with the action of natural conscience. according to this low view, none but the most hardened and degraded of mankind are destitute of the Holy Spirit. Against all such departures from the truth let us watch and be on our guard. Let us beware f leaving the proportion o Gospel statements. Let one of our chief watchwords in the present day be, - No salvation without the inward woke of the Holy Spirit! No inward work of the Holy Spirit unless it can be seen, felt, and known! No saving work of the Spirit which does not show itself in repentance towards God, and living faith towards Jesus Christ!

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 10)

A Heart for God A Vision for the World



I sometimes like to walk through a cemetery and read the epitaphs on the tombstones. It's interesting to see what words are used to sum up a person's life. This may seem like a morbid pastime, but it's actually a great way to reassess our own lives. We're each going to leave a testimony of some kind when we die. Have you ever wondered what your loved ones will write on your gravestone? What words do you want inscribed there?

In our passage today, the apostle Paul tells us God's evaluation of David: He described him as "a man after My heart, who will do all My will" (v. 22). What an awesome testimony of a life well lived! The Lord wasn't describing a perfect man, but one whose life was centered on God's interests and desires.

David's many psalms attest to the fact that his relationship with the Lord was the most important aspect of his life. His passion was to obey God and carry out His will. However, that doesn't mean he was always obedient. Who can forget his failure with Bathsheba? But even when he sinned by committing adultery and murder, his heart was still bent toward God. The conviction he felt and his humble repentance afterward proved that his relationship with the Lord was still his top priority.

If God was writing a summary of your life, how would He describe you? Does your heart align with His, or have you let it follow the pleasures and pursuits of this world? Unless we diligently pursue our relationship with the Lord, we will drift away from Him. Maybe it's time for a course correction.

~Charles Stanley~

Friday, April 26, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 8

9. All who have the Spirit love others who have the Spirit. It is written of them by John, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). The more they see of the Holy Spirit in any one, the more dear he is to them. They regard him as a member of the same family, a child of the same Father, a subject of the same King, and a fellow-traveler with themselves in a foreign country towards the same father-land. It is the glory of the Spirit to bring back something of that brotherly love which sin has so miserably chased out of the world. He makes men love one another for reasons which to the natural man are foolishness, - for the sake of a common Saviour, a common faith, a common service on earth, and the hope of a common home. He raises up friendships independent of blood, marriage, interest, business, or any worldly motive. He unites men by making them feel they are united to one great center, Jesus Christ.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who finds no pleasure in the company of spiritually-minded persons, or even sneers at them as saints, - can he be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

10. Finally, all who have the Spirit are taught by Him to pray. He is called in Scripture, "The Spirit of grace and supplication." (Zech. 7:10). The elect of God are said to "cry to Him night and day" (Luke 18:7). They cannot help it: their prayers may be poor, and weak, and wandering, but pray they must; something within them tells them they must speak with God and lay their wants before Him. Just as the infant will cry when it feels pain or hunger, because it is its nature, so will the new nature implanted by the Holy Spirit oblige a man to pray. He has the Spirit of adoption, and he must cry, "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).

Once more I appeal to every thinking reader. Can the man who never prays at all, or is content with saying a few formal heartless words, can he be said to "have the Spirit"? For the last time I say, Judge for yourself.

Such are the marks and signs by which I believe the presence of the Holy Spirit in a man may be discerned. I have set them down fairly as they appear to me to be laid before us in the Scriptures. I have endeavored to exaggerate nothing, and to keep back nothing. I believe there are no true Christians in whom these marks may not be found. Some of them, no doubt, stand out more prominently in some, and others in others. My own experience is distinct and decided, - that I never say a truly godly person, even of the poorest and humblest classes, in whom, on close observation, these marks might not be discovered.

I believe that marks such as these are the only safe evidence that we are traveling in the way that leads to everlasting life. I charge every one who desires to make his calling and election sure, to see that these marks are his own. There are high-flying professors of religion, I know, who despise the mention of "marks," and call them "legal." I care nothing for their being called legal, so long as I am satisfied they are scriptural. And, with the Bible before me, I give my opinion confidently, that he who is without these marks is without the Spirit of God.

Show me a man who has these marks about him, and I acknowledge him as a child of God. He may be poor and lowly in this world; he may be vile in his own eyes, and often doubt of his own salvation. But he has that within him which only comes from above, and will never be destroyed, - even the work of the Holy Spirit. God is his, Christ is his. His name is already written in the book of life, and before long heaven will be his own.

Show me a man in whom these marks are not to be found, and I dare not acknowledge him to be a true Christian. I dare not as an honest man; I dare not as a lover of his soul; I dare not as a reader of the Bible. He may make a great religious profession; he may be learned, high in the world, and moral in his life. It is all nothing if he has not the Holy Spirit within. He is without God, without Christ, without solid hope, and, unless he changes will at length be without heaven.

~J. C. Ryle

(continued with # 9)

My Home is God Himself


You cannot detain the eagle in the forest. You may gather around him a chorus of the choicest birds; you may give him a perch on the goodliest pine; you may charge winged messengers to bring him choicest dainties; but he will spurn them all. Spreading his lofty wings, and with his eye on the Alpine cliff, he will soar away to his own ancestral halls amid the munition of rocks and the wild music of tempest and waterfall.
The soul of man, in its eagle soarings, will rest with nothing short of the Rock of Ages. Its ancestral halls are the halls of Heaven. Its munitions of rocks are the attributes of God. The sweep of its majestic flight is Eternity! "Lord, THOU hast been our dwelling place in all generations."
--Macduff
***
"My Home is God Himself"; Christ brought me there.
I laid me down within His mighty arms;
He took me up, and safe from all alarms
He bore me "where no foot but His hath trod,"
Within the holiest at Home with God,
And bade me dwell in Him, rejoicing there.
O Holy Place! O Home divinely fair!
And we, God's little ones, abiding there.
"My Home is God Himself"; it was not so!
A long, long road I traveled night and day,
And sought to find within myself some way,
Aught I could do, or feel to bring me near;
Self effort failed, and I was filled with fear,
And then I found Christ was the only way,
That I must come to Him and in Him stay,
And God had told me so.
And now "my Home is God," and sheltered there,
God meets the trials of my earthly life,
God compasses me round from storm and strife,
God takes the burden of my daily care.
O Wondrous Place! O Home divinely fair!
And I, God's little one, safe hidden there.
Lord, as I dwell in Thee and Thou in me,
So make me dead to everything but Thee;
That as I rest within my Home most fair,
My soul may evermore and only see
My God in everything and everywhere;
My Home is God.
--Author Unknown
~L. B. Cowman~

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Having the Spirit # 7

4. All who have the Spirit are convinced by Him of sin. This is a special office which the Lord Jesus promised He should fulfill. "When He come, He shall reprove the world of sin." (John 16:8). He alone can open a man's eyes to the real extent of His guilt and corruption before God. He always does this when He comes into the soul. He puts us in our right place; He shows us the vileness of our own heats, and makes us cry with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." He pulls down those proud, self-righteous, self-justifying notions with which we are all born, and makes us feel as we ought to feel, - "I am a bad man, and I deserve to be in hell." Ministers may alarm us for a little season; sickness may break the ice on our heats, but the ice will soon freeze again if it is not thawed by the breath of the Spirit, and convictions not wrought by Him will pass away like the morning dew.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can the man who never feels the burden of his sins, and knows not what it is to be humbled by the thought of them, - can he "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

5. All who have the Spirit are led by Him to Christ for salvation. It is one special part of His office to "testify to Christ," to  "take of the things of Christ, and to show them to us." (John 15:26; 16:15). By nature we all think to work our own way to heaven: we fancy in our blindness that we can make our peace with God. From this miserable blindness the Spirit delivers us. He shows us that in ourselves we are lost and hopeless, and that Christ is the only door by which we can enter heaven and be saved. He teaches us that nothing but the blood of Jesus can atone for sin, and that through His mediation alone God can be just and the justifier of the ungodly. He reveals to us the exquisite fitness and suitableness to our souls of Christ's salvation. He unfolds to us the beauty of the glorious doctrine of justification by simple faith. He sheds abroad in our hearts that mighty love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Just as the dove flies to the well-known cleft of the rock, so does the soul of him who has the Spirit flee to Christ and rest on Him (Romans 5:5).

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who knows nothing of faith in Christ, be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

6. All who have the Spirit are by Him made holy. He is "the Spirit of holiness." (Romans 1:4). When He dwells in men, He makes them follow after "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, faith, patience, temperance." He makes it natural to them, through their new "Divine nature," to count all God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and to "hate every false way." (2 Peter 1:4; Psalm cxix: 128). Sin is no more pleasant to them: it is their sorrow when tempted by it; it is their shame when they are overtaken by it. Their desire is to be free from it altogether. Their happiest times are when they are enabled to walk most closely with God; their saddest times are when they are furthest  from Him.

I appeal again to every thinking readers. Can those who do not even pretend to live strictly according to God's will, be said to "have the Spirit"? Just for yourself.

7. All those who have the Spirit are spiritually minded. To use the words of the Apostle Paul, "They that are after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit." (Romans 8:5). The general tone, tenor, and bias of their minds is in favor of spiritual things. They do not serve God by fits and starts, but habitually. They may be drawn aside by strong temptations; but the general tendency of their lives, ways, tastes, thoughts and habits, is spiritual. You see it in the way they spend their leisure time, the company they love to keep, and their conduct in their own homes. And all is the result of the Spiritual nature implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. Just as the caterpillar when it becomes a butterfly can no longer be content to crawl on earth, but will fly upwards and use its wings, so will the affections of the man who has the Spirit be ever reaching upwards toward God.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can those whose minds are wholly intent on the things of this world be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

8. All that have the Spirit feel a conflict within them between the old nature and the new. The words of Paul are true, more or less, of all the children of God: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Galatians 5:17). They feel a holy principle within their breasts, which makes them delight in the law of God: but they feel another principle within, striving hard for the mastery, and struggling to drag them downwards and backwards. Some feel this conflict more than others; but all who have the Spirit are acquainted with it; and it is a token for good. It is a proof that the strong man armed no longer reigns within, as he once did, with undisputed sway. The presence of the Holy Spirit may be known by inward peace. He that has been taught to rest and hope in Christ, will always be one who fights and wars with sin.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who  knows nothing of inward conflict, and is a servant to sin, the world, and his own self-will, can he be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 8)

Pray with Persistence



And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Luke 11:5-10

God tells us over and over in the Bible to pray. There are many reasons and advantages to praying: we develop a relationship with God, we know that God hears us, we can hear back from God, we can receive peace and we may receive what we want. God loves us and wants for us to tell Him all of our desires. The parable of Luke 11 gives us a different slant on prayer. Jesus is telling us “how” to pray, not “why” to pray. The key point in these verses is to be persistent in prayer and diligent to keep praying.

When my oldest child was a newborn, he would sleep all day. I would look at him and think such nice thoughts. I would have thoughts of unconditional love and dedication to commit my life to raising him. But as soon as all the lights were out in the house, he would wake me up by crying and screaming. My thoughts were not as nice then. I was tired from labor and my body did not want to get up to address his cries in a dark, quiet house leaving my soft, warm bed. If he had not screamed, I might have slept right through his cries. But because of his persistence, I got up and tried my hardest to meet his needs the fastest and easiest way possible. It was not always because I had a sacrificial love that I got up to meet his need, but often because of my need to get back to sleep. That is Jesus’ point in Luke 11.

We all have those newborn cries and screams within us. The Lord tells us that He hears our prayers and will answer them according to His will and what is best for us. But sometimes we need to know the depths of our own desires, and we need to cry out to the Lord with an enduring persistence.  Keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking…the key is persistence. When we see God answer those prayers, our faith is increased to continue praying for other things as well. Through persistence, we are rewarded. 

~Daily Disciples~

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 6

"Having Not the Spirit" (Jude 19)

What then are these general effects which the Spirit always produces on those who really have Him? What are the marks of His presence in the soul? This is the question which now remains to be considered. Let us try to set down these marks in order.

1. All who have the Spirit are quickened by Him, and made spiritually alive. He is called in Scripture, "The Spirit of life." (Romans 8:3). "It is the Spirit," says our Lord Jesus Christ, "that quickeneth." (John 6:63). We are all by nature dead in trespasses and sins. We have neither feeling nor interest about religion; we have neither faith, nor hope, nor fear, nor love: our hearts are in a state of torpor; they are compared in Scripture to a stone. We may be alive about money, learning, politics, or pleasure, but we are dead towards God. All this is changed when the Spirit comes into the heart. He raises us from this state of death, and makes us new creatures. He awakens the conscience, and inclines the will towards God. He causes old things to pass away, and all things to become new. He gives us a new heart; He makes us put off the old man, and put on the new. He blows the trumpet in the ear of our slumbering faculties, and sends us forth to walk the world as if we were new beings. How unlike was Lazarus shut up in the silent tomb, to Lazarus coming forth at our Lord's command! How unlike was Jairus' daughter lying cold on her bed amidst weeping friends, to Jairus' daughter rising and speaking to her mother as she wont to do! Jesus as unlike is the man in whom the Spirit dwells to what he was before the Spirit came into him.

I appeal to every thinking reader. Can he whose heart is manifestly full of everything but God, - hard, cold, and insensible, - can he be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

2. All who have the Spirit are taught by Him. He is called in Scripture, "The Spirit of wisdom and revelation." (Ephesians 1:17). It was the promise of the Lord Jesus, "He shall teach you all things;"  "He shall guide you into all truth." (John 14:13). We are all by nature ignorant of spiritual truth. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: they are foolishness to him." (1 Cor. 2:14). Our eyes are blinded. We neither know God, nor Christ, nor ourselves, nor the world, nor sin, nor heaven, nor hell, as we ought. We see everything under false colors. The Spirit alters entirely this state of things. He opens the eyes of our understandings; He illumines us; He calls us out of darkness into marvelous light; He takes away the veil; He shines into our hearts, and makes us see things as they really are. No wonder that all true Christians are so remarkably agreed upon the essentials of true religion! The reason is that they have all learned in one school, - the school of the Holy Spirit. No wonder that true Christians can understand each other at once, and find common ground of communion! They have been taught the same language by One who lessons are never forgotten.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who is ignorant of the leading doctrines of the Gospel, and blind to his own state, - can he be said to "have the Spirit'? Judge for yourself.

3. All who have the Spirit are led by Him to the Scriptures. This is the instrument by which He specially works on the soul. The Word is called "the sword of the Spirit." Those who are born again are said to be "born by the Word." All Scripture was written under His inspiration: He never teaches anything which is not therein written. He causes the man in whom He dwells to "delight in the law of the Lord." (Psalm 1:2). Just as the infant desires the milk which nature has provided for it, and refuses all other food, so does the soul which has the Spirit desire the sincere milk of the Word. Just as the Israelites fed on the manna in the wilderness, so are the children of God taught by the Holy Spirit to feed on the contents of the Bible.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who never reads the Bible, or only reads it formally, - can he be said to "have the Spirit"? Judge for yourself.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 7)

Every Believer's Calling?





One Sunday, a man approached me between services to share his story. He'd been addicted to drugs and was leading a hopeless life when he heard a Scripture verse in a sermon. He said that one passage led him to place his trust in Jesus. The man was saved, and God transformed his life.

Every believer has a story. Oftentimes, the more we surrender to God, the greater our ability to see His hand in our life. And the more we watch Him work, the stronger our desire to share with others all that He has done.

The same was true of the early disciples. A small crowd gathered around Jesus before His ascension. They heard His command to spread the gospel around the globe, making disciples and baptizing people from all nations. Surely this seemed like an overwhelming task for a handful of followers, but they obeyed. Their personal experiences with Christ undoubtedly motivated them to share the good news, and they also must have gained confidence from Jesus’ promise of His presence and power.

We, too, should be taking Christ’s command seriously. One of our highest callings as believers is to tell others about Him. As was true for the early Christians, our own experience with the Savior is the most exciting and convincing story to tell.

Are you passionately telling others about Christ? Loving God involves not just having a personal relationship with Jesus but also sharing Him with others. The world around you needs the power of Christ. Let the Holy Spirit guide and enable you to share effectively with those around you.

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 5

"Having not the Spirit" (Jude 19)

Beware of supposing that a man may have the Holy Spirit when there is no outward evidence of His presence in the soul. It is a dangerous and unscriptural delusion to think so. We must never lose sight of the broad principles laid down for us in Scripture: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." "In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" (1 John 1:6; 3: 10).

You have heard, I doubt not, of a wretched class of Christians called Antinomians. They were persons who boast of having an interest in Christ, and say they are pardoned and forgiven, while at the same time they live in wilfull sin and open breach of God's commandments. You have been told, I dare say, that such people are miserably deceived. They are going down to hell with a lie in their right hand. The true believer in Christ is "dead to sin."  Every man that has real hope in Christ "purifieth himself even as He is pure." (1 John 3:3).

But I will tell you of a delusion quite as dangerous as that of the Antinomians, and far more specious. That delusion is, - to flatter yourself you have the Spirit dwelling in your heart, while there are no fruits of the Spirit to be seen in your life. I firmly believe that this delusion is ruining thousands, as surely as Antinomianism. It is just as perilous to dishonor the Holy Spirit, as it is to dishonor Christ. It is just as offensive to God to pretend to an interest in the work of the Spirit, as it is to pretend to an interest in the work of Christ

Once for all, I charge my readers to remember that the effects which the Spirit produces are the only trustworthy evidences of His presence. To talk of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and yet being unseen in your life, is wild work indeed. It confounds the first principles of the Gospel: it confounds light and darkness, nature and grace, conversion and unconversion, faith and unbelief, the children o God and the children of the devil.

There is only one safe position in this matter. There is only one safe answer to the question, "How shall we decide who have the Spirit?" We must take our stand on the old principle laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20). Where the Spirit is there will be fruit: he who has no fruit of the Spirit has not the Spirit. A work of the Spirit unfelt, unseen, inoperative, is a positive delusion. Where the Spirit really is He will be felt, seen, and known.

3. Let me, in the last place, describe the particular effects which the Spirit produces on the souls in which He dwells.

I regard this part of the subject as the most important of all. Hitherto I have spoken generally of the great leading principles which must guide us in inquiring about the work the the Holy Spirit. I must now come closer, and speak of the special marks by which the presence of the Holy Spirit in any individual heart may be discerned. Happily, with the Bible for our light, these marks are not hard to find out.

Some things I wish to premise before entering fully into the subject. It is needful in order to clear the way.

(a) I grant freely that there are some deep mysteries about the work of the Spirit. I cannot explain the manner of His coming into the heart. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3;8). I cannot explain why He comes into one heart and not into another. - why He condescends to dwell in this man and not in that. I only know that so it is. He acts as a sovereign. To use the words of the Church Catechism, He sanctifieth "the elect people of God." But I remember also that I cannot explain why I was born in Christian England, and not in heathen Africa. I am satisfied to believe that all God's work is well done. It is enough for me to be in the King's court, without being of the King's counsel.

(b) I grant freely that there are great diversities in the operations by which the Spirit carries on His work in men's souls. There are differences in the ages at which He begins to enter the heart. With some He begins young, as with John the Baptist and Timothy: with some he begins old, as with Manasseh and Zacchaeus. There are differences in the feelings which He first stirs up in the heart. He leads some by strong terror and alarm, like the jailer at Philippi. He leads some by gently opening their hearts to receive the truth, as Lydia, the purple seller. There are differences in the time occupied in effecting this complete change of character. With some the change is immediate and sudden, as it was with Saul when he journeyed to Damascus: with others it is gradual and slow, as it was with Nicodemus the Pharisee. There are differences in the instruments He uses in first awakening the soul from its natural death. With some He uses a sermon, with others the Bible, with others a tract, with others a friend's advice, with others a sickness or affliction, with others no one particular thing that  can be distinctly traced. All this is most important to understand. To require all persons to be squared down to one kind of experience is a most grievous mistake.

(c) I grant freely that the beginnings of the Spirit's work are often small and imperceptible. The seed from which the spiritual character is formed is often very minute at first. The fountain-head of the spiritual life, like that of many a mighty river, is frequently at its outset a little trickling stream. The beginnings therefore of the Spirit's work in a soul are generally overlooked by the world, very frequently not duly valued and encouraged by other Christians - and almost without exception thoroughly misunderstood by the soul itself which is the subject of them. Let that never be forgotten. The man in whom the Spirit begins to work is never hardly aware, till long afterwards, that his state of mind about the time of his conversion arose from the entrance of the Holy Spirit.

But still, after all these concessions and allowances, there are certain great leading effects which the Spirit produces on the soul in which He dwells, which are always one and the same. Those who have the Spirit may be led at first by different paths, but they are always brought sooner or later, into one and the same narrow way. Their leading opinions in religion are the same; their leading desires are the same; their general walk is the same. They may differ from one another widely in their natural character, but their spiritual character, in its main features, is always one. The Holy Spirit always produces one general kind of effects. Shades and varieties there are no doubt in the experience of those on whose hearts He works, but the general outline of their faith and life is always the same.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 6)

The Summer Will Come



"Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you" (Isa. 30:18).
Where showers fall most, there the grass is greenest. I suppose the fogs and mists of Ireland make it "the Emerald Isle"; and whenever you find great fogs of trouble, and mists of sorrow, you always find emerald green hearts; full of the beautiful verdure of the comfort and love of God. O Christian, do not thou be saying, "Where are the swallows gone? They are gone; they are dead." They are not dead; they have skimmed the purple sea, and gone to a far-off land; but they will be back again by and by. Child of God, say not the flowers are dead; say not the winter has killed them, and they are gone. Ah, no! though winter hath coated them with the ermine of its snow; they will put up their heads again, and will be alive very soon. Say not, child of God, that the sun is quenched, because the cloud hath hidden it. Ah, no; he is behind there, brewing summer for thee; for when he cometh out again, he will have made the clouds fit to drop in April showers, all of them mothers of the sweet May flowers. And oh! above all, when thy God hides His face, say not that He hath forgotten thee. He is but tarrying a little while to make thee love Him better; and when He cometh, thou shalt have joy in the Lord, and shalt rejoice with joy unspeakable. Waiting exercises our grace; waiting tries our faith; therefore, wait on in hope; for though the promise tarry, it can never come too late.
--C. H. Spurgeon
***
"Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain--
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.
"When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders' veins turn crimson--
And the birds go north again.
"Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain--
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.
"'Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over--
Why, the birds go north again."
~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, April 22, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 4

All members of Churches and baptized persons have not the Spirit.  I see no ground in Scripture for saying that every man who receives baptism receives the Holy Spirit, and that we ought to regard him as born of the Spirit. I dare not tell baptized people that they all have the Spirit, and that they only need "stir up the gift of God" within them in order to be saved. I see, on the contrary, that Jude speaks of members of the visible Church in his day as "not having the Spirit." Some of them probably had been baptized by the hands of apostles, and admitted into full communion with the professing Church. No matter they "had not the Spirit." (Jude 19).

It is vain to attempt to evade the power of this single expression. It teaches plainly that "having the Spirit" is not the lot of every man, and not the portion of every member of the visible Church of Christ. It shows the necessity of finding out some general rule and principle by which the presence of the Spirit in a man may be ascertained. He does not dwell in every one. Baptism and churchmanship are no proofs of His presence. How, then, shall I know whether a man has the Spirit?

The presence of the Spirit in a man's soul can only be known by the effects which He produces. The fruits He causes to be brought forth in a man's heart and life, are the only evidence which can be depended on. A man's faith, a man's opinions, and a man's practice, are the witnesses we must examine, if we would find out whether a man has the Spirit. This is the rule of the Lord Jesus: "Every tree is known by his own fruit." (Luke 6:44).

The effects which the Holy Spirit produces may always be seen. The man of the world may not understand them: they may in many cases be feeble and indistinct; but where the Spirit is, He will not be hid. He is not idle when He enters the heart: He does not lie still; He does not sleep: He will make His presence known. He will shine out little by little through the windows of a man's daily habits and conversation, and manifest to the world that He is in him. A dormant, torpid, silent indwelling of the Spirit is a notion that pleases the minds of many. It is a notion for which I see no authority in the Word of God. I hold entirely with the Homily for Whit-Sunday: "As the tree is known by his fruit, so is also the Holy Spirit."

In whomsoever I see the effects and fruits of the Spirit, in that man I see one who has the Spirit. I believe it to be not only charitable to think so, but presumption to doubt it.  I do not expect to behold the Holy Spirit with my bodily eyes, or to touch Him with my hands. But I need no angel to come down to show me where He dwells; I need no vision from heaven to tell me where I may find Him. Only show me a man in whom the fruits of the Spirit are to be seen, and I see one who "has the Spirit." I will not doubt the inward presence of the almighty cause, when I see the outward fact of an evident effect.

Can I see the wind on a stormy day? I cannot; but I can see the effects of its force and power. When I see the clouds driven before it, and the trees bending under it, when I hear it whistling though doors and windows, or howling around the chimney tops I do not for a moment doubt its existence. I say, "There is a wind." Just so it is with the presence of the Spirit in the soul.

Can I see the dew of heaven as it falls on a summer evening? I cannot. It comes down softly and gently, noiseless and imperceptible. But when I go forth in the morning after a cloudless night, and see every leaf sparkling with moisture, and feel every blade of grass damp and wet, I say at once, "There has been a dew." Just so it is with the presence of the Spirit in the soul.

Can I see the hand of the sower when I walk through the corn fields in the month of July? I cannot. I see nothing but millions of ears rich with grain, and bending to the ground with ripeness: but do I suppose that harvest came by chance, and grew of itself? I suppose nothing of the kind. I know when I see these corn fields that the plough and the harrow were at work one day, and that a hand has been there which sowed the seed. Just so it is with the work of the Spirit in the soul.

Can I see the magnetic fluid in the compass needle? I cannot. It acts in a hidden mysterious way: but when I see that little piece of iron always turning to the north, I know at once that it is under the secret influence of magnetic power. Just so it is with the work of the Spirit in the soul.

Can I see the mainspring of my watch when I look upon its face? I cannot. But when I see the fingers going around and telling the hours and minutes of the day in regular succession, I do not doubt the mainspring's existence. Just so it is with the work of the Spirit.

I charge all my readers to remember this. Establish it as a settled principle in your mind, that if the Holy Spirit really is in a man, it will be seen in the effects He produces on his heart and life.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 5)

Don't Look Back



But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62

I have come across this verse four times in a week so I am getting the feeling that the Lord wants my attention. There are so many things that compete for our attention. The home, the kids, work, our health, keeping the car tuned up, relationships and of course, the things that entertain us. If we continue to just try to stay afloat without thinking or praying, we find ourselves surviving instead of thriving. It is so easy to not get rid of bad habits because we at least know what to expect and what to do. When God starts helping us to focus on something better and healthier, we are at a loss for awhile on how to live with the change. That’s why it is so much easier to look back.

The Israelites really struggled with this when leaving Egypt. They struggled with looking back so much that they never made it forward. All they could think about was the comparison between the luxuries in Egypt with the barrenness of the desert. Even though God completely provided miracles for them and freed them from the cruelty of slavery, they could not stop thinking of the comforts of their bad lifestyle over the freedom of their new lifestyle. And they never learned to work it out with the Lord. They just complained about it. As much as we hate to admit it, we struggle with the same things at times.

If we really think about it, life was not better before we became a Christian. The difference is that we didn’t have anyone to blame our issues on then, but now we can blame them on God. How silly but how true! Life is so much better knowing the Lord. We have the power of prayer, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the promises of hope for an everlasting life. We have fellowship with Him, and we should have a great attitude. But we need to learn how to put the Lord first in everything and have Him lead us, instead of figuring out our own needs and asking the Lord to meet them. By giving our lives to Jesus, we should never look back. There is nothing back there worth living for any way. If you are struggling with bringing the past into the future, ask the Lord to help you become more fit for the kingdom of God. Confess that sin and ask the Lord to help you open your heart to receive all He has for you. Then move forward in His Name!

~Daily Disciples~